Israeli Commander: We rewrote the rules of war for Gaza

February 6th, 2010

Israeli commander: ‘We rewrote the rules of war for Gaza’

Civilians ‘put at greater risk to save military lives’ in winter attack – revelations that will pile pressure on Netanyahu to set up full inquiry

By Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

An Israeli soldier directs a tank outside the Gaza Strip in December 2008

REUTERS

An Israeli soldier directs a tank outside the Gaza Strip in December 2008

A high-ranking officer has acknowledged for the first time that the Israeli army went beyond its previous rules of engagement on the protection of civilian lives in order to minimise military casualties during last year’s Gaza war, The Independent can reveal.

 

The officer, who served as a commander during Operation Cast Lead, made it clear that he did not regard the longstanding principle of military conduct known as “means and intentions” – whereby a targeted suspect must have a weapon and show signs of intending to use it before being fired upon – as being applicable before calling in fire from drones and helicopters in Gaza last winter. A more junior officer who served at a brigade headquarters during the operation described the new policy – devised in part to avoid the heavy military casualties of the 2006 Lebanon war – as one of “literally zero risk to the soldiers”.

The officers’ revelations will pile more pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to set up an independent inquiry into the war, as demanded in the UN-commissioned Goldstone Report, which harshly criticised the conduct of both Israel and Hamas. One of Israel’s most prominent human rights lawyers, Michael Sfard, said last night that the senior commander’s acknowledgement – if accurate – was “a smoking gun”.

Related articles

Until now, the testimony has been kept out of the public domain. The senior commander told a journalist compiling a lengthy report for Yedhiot Ahronot, Israel’s biggest daily newspaper, about the rules of engagement in the three-week military offensive in Gaza. But although the article was completed and ready for publication five months ago, it has still not appeared. The senior commander told Yedhiot: “Means and intentions is a definition that suits an arrest operation in the Judaea and Samaria [West Bank] area… We need to be very careful because the IDF [Israel Defence Forces] was already burnt in the second Lebanon war from the wrong terminology. The concept of means and intentions is taken from different circumstances. Here [in Cast Lead] we were not talking about another regular counter-terrorist operation. There is a clear difference.”

His remarks reinforce testimonies from soldiers who served in the Gaza operation, made to the veterans’ group Breaking the Silence and reported exclusively by this newspaper last July. They also appear to cut across the military doctrine – enunciated most recently in public by one of the authors of the IDF’s own code of ethics – that it is the duty of soldiers to run risks to themselves in order to preserve civilian lives.

Explaining what he saw as the dilemma for forces operating in areas that were supposedly cleared of civilians, the senior commander said: “Whoever is left in the neighbourhood and wants to action an IED [improvised explosive device] against the soldiers doesn’t have to walk with a Kalashnikov or a weapon. A person like that can walk around like any other civilian; he sees the IDF forces, calls someone who would operate the terrible death explosive and five of our soldiers explode in the air. We could not wait until this IED is activated against us.”

Another soldier who worked in one of the brigade’s war-room headquarters told The Independent that conduct in Gaza – particularly by aerial forces and in areas where civilians had been urged to leave by leaflets – had “taken the targeted killing idea and turned it on its head”. Instead of using intelligence to identify a terrorist, he said, “here you do the opposite: first you take him down, then you look into it.”

The Yedhiot newspaper also spoke to a series of soldiers who had served in Operation Cast Lead in sensitive positions. While the soldiers rejected the main finding of the Goldstone Report – that the Israeli military had deliberately “targeted” the civilian population – most asserted that the rules were flexible enough to allow a policy under which, in the words of one soldier “any movement must entail gunfire. No one’s supposed to be there.” He added that at a meeting with his brigade commander and others it was made clear that “if you see any signs of movement at all you shoot. This is essentially the rules of engagement.”

The other soldier in the war-room explained: “This doesn’t mean that you need to disrespect the lives of Palestinians but our first priority is the lives of our soldiers. That’s not something you’re going to compromise on. In all my years in the military, I never heard that.”

He added that the majority of casualties were caused in his brigade area by aerial firing, including from unmanned drones. “Most of the guys taken down were taken down by order of headquarters. The number of enemy killed by HQ-operated remote … compared to enemy killed by soldiers on the ground had absolutely inverted,” he said.

Rules of engagement issued to soldiers serving in the West Bank as recently as July 2006 make it clear that shooting towards even an armed person will take place only if there is intelligence that he intends to act against Israeli forces or if he poses an immediate threat to soldiers or others.

In a recent article in New Republic, Moshe Halbertal, a philosophy professor at Hebrew and New York Universities, who was involved in drawing up the IDF’s ethical code in 2000 and who is critical of the Goldstone Report, said that efforts to spare civilian life “must include the expectation that soldiers assume some risk to their own lives in order to avoid causing the deaths of civilians”. While the choices for commanders were often extremely difficult and while he did not think the expectation was demanded by international law, “it is demanded in Israel’s military code and this has always been its tradition”.

The Israeli military declined to comment on the latest revelations, and directed all enquiries to already-published material, including a July 2009 foreign ministry document The Operation in Gaza: Factual and Legal Aspects.

That document, which repeats that Israel acted in conformity with international law despite the “acute dilemmas” posed by Hamas’s operations within civilian areas, sets out the principles of Operation Cast Lead as follows: “Only military targets shall be attacked; Any attack against civilian objectives shall be prohibited. A ‘civilian objective’ is any objective which is not a military target.” It adds: “In case of doubt, the forces are obliged to regard an object as civilian.”

Yedhiot has not commented on why its article has not been published.

Israel in Gaza: The soldier’s tale

This experienced soldier, who cannot be named, served in the war room of a brigade during Operation Cast Lead. Here, he recalls an incident he witnessed during last winter’s three-week offensive:

“Two [Palestinian] guys are walking down the street. They pass a mosque and you see a gathering of women and children.

“You saw them exiting the house and [they] are not walking together but one behind the other. So you begin to fantasise they are actually ducking close to the wall.

“One [man] began to run at some point, must have heard the chopper. The GSS [secret service] argued that the mere fact that he heard it implicated him, because a normal civilian would not have realised that he was now being hunted.

“Finally he was shot. He was not shot next to the mosque. It’s obvious that shots are not taken at a gathering.”

54 members of Congress ask Obama to end blockade of Gaza

January 27th, 2010

 

 

Washington, D.C. | January 26, 2010 | www.adc.org | Last Thursday, 54 Members of the House of Representatives led by Congressman Ellison of Minnesota and Congressman McDermott from Washington State signed a letter to President Obama asking his Administration to lift the blockade on Gaza.  In the letter to President Obama, the 54 Members of Congress said “the unabated suffering of Gazan civilians highlights the urgency of reaching a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and we ask you to press for immediate relief for the citizens of Gaza as an urgent component of your broader Middle East Peace.”  Click here to read the full letter.


ADC President Mary Rose Oakar said “Now is the time to hold our elected Officials accountable to work for a just and lasting peace in the Middle East. These 54 Members should be recognized for their courage in attempting to bring an end to the unfair treatment of the Palestinian people.”


The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) urges you to recognize and thank these 54 US House Representatives for exhibiting leadership by contacting them TODAY. Please see below for the list.

 

 

Name State Phone #
Raul Grijalva AZ (202) 225- 2435
Barbara Lee CA (202) 225- 2661
Bob Filner CA (202) 225- 8045
Diane Watson CA (202) 225- 7084    
Fortney Pete Stark CA (202) 225- 5065
George Miller CA (202) 225- 2095
Jackie Speier CA (202) 225- 3531
Lois Capps CA (202) 225- 3601
Loretta Sanchez CA (202) 225- 2965
Lynn Woolsey CA (202) 225- 5161
Michael M. Honda CA (202) 225- 2631
Sam Farr CA (202) 225- 2861
Jim Himes CT (202) 225- 5541
Bruce D. Braley IA (202) 225- 2911
Andre Carson IN (202) 225- 4011
John A. Yarmuth KY (202) 225- 5401
James P. McGovern MA (202) 225- 6101
John Tierney MA (202) 225- 8020
John W. Oliver MA (202) 225- 5335
Michael E Capuano MA (202) 225- 5111
Stephen F. Lynch MA (202) 225- 8273
William D. Delahunt MA (202) 225- 3111
Donna F. Edwards MD (202) 225- 8699
Elijah E. Cummings MD (202) 225- 4741
Carolyn C. Kilpatrick MI (202) 225- 2261
John Conyers MI (202) 225- 5126
John D. Dingell MI (202) 225- 4071    
Betty McCollum MN (202) 225- 6631
James L. Oberstar MN (202) 225- 6211
Keith Ellison MN (202) 225- 4755
David E. Price NC (202) 225- 1784
Bill Pascrell, Jr. NJ (202) 225- 5751
Donald M. Payne NJ (202) 225- 3436
Rush D. Holt NJ (202) 225- 5801
Eric Massa NY (202) 225- 3161
Maurice D. Hinchey NY (202) 225- 6335
Paul Tonko NY (202) 225- 5076
Yvette D. Clarke NY (202) 225- 6231
Marcy Kaptur OH (202) 225- 4146
Mary Jo Kilroy OH (202) 225- 2015
Earl Blumenauer OR (202) 225- 4811
Peter A. Defazio OR (202) 225- 6416
Chaka Fattah PA (202) 225- 4001
Joe Sestak PA (202) 225- 2011
Glenn C. Nye VA (202) 225- 4215
James P. Moran VA (202) 225- 4376
Peter Welch VT (202) 225- 4115
Adam Smith WA (202) 225- 8901
Brian Baird WA (202) 225- 3536
Jay Inslee WA (202) 225- 6311
Jim McDermott WA (202) 225- 3106
Gwen Moore WI (202) 225- 4572
Tammy Baldwin WI (202) 225- 2906
Nick J Rahall II WV (202) 225- 3452      

 

###

NOTE TO EDITORS: The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), which is non sectarian and non partisan, is the largest Arab-American civil rights organization in the United States. It was founded in 1980, by former Senator James Abourezk to protect the civil rights of people of Arab descent in the United States and to promote the cultural heritage of the Arabs. ADC has 38 chapters nationwide, including chapters in every major city in the country, and members in all 50 states.   

The ADC Research Institute (ADC-RI), which was founded in 1981, is a Section 501(c)(3) educational organization that sponsors a wide range of programs on behalf of Arab Americans and of importance to all Americans. 

GAZA FLOODED AFTER ISRAEL OPENS DAM GATES

January 25th, 2010

 Gaza flooded after Israel opens dam gates
Mon, 18 Jan 2010
http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=116482&sectionid=351020202

Israel has opened the floodgates of one of its dams in the eastern part of the Gaza Strip, flooding Palestinian houses and causing severe damage.

The Israeli authorities opened the dam’s floodgates without any prior warning or coordination with local authorities in Gaza, stunning the residents of the area, the Press TV correspondent in Gaza reported late on Monday.

There has been heavy rain in the region over the past 24 hours. It seems the Israeli authorities could not handle the huge amount of rainwater and decided to open the floodgates without prior warning.

Because Gaza is located in a low-lying area and the elevation decreases on the way to the Mediterranean Sea, water gushed into the area, flooding two Palestinian villages and displacing a hundred Gazan families.

The locals say Israel intentionally caused the floods, the Press TV correspondent said.

The waters from the dam, called the Valley of Gaza, flooded houses in Johr al-Deek village, which is southeast of Gaza City, and Nusirat in the eastern part of the territory, where the Al-Nusirat refugee camp is also located.

The Valley of Gaza is about 8 kilometers long. It starts on the eastern Gaza border with Israel and ends in the Mediterranean.

The houses of many Palestinians have been flooded and a number of people are trapped inside or on their roofs, while many have also gone missing, the Press TV correspondent said.

Rescue teams are using small boats to evacuate the trapped people.

Hamas has condemned the act as a war crime and has called on all concerned parties to intervene and offer assistance to the locals.

The flooding has made life more difficult for the Gazans, especially for those still living in tents because their homes were destroyed in the December 2008-January 2009 Israeli war on the Gaza Strip.

In the war, more than 1,400 people were killed, mostly women and children, and over 10,000 houses were destroyed or damaged, forcing at least 500 families to live in tents.

Very little progress is seen in reconstruction of the devastated areas in the Gaza Strip, mostly due to the Israeli blockade, which has prevented the delivery of building materials to the coastal enclave.

FTP/HGL

===

Haneyya gov’t asks for urgent assistance to deal with floods
19/01/2010
http://www.palestine-info.co.uk/en/default.aspx?xyz=U6Qq7k%2bcOd87MDI46m9rUxJEpMO%2bi1s7Z%2fybJ6WceQR36JC%2fBRxfiAAQMFwRadN8TMcJBrEydhAMRO5b4OBU4a6hjEfAOqDlMUS%2frI%2be%2bz3PhG%2bBywY2VIYOTFEf0IdGjeWKjEecf7w%3d

GAZA, (PIC)– The government of Ismail Haneyya on Tuesday appealed to the world community to save the flood-stricken areas in Gaza Strip and to send urgently needed construction material.

Ahmed Al-Kurd, the minister of social affairs, said in a press release that Gaza was the target of siege then war and now came the floods.

He said that his government started implementing an emergency plan to provide shelter for 70 families who sought refuge in one of the schools.

It is now necessary more than ever before to end the siege and allow entry of construction material to rebuild what was devastated by the Israeli war and the natural disasters.

For his part, minister of public works and housing Yousef Al-Mansi said that his ministry’s crews were working round the clock to rescue the citizens in areas submerged by the floods.

He denounced the Israeli occupation authority for opening the Gaza valley dam that led to flooding tens of Palestinian homes with rainwater, describing it as a fresh crime against the Palestinian people.

The government said in a statement that premier Haneyya was personally supervising the rescue operations in the flooded areas in central Gaza Strip.

*********************************************************************

ISRAEL FURY AT UK ATTEMPT TO ARREST EX FOREIGN MINISTER

December 16th, 2009

Israel fury at UK attempt to arrest Tzipi Livni

Tzipi Livni: “It’s about time to put terrorists on trial and not those who try to stop terror”

Israel has reacted angrily to the issuing by a British court of an arrest warrant for the former Israeli Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni.

The warrant, granted by a London court on Saturday, was revoked on Monday when it was found Ms Livni was not visiting the UK.

Ms Livni was foreign minister during Israel’s Gaza assault last winter.

It is the first time a UK court has issued a warrant for the arrest of a former Israeli minister.

Ms Livni said the court had been “abused” by the Palestinian plaintiffs who requested the warrant.

“What needs to be put on trial here is the abuse of the British legal system,” she told the BBC.

“This is not a suit against Tzipi Livni, this is not a law suit against Israel. This is a lawsuit against any democracy that fights terror.”

She stood by her decisions during the three-week assault Gaza offensive which began in December last year, she said.

Israel’s foreign ministry summoned the UK’s ambassador to Israel to deliver a rebuke over the warrant.

We completely reject this absurdity taking place in Britain

Benjamin Netanyahu
Israeli Prime Minister

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the situation was “an absurdity”.

“We will not accept a situation in which [former Israeli Prime Minister] Ehud Olmert, [Defence Minister] Ehud Barak and Tzipi Livni will be summoned to the defendants’ chair,” Mr Netanyahu said in a statement.

“We will not agree to have Israel Defence Force soldiers, who defended the citizens of Israel bravely and ethically against a cruel and criminal enemy, be recognised as war criminals. We completely reject this absurdity taking place in Britain,” he said.

Pro-Palestinian campaigners have tried several times to have Israeli officials arrested under the principle of universal jurisdiction.

‘Cynical act’

This allows domestic courts in countries around the world to try war crimes suspects, even if the crime took place outside the country and the suspect is not a citizen.

Israeli air strike in Rafah, Gaza, on 13 January 2009

UN backs Gaza war crimes report

Legal row over Gaza report

Israel debates response to report

Full UN report on Gaza war

Israel denies claims by human rights groups and the UN investigator Richard Goldstone that its forces committed war crimes during the operation, which it said was aimed at ending Palestinian rocket fire at its southern towns.

The Palestinian militant group Hamas has also been accused of committing war crimes during the conflict.

Israel’s foreign ministry said in a statement on Tuesday: “Israel rejects the cynical act taken in a British court,” against Ms Livni, now the head of the opposition Kadima party, “at the initiative of extreme elements”.

It called on the British government to “act against the exploitation of the British legal system against Israel”.

Addressing a conference in Tel Aviv on Tuesday, Ms Livni did not refer specifically to the arrest attempt.

But she said: “Israel must do what is right for Israel, regardless of judgements, statements and arrest warrants. It’s the leadership’s duty, and I would repeat each and every decision,” Israeli media reported.

‘Strategic partner’

Israel says it fully complies with international law, which it says it interprets in line with other Western countries such as the US and UK.

PREVIOUS ATTEMPTS TO ARREST ISRAELI OFFICIALS

Oct 2009: Former military chief Moshe Yaalon cancelled a UK visit because of fears of arrest for alleged war crimes

Oct 2009: Filed attempt to raise warrant against Defence Minister Ehud Barak. Court ruled he had diplomatic immunity

Sept 2005: Arrest warrant issued for a former head of Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip Gen Doron Almog. He received warning before disembarking from an aircraft at Heathrow Airport, and flew back to Israel

On Monday Ms Livni’s office denied the reports that a warrant had been issued and that she had cancelled plans to visit the UK because of fears of arrest.

It said a planned trip had been cancelled two weeks earlier because of scheduling problems.

The British foreign office said it was “urgently looking into the implications of the case”.

“The UK is determined to do all it can to promote peace in the Middle East, and to be a strategic partner of Israel,” it said in a statement. “To do this, Israel’s leaders need to be able to come to the UK for talks with the British government.”

Palestinians and human rights groups say more than 1,400 people were killed during Israel’s Cast Lead operation between 27 December 2008 and 16 January 2009, more than half of them civilians.

Israel puts the number of deaths at 1,166 – fewer than 300 of them civilians. Three Israeli civilians and 10 Israeli soldiers were also killed.

The BBC’s Tim Franks says that, privately, senior Israeli figures are warning of what they see as an increasing anti-Israeli bent in the British establishment.

In turn, our correspondent adds, there is clearly concern among British officials that should further arrest warrants be issued, relations with Israel could be damaged.

The Road to Peace in the Middle East

November 19th, 2009

 

Monday, November 9, 2009

Mid East Peace – A Different Approach

The greatest obstacle to a Palestinian Israeli peace settlement today is the notion of a two state solution. Never a good alternative to begin with, the two state solution has monopolized peace making efforts to the point that no other alternative is being explored.

 

Recent history has frowned on political solutions based on the separation of people along racial or ethnic lines. Apartheid in South Africa, segregation in the U.S., the partition of the Indian sub-continent, the breakdown of Yugoslavia into warring factions are all examples of the long run futility of building fences rather than bridges.

 

The most compelling argument against the two state solution to the Arab/Jewish conflict is the simple fact that it hasn’t yet happened. The idea has been officially on the table in various versions since the 1930’s. The objective conditions today are such that the likelihood of a lasting agreement of the partition of mandatory Palestine is much more unlikely than any time previously, and with every passing day becomes more unlikely.

 

The modern history of Palestine is complex, the sources of animosity are myriad. By expending all our energy in a single direction, we’ve lost the ability to cut through the fogof mutual recriminations to isolate the core issues.

 

The first prerequisite to moving forward is an open mind. Rather than trying to bend the facts to meet our ideological or emotional leanings, we need to be able to identify the sources, recognize the outstanding issues, and create solutions that will satisfy all parties.

 

The second prerequisite is the recognition and acceptance that justice will never be achieved. Too much blood has been shed, too many lives disrupted and shattered, and far to many chains of horror woven to ever be unraveled. The goal is not justice for all but solutions for all. The accrued debts may never be repaid but the cycle of violence can and must be broken.

 

Finally, we must recognize that a true peace may not satisfy the desires of all parties but it must address every party’s needs. We live not in an age of majority rule but of minority veto. A single Jewish fanatic with a revolver was able to halt the Oslo peace accords in their tracks. A handful of Palestinian suicide bombers were able to bury the process.

What are the core issues? Can they be addressed without mutually contradicting each other?

 

On the Jewish side there is an overwhelming concern for physical security. 2000 years of persecution culminating in the Nazi holocaust have led to a situation where the Jews, both in Israel and in the Diaspora will not accept a situation that would enable a repeat of the horrors of the death camps. Along side this history of persecution is the collective memory that the so-called enlightened democracies of the world did little or nothing to aid or save the Jews from Hitler’s hell. Any solution must guarantee both the physical security of the people of the region as well as that of Jews worldwide.

 

For the Palestinians, the 1948 civil war was a catastrophe, the catastrophe. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were displaced from their homes. The decades leading up to 1948 were years of fear and mistrust, based on both real and imagined threats. Any solution with a chance of success must both provide for their return as well as create an atmosphere of trust and security .

Any conceivable two state solution will either leave sizable, alienated and disaffected minorities in both states or will require the uprooting of tens or hundreds of thousands of people from their homes. Either scenario is a recipe for the continuation of the conflict.

 

The only realistic outcome that could fill the needs of both peoples is a single political entity between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, based on the following principles:

<!–[if !supportLists]–>1) <!–[endif]–>The land between the Jordan and the sea is the historical homeland of the Jewish People, a people with long history of discrimination and oppression. As such, the new State shall guarantee in perpetuity, shelter to any person, anywhere in the world, persecuted for being Jewish.

<!–[if !supportLists]–>2) <!–[endif]–>The Palestinian refugees from the wars of 1948 and the ensuing conflicts have an unalienable right to return to their homeland.

<!–[if !supportLists]–>3) <!–[endif]–>No new refugees. In the course of over 60 years homes and entire towns and villages have disappeared. New homes and settlements have been constructed in their stead. The Israeli settlement policies of the last six decades have created a situation where in most cases, the return of refugees to their original homes would either be impossible or would require the displacement of the present residents. In most cases, the reparation of Palestinian refugees shall be carried out in the framework of constructing homes and towns as close as possible to their original site without the uprooting of their present occupants.

<!–[if !supportLists]–>4) <!–[endif]–>The political structure of the new state can be decided through negotiations between the elected officials of Israel and the Palestinian Authority or through any number of consultative processes. The structure, important as it may be, is secondary to a basic, unalterable social contract, guaranteeing the basic rights and responsibilities of the citizens. The new state would not be “Jewish” nor “Palestinian”, nor even Bi national. While recognizing the historical significance and encouraging the cultural development of the peoples living within its borders, it would primarily be a state, caring for the common good of its citizens, providing the services and protections necessary for life in our age.


The implications of the above points are far reaching. The first point requires the Arab population to accept and internalize a Jewish connection to the land while banishing fears of displacement or marginalization. Guaranteeing safe refuge to any person persecuted for being Jewish actually provides more protection than the present Israeli “Law of Return”, which offers automatic citizenship to anyone defined as Jewish by religious law, but does not offer protection to those considered Jewish by anti-Semites that do not meet the requirements of Halacha.

The second point should be time-limited and would require massive construction/reconstruction as well as expansion of physical and economic infrastructure. This may seem daunting but so was the absorption of over a million Jews from the Soviet Union by Israel in the 1980’s.

While the Jewish population will have to come to grips with the return of the Palestinian refugees, the Palestinians must accept the status quo of the Jewish settlements, both in Israel proper and in the occupied territories. Proper compensation must be made to all those that lost land to the settlements, but the no new refugee clause implies no wholesale evacuations of civilian population.

 

The concept of government sanctioned Arab and Jewish settlements must come to an end. While it is natural that people of similar backgrounds, language and beliefs tend to stick together, choice of where to live is individual and must not be restricted on racial, religious or ethnic grounds. Communities have the right to determine their character, as long as they do not impose on the basic rights of the individual.

 

Peace making efforts have largely focused in the past on trying to build a consensus around the center majority. The key to success will be the drafting of a plan that is acceptable to the extremes of both camps. The above plan addresses the demands of the Israeli right wing to allow Jews to live anywhere in “Eretz Yisrael”. It also addresses the demand for the return of all Palestinian refugees. The status of Jerusalem, another point of contention becomes irrelevant in the framework of a single state situation.

 

At first the above proposal may seem utopian and unachievable. In addition to putting behind us a century of fear, mistrust and hatred, both peoples will need to redefine their national goals and identities. Zionism and the connection of the Jewish people to the land of Israel will need to be rethought and renewed. The concept of the Palestinian national identity will need to be reexamined in light of the new reality. The process itself, the establishment of a political and social order in the new information age is in itself both daunting and exciting.

 

All that being said, we would do well to remember the words of Arthur Conan Doyle, “When you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.“ as well as the words of Theodore Herzl, “If you will it, it is no dream”.
<!–[if !supportLineBreakNewLine]–>

US SHOULD STAND V APARTHEID IN ISRAEL – SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS OP-ED

November 19th, 2009

U.S. should stand against apartheid in Israel
Special to the Mercury News

By Sam Jadallah | November 17, 2009

November 3 marked, in the words of political blogger Philip Weiss, a “historically dark day” in the U.S. Congress. House Republicans and Democrats lined up to vote against the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission carried out by Justice Richard Goldstone and to bash Goldstone, a committed Zionist, because he had the temerity to detail Israel’s war crimes in Gaza this past winter. Expressing not a word of concern regarding the over 300 Palestinian children killed in Israel’s attacks, the disappointing resolution places our Congress on the front lines of denying documented war crimes.
Congressional rhetoric continues to place blame on Palestinians, insisting to a large extent that they are responsible for their own misery. But it is absurd to think that Palestinians will simply surrender to life under permanent discrimination and iron-fisted military rule.
Freedom and equality must be centerpieces of American efforts to secure peace in the region. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejects this with misleading words and ongoing colonization of Palestinian territory. He offers caveats, limitations and conditions to ensure Palestinians will not realize fundamental aspirations and dreams.
His newest condition demands that Israel be recognized as a Jewish state, despite 20 percent of Israel ‘s population being Palestinian. This demand is akin to George Wallace insisting Martin Luther King Jr. recognize the U.S. as a white state. Yet, American leaders, who would never support the United States as a white state, uphold this in Israel despite such language implicitly relegating Palestinian citizens to inferior status.
Already, over 20 Israeli laws favor Jewish citizens and discriminate against Palestinians. And in the Israeli-controlled West Bank, Palestinians face segregated roads, unequal distribution of water and a dual system of law.
The question is how to break the impasse. I look to guidance Nelson Mandela offered from his prison cell. He asked, “What freedom am I being offered when I must ask permission to live in an urban area? What freedom am I being offered when I need a stamp in my pass to seek work?”
I have profound doubts as to Netanyahu’s intentions when days ago a university student in Bethlehem was transferred back to Gaza because she was in the occupied West Bank “illegally.” Israel’s pass stamps for this young woman, Berlanty Azzam, are just as noxious as in apartheid South Africa .
Palestinian lives are increasingly shaped by stunting discrimination and despair. The time is long past for “economic progress,” “easing travel restrictions” and other baby steps for Palestinians that avoid a just and legally based solution. Only a focus on the prize — freedom and equality, neither of which can be concessions — will prevent the situation from dramatically worsening, and rapidly.
Americans who fought Jim Crow or apartheid must reject today’s version in the occupied Palestinian territories. America ‘s leadership is based on promoting freedom and equality around the world, and we must start with our allies.
South Africa achieved freedom only when President F.W. de Klerk released Mandela and legalized his “terrorist” ANC organization under external boycotts and political pressure. Clearly, Israel ‘s leaders are incapable of providing freedom and equality without a clear and strong message from the U.S. And the longer we support military rule and discrimination, the more we erode our leadership.
It’s time for our leadership to step up for our values and call on Israeli leaders to follow the South African path to peace. Any solution starts with a clear and immediate commitment to delivering freedom and equality.
American and Israeli leaders need to replace rhetoric with tangible freedom and equality for all people in a land so overdue these blessings.
Freedom can’t wait.
SAM JADALLAH is a Silicon Valley venture capitalist, former Microsoft executive and co-founder and chairman of the board of the Institute for Middle East Understanding. He wrote this article for the Mercury News.

Palestinians denied water:BBC report

October 28th, 2009

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Report: Palestinians denied water

A girl stands next to a water tank near Nablus, West Bank. Photo: October 2009

Some Palestinians only get 20 litres of water a day, Amnesty says

Israel is denying Palestinians access to even the basic minimum of clean, safe water, Amnesty International says.

In a report, the human rights group says Israeli water restrictions discriminate against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

It says that in Gaza, Israel’s blockade has pushed the already ailing water and sewage system to “crisis point”.

Israel says the report is flawed and the Palestinians get more water than was agreed under the 1990s peace deal.

‘Basic need’

In the 112-page report, Amnesty says that on average Palestinian daily water consumption reaches 70 litres a day, compared with 300 litres for the Israelis.

Israel must end its discriminatory policies, immediately lift all the restrictions it imposes on Palestinians’ access to water

Donatella Rovera
Amnesty International

Gaza thirsts as sewage crisis mounts

Water shortages plague West Bank

It says that some Palestinians barely get 20 litres a day – the minimum recommended even in humanitarian emergencies.

While Israeli settlers in the West Bank enjoy lush gardens and swimming pools, Amnesty describes a series of Israeli measures it says are discriminating against Palestinians:

  • Israel has “entirely appropriated the Palestinians’ share of the Jordan river” and uses 80% of a key shared aquifer
  • West Bank Palestinians are not allowed to drill wells without Israeli permits, which are “often impossible” to obtain
  • Rainwater harvesting cisterns are “often destroyed by the Israeli army”

Water consumption graph

Recommended for short-term survival: 20 litres

For the medium term: 70 litres

Recommended for the long term: 100 litres

(Source: WHO)

  • Israeli soldiers confiscated a water tanker from villagers who were trying to remain in land Israel had declared a “closed military area”
  • An unnamed Israeli soldier says rooftop Palestinian household water tanks are “good for target practice”
  • Much of the land cut off by the West Bank barrier is land with good access to a major aquifer
  • Israeli military operations have damaged Palestinian water infrastructure, including $6m worth during the Cast Lead operation in Gaza last winter
  • The Israeli-Egyptian blockade of Gaza has “exacerbated what was already a dire situation” by denying many building materials needed for water and sewage projects.The report also noted that the Palestinian water authorities have been criticised for bad management, quoting one audit that described the sector as in “total chaos”.

    “Water is a basic need and a right, but for many Palestinians obtaining even poor-quality, subsistence-level quantities of water has become a luxury that they can barely afford,” Amnesty’s Donatella Rovera said.

    “Israel must end its discriminatory policies, immediately lift all the restrictions it imposes on Palestinians’ access to water.”

    ‘Fair share’

    Ms Rovera also urged Israel to “take responsibility for addressing the problems it created by allowing Palestinians a fair share of the shared water resources”.

    Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said “the idea that we’re taking water away from someone else is simply preposterous”.

    He argued that Israeli fresh water use per capita had gone down since 1967 due to efficiency and new technologies, while the Palestinians’ use had increased and more than a third of their water was wasted.

    FROM BBC WORLD SERVICE

    More from BBC World Service

    If there were allegations of military wrongdoing, those would be investigated, he said.

    He also rejected the claim that Israel was preventing Palestinians from drilling for water, saying Israel had approved 82 such projects but the Palestinians had only implemented 26 of them.

    “They have received billions of dollars in international aid over the last decade and a half, why have they not invested that in their own water infrastructure>?” he asked.

    The report also criticised the Oslo Accords, which the Palestinians agreed to in 1993.

    It said that under them, the Palestinians gained the responsibility for managing an “insufficient” water supply and maintaining “long neglected” water infrastructure.

    Also, the deal left the Palestinians paying Israel for half of the domestic water used in the West Bank, despite the fact it is extracted from the shared aquifer.

    Mr Regev said Israel provides the Palestinians with more water than it was required to under the accord.

  • Is the end near for the Right’s Grip on US-Israel policy

    October 28th, 2009

     

    Is the End Near for the Right-Wing’s Vice Grip on U.S. Israeli Policy?

    By Joshua Holland, AlterNet
    Posted on October 26, 2009, Printed on October 26, 2009
    http://www.alternet.org/story/143503/

    This week, retired Marine Corps Gen. Jim Jones, Barack Obama’s national security adviser, will keynote the inaugural J Street Conference, billed as a gathering of “progressive pro-Israel, pro-peace” activists.

    The event marks the emergence of the moderate Jewish advocacy group that aspires to be a counterweight to the voices of the traditionally hawkish “pro-Israel” lobby in Washington.

    The White House’s decision last week to send Jones to address the event was a small move that might have a significant impact on the overheated politics of the Middle East.

    In the months before, a full-throated “swift boat” campaign had been launched against J Street in an attempt to vilify and delegitimize the group as belonging to the fringe, despite its advocacy of a moderate, or at most slightly left-of center, approach to U.S. policy in the Middle East.

    The conservative media offered a steady drumbeat of dubious charges, and a campaign had been under way to warn members of Congress away from the event. And it appeared to be having some impact as several members of Congress pulled out of the conference in the weeks leading up to the event (a total of 10 reportedly dropped out, according toreports, but not all in response to outside pressure).

    It was an attempt to nip J Street in the bud and preserve the hegemony established lobbying groups like American Israel Public Affairs Committee have long enjoyed in the halls of Congress.

    At stake was not only the definition of what it means to be “pro-Israel” — long synonymous with supporting the more hawkish end of Israel’s political spectrum (despite American Jews’ general tendency to lean left) — but also, and more importantly, the ability of established lobbying groups to claim to speak for the American Jewish community as a whole.

    It was a closely watched Washington fight, and when the White House announced that the head of Obama’s National Security Council would headline the event, it sent a powerful message, legitimizing the 2-year-old group as a voice in U.S. foreign policy debates and providing cover for wavering lawmakers under pressure to skip the conference.

    It signaled, to the media and other interested observers, that the J Street conference is decidedly within the mainstream.

    It was also another small shot at the hawkish Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — a public rebuke of Israeli ambassador Michael Oren’s high-profiledecision to boycott the conference a week earlier — a decision that may have been prompted by pressure from AIPAC (Israel said it had concerns for some of the group’s positions but would send an “observer”).

    Indeed, the Washington Post framed the entire controversy surrounding the conference as a proxy war in a larger conflict between the White House and the Israeli government under right-wing Netanyahu.

    In sending Jones, not only did the Obama administration help J Street take the old-school “Israel lobby’s” best punches and come through standing on its feet, it did itself a service in the process.

    Obama has long been dogged by warnings that he risks losing support among American Jews for a range of policies — from attempts to reach out to the Islamic world, to negotiating with Iran and, perhaps most significantly, for confronting the Israeli government on the expansion of Israeli settlements.

    His administration is leaning on a new generation of moderate-to-progressive Jewish activists, represented most visibly at the moment by J Street, to provide political cover for him in turn.

    What Does It Mean To Be Pro-Israel?

    The spate of attacks hurled at J Street were intended to paint the group as “anti-Israel,” outside the mainstream and unrepresentative of the views of the Jewish community. As such, its critics claim, J Street has no right to a seat at the table on the “pro-Israel” side of any discussion of U.S. policy.

    But a series of polls of American Jews commissioned by the group suggest the opposite is true, that J Street’s moderate view of the Israel-Palestine conflict better reflects the views of most American Jews than those of more hawkish “pro-Israel” groups.

    According to the study [doc.] conducted in March, while “support for Israel is strong and stable among American Jews,” they tend to take “very sophisticated and nuanced positions when it comes to American policy toward the Middle East” — positions that are anything but the Israel-right-or-wrong narrative advanced by the established right-leaning groups of the “Israel lobby.”

    For example, almost 9 of 10 American Jews surveyed said the administration should put pressure on both sides to achieve a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians. And while it’s official Israeli (and U.S.) policy not to negotiate with any Palestinian entity that includes members of Hamas, 7 out of 10 American Jews would be in favor of Israel cutting a deal with a unity government that included the organization.

    Six of 10 oppose the expansion of Israeli settlements, “56 percent believe that military action that kills Palestinian civilians — even if it targets terrorists — actually creates more terrorism instead of preventing terrorism,” and while a majority supported Israel’s “right” to launch last year’s attack on the Gaza Strip, 60 percent of respondents said the campaign had either done nothing to enhance Israel’s security or had in fact made the country less safe.

    Withering Fire

    The great danger J Street represents to the long-established groups of the “Israel lobby” is that it has the potential to shift the terms of the debate in Washington — redefining the boundaries of “mainstream” discourse on the Middle East conflict.

    “A more open discourse would reveal how the policies advocated by the traditional lobbying groups have damaged U.S. Interests and unintentionally harmed Israel as well,” Harvard’s Steven Walt, co-author of The Israel Lobby, said in an email-exchange. “And that is not something that AIPAC and the other hard-line groups want to have exposed.”

    The reaction to J Street’s emergence on the scene has been fierce. In an e-mail to supporters, J Street Campaign Director Isaac Luria wrote: “The Weekly Standardmagazine — dubbed the “neocon bible” by the Economist — launched an attack on our conference and the whole pro-Israel, pro-peace movement.”

    Weekly Standard Editor Michael Goldfarb — a man who has suggested that killing innocent women and children is an effective tool in the “war on terror” — launched a campaign urging readers to call members of Congress and, in Luria’s words, “frighten them away from associating with J Street.”

    Commentary‘s Noah Pollack called J Street an “anti-Israel group” that is “simply contemptible,” James Kirchick of the New Republic, in the midst of an ongoing public crusade against the group, sneered that “far from representing the ‘silent majority’ of American Jews,” J Street is “run by politically marginal amateurs.” And a slick-looking Web site, JStreet Jive.com, popped up to “track Israel’s Jewish defamers.”

    Luria calls the attacks “classic swiftboating,” and on examination, the charges against J Street appear to fit that description. One of J Street’s most vocal critics has been Lenny Ben-David — whom MJ Rosenberg, an Israel policy analyst and former congressional aide, described as “the quarterback of the smear campaign against J Street.”

    Rosenberg, who has firsthand knowledge of Ben-David’s political tactics, called him “a feckless character, if there ever was one”:

    S.Africa backs GM,IBM, Apartheid lawsuit

    October 15th, 2009

    The relevance of this development to the Palestinian struggle for justice and civil rights is clear. It could establish a legal precedent which in the future may be used by Palestinians to target those

    corporations who are profiting from the illegal Israeli occupation.   

    South Africa Backs GM, Ford, IBM Apartheid Lawsuit (Update1)

    Share | Email | Print | A A A

    By David Glovin and Mike Cohen

    Sept. 3 (Bloomberg) — The South African government told a judge it now supports a U.S. lawsuit accusing General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co., IBM Corp. and Daimler AG of aiding South Africa’s former apartheid regime, according to lawyers.

    Jeff Radebe, South Africa’s justice minister, said in a letter to a judge that the government reversed its position and believes the case should go forward, according to lawyers at Hausfeld LLP, one of the firms representing plaintiffs in the suit. U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin in Manhattan in April narrowed the case while allowing it to proceed.

    “The government of the Republic of South Africa, having considered carefully the judgment of the United States District Court, Southern District of New York, is now of the view that this court is an appropriate forum to hear the remaining claims,” Radebe wrote to Scheindlin this week, according to a copy of the letter provided by the Hausfeld firm.

    The plaintiffs in the case, including people who were tortured or relatives of those killed, invoked the U.S. Alien Tort Claims Act, a 200-year-old law that lets federal courts hear suits by non-citizens claiming violations of international law. They say the companies knowingly helped the former South African regime by selling it weapons, providing it financing and otherwise doing business there.

    South Africa’s government initially opposed the lawsuit, saying it would deter investment, a position that was reviewed after Jacob Zuma was elected president in May.

    ‘Good News’

    The government’s decision to withdraw its opposition “is extremely good news for us,” said Marjorie Jobson, a director of Khulumani Support Group, which supports apartheid victims. “They feel they can no longer protect” the companies.

    Tlali Tlali, Radebe’s spokesman, didn’t answer several calls to his mobile phone. South African government spokesman Themba Maseko said he hadn’t been briefed on the case.

    Daimler’s South African unit said it was confident of winning the case. Daimler, based in Stuttgart, Germany, is the world’s second-largest maker of luxury cars.

    “We regard these class actions as unsubstantiated,” the company said in an e-mailed response to questions. “Daimler AG has at no time cooperated with the South African security forces for the perpetuation of apartheid.”

    All of the other defendants either denied wrongdoing or refused to comment when Scheindlin ruled the case could proceed.

    The case is In re South African Apartheid Litigation, 02- md-1499, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

    To contact the reporters on this story: David Glovin in U.S. District Court in Manhattan at 2587 or dglovin@bloomberg.net; Mike Cohen in Cape Town at mcohen21@bloomberg.net

    Last Updated: September 3, 2009 10:58 EDT

    UN scrutinizes Gaza war crimes

    September 30th, 2009

    UN scrutinises Gaza ‘war crimes’

    A Palestinian walks amidst the debris of destroyed buildings following Israeli air strikes in Rafah, Gaza. Photo: January 2009

    The report accuses Israel of using “disproportionate force” in Gaza

    The UN’s main human rights watchdog has begun a debate on a damning report into Israel’s military operation against Gaza eight months ago.

    It is seen as a test of US engagement with the Human Rights Council, which was shunned by President George W Bush.

    The US, which is Israel’s main ally, has criticised elements of the report.

    The report, widely lauded by human rights groups, accuses both Israel and its militant Palestinian adversary Hamas of war crimes in the campaign.

    Presenting the full version of the report, lead investigator Richard Goldstone told delegates that a lack of accountability for war crimes had reached “crisis point” in the Middle East and undermined any hope for peace in the region.

    He rejected what he called a “barrage of criticism” about his findings and public attacks against the members of his mission.

    “We will not address these attacks as we believe that the answers to those who have criticised us are in the findings of the report,” he said.

    ‘Careful review’

    The Human Rights Council was founded three years ago, after criticism of its predecessor that it turned a blind eye to many human rights abuses while having an in-built anti-Israel bias.

    The Bush administration took no part in the new body, but the Obama administration sought a seat on the council after it came to power in January.

    State department legal adviser Harold Koh is quoted describing US participation at the Geneva-based council as “an experiment”.

    “We think that this is a forum… where those three principles, engagement, universality and the truth, can be explored,” Mr Koh briefed journalists ahead of the debate.

    The Obama administration cannot demand accountability for serious violations in places like Sudan and Congo but let allies like Israel go free

    Sarah Leah Whitson, Human Rights Watch

    Key excerpts: UN Gaza report

    UN seeks close Gaza scrutiny

    The 574-page report was written by a four-judge commission led by South African judge Richard Goldstone.

    It accused both the Israeli army and Palestinian militants of deliberately terrorising and killing civilians on the other side.

    It urged the UN Security Council to refer allegations to the International Criminal Court (ICC) if either side failed to investigate and prosecute suspects.

    After publication of an advance version report on 15 September, the US said it would “carefully review” the document, but had “serious concerns” about the commission’s mandate, which was set before the US joined the Human Rights Council.

    It also rejected recommendations regarding the US Security Council, saying it should not even discuss the matter.

    “The appropriate venue for this report to be considered is the Human Rights Council,” said UN envoy Susan Rice.

    Israel refused to co-operate with investigations and has rejected the findings as “flawed” and “biased”.

    Human Rights Watch, one of a number of NGOs that endorsed the report, urged the administration to reverse its position.

    “The Obama administration cannot demand accountability for serious violations in places like Sudan and Congo but let allies like Israel go free,” said HRW’s Sarah Leah Whitson.

    Serious violations

    The enquiry found evidence “indicating serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law were committed by Israel during the Gaza conflict”.

    Israel‘s operations, the document states, “were carefully planned in all their phases as a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorise a civilian population”.

    The report also found evidence Palestinian groups committed war crimes, and possibly crimes against humanity, in repeated indiscriminate rocket and mortars attacks on Israel.

    Hamas called the report “political, biased and dishonest” as it put people “who resist” crimes “on the same level as those who perpetrate” them.

    The Israeli military has carried out more than 100 investigations into allegations of abuses by in Gaza. Most were dismissed as “baseless” but 23 criminal investigations are still ongoing.