How the “most moral army in the world” wages war on students

This article from nearly two years ago is worth repeating here because it illustrates, through the story of cruel victimisation of just these two students, why the Palestinians must be freed from the shackles of Israeli occupation and oppression and why the international community must cease its foot-dragging.

 

If there’s one thing the Israelis are good at it’s making war on women and children.

They killed 952 Palestinian kiddies in their homeland between 2000 and the start of the Gaza blitzkrieg in December 2008 (according to B’Tselem statistics). They murdered at least 350 more during that onslaught and have kept Gaza under daily attack ever since. So the brave Israelis must have eliminated nearly 1500 youngsters by now. Would anyone care to guess how many they left bleeding, maimed and disabled?

The “most moral army in the world” also loves waging war against Palestinian university students. Not long ago I wrote about Merna, an honors student in her final year majoring in English. Israeli soldiers frequently rampaged through her Bethlehem refugee camp in the middle of the night, ransacking homes and arbitrarily arresting residents. They took away her family one by one. First her 14-year-old cousin and best friend was shot dead by an Israeli sniper while she sat outside her family home during a curfew.

Next the Israelis arrested her eldest brother, a 22 year-old artist, and imprisoned him for 4 years.  Then they came back for Merna’s 18-year-old brother. Not content with that the military came again, this time to take her youngest brother – the ‘baby’ of the family – just 16. These were the circumstances under which Merna had to study.

Israeli military law treats Palestinians as adults as soon as they reach 16, a flagrant violation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Israeli youngsters are regarded as children until 18. Palestinians are dealt with by Israeli military courts, even when it’s a civil matter. These courts ignore international laws and conventions, so there’s no legal protection for individuals under Israeli military occupation.

As detention is based on secret information, which neither the detainee nor his lawyer is allowed to see, it is impossible to mount a proper defence. Besides, the Security Service always finds a bogus excuse to keep detainees locked up “in the greater interest of the security ofIsrael”. Although detainees have the right to review and appeal, they are unable to challenge the evidence and check facts as all information presented to the Court is classified. So much for Israeli ‘justice’.

Faced with this great mental stress Merna nevertheless determined to carry on with her studies. The most moral army in the world may have robbed her brothers of an education, but she would still fight for hers.

To get to Bethlehem University, or any other, many students have to run the gauntlet of Israeli checkpoints. “Sometimes they take our ID cards and they spend ages writing down all the details, just to make us late,” said one. Students are often made to remove shoes, belt and bags. “It’s like an airport. Many times we are kept waiting outside for up to an hour, rain or shine, they don’t care.” The soldiers attempt to forcibly remove students’ clothes or they swear and shout sexual slurs at female students.

Some tell how they are sexually harassed on their way to university and spend the rest of the day worrying what the Israelis will do to them on their way home. The constant humiliation undermines student motivation and concentration.

Five years ago the Israelis forcibly removed four Birzeit University students from their studies in the West Bank and illegally sent them back to the Gaza Strip. All four were due to graduate by the end of that academic year. There was an outcry from around the world and the Israeli Army Legal Advisor was bombarded with faxes and letters demanding that the students be allowed to return to their studies.

The world’s most moral army agreed that the students might be allowed to return to Birzeit if they signed a guarantee to permanently return to the Gaza Strip after completing their studies. This effectively exposed Israel’s policy to impose a final separation between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, even though the two are internationally recognized as one integral territory. Under international law everyone has the right to freely choose their place of residence within a single territory, but since when did Israel give a damn about international law? The racist regime makes it virtually impossible for Gaza students to reach the eight Palestinian universities in theWest Bank. In 1999 some 350 Gaza students were studying at Birzeit. Today there are almost none. 

It was no great surprise, then, to hear from Bethlehem University a few days ago that Berlanty Azzam, a 4th year Business Administration student was being held in detention by the Israeli military authorities with the intention of deporting her to Gaza “for trying to complete her studies at Bethlehem University.”

Berlanty, a Christian girl, is originally from Gaza but has lived in theWest Bank since 2005 after receiving a travel permit from the military to cross from Gaza to the West Bank. She too is being robbed of her degree at the last minute. She was detained at the Container checkpoint between Bethlehem and Ramallah after attending a job interview in Ramallah.

The 21 year-old was due to graduate before Christmas. On Wednesday night the most moral army in the world blindfolded and handcuffed her, loaded her into a military jeep and drove her from Bethlehem to Gaza, despite assurances by the Israeli Military Legal Advisor’s office that she would not be deported before an attorney from Gisha (an Israeli NGO working to protect Palestinians’ freedom of movement) had the opportunity to petition the Israeli court for her return to classes in Bethlehem.

When they’d crossed the border the world’s most moral army dumped Berlanty in the darkness late at night and told her: “You are inGaza.”

“Since 2005, I refrained from visiting my family in Gazafor fear that I would not be permitted to return to my studies in theWest Bank,” Berlanty told Gisha on her mobile phone before the soldiers confiscated it. “Now, just two months before graduation, I was arrested and taken toGazain the middle of the night, with no way to finish my degree.”

Bethlehem University wants to mobilize people from around the world to protest. Who better to contact, I thought, than the Palestinian ambassador in London, Professor Manuel Hassassian, who happens to be a former vice-president of that excellent seat of learning? “Have you contacted the Israeli ambassador for an explanation to this outrage?” I emailed him.

Next day, having heard nothing, I emailed again: “Update… She has been removed to Gaza blindfolded and handcuffed! What is the Embassy doing about this please?” Another 24 hours have gone by and the silence is deafening. 

I had of course simultaneously emailed the Israeli ambassador Ron Prosor asking him, please, to make enquiries. “On the face of it, this seems a senseless outrage. The student concerned has, I believe, just started her final year. I wonder what Mr Prosor or Mr Netanyahu would say if the education of their sons and daughters or grandchildren was disrupted in this manner.” And next day, having heard nothing, I sent the same update about Berlanty being blindfolded and handcuffed. Another 24 hours have gone by… still nothing, not even the courtesy of an acknowledgement from Israel’s press office, which usually responds like lightning to anything with news value.

If this had been a Jewish girl deprived of her university degree and life chances the Israeli embassy would be having hysterics and hurling accusations of religious hatred and anti-semitism. But it’s the Jewish state screwing up the young life of a Christian, so that’s alright then.

 

31 October 2009

 

A thousand-and-one reasons why Palestine must get independence…

…and here’s perhaps the most important

The following report from Bethlehem University that academic staff had been attacked yet again, this time by Israeli squatters, reminds me of how the Israelis apparently resent the Palestinians’ fine education tradition. They have seen to it that Palestinian universities suffer the severest restrictions in delivering knowledge.

Bethlehem University, which includes many Muslims among its students, has been closed a dozen times by Israeli storm-troopers.  In 2002 it sustained 4 Israeli missile hits, three to the Millennium Hall and one to the Heritage Centre in the Library. 100 soldiers later stormed into the buildings and did further damage.

In January 2003 the university’s president pleaded: “Can anyone do anything to change this systematic strangulation?” Nevertheless staff succeed and students continue to flourish against all odds.

On one of my visits I spoke with Brother Cyril, a kindly, mild-mannered American from Minnesota, who ran the University. He was about to go on leave. “What do your friends back home say when you tell them what’s happened here?” I asked.

He shrugged. “They listen for ten minutes then switch off.”

 

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Yara Odeh
 
 
Miss Yara Odeh, a Bethlehem University masters degree student, was one of the
victims of the violent attacks.
 
 
 
6 September 2011
Bethlehem, Palestine
 
Dear Alumni and Friends of Bethlehem
University,
 
 
Generally, I am delighted to write to you with some encouraging news about happenings at Bethlehem University. Today, however, I have some disturbing and unfortunate news to share with you.
 
A Bethlehem University Professor and Student Survive Two Separate Attacks by Israeli Settlers 
 
In the early morning hours of Monday, 5 September 2011, while travelling in the West Bank between the Palestinian villages of Al-Lubban and Turmos Aya and near the Israeli settlements of Ofarim and Bet Ariye along the Nablus-Ramallah, Dr. Adwan Adwan, a faculty member in the Arabic Department at Bethlehem University, was the victim of a violent attack by some 20 Israeli settlers who threw rocks in his face, injuring his head, shoulder, and stomach. His car was blocked by a pile of burning tires when he quickly came under what he said felt like a well-orchestrated ambush. Dr. Adwan eventually was able to speed away from the scene and get himself to a hospital for treatment. “I felt lucky to escape with my life,” he says.
 
On the same day and further along the same road, near the settlement of Shiloh in the Palestinian Territories, Miss Yara Odeh, a Bethlehem University masters degree student, was the victim of a violent attack by some Israeli settlers. Yara found herself stuck in what appeared to be a traffic jam caused by Israeli settlers pelting cars with rocks. With the road blocked, she escaped from her car through the passenger door and ran toward nearby Israeli soldiers, calling for help. She reports being refused help and being told to return to her car. “The settlers seemed not so much interested in damaging the car as they were in harming me,” she says of the incident.
 
The Bethlehem University administration is extremely disturbed by these attacks on members of the academic community. “We value the lives of our faculty and students,” says Dr. Michael Sansur, Executive Vice President at Bethlehem University. “Each and every day our faculty engage our students in promoting democracy, peace, and justice. We are fortunate to have a campus atmosphere that is known to be an oasis of peace. These violent and aggressive attacks on our students and faculty from Israeli settlers in the Palestinian territories are horrifying and unjust.
 
We are grateful for the well-being of Dr. Adwan and Yara in surviving these traumatic events and pledge to continue in our efforts to prepare our graduates to take their place as ethical leaders in fostering shared values, moral principles and dedication to serving the common good.”
 
As reported in the media and by the United Nations, there appears to be an increase in the number of Palestinians who are being attacked by groups of Israeli settlers. The United Nations and other international human rights and aid organizations report that more than 500,000 Israeli settlers, many of whom are armed, occupy the West Bank and East Jerusalem.Please continue to keep us in your prayers.
 
Blessings to you,
Brother Jack Curran, FSC, PhD
Vice President for Development
jcurran@bethlehem.edu
 
Bethlehem University in the Holy Land
Rue des Freres
Bethlehem – Palestine
Tel: +972-2-274-1241
Fax: +972-2-274-4440
www.bethlehem.edu
Bethlehem University
‘Inspiring Innovation and Creating the Future’  
 
Hecker Center, Suite 330 3025 Fourth Street, NE | Washington, DC 20017 US
 

It is unclear whether the British government intends joining the US and Israel in their spoiling tactics when the Palestinians’ bid for independence is put to the United Nations later this month. I have asked my MP about that and I hope UK readers will press their own MPs on the subject.

 

8 September 2011

 

The International Criminal Court – a help or a hindrance?

It is pledged to end impunity for the most evil criminals…

So do you fume at the International Criminal Court (ICC) when you see all those obnoxious war criminals still walking free and still thumbing their noses at the civilised world while their gruesome crime sheet just gets longer?

There should be no hiding place. But international law never reaches into some corners because the levers that control the wheels of justice, we discover, are sometimes leaned on by the criminals themselves.

The International Criminal Court was supposed to change all that. It is governed by the RomeStatute http://untreaty.un.org/cod/icc/statute/romefra.htm and is the first permanent, treaty-based, international criminal court established “to help end impunity for the perpetrators of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community”.

The ICC says it is independent and not part of the United Nations system… but that is not strictly true, as we’ll see.

115 states have signed up to the Rome Statute. The UK is one of them, I’m pleased to say. And so too is Afghanistan. But rogue states like the US and Israelrank alongside Saudi and Libya and skulk beyond the perimeter.

A further 34 countries, including Russia, have signed but not ratified. These states are obliged, under the law of treaties, to refrain from “acts which would defeat the object and purpose” of the Rome Statute. Three of these states—Israel,Sudanand theUnited States—signed and then, presumably realising their conduct was not up to the standards expected and wishing to undermine the Statute whenever it suited them, “unsigned”. 

The Court has jurisdiction over genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed by nationals of a State Party or on the territory of a State Party since1 July 2002, the date the Rome Statute came into effect.

The Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) lists some pretty woolly objectives which nevertheless include these two:

  • To maximize the Office of the Prosecutor’s contribution to the fight against impunity and the prevention of crimes.
  • To enhance cooperation with States and relevant actors, in particular for the execution of arrest warrants issued by the Court.

Does any of this help Palestine? The ICC’s website http://www.icc-cpi.int/Menus/ICC/Structure+of+the+Court/Office+of+the+Prosecutor/Comm+and+Ref/Palestine/ reports that on 22 January 2009, the Palestinian National Authority lodged a declaration with the Registrar under Article 12(3) of the Rome Statute which allows States not party to the Statute to accept the Court’s jurisdiction. “The OTP will examine issues related to its jurisdiction: first whether the declaration accepting the exercise of jurisdiction by the Court meets statutory requirements; and second whether crimes within the Court’s jurisdiction have been committed. The Office will also consider whether there are national proceedings in relation to alleged crimes.”

In October 2009 a delegation from the PNA and the Arab League presented the Court with a report in support of the PNA’s ability to delegate its jurisdiction to the ICC. In January 2010, the OTP sent a letter summarizing its activities to the United Nations then, in May, published a “Summary of submissions on whether the declaration lodged by the Palestinian National Authority meets statutory requirements.”

But in 28 long months the Prosecutor has made no determination on the issue.

After wading through Articles 6, 7 and 8 of the Rome Statute describing the numerous crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocides the ICC is supposed to deal with -  the sort of horrors Palestinians have to face every day – I found that Article 12(3) of the Rome Statute refers to Article 12(2) which refers to Article 13 (a) and (c)… which is enough to make one want to lie down in a darkened room and lose the will to live.

So I was very pleased to hear from Dr David Morrison in Dublin who periodically sends me excellent briefings and carefully researched articles from his organization, Sadaka – the Ireland Palestine Alliance. One of his latest pieces looked at the hypocrisy of referring Libya to the ICC.

US wants impunity for itself (and Israel) while prosecuting others

Libya is not a party to the International Criminal Court and is among many states that do not accept its jurisdiction.  Yet three months ago the UN Security Council voted unanimously, in Resolution 1970, to refer the situation in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. Five of the states that voted for this referral – China, India, Lebanon, Russia and the US – are not parties to the ICC and don’t accept its jurisdiction.  So here we see the US among those forcing Libya to accept the jurisdiction of the ICC, when it refuses to do so itself.

Dr Morrison points also to the case of Sudan in 2005 when the Security Council decided to refer the situation in Darfur to the ICC Prosecutor.Sudan isn’t a party to the ICC either.  On that occasion theUSandChinaabstained, but 3 states –Philippines, Russia and Tanzania – which don’t accept the jurisdiction of the ICC voted for Sudan to be subjected to it.

The ICC charged the President of Sudan, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, with genocide and two other Sudanese nationals with lesser charges. 

How were these referrals possible, asks Morrison?  The answer lies in Article 13(b) of the Rome Statute, under which the ICC may exercise jurisdiction if “a situation in which one or more crimes appears to have been committed is referred to the Prosecutor by the Security Council acting under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations [action to maintain peace]”.

So the ICC is not the independent judicial body it pretends to be. Its jurisdiction can be extended or re-directed on the say-so of the Security Council to apply to states that have refused its jurisdiction. 

Of course, says Dr Morrison, that can’t happen to non-Statute members of the Security Council who only have to wield their veto to block any attempt by UN colleagues to extend the ICC’s jurisdiction to their territory. 

In his view a Court with universal jurisdiction is fair. A Court whose jurisdiction you, as a state, can choose to accept or reject has some semblance of fairness.  But a Court like the ICC, whose jurisdiction can be targeted, at the whim of the Security Council, on certain states that have chosen not to accept it, but not on others, is grossly unfair. 

Dr Morrison’s analysis reveals how evil this manipulation can be. The primary duty for prosecuting war crimes and crimes against humanity lies with the state in which they were committed and the ICC only acquires jurisdiction to prosecute if the state fails to do so. The Court can prosecute any individual responsible for these crimes regardless of civilian or military status or official position.

“This means that, in theory, a national of a state that is not party to the Statute, for example a US national, may be tried by the ICC for crimes committed in a state that is a party to the Statute.  The US is particularly opposed to this, since it has civilian and military personnel in lots of states around the world, many of which are party to the Statute.  It is US policy to prevent the ICC trying any US nationals.

“Because of this, Resolution 1970 [the Libya referral] includes a paragraph exempting nationals from states not party to the ICC, including US nationals, from the jurisdiction of the ICC for acts committed in Libya… The hypocrisy surrounding this is staggering…”

Indeed.

Dr Morrison also homes in on what are termed ‘Article 89 Agreements’. Under 89(1) of the Rome Statute, states that are party to the ICC are required to “comply with requests for arrest and surrender” by the Court. These could be for the arrest and surrender of US nationals. To prevent this, the US has taken advantage of Article 98(2), which says: “The Court may not proceed with a request for surrender which would require the requested State to act inconsistently with its obligations under international agreements pursuant to which the consent of a sending State is required to surrender a person of that State to the Court, unless the Court can first obtain the cooperation of the sending State for the giving of consent for the surrender.” TheUShas negotiated agreements with more than a hundred states to block surrender of US nationals to the Court.

To ensure obedience, if states are party to the ICC they cannot receive military aid from theUSwithout signing such an agreement.  The American Service-Members’ Protection Act stipulates that “no United States military assistance may be provided to the government of a country that is a party to the International Criminal Court”, although NATO members and certain non-NATO allies (including Israel of course) are exempted, as are those who signed an Article 89 agreement. 

“Such are the lengths that the US is prepared to go,” says Morrison, “in order to exclude its own nationals from the jurisdiction of the ICC, while voting in the Security Council to extend the jurisdiction of the ICC for others.”

 

Will the Court ‘bottle out’ over Goldstone?

In another article, ‘The Goldstone Report does not need correction’, Dr Morrison wonders if the ICC will be allowed to do its job as recommended by Goldstone.

The Israeli Government and others claim that Goldstone, in his recent Washington Post article, retracted completely all the Mission’s findings that Israeli forces had deliberately targeted civilians.

But he did no such thing, says Morrison. “TheMissioncame to the conclusion that in 11 incidents Israeli forces deliberately targeted civilians. He made a case, based on information of uncertain reliability, that this number should be reduced to 10. The Mission recommended that these matters end up at the International Criminal Court, with individuals being indicted for war crimes and/or crimes against humanity, if the evidence warrants…

“The ICC hasn’t got jurisdiction over these matters at the moment, since neitherIsraelnorPalestineare parties to the ICC. How can it acquire jurisdiction?”

In theory, he says, there are two ways. First, as mentioned at the start, the Palestinian National Authority has made its submissions and informed the ICC that “the Government of Palestine hereby recognizes the jurisdiction of the Court for the purposes of identifying, prosecuting and judging the authors and accomplices of acts committed in the territory of Palestine since 1 July 2002”.

But it all depends on whetherPalestineis a state within the meaning of Article 12(3) of the Rome Statute. If the ICC were to accept jurisdiction, it would not only allow for the indictment of Israelis for offences committed during Operation Cast Lead, but also for other crimes such as settlement building.

Article 8.2(b)(viii) makes it clear that “the transfer, directly or indirectly, by the Occupying Power of parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies” is a war crime.

The second possibility is for the Security Council to refer Operation Cast Lead to the ICC, just as it did the Libyan unpleasantness andDarfur, neither of those countries being party to the ICC.

If, as Dr Morrison points out, the ICC did acquire jurisdiction, its investigations would encompass not only the damning material gathered by Goldstone but a whole host of evidence from other organisations such as Human Rights Watch (Rain of Fire: Israel’s Unlawful Use of White Phosphorus in Gaza; Precisely Wrong: Gaza Civilians Killed by Israeli Drone-Launched Missiles; White Flag Deaths: Killings of Palestinian Civilians during Operation Cast Lead; Turning a Blind Eye: Impunity for Laws-of-War Violations during the Gaza War; “I Lost Everything”: Israel’s Unlawful Destruction of Property during Operation Cast Lead), Amnesty International (Israel/Gaza: Operation “Cast Lead”: 22 days of death and destruction) and the Arab League Fact Finding Committee (No Safe Place).

It is nearly two-and-a-half years since the Palestinians’ declaration and the Prosecutor, despite having access to the best legal brains, still hasn’t made a decision to proceed. Why the foot-dragging? What’s his game? Goldstone’s Fact-Finding Mission recommended a decision “should be made by the Prosecutor as expeditiously as possible”, another reason perhaps why the poor judge incurred such displeasure in certain quarters.

So is the ICC ‘bottling out’?

In Dr Morrison’s view it is unlikely to accept jurisdiction because of the enormous political implications.  “However, one cannot but hope that the matter will be pressed in the Security Council to the point where the US is forced to wield its veto to protect Israel.”

Presumably, the matter would then find its way to the General Assembly, which could urge the Security Council to take proper steps and refer the situation in the Occupied PalestinianTerritory to the ICC, in accordance with article 13(b) of the Rome Statute.

And what of America’s chicanery? This week inLondonwe’ve had to endure President Obama on a state visit lecturing us with words like: “We fight an enemy that respects no law of war, we will continue to hold ourselves to a higher standard – by living up to the values and the rule of law that we so ardently defend… We will proceed with humility… Ultimately, freedom must be won by the people themselves… But we can and must stand with those who so struggle.”

Only a few days earlier he’d said: “No vote at the United Nations will ever create an independent Palestinian state,” and he made the outrageous stipulation that if it did come into being it should be de-militarised – i.e. the Palestinians must be deprived of a basic universal right and rendered incapable of defending themselves. Not only that, they should “negotiate” with their tormentor – the brutal occupying power – and bargain for their freedom like merchants in a bazaar and be prepared to see even more of their trashed and fragmented country lost to Zionist greed.

After Obama’s address to both Houses of Parliament, which was received with rapturous applause, throngs of smitten MPs jockeyed for position to shake the fraud’s hand, a spectacle that must have turned the stomach of those with any inkling of what is actually happening.

Note: My thanks to Sadaka, which supports a peaceful settlement in Israel/Palestine based on the principles of democracy and justice. Its website is www.sadaka.ie

 

26 May 2011

Israel’s contempt for Law of the Seas

…and the EU’s contempt for the safety of its citizens who bring humanitarian relief to Gaza’s women and children

In 2008 two humanitarian vessels got through to Gaza. In an article entitled ‘Keeping the Sea-Lane to Gaza Open’, I wrote…

The success of the ‘Free Gaza‘ boats in breaking the siege, and their safe arrival and departure, was due to the intervention and good offices of the British Foreign Office…

Before the peace activists set sail, the British government was asked about “action to ensure the freedom boats’ safe and uninterrupted passage to Gaza considering these are international waters and Palestinian territorial waters”. Any attempt to stop the boats would surely infringe the right to freedom of movement to and from Gaza, and seriously breach the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, to which Israel is a party.

The minister in charge of Middle East affairs Kim Howells… has now revealed that “FCO officials spoke to Israeli officials in advance of the trip and Israel allowed the boats peacefully into Gaza.”

Bravo. Our chaps in London lift the phone to their chaps in Tel Aviv and – hey presto! – it’s all fixed. That’s diplomacy…

Nearly three years later and Israeli warships and helicopters still assault and hijack vessels of other nations with impunity in order to maintain their illegal blockade of Gaza.

The Jerusalem Post reports http://www.jpost.com/International/Article.aspx?id=226170  that the German Left Party has issued a resolution prohibiting its parliamentary representatives from taking part in the upcoming Gaza Flotilla in an attempt to buy off criticism that the party is anti-Israel and anti-Semitic. An expert on left-wing anti-Semitism called Alex Feuerherdt told the newspaper that “it goes without saying” that participation in the Gaza Flotilla action is a “military attack on Israel”.

It’s against this background that the Gaza Freedom Flotilla II sets sail. The conspirators don’t want the boats to reach Gaza because their safe arrival would drive a coach and horses through the Zionists’ control-freakery. So they shriek and squawk and threaten dire consequences like last year when they assaulted the Mavi Marmara with lethal force in international waters, not caring how many they killed.

This has prompted the following statement by flotilla organizers to the UN Human Rights Council a few days ago:

“We are determined to sail to Gaza.  Our cause is just and our means are transparent.  To underline the fact that we do not present an imminent threat to Israel nor do we aim to contribute to a war effort against Israel, thus eliminating any claim by Israel to self-defense, we invite the HRC or any other UN or international agency to come on board and inspect our vessels at their point of departure, on the high seas, or on their arrival in the Gaza port. We will – and must – continue to sail until the illegal siege of Gazais ended and Palestinians have the same human and national rights those of us sailing enjoy.” - Steering Committee of the International Coalition for Gaza Freedom Flotilla II

One of the organizers in London tells me that when the British boat’s final passenger list is confirmed, the Foreign Office in London will be contacted with the details and asked to “act to ensure the safe passage of their citizens”.

 

Did the UK have a right to mount a general naval blockade of the Republic of Ireland in response to IRA terror?

Israelis clearly acting illegally by interfering with the flotilla’s peaceful mission, so what are the chances that Britain and other countries will provide necessary protection?

A UN fact-finding mission, dealing with the assault on the Mavi Marmara, has already declared that “no case can be made for the legality of the interception and the Mission therefore finds that the interception was illegal.”

As for Israel’s naval blockade, it is “considered by the Mission to constitute collective punishment of the people living in the Gaza Strip and thus to be illegal and contrary to Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention”. The action by Israel’s military in intercepting the Mavi Marmara on the high seas was “clearly unlawful” and could not be justified even under Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations [the right of self-defence].

And let’s remember that Security Council resolution 1860 (2009) emphasizes “the need to ensure sustained and regular flow of goods and people through the Gaza crossings” and calls for “the unimpeded provision and distribution throughout Gaza of humanitarian assistance, including of food, fuel and medical treatment”.

The Centre for Constitutional Rights has also concluded http://www.ccrjustice.org/files/Center%20for%20Constitutional%20Rights%20Legal%20Analysis%20September%202010.pdf that the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip is illegal under international law. “Due both to the legal nature ofIsrael’s relationship to Gaza– that of occupier – and the impact of the blockade on the civilian population, amounting to ‘collective punishment’, the blockade cannot be reconciled with the principles of international law, including international humanitarian law. It is recalled that the international community, speaking through both the United Nations and individual States, has repeatedly and emphatically called for an end to the blockade of the Gaza Strip.

“The flotilla did not seek to travel to Israel, let alone ‘attack’Israel. Furthermore, the flotilla did not constitute an act which required an ‘urgent’ response, such thatIsraelhad to launch a middle-of-the-night armed boarding…Israelcould also have diplomatically engaged Turkey, arranged for a third party to verify there were no weapons onboard and then peacefully guided the vessel toGaza.”

Craig Murray was deputy head of the teams which negotiated theUK’s maritime boundaries with France,Germany,Denmark (Faeroe Islands) and Ireland. As Head of the Maritime Section of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, he was responsible for giving political and legal clearance to Royal Navy boarding operations in the Persian Gulf following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, in enforcement of the UN authorised blockade against Iraqi weapons shipments. He is therefore an internationally recognized authority on these matters.

Referring to the participation of an American boat in Flotilla II http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2011/06/illegal-blockades/, he says: “Right of free passage is guaranteed by the UN Convention on the Law of the Seas, to which theUnited States is a full party. Any incident which takes place upon a US flagged ship on the High Seas is subject to United States legal jurisdiction. A ship is entitled to look to its flag state for protection from attack on the High Seas…

“Israelhas declared a blockade on Gaza and justified previous fatal attacks on neutral civilian vessels on the High Seas in terms of enforcing that embargo, under the legal cover given by the San Remo Manual of International Law Applicable to Armed Conflicts at Sea.”

“There are however fundamental flaws in this line of argument. It falls completely on one fact alone.San Remoonly applies to blockade in times of armed conflict.Israelis not currently engaged in an armed conflict, and presumably does not wish to be. San Remo does not confer any right to impose a permanent blockade outwith times of armed conflict, and in fact specifically excludes as illegal a general blockade on an entire population.”

He acknowledges thatIsraelsuffers from sporadic terrorist attacks from Gaza but this does not come close to reaching the bar of armed conflict that would trigger the right to impose a naval blockade. When the UK suffered continued terrorist attack from the Irish Republican Army, sustaining many more deaths than anything Israel has suffered in recent years from Gaza, it would have been ridiculous to claim a right to mount a general naval blockade of the Republic of Ireland.

So Israel doesn’t have a leg to stand on. Therefore “all good men and true” should rally to support these brave voyagers and ensure their governments back their play.

But here’s a question put by MEP Kyriacos Triantaphyllides and the answer from the EU Commission http://www.freedomflotilla.eu/en/home/groups/viewdiscussion/1644-Question+of+MEP+Mr+Kyriacos+Triantaphyllides+to+the+EU+Commission+regarding+Freedom+Flotilla+II?groupid=4

Question:

One year after the military action by Israel against a convoy carrying humanitarian aid supplies to Gaza, during which at least ten civilians were killed, another humanitarian aid flotilla to Gaza is now being organised, the principal cargo being supplies of stationery for school pupils. Is the EU and in particular the Commission aware of the new mission that is being organised and what is its position on this matter?

Given the participation of EU Member State nationals and the presence of MEPs, will the EU take any measures to ensure that the personal safety of its nationals is not endangered?

Answer:

After the organisation of a flotilla heading to Gaza in May 2010, the Quartet, of which the EU is a member, stated that all those wishing to deliver goods to Gaza should do so through established channels, so that their cargo can be inspected and transferred via land crossings into Gaza. It also stated that there was no need for unnecessary confrontations and that all parties should act responsibly in meeting the needs of the people of Gaza.

In the same spirit, the Chair’s Conclusions of the 13 April 2011 meeting of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC) on donor coordination for Palestine reiterated a call on all international supporters to make use of the existing land crossings to channel their support to Gaza, and abstain from provocations.

The Commission stands by this line. A flotilla is not the appropriate response to the humanitarian situation in Gaza. At the same time, Israel must abide by international law when dealing with a possible flotilla. The EU continues to request the lifting of the blockade on Gaza, including the naval blockade.

EU Member States have the responsibility to protect their citizens abroad via their consular services. This responsibility covers assistance for their citizens who might participate in a possible flotilla. As in May-June 2010, the EU Delegation in Tel Aviv stands ready to function as a hub for information and to coordinate the efforts of the consular services of EU Member States.

So there your have it… the treacherous contradictions we have come to expect from this unelected body, including advice that Member States have a responsibility to protect their citizens AFTER they’ve been murdered.

The “established channel” for delivering goods toGaza is of course the time-honoured route by sea, which is protected by maritime and international law and therefore entirely appropriate. There’s nothing “provocative” about it. The organizers have offered their cargoes for inspection and verification by a trusted third party to allayIsrael’s fears about weapon supplies. They should not have to dirty their hands dealing with the belligerent regime that’s cruelly turning the screws on civilians with an illegal blockade. Anyone suggesting they must do so seeks to legitimize the blockade, which we all know to be illegal and a crime against humanity.

Members of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee include the Government of Israel, so no wonder it bends over backwards to accommodate Israel’s criminal action.

 

23 June 2011

Staring into the abyss of a new Dark Age

 Battle of Britain 2 is about to begin

Churchill, in his Battle of Britain speech 71 years ago, said: “If we can stand up to him [Hitler], all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age, made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science…”

Today those “broad, sunlit uplands” of Churchill’s are again shrouded in storm-clouds. Zionist infiltrators have succeeded where Hitler failed. The difference now is that the enemy’s invasion forces are not massing across the Channel, they are already here in our midst. A ruthless conspiracy masterminded by foreign interests is expanding its influence by stealth and by subversion and by intimidation. We are indeed on the brink of a new Dark Age.

America is sliding into the abyss fast asUSCongressmen repeatedly parade their abject subservience to the powerful pro-Israel lobby, AIPAC. Who will forget the pathetic spectacle of 29 standing ovations they accorded the swaggering, lying, crazed Israeli prime minister Netanyahu while he delivered his poison?

And eighty-one congressmen (55 Republicans, 26 Democrats), or about 20 percent of the US House of Representatives, will visit Israel during the summer recess for brainwashing.

The question now is whether we in theUKcan stand up to the creeping menace and save “all that we have known and cared for”, when we have so completely lost our moral bearings.

We duck our solemn responsibilities under the Geneva Conventions and give Zionist war criminals a safe haven immune from arrest.

We allow fanatics, such as Conservative Friends of Israel, to organize and promote the interests of the criminal Israeli regime at the very heart of Westminster government.

We allow MPs to place themselves under the influence of foreign interest groups and to abuse the principles that are supposed to underpin standards in public life.

We allow Jews to be hugely over-represented in our Parliament and to dominate key areas of our administration, including those related to security. If Muslims were over-represented to the same extent they’d have 200 seats and action would be taken.

We spend large amounts of treasure and send our troops to murder foreign civilians and die in foreign lands simply to support US-Israeli greed, destroying our own good name in the process.

We allow civil society’s hard-earned savings to bail out Zionist bankers in distress and fund endless wars and the corporate and personal profits of those who promote wars.

Civil society’s fury

Last week we watched with satisfaction as media mogul and Zionist flag-waver Rupert Murdoch’s stranglehold on the political scene inBritaincame unglued after revelations of hacking into a murdered schoolgirl’s voicemail and other dirty tricks. But it wasn’t the Establishment or the police that taught Murdoch a much-needed lesson: it was a disgusted civil society whose anger eventually brought down the weight of the law and Parliament on the offenders’ heads.

Politicians, from prime ministers down, wet their pants at the thought of how much damage Murdoch’s gutter-sniping newspapers could do to them if they didn’t bow and scrape to the ‘Dirty Digger’s’ mighty NewsCorp empire. The News of the World, we were told so many times, had the power to make of break political careers.

That was only true, of course, if the politicians in question were weak and susceptible to pressure – and those are not the sort of politicians we want anyway. Blair and Cameron were at Murdoch’s beck and call and socialised with his odious executives, including the scary Rebekah Brooks. Neither had the balls to curb the illegal practices

It finally came down to this. Who were our spineless politicians more scared of – the furious public or Murdoch? Clearly the British people need to show their outrage more often.

When we reach the age of 60 we cringe at how arrogant and ignorant we were at 40. So why saddle ourselves with a gullible 44 year-old prime minister, which is how old Blair was when he entered10 Downing Street? Cameron was only 43.

Blair at first impressed by being a Flash Harry but in reality was so young, stupid and unprincipled that he became an acute embarrassment, bringing shame onBritain. Cameron is similarly ‘flash’ and continually has to make desperate U-turns to reverse half-baked policies.

Like Blair he’s a warmonger eager to make an impression on the back of someone else’s blood and shredded body parts. Prime minister Cameron recently launched an extraordinary attack on “moaning” military chiefs who had dared to openly question the length of the war inLibya. In a public slap-down he told top brass: “You do the fighting and I’ll do the talking.” He added: ‘I’m absolutely confident that we can keep this pressure up. We can maintain this mission for as long as necessary. Time is on our side.” Arrogant pup, they probably thought.

Indeed. Those were the ill-considered words of a leader whose country is financially broke… and went broke while Cameron and his Conservative buddies were the official opposition charged with holding the governments of Blair and Brown to account.

So how bad is it, really?

It’s this bad.Britain’s foreign policy remains perfectly aligned with the demands ofIsraeland its protector, theUnited States. Long-time friends and admirers of the Israeli regime, such as William Hague and Alistair Burt, are hand-picked to make sure we do not stray from the pro-Israel path no matter how diabolically criminal that regime’s conduct or how offensive the agenda of these Israeli-firsters to ordinary decent British citizens.

Prime minister Cameron has pledged: “In me, you have a Prime Minister whose belief inIsraelis indestructible… I want to be clear, we will always supportIsrael…” One’s blood runs cold. Is Cameron paid and sworn to represent a foreign military power? It’s not such a silly question as it sounds.

The Foreign Office still refuses to say whether it will protect British subjects and other peaceful nationals from the threat of lethal force byIsraelin its attempt to maintain an illegal blockade onGaza. Our ministers effectively endorse the blockade by advising against all travel to the Gaza Strip.

As for Iran the UK has banned more than 80 Iranians from visiting, including scientists and engineers connected with the Iranian nuclear programme, government ministers, members of the judiciary, prison officials and others “who have committed serious human rights abuses”.  Says foreign secretary Hague: “The message to the Iranian government from theUKand its partners is clear: it needs to change its behaviour before it will be treated as a normal member of the international community.”

Has Hague banned any Israelis linked to war crimes, human rights abuses and nuclear arms proliferation? Perish the thought. They are not required to “change their behaviour” in the least. They are welcomed with open arms.

Our politicians, in the main, are Zionist stooges like their American counterparts. Our enforcement agencies are so weakened or dysfunctional and some leading figures are so out of control and doing so much damage that there may soon be no way of reining them in. We are losing control fast and we’ll find it difficult to take back our country without organizing serious insurrection.

Churchill, a Zionist sympathizer of the old-fashioned kind, confronted many dire threats but could not have foreseen, in his day, how the tentacles of Zionism would envelop the civilized world. But there’s no excuse for today’s leaders when the ugly truth is so visible. That they embrace it and even change our laws to accommodate it, underlines their unsuitability for high office.

We stood up to Hitler. Is no-one incorruptible enough to stand against the Zionist menace?

 

July 2011