Michael Riordon

the view from where I live


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“Crimes against humanity”

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is notoriously fearful of scolding Israel, even as it commits overt war crimes.  But he was sufficiently shocked by Israel’s August 3 bombing of a UN-run school in Gaza (the 6th attack by Israel on a Gaza school) to call it a “moral outrage and a criminal act”.  He confirmed that Israel had been “repeatedly informed of the location of these sites.”  UN schools are designated safe areas for people fleeing Israeli attacks.  An estimated 10 people died in the latest school bombing.

Calling the attack a “gross violation of international humanitarian law,” the UN Secretary General demanded that those responsible be held to account.  More detail here.

International legal authority Michael Ratner puts these charges in a longer perspective. President Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights, based in New York, and Chair of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, based in Berlin, he explained in a July 27 interview:

“These killings are part of a broader set of inhuman acts by Israel constituting international crimes, carried out by Israel over many years, going back to at least 1947 and 1948.  They include crimes that aren’t talked about that much in the media or the press, the crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and apartheid.  These crimes can be prosecuted in the International Criminal Court.”  The interview is here.

All attempts to prosecute Israel for war crimes have been blocked for decades, primarily by the United States, to ensure that Israel enjoys the same blanket impunity from international law that the US assumes for itself.

After Israel’s 2014 invasion of Gaza, the same could happen again.  And again.

Or not.


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STOP IT!

In my opinion, the resistance is just a temporary phenomenon to achieve particular goals: to end the blockade and allow Palestinians to live in freedom and dignity in a state of their own.” – Nour Omar Shaban, 16 years old, Gaza, August 2, 2014.

When the current attacks are called off, Israel hopes to be free to pursue its criminal policies in the occupied territories without interference, and with the U.S. support it has enjoyed in the past.”  – Noam Chomsky, 86 years old, Lexington, Massachusetts, August 3, 2014.

Under the Israeli bombsUnder Israel bombs, Gaza City, July 2014.

Day 25 of Israel’s assault on Gaza.  So far:

  • 1,888 Palestinians killed, 1586 of them civilians, including 447 children and 235 women
  • 7815 wounded, mostly civilians, including 2079 children and 1398 women

Through the toxic fog of propaganda, compelling voices speak out for truth and sanity.  Here are two:

From a young Gazan: http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/25118-war-and-peace-the-youth-of-gaza.

From the venerable Noam Chomsky: http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/25343-noam-chomsky-|-nightmare-in-gaza.

What is to be done?

Israel’s war crimes will only end when its illegal occupation of Palestine is stopped.

The occupation will only stop when it becomes impossible for Israel to sustain it.

The ruling authorities in Europe and North America offer no solution; they continue to support what Israeli historian Ilan Pappe calls “Israel’s incremental genocide on Gaza.”

For now, the only effective lever we have to end the occupation is the ever-growing international movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions.


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A pledge…

“…to the family of the one thousandth victim of Israel’s genocidal slaughter in Gaza…”

Ilan Pappe, Israeli author, professor of history, director of the European Centre for Palestine Studies at the University of Exeter, England.

On Day 20 of the Israeli assault on Gaza, the toll:

  • 1,014 Palestinians killed, 832 of them civilians, including 221 children and 121 women
  • 4,706 others wounded, mostly civilians, including 1,263 children and 939 women

Gaza, ShujaiyyaShujaiya neighbourhood, Gaza

In the face of such overwhelming crimes, words seem painfully inadequate, even pointless. But Israel’s colonial war on Palestinians is partly sustained by words, in torrents of propaganda from governments and the corporate media. In resisting it, words can also have immense power to convey facts, reason, and compassion.

Ilan Pappe has just written such a message “to the family of the one thousandth victim of Israel’s genocidal slaughter in Gaza.” A fragment:

“…I feel the urge today to make a pledge to you, which none of the Germans my father knew during the time of the Nazi regime was willing to make to him when the thugs committed genocide against his family. This is not much of a pledge at your moment of grief, but it is the best I can offer, and saying nothing is not an option. And doing nothing is even less than an option…”

Pappe’s pledge is here.

 

 

 

 


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War crimes

Day 19 of the Israeli attack on Gaza. The toll until now:

  • 928 Palestinians killed, 764 of them civilians, including 215 children and 118 women
  • 4,663 Palestinians wounded, mostly civilians, including 1,358 children and 932 women
  • 561 houses destroyed and hundreds of others extensively
  • thousands of Palestinian civilians forcibly displaced
  • Source: Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), a non-governmental organization based in Gaza City.

PALESTINIAN-ISRAEL-CONFLICT-GAZAThe Israeli military assault also continues in the West Bank: Six Palestinians killed (on July 26) in West Bank protests against Gaza slaughter.

These war crimes could not continue without enablers, accomplices.

On July 23 the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) met in special session to consider the matter of war crimes, and decided “… to urgently dispatch an independent, international commission of inquiry, to be appointed by the President of the Human Rights Council, to investigate all violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, particularly in the occupied Gaza Strip, in the context of the military operations conducted since 13 June 2014, whether before, during or after….”

The 47-member council voted 29-1 in favor of the resolution. 17 members (11 of them European) abstained. Only one country voted to oppose the commission of inquiry: the United States. (Neither Israel nor the Palestinians are members of the council.) Despite the US, the commission of inquiry will proceed.

For people of conscience who feel helpless to stop these war crimes, the international boycott, investment & sanctions (BDS) movement offers these suggestions for action.

 


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How did all this happen?

In 1907 British civil servants prepared a report on the Middle East for the Prime Minister, Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman. As the United States does now, the British imperial regime treated the rest of the world as its private estate.

A key paragraph of the Bannerman report lays out the foundation for all that followed, including the current assault on Gaza:

“There are people [MR: the inhabitants of the Middle East] who control spacious territories teeming with manifest and hidden resources. They dominate the intersections of world routes. Their lands were the cradles of human civilizations and religions.  These people have one faith, one language, one history and the same aspirations.   No natural barriers can isolate these people from one another … if, per chance, this nation were to be unified into one state, it would then take the fate of the world into its hands and would separate Europe from the rest of the world.  Taking these considerations seriously, [bold added] a foreign body should be planted in the heart of this nation to prevent the convergence of its wings in such a way that it could exhaust its powers in never-ending wars. It could also serve as a springboard for the West to gain its coveted objects.”

[Dan Bar-On & Sami Adwan, THE PRIME SHARED HISTORY PROJECT, in Educating Toward a Culture of Peace, pages 309–323, Information Age Publishing, 2006.]

Ten years later, in the now infamous 1917 Balfour Declaration, the British government prepared the ground for planting that “foreign body”. In a letter to Baron Rothschild (Walter Rothschild, 2nd Baron Rothschild), for transmission to the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland, British Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour declared:

“His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”

Just like that. So easy.  At the stroke of a pen.

Gaza City, ruinsGaza City, under Israeli bombs, July 2014.