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Israeli occupation of Palestine: Retracing the organized subversion of human rights

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By Gaurav Sharma

What began as an extensive persecution of Jews in the Middle Ages in the form raging anti-semitism has now transformed into a morbid crackdown on Palestinians.

Palestine represents the world’s largest refugee population, most of whom are poor, powerless, and homeless. Unemployment is rampant, with a record 67 percent of the youth population without a job to provide for their basic needs. Homes lie in shambles, bombed by the incessant flow of missiles fired from Israel-occupied regions in the West Bank.

To aggravate the situation, most of the promised $3.5 billion foreign aid does not reach the target audience (almost three-fourth of the amount is diverted to the Palestinian Authority, a puppet regime in West Bank).

Jewish uprising

The crisis which has snowballed into flagrant human rights abuses by the Israeli regime traces it roots to the resurgence of Zionism in the early 20th Century, in line with the long-standing demands of a ‘return to Zion.’

Zionism began as Jewish nationalist movement under the vision of Theodor Herzl, an Austrian-Jewish journalist who galvanized the brewing jingoism into a mass movement in 1896.

By organizing meetings and penning down vocal essays, Herzl was able to magnetize Jews living in Europe to what now stands as Israel / Palestine. To escape the jaws of European persecution, the Jews heeded Herzl’s clarion calls for a national homeland and migrated to what was then an Arab and Muslim dominated territory under the control of the Ottoman empire (which was later transferred to the British).

Through a heady mix of anti-semitism and religious nationalism, the Jewish population in Israel/Palestine sharply escalated between 1896 and 1948. The Arabs saw the mass immigration of Jews as a European colonial movement and a war soon ensued.

herzl
Theodor Herzl, father of modern political Zionism

Division of state

Unable to stymie the violence, Britain devised a partition policy wherein Palestine would control West Bank and the Gaza strip and the rest of the land would be transferred to Israel.

While the Jewish population accepted the deal, Arabs viewed the agreement as an insidious plan to displace them from their rightful land. Subsequently in 1967, the Arab states of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Iraq launched a war against Israel, though not before terming it as an aggressor.

Israel, on its part, asserted that it had launched the attack as a pre-emptive measure. During the Six Day war (as it is popularly known), Israel crushed the Arab powers and assumed control of West Bank and East Jerusalem. More than 77 percent of the land came under the territory of Israel. In the aftermath of the sinister battle, a massive 700,000 Palestinian civilians transfigured into refugees.

To address grievances of the displaced populace, the United Nations Security Council adopted resolution 242, asking Israel to withdraw from ‘the territories’ (French translation) occupied. The US and Israel used instead the English translation of the text to argue that withdrawal from some, and not all the usurped area would suffice.

Meanwhile, to govern the Palestinian population in West Bank and Gaza, Israel organized a military establishment through which civil rights and political liberties such as freedom of speech and expression, press, and association were denied to the Palestinians.

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Six Day War: June 5-10, 1967

Intifida and Human rights abuse

Following the subversion and criminalization of Palestinian nationalism, an Intifida (shaking off) movement was mobilized by the Palestinian community. During the mass unrest, Israel arrested people by the dozen. (Israel had the highest per-capita prison population in the world)

A secret policy of targeted killing was undertaken by Israel. Violence within the Palestinian community also escalated, with the rift between the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO, the official representative of the Palestinians) and Hamas (an Islamist organization deemed as a terrorist group) spilling out in the open.

Despite the 1993 Oslo 2 agreements dividing the West Bank into a shared territory (besides giving complete control of one area to Israel), Israel has launched sweeping offensives in the Gaza strip, killing thousands of Palestinians. Hamas has retaliated with much less fire-power.

As of now, the Gaza strip is under the control of Hamas and the West Bank is ruled by the mainstream Fateh faction of the PLO.

Meanwhile, in the midst of the apathy of diplomatic amnesia, refugees which include young children, helpless women, and old residents have been subjected to barbaric human rights abuse.

Human Rights Watch, a global human rights advocacy group, has documented cases where boys belonging to the tender age group of 10-15 years were threatened, mercilessly beaten-up, stripped, and jailed. (a gross violation of Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political rights ratified by Israel in 1991)

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‘Mowing the lawn,’ an euphemism for Israeli oppression in Palestine

A Unicef report further underscores the plight of the refugees in a 2013 report wherein the uncertainty and instability of the future of Palestinian children is highlighted.

Chris Hedges, a Pulitzer prize-winning author, calls the peace process a ‘sham’ and defines Israel as a ‘corrupt oligarchic regime for whom war has become a lucrative business.’

The allegations are not far-fetched keeping in mind the 390,000 tank shells, 5 million bullets, and 35,000 artillery shells that were blasted by Israel during the 51-day Gaza siege in 2014.

More recently, a one-and-a-half-year old Palestinian infant was charred to death in what has been defined as a clear case of Jewish terrorism. The brutal episode is however not an isolated case of brazen violence.

Following the execution of three Jewish students in West Bank, Israel launched a full-scale invasion of Gaza and administered an even more sinister campaign to blockade food deliveries, thereby ensuring the survival of Palestinians just above starvation levels. The periodic rocket shelling which has shattered the lives of the Palestinians is meanwhile callously dubbed as ‘mowing the lawn.

As far as counter-charges of Hamas wreaking havoc in Israel go, the disparity in the efficacy of attacks is precociously prominent. Compared to the 20-40 tonnes of firepower that Hamas used through its widely inaccurate missile strikes, Israel pummelled 20,000 tonnes of explosives in Gaza.

The only feasible way to prevent Israel from continuing the horrific hounding of Palestinians is through imposition of sanctions, such as those that brought down the apartheid regime in South Africa.

However, with the US backing Israeli-occupation of Palestine, it is highly unlikely that the BDS movement, a global campaign to exert political and economic pressure on Israel to leave Palestinian land, would succeed.

And yet, there is no other way to arrest the fall of the Palestinian people.

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Trump to Announce US Recognition of Jerusalem as Israeli Capital, Move Embassy

President Trump in a historic move can soon announce U.S recognition of Jerusalem as Israeli capital

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Jerusalem to be named Israeli capital
Palestinian protesters burn pictures of U.S. President Donald Trump at the manger square in Bethlehem, Dec. 5, 2017. Trump told Mideast leaders in phone calls that he would announce U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital (VOA)

President Donald Trump plans to announce Wednesday that the United States is recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and will move the U.S. Embassy there from Tel Aviv.

The decision is likely to cause an uproar throughout the Arab world. But the White House says Trump is merely recognizing what it calls a historic and modern reality.

To soften what could be a hard blow, Trump telephoned five Middle East leaders Tuesday to brief them on his decision — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, Jordanian King Abdullah, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi and Saudi King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.

A White House statement gave few details of the conversations except to say, “The leaders also discussed potential decisions regarding Jerusalem.” It added that Trump reaffirmed his commitment to advancing Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

White House officials said late Tuesday that Trump recognized Jerusalem is not only the historic capital of the Jewish people, it has been the seat of the Israeli government since the founding of modern Israel in 1948.

The officials said the president would order the State Department to start making plans to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv. They said it would take years to find a site, secure funding and construct a new building. Until then, Trump will sign the usual waiver postponing the relocation.

Under a law signed by President Bill Clinton in 1995, the embassy must be relocated to Jerusalem unless the president signs a waiver every six months stating that moving the embassy would threaten U.S. national security. Every president since Clinton has signed the waiver, including Trump.

Dennis Ross was U.S. point man on the Middle East peace process under three presidents and worked with Israelis and Palestinians to reach the Interim Agreement on the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1995. He said Tuesday that Trump appeared to be leaving a lot of room for both Israelis and Arabs to maneuver in the new environment.

“It’s very important for the president to create a lot of ‘handles’ or ‘hooks’ for our friends to say, fundamentally, this does not change the ability of Palestinians, the Arabs who tend to see Jerusalem not just (as) a Palestinian issue but a regional issue, that their position, their concern, their claim still has to be part of the negotiation process and that hasn’t been pre-empted,” Ross said in a briefing for reporters. “That seems to me to be the key to this.”

Some officials in Washington expressed concern about the potential for a violent backlash against Israel and American interests in the region as a result of Trump’s announcement.

Input from Tillerson

When asked whether Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was “on board” with a decision that could put U.S. citizens and troops in the Middle East at risk, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the secretary “has made his positions clear to the White House. I think the Department of Defense has as well. But it is ultimately the president’s decision to make. He is in charge.”

In a security message released Tuesday, the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem, noting widespread calls for demonstrations this week, barred personal travel by American government workers and their families in Jerusalem’s Old City and West Bank, including Bethlehem and Jericho, until further notice.

U.S. embassies worldwide also were ordered to increase security.

White House officials said that in recognizing Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, Trump would be fulfilling a major campaign promise. They said the physical location of the U.S. Embassy was no impediment toward negotiating a final peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians.

Jerusalem Old city
A framed photo of Jerusalem’s Old City hangs in a juice stand, in Jerusalem’s Old City, Dec. 5, 2017. The U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem on Dec. 5 barred personal travel by American government workers and their families in Jerusalem’s Old City and West Bank, including Bethlehem and Jericho, until further notice.(VOA)

The officials said by moving the embassy, the president is not making a decision on any boundaries or sovereignty in Jerusalem. Those are matters to be negotiated as part of a two-state solution — something the officials say Trump believes is within reach.

The officials said Trump was encouraged by the progress made my his Middle East peace team, even if whatever progress has been made may not be apparent.

Seized in 1967

Israel seized control over Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War. It later annexed East Jerusalem. Israel has always said an undivided Jerusalem is its eternal capital. The Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state.

Jerusalem is home to the Al Aqsa Mosque, the third-holiest place in Islam. For Jews, it is the Temple Mount, the holiest site of all.

Arab and Muslim states have warned that any decision to move the U.S. Embassy could inflame tensions in the region and destroy U.S. efforts to reach an Arab-Israeli peace agreement.

Jerusalem as Israel Capital
Temple Mount/Noble Sanctuary, Jerusalem (VOA)

Senior Palestinian leader Nabil Shaath said Trump would no longer be seen as a credible mediator. “The Palestinian Authority does not condone violence, but it may not be able to control the street and prevent a third Palestinian uprising,” he said, speaking in Arabic.

Gerald Feierstein, director for Gulf affairs and government relations at the Middle East Institute in Washington, said the level of anger the announcement might provoke depends greatly on how Trump presents the issue.

“If the president just says, ‘We recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,’ without trying to define it further and without actually beginning the process of moving the embassy, then it’s a big nothingburger,” he told VOA.

Donald Trump
FILE – President Donald Trump speaks on the phone in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, Jan. 28, 2017.(VOA)

Feierstein, who served as U.S. ambassador to Yemen, and later as principal deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs under former President Barack Obama, said if Trump went any further, it could trigger a backlash and deal a crushing blow to peace efforts.

“If what he says is perceived as, or is in fact, a recognition of all of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and he is no longer maintaining the international position that Jerusalem is to be divided and that East Jerusalem is to become the capital of the Palestinian state once there is an agreement, then that is going to have a very negative effect on the peace process,” Feierstein said.

“So the devil is in the details about how significant this is going to be,” he said.

VOA’s Cindy Saine at the State Department contributed to this report.(VOA)

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Dalveer Bhandari re-elected as the judge of ICJ

Bhandari has also served as the judge of Supreme Court of India

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The judge of the international court of justice.
Dalveer Bhandari got 121 votes in a 193 members assembly. IANS

Arul Louis

United Nations, November 21

Judge Dalveer Bhandari was re-elected to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Tuesday as the General Assembly rallied behind him in a show of strength that made Britain bow to the majority and withdraw its candidate Christopher Greenwood.

“I am grateful to all the nations who have supported me,” Bhandari told IANS in the Assembly chamber after the election. “It was a big election as you know.” The withdrawal of its candidate by Britain, which had the backing of its fellow permanent members, was a setback for the Security Council that had been locked in a test of wills with the Assembly.

A candidate has to win a majority in both the chambers. Bhandari won majorities in the Assembly in the first 11 rounds of voting over two meetings, while the Council blocked his election by giving majorities to Greenwood in the ten rounds of balloting it held.

“The British ultimately had to bow down to the will of the majority,” a diplomat said. “The Indians stared them down.” The Council’s permanent members have traditionally had a judge in the ICJ, assuming it to be a matter of right. This time the 193-member Assembly asserted itself, forcing the Council to back down and put at risk the continuation of the ICJ perk of the permanent members.

In letters written to the Presidents Miroslav Lajcak of the Assembly and Sebastiano Cardi of the Council, Britain’s Permanent Representative Matthew Rycroft said that his country was withdrawing Greenwood’s candidature keeping “in mind the close relationship that the United Kingdom and India always enjoyed and will continue to enjoy”.

Bhandari’s election was a dramatic face-saving turn of fortunes for India, as he lost the Asian seat on the ICJ to Lebanese lawyer-turned-diplomat Nawaf Salam, who had been campaigning for two years and had the backing of the powerful Organisation of Islamic Cooperation with 55 members in the UN.

Bhandari got a second chance only because an unpopular Britain could not get an Assembly majority for a remaining judgeship requiring a runoff where the two chambers of the UN split in their voting.

Bhandari’s cause became a rallying point for the nations not a member of the Council, who were chafing under the domination of the unrepresentative Council to make a popular show of force.

India hammered home the representative character of the Assembly compared to the Council and insisted that the UN members follow democratic principles and re-elect Bhandari by accepting the global majority he has received in the Assembly.

In the last round of voting on November 13, Bhandari received 121 votes, just short of a two-thirds majority in the 193-member Assembly, while Greenwood received nine in the Council.

“The precedent is clear,” India’s Permanent Representative Syed Akbaruddin said at a reception for Bhandari attended by representatives of over 160 countries on Thursday.

“As is expected in the 21st century, the candidate who enjoys the overwhelming support of the General Assembly membership can be the only legitimate candidate to go through.” Diplomats familiar with behind-the-scenes manoeuvres said Britain indicated late last week that it would withdraw Greenwood, but over the weekend changed course with the backing of some fellow permanent members and came up with a plan for the Council to call for ending the balloting and set up a joint conference to resolve the deadlock.

The statutes of the ICJ provides for a joint conference made up of three members each from the Council and the Assembly to resolve a deadlock that persists after three election meetings.

India feared the outcome and campaigned resolutely to avoid it, pointing to the precedents in the elections in 2011 and 2014 and earlier when the candidate leading in the Council withdrew in favour of the candidate with the majority in the Assembly even though in those cases permanent members were not involved.

Bhandari’s election upsets what has become a traditional balance in the ICJ. Besides a permanent member going unrepresented, four Asian countries will be represented on the ICJ bench instead of the usual three.

Three incumbent judges of the ICJ — President Ronny Abraham of France, Vice President, Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf of Somalia, and Antonio Augusto Cancado Trindade of Brazil – were elected along with Salam in the first four rounds of voting on November 9.

Bhandari and the others elected will start their term in February next year. (IANS)

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Iraqi Parliament puts a Ban on Display of Israeli Flag and ‘Zionist’ Symbols Across the Country

Speaker of the Iraqi parliament announced the raising of Israeli flag in the country as a punishable offence that would be dealt with criminal prosecution

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Israeli Flag
An Israeli Flag Flies on a hill near Bethlehem. VOA.

Erbil, November 1: Following the display of Israeli flag in pro-independence Kurdish rallies, the Iraqi parliament, known as the Council of Representatives, voted Tuesday to ban the Israeli flag, describing it as a Zionist symbol.

“A dangerous phenomenon, representing the hoisting of the Zionist entity flag during public rallies in front of the media, has recently appeared that breaks the basic constitutional principles of Iraq,” Salim al-Jabouri, Speaker of the Iraqi parliament, said while announcing the law that vows criminal prosecution against those who raise the Israeli flag in the country.

“This is an exercise that damages the reputation of Iraq and its nation and the law punishes it by the maximum penalties,” the speaker added.

The law was introduced by the parliamentary bloc of the Shiite Supreme Islamic Council and was unanimously approved by other members of the Iraqi parliament. It ordered law enforcement to pursue criminal charges against “those who promote Zionist symbols in public rallies in any form, including the hoisting of the Zionist flag.”

Israeli flags were appearing frequently during Kurdish rallies in the run up to the Kurdish referendum vote that was held Sept. 25, with 92 percent voting in favor of secession from the central government in Baghdad.

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has said their hoisting at the gatherings was “spontaneous” and did not reflect the position of the government, which cannot formally establish relations with Israel due to the policy of the government in Baghdad that does not recognize Israel as a state.

Israeli Flag
Salim al-Jabouri, Speaker of the Iraqi parliament announced the display of Israeli flag as a criminal offence. VOA.

‘A second Israel’

Some officials of the central government in Baghdad and elements in the neighboring Turkey and Iran have accused Kurdish leaders of secret ties with what they termed “Zionists” and have described the Kurdish bid for independence an orchestrated plan to establish “the second Israel in Middle East.”

Israel is denying any involvement in the controversial referendum, but it is the only country that has openly supported the Kurdish aspirations for independence.

“The Kurds demonstrate national maturity and international maturity,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said earlier this month. “We have very great sympathy for their desires and the world needs to concern itself with their safety and with their future.”

Other countries — including the United States and EU members which consider the Kurdistan Regional Government a reliable ally, particularly in the current fight against IS — have publicly opposed the Kurdish referendum, arguing that the move diverts attention from the more crucial fight against the Islamic State in the region.

U.S. officials say the cooperation between the Kurdish forces known as Peshmerga and the Iraqi army played a critical role in removing the Islamic State fighters from Iraq’s second-largest city of Mosul. They say the Kurdish vote for independence has disrupted that cooperation and resulted in clashes between the region and the central government, particularly on the fate of territories disputed between both sides. (VOA)