Posts Tagged ‘geneva convention of 1949’

Israel’s Strangulation of Gaza by the Numbers

November 5th, 2011 Comments off

The Israeli navy illegally interfered with Gaza aid ships on the high seas, Friday, kidnapping the people on the two vessels and sending the ships involuntarily to an Israeli port. The Geneva Convention of 1949 on people in occupied territories forbids their mistreatment.

Israel’s strangulation of Gaza by the numbers:

Truckloads of goods per year allowed by Israel into Gaza today: 1,000

Truckloads of goods per year allowed by Israel into Gaza in 2005: 2,500

Exports from Gaza to the rest of the world allowed by Israel: 0

Annual cost of the Israeli blockade to the Gaza economy: ~ $2 billion

Unemployment rate in Gaza, 2010: 37.4%

Percentage of households in Gaza living below the poverty line of $2 a day: 77%

Percentage of the 1.6 million Palestinians of Gaza who are minors: 50%

Percentage of households in Gaza that are food insecure: 61%

Percentage of Palestinian children in Gaza who are stunted from malnutrition: 15%

Percentage of Palestinian infants aged 3 months to one year who are anemic: 76%

Number of key medicines which have gone out of stock in Gaza because of the blockade and consequent money problems: 163

Percentage by which real per capita Gaza gross domestic product in 2011 is below per capita gdp of of 1993: 35%

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Israeli Likud Gov’t Buffeted by Turkish Suit, Massive Protests

September 4th, 2011 Comments off

The far right wing government of Binyamin Netanyahu in Israel is being buffeted both internationally and domestically. In both instances, the discontent is being produced by right wing policies, which argue for the goodness of hierarchy, the legitimacy of inequality, and express a preference for the use of force to settle problems.

Turkey has decided to take Israel to the International Court of Justice in the Hague over the wrongful killing of 9 Turks (one of them an American citizen) by Israeli commandos in May of 2010. The commandos boarded an aid ship, the Mavi Marmara, attempting to break the Israeli naval blockade on Gaza.

Israel has refused to apologize for the killings, to admit any wrong, or to pay compensation to the families of the victims, infuriating a Turkish government that had been one of the Israelis’ few friends in the region. The refusal to apologize reflects the ruling Likud Party’s philosophy of the Iron Fist, which has roots in the mass politics of the interwar period.

A UN Human Rights commission report had found that both the blockade and the attack on the Mavi Marmara are illegal in international law. The Palmer report, prepared by a former New Zealand Prime Minister and former Colombian president Alvaro Uribe and issued on Friday condemned Israel for excessive force but called the blockade itself legal because it aimed at preventing weapons from reaching Gaza. (The blockade of weapons imports is of course legal, but Israel as the occupying power is in the wrong legally to blockade staples and other necessary goods, and is wrong to prevent Palestinians from exporting their products; that Israel is wrong is clear in the plain text of the Geneva Convention of 1949 on occupied territories, which Mssrs. Palmer and Uribe appear to have neglected to consult.) Neither UN committee report on the incident has any legal standing, which is why Turkey is going to a body that has the standing to adjudicate the dispute– the ICJ.

Turkey also announced an end to Turkish-Israeli military cooperation and reduced the level of diplomatic recognition between the two countries.

Aljazeera English reports:

The likelihood is that Turkey will prevail at the ICJ, since both UN investigations have maintained that Israeli commandos in fact committed a tort in the killings.

An ICJ ruling against Israel on this issue could begin an avalanche of tort suits against the Israelis, who have been pursuing illegal policies in settling the occupied West Bank and usurping Palestinian land and water. Such international judgments could accelerate after the United Nations General Assembly votes to admit Palestine to membership in the UN, which will likely have the effect of encouraging countries to upgrade Palestinian representation to embassy status. Palestinians with an embassy would be in a position to file persuasive amicae curiae briefs in tort lawsuits against Israeli concerns in a particular country that are owned by companies that profit from illegal West Bank colonization.

The domestic turmoil came in the form of big demonstrations around the country by Israelis protesting the high cost of living. Right wing politics is about government favoring the rich over the rest of the population, about using ethnic divisions, alleged threats to the nation, and other diversions to justify to the mass of voters as to why they should elect a party that will take money and resources away from them and give it to the super-wealthy.

Instead of protesting that a handful of billionaires is scarfing up the lion’s share of the country’s increased wealth, Israelis would do better just to turn the right wing parties out of office in the next election.

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What lies Behind Netanyahu’s Bluster on ’1967 Borders’

May 24th, 2011 Comments off

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s high dudgeon over the world community’s demand that Israel return more or less to ’1967 borders’ plays to two audiences, his domestic constituency among far rightwing ‘Greater Israel’ parties intent on usurping Palestinian land, and his American constituency among the third or so of US Jews who oppose trading land for peace.

For the rest of us in the US, being yoked to Netanyahu’s angry expansionism is like being forced to date Charlie Sheen. It won’t do our own reputation any good, and it won’t rescue him from his self-destructiveness.

The ’1967′ borders are actually those that obtained before Israel launched its 1967 ‘Six-Day War’ on Syria, Jordan and Egypt. (There is no doubt that Israel launched this war, and that its aggressiveness with Syria in the previous six months contributed mightily to the tensions that led to it.)

The reason Israel has to go back to 1967 borders is that the annexation of territory from a neighbor through warfare is illegal according to the United Nations Charter, which is a treaty to which Israel and the United States are both signatories. ‘Greater Israel’ apologists attempt to get out of this difficulty by saying that countries used to conquer land away from their neighbors all the time. This is a bogus argument, since countries used to do a lot of things, including sponsor the slave trade; Britain even insisted on China allowing the sale of opium in the early 19th century. The world changed when World War II ended and the countries of the world established the United Nations to forestall any recrudescence of Axis techniques of conquest and rule. If Israel does not believe in the UN Charter, it should renounce its UN membership.

It is not just the UN Charter. The Hague Agreement of 1907 and the Geneva Convention of 1949 forbid a power occupying enemy territory in war time from annexing it or in any way changing the life ways of its people.

Another bogus argument the Greater Israel expansionists trot out is that the UN Charter only forbids the acquisition of territory from other countries, and the Palestinians did not have a country, and so they are fair game. This argument is morally despicable, since the Israelis made the Palestinians stateless, thwarting the intention of the League of Nations that Palestine become a state; and now they are using the abjectness and statelessness as an argument that Palestinians can be stolen from at will. But the argument is also incorrect. Both the League of Nations and the UN made it perfectly clear that they intended that the Palestinians have a state in the future, so in preventing this from happening the Israelis are defying international law. The 1947 UN Partition Plan, the legitimacy of which the Israeli government says it recognizes, awarded Gaza and the West Bank to the Palestinians. So it is not true that these territories are no-man’s land or that there is no legal framework for their people’s existence, such that anyone could enslave them or expropriate them at will.

Netanyahu’s argument for not going back to 1967 borders is that it is inconvenient. He says that the 1967 borders are indefensible. This assertion is a logical fallacy, known as special pleading. You can’t launch a war and annex your neighbor’s territory because you fear that your own presents security challenges. Lots of countries are unhappy with their borders. Saddam Hussein annexed Kuwait in 1990 in part because he felt that the British had erred in not giving modern Iraq a deep water port, which made Iraq ‘indefensible’ and put it at an economic disadvantage. Pakistan believes that its failure to secure the headwaters of the Indus Valley rivers in Kashmir in 1947 puts it at a permanent disadvantage vis-a-vis India and makes the country overly vulnerable (‘indefensible’). Netanyahu’s immoral argument that a country just has to take by main force whatever it feels will make it more secure is astonishing and is a standing danger to world peace if it were taken seriously by other countries.

Aljazeera English reports on Netanyahu’s rejection of 1967 borders and anything like them:

International law forbids Israel to colonize the West Bank– not only the UN Charter but also the Geneva Conventions of 1948.

But beyond the specious character of Netanyahu’s rhetoric (according to which it would have been perfectly all right for George W. Bush to annex Iraq to the United States), the fact is that the whole tiff over ’1967 borders’ is a smokescreen for Israeli expansionism. The settler movement could put down settlements in much of the sparsely populated south of Israel proper with no problem. Instead, they insist on taking Palestinian land. They are not colonizing the West Bank only to make it more ‘secure’ (they are making it less so), but rather out of greed, ambition, and expansionism. It is not about defense, it is about offense.

(Courtesy the BBC)

The Likud Party led by Netanyahu does not believe in allowing the Palestinians to have a state, and does not believe in withdrawing from the Occupied Territories. This obstinate stance and commitment to undermining the international rule of law is why there is no point in ‘engaging’ the Likud with ‘ compromises.’ Netanyahu led the charege against the Oslo Peace process pursued by then PM Yitzhak Rabin in the early 1990s, and when Rabin was assassinated and Netanyahu came briefly to power he did whatever he could to destroy the peace process. He admitted this obstructionism on tape:

Netanyahu rudely lectured President Obama in front of the cameras that the Palestinian desire to see some of the refugees expelled from their homes by the Israelis in 1948 ‘isn’t going to happen’ and he urged Obama to frankly tell the Palestinians that it isn’t going to happen. But he may as well also have instructed Obama to tell the Palestinians that the two state solution is dead.

Israel by now has not only planted colonies all over the West Bank and moved hundreds of thousands of people in, but it has secretly withdrawn residency rights from 140,000 Palestinians. The ‘separation barrier’ removed another 12 percent of Palestinian territory. No one can look at a map of Gaza and the West Bank as they actually exist and see a viable state that could protect the rights of its citizens (the point of a state). Israel keeps announcing new settlements or expansions of existing ones on Palestinian territory.

Netanyahu is saying ‘no’ to peace, ‘no’ to negotiations, ‘no’ to dignity and rights for Palestinians for generations to come.

Ben Franklin said that ‘Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other.’ Netanyahu’s children and grandchildren and great grandchildren will one day regret that he slapped away the hand of help and the good will of Barack Obama in favor of a stubborn and greedy Israeli expansionism.

The most likely outcome of Israel’s present course is a one state solution, achieved over decades, with much heartbreak and violence and ruined lives in the meantime. The Jews of Israel will likely end up like the Maronite Christians of Lebanon. France created Lebanon in 1920 for a then Christian majority, but Christian out-migration and rapid Muslim population growth reduced the Maronites to only about 22 percent of the population today if we count children. Likewise, Israeli Jews have already lost their majority among first-graders in what was Mandate Palestine in favor of Palestinians and Palestinian-Israelis. Current demographic trends will likely produce an Israel that is a third Arab by 2030 and that is not even counting the Occupied Territories. The instability in the Arab world and the Greater Middle East, which is growing, could well over time increase Jewish out-migration (out of sheer nervousness) so that it outstrips in-migration of Jews. I can’t see a way for Israel to escape this demographic and geopolitical fate and remain viable as a nation-state. Plans on the Israeli right to denaturalize and expel the 1.5 million Palestinian-Israelis are unrealistic and do not reckon with the likely backlash from the Arab world, which won’t remain weak and abject forever. (We can already see glimmerings of a new, more assertive Egypt).

The course Netanyahu is charting will harm the United States in so many ways they are hard to count. But he is also digging the grave of his own vision of a Jewish state.

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Netanyahu Commits to Colonizing East Jerusalem; First Palestinian Expelled under new Policy

April 23rd, 2010 Comments off

The new Israeli policy of deporting Palestinians from the West Bank on arbitrary grounds has kicked in with Ahmad Sabah, who has just been deported to Gaza and separated from his family in the West Bank. The measure contravenes the Geneva Convention of 1949 on the treatment of occupied populations, and it also goes contrary to the undertakings Israel made toward the Palestine Authority in the course of the Oslo peace negotiations.

The episode underlines the ways in which their forced statelessness leaves Palestinians (almost uniquely among major world nationalities) completely vulnerable to loss of the most basic human rights. That he was forcibly moved to Gaza by the Israelis suggests that many of those singled out for potential deportation from the West Bank may be moved to the small slum along the Mediterranean, which the Israelis have cut off from its traditional markets and which they keep under a blockade of the civilian population (a war crime). The Israeli establishment has decided not to try to colonize Gaza, and its isolation and hopelessness make it an attractive place for them to begin exiling West Bank residents, thus making more room for Israeli colonists.

The new policy, which is illegal six ways to Sunday in international law, is the brainchild of the government of far rightwing Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu.

Netanyahu, an Israeli hawk and expansionist, slapped President Barack Obama in the face again Thursday when he confirmed that he refused to halt construction of new homes in Palestinian East Jerusalem, which is militarily occupied by Israel.

Netanyahu’s announcement is probably the nail in the coffin of any two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (in which the Israelis have thrown most Palestinians now living beyond the Green Line off their land and deprived them of citizenship in a state and all the rights that go with such citizenship). Palestinians are so despairing that only 57 percent even believe in having an independent Palestinian state any more. The rest are resigned to becoming Israelis in the distant future, when demographic realities and perhaps world-wide boycotts of Israel for its Apartheid-style policies toward the occupied Palestinian will force Israel to accept them.

At the same time, Netanyahu tried to throw sand in peoples’ eyes by talking about recognizing an ‘interim’ Palestinian state with “temporary” borders.

Palestinian leaders reject this formulation, which is intended to allow the Israelis to continue aggressively to colonize Palestinian territory while pretending that they are engaged in a ‘peace process.’ The Palestine Authority, established in the 1990s, was already a sort of interim state then, and Palestine’s borders were then ‘temporary.’ So temporary that Israel has made deep inroads into them through massive colonies and building a wall on the Palestinian side of the border, cutting residents off from their own farms and sequestering entire towns and cities.

Netanyahu’s various moves this week, from illegally expelling a Palestinian from the West Bank to Gaza– to blowing off the president of the United States and hitching his wagon to massive increased colonization of Palestinian land– all of these steps are guaranteed to mire Israel in violent disputes for years and perhaps decades. And the US, which has already suffered tremendously in Iraq and elsewhere from its knee-jerk support of illegal and inhumane Israeli policies toward the Palestinians, will suffer further.

Meanwhile, in the wake of a vicious attack on Barack Obama by New York senator Chuck Schumer, Steve Clemons of the Washington Note frankly wonders whether Schumer understands he is in the US Senate or whether he is under the impression he is serving in the Israeli Knesset.

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Israelis Could Expel Thousands of Palestinians from Palestine

April 12th, 2010 Comments off

New Israeli regulations allow authorities potentially to imprison or expel from the West Bank tens of thousands of Palestinians.

The Israeli right has long favored “transfer” (i.e. ethnic cleansing) as a means of dealing both with Palestinian-Israelis and with Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Given the extreme-right character of the government of Binyamin Netanyahu, it is no cause for wonder that practical steps are now being taken toward expulsions and deportations of anyone who even peacefully opposes the government’s systematic colonization of the West Bank.

The Guardian summarizes objections of Israeli peace groups who complain that “Palestinians, and any foreigners living in the West Bank” would be liable to deportation within 72 hours if they lack the right permit. “Valid permit” is not defined by the Israelis.

Rory McCarthy writes, “The orders … are worded so broadly such as theoretically allowing the military to empty the West Bank of almost all its Palestinian inhabitants,” said the 10 rights groups, which include Ha-Moked, B’Tselem, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, and Rabbis for Human Rights. Until now the vast majority of Palestinians in the West Bank have not been required to hold a permit just to be present in their homes, the groups say.”

The Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 requires two things of Israel, the Occupying Power in the Palestinian West Bank:

“Art. 49. Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive . . . The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”

Aljazeera English has a video report:

Meanwhile, Palestinians have begun a petition drive to collect a million signatures asking President Obama to end their Occupation. There is an increasing push among Palestinians to simply declare statehood within the next year or two, in hopes of forestalling the complete destruction by the Israelis of Palestinian nationhood.

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