Israeli Navy opens fire on fishing boats off Beit Lahiya
Armed settler terrorists open fire on people at scene of road accident
Joint settler/Israeli Army violence: mosque violation, worshippers forced to pray in nearby streets
Night peace disruption and/or home invasions in 3 towns and villages
2 attacks – 11 raids including home invasions – 3 beaten – 4 injured
4 acts of agricultural/economic sabotage – 6 taken prisoner – 11 detained – 114 restrictions of movement
Gaza reporting: the importance of balance and timing
By Leslie Bravery | Palestine Human Rights Campaign | 15 March 2014
The New Zealand Herald (14 March) published two stories of violence over Gaza with the headlines 'Israeli warplanes strike back in Gaza' and 'Rockets strike Israel, jeopardising truce talk'. Those headlines and the general tone of reporting gave the impression that the Israeli military action was simply a response to unprovoked Palestinian aggression. The actual record of the balance and timing of violence over the Gaza Strip reveals a different reality.
This month, before the actions reported in those stories, there were no Palestinian missile attacks on Israel for the first four days, whereas Israel attacked Gaza on each of the first three. These attacks included Israeli drone strikes that killed two Palestinians in Beit Hanun and wounded two children – one of them critically. In those first three days, Israeli artillery fired upon North Beit Lahiya, Abasan al-Kabira and Khuza’a. In addition, the Israeli Navy opened fire on Palestinian fishing boats off Beit Lahiya and al-Sudaniya. On 5 March, Palestinian missiles were fired towards the Green Line but over the ensuing five days, until 10 March, there were no Palestinian missiles fired, while on 8 and 10 March, the Israeli Navy again opened fire on Palestinian fishing boats off Beit Lahiya. Also on 10 March, under cover of shelling from Israeli tanks, the Israeli Army shot its way onto Khaza’a village farmland and bulldozed crops. On 11 March, Palestinian missiles were fired in two separate actions after Israeli drone strikes in East Rafah had killed three persons and injured another. That evening, the Israel Navy opened fire on Palestinian fishing boats, hijacking one of them and taking prisoner two crew members.
The February record of the balance and timing of violence [see www.palestine.org.nz – under 'Latest News' heading, right-hand panel, look for Gaza: Balance and Timing of Violence] reveals an even greater asymmetry in both aggression and numbers of victims. Palestinian missiles were fired on six days in that month and, according to the Israeli Army, caused no death, injury or damage. At the same time, there were Israeli attacks on 19 days and the Israeli Navy enforced economically-damaging fishing restrictions on Palestinian fishing boats on every day of the month. Also in February there were three Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip, 41 Israeli Army attacks, 54 Palestinians wounded (including seven children). Five people were critically injured and three of those critically injured were children. The Israeli Army also killed two Palestinians in Gaza, including a mentally-handicapped woman.
It should also be remembered that Palestinian missile violence is not solely prompted by events in Gaza. Israel's military occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem affects all Palestinians. Since the United Nations has declared 2014 to be the International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People it would be timely to begin investing greater balance and fairness in the presentation of news from the region.
Batsheva, the Auckland Jewish Council and BDS
By Leslie Bravery
The Auckland Jewish Council is quoted in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, saying that the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) call to keep the Batsheva Dance Company out of New Zealand is “a cheap publicity stunt that should be exposed for its sinister agenda.” What the Auckland Jewish Council is anxious to hide from the public, however, is the fact that the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs funds Batsheva’s international tours on behalf of a government that for over six decades has imposed, with impunity, a regime that has turned millions of Palestinians into refugees, while millions more struggle to survive under conditions referred to by Archbishop Desmond Tutu (Jewish Voice for Peace) as worse than apartheid. The sad truth is that the Batsheva Dance Company is willingly participating in the ‘Brand Israel’ initiative that helps to divert attention from the Zionist state's own sinister agenda of constant human rights abuses and violations of international law.
The former honorary Israeli consul in Wellington, David Zwartz, told Haaretz that “the BDS movement, fronted by Mr Minto, is hiding its real agenda, which is the destruction of the State of Israel.” Actually Swartz's attack on John Minto is designed to hide the real agenda of Israeli anti-BDS propaganda. The dance company’s complicit ties with the state of Israel's foreign ministry make it impossible to consider the group ‘apolitical’. As for destroying Israel, Israel's own behaviour is causing its image to self-destruct in the eyes of the majority of world opinion. Just one example: Israel is the only state that discriminatingly prosecutes children in military courts – courts that lack even basic standards of due process. Around 500 to 700 Palestinian children, some as young as 12, are taken prisoner and prosecuted in the Israeli military prison system each year. No Jewish children ever appear before Israeli military courts. For as long as it is the Israeli government's ideologically-driven policy to subjugate the Palestinian people to brutal military repression and territorial occupation, then it is the duty of the world community to non-violently oppose it.
Kerry: special pleading and avoiding responsibility
By Leslie Bravery |25 January 2014
The Times of Israel reports US Secretary of State John Kerry saying on Friday that “a permanent peace agreement must ultimately involve the full withdrawal of Israeli troops from Palestinian territories, and warned that the failure of the current round of talks to yield an accord would be catastrophic for both parties.” Having admitted that the Palestinians need assurances ”that at the end of the day their territory is going to be free of Israeli troops, that occupation ends,” the US envoy then gave reasons why Israel had every right to delay any end to its belligerent military occupation, saying, “But the Israelis rightfully will not withdraw unless they know the West Bank will not become a new Gaza . . . “ Heaven help the Palestinians of the West Bank, who suffer enough already, if Israel plans to inflict its air strikes, sonic booms and drone surveillance upon the West Bank also. The Times of Israel showed Israel's contempt for the democratic process, where Palestinians are concerned, with the comment “Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in 2007, two years after Israel withdrew unilaterally from the Strip.” Never mind that Hamas won an election that all observers agreed had been exemplary and fair. It was Israel and its allies that deprived the Palestinian people in the rest of Palestine of the democratic outcome to which they were entitled. One thing is certain, Israel's withdrawal from any Palestinian territory is not in itself a guarantee of security for the Palestinian people. It seems that it is only Israeli security that matters to the so-called peace envoy — he also said, “. . . there cannot be peace unless Israel’s security and its needs are met.” No recognition at all of the Palestinian right to security or of Palestinian needs.
But as The Times of Israel reminds us, ”Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has stated that an agreement with the Palestinians must involve Israeli security forces stationed along the strategically critical Jordan Valley even after Palestinian statehood; Netanyahu said earlier Friday that he would not dismantle settlements either. And Israel’s Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon has derided Kerry’s high-tech security package as inadequate to fight terrorism on the ground.” For the Palestinian people, deprived of adequate access to their own water, with their crops constantly bulldozed, olive trees set on fire and their children dragged from their beds in the middle of the night and subjected to acts of cruelty, 'terrorism on the ground', both from settlers and their Israeli Army, is a daily reality.
“Kerry lauded Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s commitment to non-violence and negotiations”, The Times of Israel tells us, so just as on the one hand 'security' is only allowed to be of concern to Israel so too, on the other, 'non-violence' is to be demanded only of Palestinians. In any case, Israel has already made it plain that it would never permit a so-called Palestinian state to have full sovereignty over its borders and air space.
By its actions in supporting the demands of Zionist ideology, the world community has placed the Palestinian people, through no fault of their own, in a position of abject subservience to military occupation. Israel itself attempts to justify its territorial ambitions by reference to the United Nations and yet, as the The Times of Israel reveals, Kerry asserts that “this issue cannot be resolved at the United Nations.” It is precisely at the United Nations, the chief forum for the international community, where a return to respect for international law and human rights should lead us to shoulder the responsibility we share for the plight of the Palestinian people. Palestinians have an absolute right to justice and for Kerry to say, as he did, that the injustice “. . . can only be resolved between the parties” is to place the desperately defenceless Palestinians forever at the mercy of the Zionist state.
Simon Schama – ideology versus truth and reason
By Leslie Bravery | 16 October 2013
In the third part of his BBC history documentary The Story of the Jews Simon Schama announced “I am a Zionist and quite unapologetic about it.” That honest but blunt admission advises us that when the subject of Israel/Palestine is under discussion, whatever opinion or evidence Schama may contribute to it will be constrained within a self-confessed commitment to a political ideology. Political Zionism began as a secular ideology that has since been embraced by some religious Jews and Christians and by many politicians, especially in Europe and the United States. Unfortunately, the Zionism that captivated Western politicians is so far removed from rational thought that its true purpose has had to be disguised through deceit and the use of what one of Zionism's co-founders called “circumlocution”. In reality, the Zionist enterprise has resulted in a period of over 65 years of gross violations of international humanitarian law and untold human suffering.
Great power politics – the Balfour Declaration
While Israel's self-declared 1948 Declaration of Independence is generally held to be the Zionist state's founding document, the military power and international diplomacy that made that possible depended upon the earlier Balfour Declaration of 1917. Zionists themselves point to the Balfour Declaration when justifying Israel's existence as a Jewish state. The ideological intentions behind the Balfour Declaration have led inevitably and predictably (See online note ) to Zionist domination over the whole of historic Palestine and beyond. Leading up to the establishment of the state of Israel, the Zionist enterprise manifested itself in violence and ethnic cleansing perpetrated by Zionist terrorists. These crimes became the foundation for the militaristic psychology that epitomises the Zionist state today and which led more recently to the infamous Operation Cast Lead massacre in the Gaza Strip.
Arthur Balfour's statement of intent to align British foreign policy with Zionist ideology, and the cabinet papers that relate to it, reveal both contempt for the Palestinian people and the dishonesty that has been so fundamental to the promotion of the aims of Zionism. It has been argued that the Balfour Declaration was sincere in saying that Britain would help to establish a ‘national home’ for the Jewish people in Palestine “without prejudice to the rights of the existing Moslem and Christian Arab population.” But the aims of Zionism and the results of the implementation of the ideology's ambitions are very different from the propaganda that surrounds them. The proof can be found in policy statements relating to the Balfour Declaration and the lies that have subsequently accompanied Israel's drive to circumvent justice by establishing facts on the ground.
Even before the Balfour Declaration, the proclaimed respect for “. . . the rights of the existing Moslem and Christian Arab population” conflicted with what had already being envisaged. In 1915 the dedicated Zionist, Sir Herbert Samuel, who later became the chief executive of the British mandatory government in Palestine, was expressing the hope that Jewish immigration would ensure that in due course a Jewish majority would prevail and rule the country (See online note ).
Following publication of the Balfour Declaration during World War One, leaflets were dropped over Germany and Austria, and pamphlets were circulated among Jewish soldiers fighting on the side of Germany, proclaiming that Britain and her allies “are giving the Land of Israel to the people of Israel.” Stop fighting, was the message, because “an Allied victory means the Jewish people’s return to Zion”. (See online note ). Of course, the Balfour Declaration did not go anywhere near so far as to say that. But the appeal to Jewish soldiers was closer to the truth – as has been borne out by the subsequent unfolding of events – and later British Cabinet documents of the period are particularly revealing in this regard. In a letter to Lloyd George in February 1919 Balfour wrote, “The weak point of our position is of course that in the case of Palestine we deliberately and rightly decline to accept the principle of self-determination”. (See online note ). In a reply to Lord Curzon, Balfour stated flatly that “in Palestine we do not propose even to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the country …. The Four Great Powers are committed to Zionism. And Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-long traditions, in present needs, in future hopes, of far profounder import than the desires and prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land” (See online note ). “Right or wrong, good or bad”, this is a political mind in the grip of an ideology – devoid of both reason and humanity.
The lack of honesty behind Zionist intentions was also made icily clear when Balfour wrote to Lord Curzon: “In short, so far as Palestine is concerned, the Powers have made no statement of fact which is not admittedly wrong, and no declaration of policy which, at least in the letter, they have not always intended to violate”. (See online note ). Even at the first Zionist Conference in Basle in 1897, Max Nordau, co-founder with Theodor Herzl of the World Zionist Organisation, spoke of the need to present Zionism's goals to the rest of the world through what he termed 'circumlocution'.
The 1948 UN Partition Plan gave 56% of mandatory Palestine to Israel, regardless of the indigenous people’s objections, true to the Balfour Declaration's view that the Zionist enterprise was of “far profounder import” than “the desires and prejudices” of the native people. But no matter whether they live in Palestine or Israel, Palestinians find themselves discriminated against. In the occupied territories they are subject to Israeli military law, and within Israel itself they are discriminated against as taxpayers and denied the services to which they are entitled. In both areas, Palestinians suffer frequent Israeli Army home invasions and the destruction of dwellings that are subject to a discriminatory permit system. Needless to say, Jewish Israeli homes are never invaded or destroyed.
Israel's Law of Return specifies that its benefits belong only to Jews. The Zionist state offers no rational argument or evidence to justify how it is that any Jewish person from anywhere in the world, and who may have had no former connection with the state of Israel or the occupied Palestinian territories, can possibly have a right to 'return' to either. Yet Israel denies the Palestinian Right of Return for ethnically-cleansed Palestinians (UN General Assembly Resolution 3236). The resolution declared that right, quite reasonably, to be "inalienable". But the process of discrimination continues to develop. In August 2004 the UN Committee on Racial Discrimination (CERD), again urged the Government of Israel to revoke the Nationality and Entry into Israel Law and reconsider its policy with a view to facilitating family unification on a non-discriminatory basis. The law of 31 July 2003 raised serious concerns under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Israel's Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law forbids residents of the Occupied Palestinian Territories married to Israeli citizens or Palestinian residents of Israel to live lawfully in Israel with their spouses, and therefore contravenes both the Basic Laws of Israel, granting equality to all its citizens, and the many international human rights instruments ratified by Israel and, in particular, article 5 (d) (iv) of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ratified by Israel in 1979), guaranteeing “the right of everyone, without distinction as to race, colour or national or ethnic origin, to equality before the law.” The right to marriage and the choice of spouse is of particular relevance.
Before Israel was created, David Ben-Gurion, who was to become Israel's first prime minister, asserted that the right of the Jews to Palestine rested on their capacity for developing its resources. One of Ben-Gurion's official biographers, Shabtai Teveth (Weizmann Institute, Tel-Aviv University), wrote that he declared: "We do not recognise any form of absolute ownership over any country” and he went on to affirm that “this is the principle behind the right of free migration, championed by international socialism." (Shabtai Teveth, p.37) But on the ground, Israel denies 'free migration' to Palestinian refugees to return and settle in the homeland from which they were driven by Zionist forces. The disparity between fine words and true ideological intent mark the progress of the Zionist plan to gain public support. In 1931 Ben-Gurion proclaimed that Palestinian Arabs had the same rights as Jews to exist in Palestine. In his book We and Our Neighbours, he stated: "The Arab community in Palestine is an organic, inseparable part of the landscape. It is embedded in the country.” (Shabtai Teveth, p.5-6) Yet in 1936 Ben-Gurion expressed his true feelings when he told the Mapai Party that, “A Jewish state would encourage peace,” because, with it, the Jew would “become a force, and the Arabs respect force.” He went on to say, “these days it is not right but might which prevails. It is more important to have force than justice on one's side.” There, plainly stated, is the fundamental divide between Zionism and the rest of humanity.
A recent Jewish Chronicle article, Simon Schama and BBC attacked over Story of Jews, published on 12 September 2013, brings the matter of Zionist duplicity right up to date. In the article, columnist Marcus Dysch misrepresented the UK-based Palestine Solidarity Campaign by writing that “. . supporters of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign have complained to the BBC, claiming it was 'alarming' that Professor Schama should be allowed to discuss the Shoah.” In fact the Palestine Solidarity Campaign complaint never mentioned the Shoah.
Zionism in practice
Arthur Balfour's prejudice led him to contemptuously refer to the Palestinian people merely as “the present inhabitants of the country” but it was an Israeli Prime Minister, Golda Meir, who took the contempt to its logical conclusion. Quoted in the
Sunday Times (15 June 1969) and The Washington Post (16 June 1969) she said: “It was not as though there was a Palestinian people in Palestine considering itself as a Palestinian people and we came and threw them out and took their country away from them. They did not exist.” Just occasionally, the mask slips and the spoken word reveals the true meaning and intent of Zionism – but the decades of undeniable discrimination, brutality and injustice do reveal the nature of Zionism for all who wish to see it for what it is. Massacres such as Operation Cast Lead and the murderous attack on the Mavi Marmara grab the headlines but it is the smaller, unreported, everyday cruelties that appeal more directly to our humanity, perhaps because of their individual, personal scale: The overwhelming sense of fear and violation Palestinian family members feel when their home is invaded in the middle of the night by foreign troops. The petty vandalism of the soldiers inside their home – what is this ideology doing to the minds of the people sent to impose its will? The terrified children (see documentary), some torn from their families, blindfolded, bound and physically assaulted. The psychological effects on the other children. The mindless rituals of humiliation perpetrated by bored young Israeli soldiers at the hundreds of checkpoints. What does that do to their humanity? The farmer who loses his olive harvest to settler arsonists. The Palestinian families made homeless, watching in despair as Israeli troops demolish their homes. Why are they destroyed? Quite simply because the Zionist enterprise decides that their existence is impermissible. These are war crimes of course but Israel is not called to account and the US continues to give as much aid to Israel as it does to the rest of the world put together. Israel continues to be rewarded in the interests of what Western politicians like to call 'dialogue' while the pretence that there is a peace process and that there are two equal parties to it continues.
Bedouin and the Prawer plan
In 1928, at a time when the Palestinian people constituted 85% of Palestine's population and owned and farmed over 97% of the land, David Ben-Gurion said, “We do not recognise the right of the [Palestinian] Arabs to rule the country . . .” and “What right do they have to the Negev desert, which is uninhabited?" (Shabtai Teveth, p.38) Following the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, Palestinian Bedouin villages in the south of Israel were officially categorised as ‘unrecognised’ by the new government. Since then, the people there have been denied water, sanitation, electricity, health-care and education. Today, Palestinian Bedouin citizens of Israel face a fresh wave of ethnic cleansing. On 24 June 2013, the Israeli Knesset approved the discriminatory Prawer-Begin Bill for the expulsion of the Bedouin community in the Naqab (Negev) Desert in the south of Israel. If implemented, the 'Prawer-Begin Plan', as it is known, will result in the forced dispossession and displacement of tens of thousands of Palestinian citizens of Israel and the destruction of a further 35 villages. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports that, according to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, “the Law for the Regulation of the Bedouin Settlement in the Negev is discriminatory and would legalise racist practices.” A European Parliament Resolution of 5 July 2012 called for: “the protection of the Bedouin communities of the West Bank and in the Negev, and for their rights to be fully respected by the Israeli authorities, and condemns any violations (e.g. house demolitions, forced displacements, public service limitations); calls also, in this context, for the withdrawal of the Prawer Plan by the Israeli Government”.
Israel's borders – still not defined in public
Following Israel's Declaration of Independence, Ben-Gurion, discussing the future with his aides, said: ". . . now the issue at hand is conquest, not self-defence. As for setting the borders – it's an open-ended matter. In the Bible as well as in our history, there are all kinds of definitions of the country's borders, so there's no real limit. No border is absolute. If it's a desert – it could just as well be the other side. If it's sea, it could also be across the sea. The world has always been this way. Only the terms have changed. If they should find a way of reaching other stars, well then, perhaps the whole earth will no longer suffice." (1949, The First Israelis, p.6)
Israel's 'separation' (annexation) Wall
In the final episode of his BBC documentary, Schama informs the viewer that “very few” people have been killed since the Wall went up – but then to Zionist thinking, apparently, the 4286 Palestinians killed since construction of the Wall began would not count for much. Israel's separation Wall is also one of annexation. The Wall does not follow the Green Line and thus divides the West Bank into a mass of disconnected areas some commentators refer to as Bantustans. In addition to this immediate illegal theft of land (International Court of Justice), life is being made unbearable and economically unsustainable for Palestinians as they find themselves increasingly restricted by constantly expanding illegal Israeli settlement. The separation of Palestinian communities from each other and villages from their farmland is about creating despair and acquiring ever more territory. Settler mobs, often with Israeli Army complicity, constantly commit acts of agricultural sabotage and terror against neighbouring Palestinian villagers. Since 1967 Israel has destroyed over 800,000 Palestinian olive trees. Israel's annexation Wall is a grim, tragic monument to Zionism's self-absorbed inhumanities.
The present so-called peace talks have to be seen against the background of Zionism's territorial ambitions and the relentless processes of land confiscation, settlement building and intransigence concerning the status of Jerusalem. These violations raise legitimate questions regarding Zionism's ultimate purpose and what it may presage, not only for the Palestinian people but also for peace and stability in the wider region. It is certain that neither the UN Partition Plan nor the public face of the Balfour Declaration bear any resemblance to the present plight of the Palestinian people and the total hegemony Israel enjoys over their lives. Israel is a nuclear-armed power that refuses to sign the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty or co-operate fully with the IAEA and, although the Zionist state has signed the Chemical Weapons Convention, it has yet to ratify it. The fruitlessness of the 'peace' process is undeniable as it has achieved nothing other than to buy time for Israel to take more Palestinian land.
The Palestinian people had no part in that barbarity, which was perpetrated in Europe, by Europeans, yet generations of Palestinians have had to listen to Zionism's advocates invoking the Holocaust as justification for the process that turned them into refugees and second-class citizens. Israel accuses its critics of what it calls 'anti-Semitism' while imposing its discriminatory ideology upon the Semitic Arab population of Palestine. For many Jews, Israel's claim to be a Jewish state is objectionable. One example of their reaction to it is “not in my name”. The constant reference to the Holocaust by pro-Zionist politicians is seen by some Holocaust survivors and their descendants as an abuse of the memories and sacrifices of Holocaust victims. Most of the world is saddened by Israel's apparent impunity concerning its violations of human rights and when the Holocaust is invoked in the service of defending the indefensible, then the lesson of the Holocaust itself is devalued. In 2009, Jean-Moïse Braitberg, the grandson of a Holocaust victim gassed to death at Treblinka, wrote to, the President of the State of Israel, requesting that his grandfather's name and those of other members of his family be removed from the Yad Vashem memorial that is dedicated to the memory of Jewish victims of Nazism. He said that his request was because of “what took place in Gaza, and more generally, the injustices to the Arab people of Palestine for sixty years. . .” Braitberg went on to say that Israel's behaviour disqualifies it from being “the centre of the memory of the harm done to Jews, and thus to all humanity.” He also said, “I note that despite dozens of resolutions adopted by the international community, despite the glaring evidence of the injustices done to the Palestinian people since 1948, despite the hopes raised in Oslo, and despite the recognition of the right of Israeli Jews to live in peace and security, repeatedly reaffirmed by the Palestinian Authority, the only answers given by successive governments of your country have been violence, bloodshed, confinement, incessant controls, colonisation, deprivations.”
Blowing away the myth
In the final episode of The Story of the Jews Schama told his audience “I don't live in Israel”. With that simple admission Schama blew away completely the Zionist myth that only in a Jewish state could Jews live safely. Here was a person living outside Israel, being afforded the privilege of putting the Zionist case with the help of one of the world's most powerful and influential broadcasters, the British tax-payer-funded BBC, whose main responsibility is to provide impartial public service broadcasting.
Peace and reason
There is an alternative narrative, embracing Jews and non-Jews, the religious and the secular, that unites humanity and seeks an end to discrimination. The Jewish author of Micah's Paradigm Shift has written a spiritual non-Zionist appraisal of Schama's BBC history documentary, which steps outside the view of Israel as the “messianic redemption, for a people who have suffered thousands of years of discrimination, oppression and genocide.” The writer observes that although “Religious particularism helps to forge personal identity, rootedness, community pride . . .” it can fail “when a particular route to a universal understanding of faith and humanity slips into exclusivity and chauvinism.” Judaism was opposed to Zionism from the outset and religious groups such as Neturei Karta continue to vigorously oppose the ideology. Christians who feel for the persecuted, dwindling presence of Christianity in Israeli Occupied Palestine share their activism with the wider peace movement. The majority support the BDS movement which points the way for politicians to follow as a means of upholding the principles and observance of international humanitarian law.
Miko Peled, the ex-Israeli Army son of a celebrated Zionist general, describes in his book The General's Son how, following the death of a beloved niece in a suicide bombing, he made the long painful journey away from his Zionist upbringing to an understanding of the harm done by the ideology. In her record of personal involvement, the Jewish author, Anna Baltzer, A Witness in Palestine, experienced for herself the cruel realities of Israeli military occupation and the sometimes petty meanness that alternated with greater war crimes. She decided to find out for herself after she had heard from families “. . of past and present military attacks, house demolitions, land confiscation, imprisonment without trial, and torture.” She wrote that “It seemed that these actions were not carried out for the protection of Jewish people, but rather for the creation and expansion of a Jewish state at the expense of the rights, lives, and dignity of the non-Jewish people living in the region.”
Truth and justice are not served by devious purposes, the misuse of power and Great-Power-afforded immunity from the requirement to observe the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention. If there is ever to be a peaceful end to this suffering there has to be a return to sanity. At its core, that must mean the enforcement and due observance of international law and an end to all ethnic discrimination in Israel-Palestine. The Israeli state has over-reached itself and taken too much now for Zionism to have any future credibility. The world is faced with a choice: either to speak out and work for justice and humanity or be complicit to the bitter end in the unfolding of an uncompromising Zionist enterprise. The single state solution, with equal citizenship rights for all, offers hope of achieving a just and therefore lasting peace. When faced with the grim, ideologically-imposed alternative, who, in their right mind, could really be against that?
Who was Key really representing at the UN?
By Leslie Bravery | 30 September 2013
In his speech to the United Nations General Assembly on 26 September, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key made the following reference to the Syrian conflict:
The Secretary-General has advised the Council and the General Assembly, "The United Nations Mission has now confirmed, unequivocally and objectively, that chemical weapons have been used in Syria." The report found "clear and convincing evidence that surface-to-surface rockets containing the nerve agent sarin were used" on 21 August. The information in the report also makes it very clear that those rockets must have been fired by the Syrian regime. As the Secretary-General has said, these are war crimes. Those responsible must be brought to account.
Note the use of quote marks in the printed draft of the speech which are, of course, not apparent in the speech as it was delivered live on the day. It is certain that what cannot be attributed to the Secretary General is John Key's assertion:
The information in the report also makes it very clear that those rockets must have been fired by the Syrian regime.
In his quest for a New Zealand seat at the UN Security Council, John Key claimed as a qualification that New Zealand has an independent foreign policy. New Zealand's support for the aggressive US position towards Syria is shared by Israel, the Gulf States and both Saudi Arabia and the Saudi-sponsored al-Qaeda terrorists in Syria. Key's accusation of Syrian government culpability in the deadly poison gas crime was made with absolutely no substantiating evidence and it was carefully sandwiched between quotes concerning the official findings that a war crime had been committed. The wild assertions are nothing but an embarrassment for New Zealand now that so much doubt has been cast on the likelihood of Syrian government responsibility for the gas attack.
But John Key didn't stop there – he went on to tell the UN delegates, “those that try to cast doubt on the report's conclusions make themselves look foolish and do a disservice to the UN”. As nobody is denying the facts of the crime, Key must have been hoping that his audience wouldn't have understood the difference between the principle of innocent until proved guilty and acceptance or otherwise of the fact that a crime had been committed. The Assembly will hardly have appreciated being addressed in such tones and no doubt delegates would have drawn their own conclusions regarding references to 'foolishness' and 'disservice'.
John Key claims that reform of the council is desperately needed, particularly with regard to the use of the veto. Well our Prime Minister will probably need a great deal of support from other nations if he hopes to rid the United States of its addiction to use of the veto. From 10 September 1972 to 18 February 2011 the US cast a lone veto on 55 occasions, quite apart from those it used at other times in concert with its allies. Of those 55 lone US vetoes at the Security Council in which the US isolated itself from the rest of the world community, 39 were in aid of Israel even when the voting was on The question of the exercise by the Palestinian people of its inalienable rights The US also consistently vetoed resolutions Concerning Israel, Palestine and the Middle East situation, including the Palestinian question.
But Key's concern with war crimes should prompt him to examine the role the US played at the Security Council over Israel's Operation Cast Lead attack on Gaza in 2008-2009. In that densely populated enclave where there is no possibility of escape for civilians, Israeli forces bombarded the territory with white phosphorus, which is banned under the Geneva Conventions, from being deployed in civilian areas. After previously issuing a categorical denial of using it, Israel was later forced to confess that it did use the weapon the day that The Times of London obtained photographs of stockpiles and two days after the paper had exposed the harmful effects of white phosphorus on the population of Gaza.
The substance burns everything it touches and causes severe burns when it comes into contact with the human body. Phosphorus burns are particularly horrific because the substance penetrates deep into body tissues while still burning and its effects are as bad as can be found in any chemical weapon. Even though burned tissue may be surgically removed, the phosphorus, absorbed into the blood stream, poisons internal organs. One of the phosphorus victims in Gaza, Ghadah Abu Halima, died of her injuries after she had given testimony to the Israeli human rights organisation B'Tselem. Five of Ghadah's relatives were also killed by the weapon.
Israel's Operation Cast Lead death toll was similar in scale to the sarin gas attack in Damascus but the United States and its allies, including New Zealand, refused to censure Israel. Indeed, New Zealand's Foreign Affairs Minister, Murray McCully issued a statement in which he said that the NZ government would not choose sides in the conflict: "We've avoided getting into a fairly pointless argument about who and what is a proportionate versus disproportionate response". How different from John Key's assertive rhetoric concerning Syria! Key's speech will certainly have buried any sense among the international community that New Zealand has a truly independent foreign policy.
The development of, and respect for, international law is fundamental to the purpose of the United Nations Organisation. The UN web page on Global Issues defines international law as “encompassing the legal responsibilities of States in their conduct with each other, and their treatment of individuals within State boundaries.” Of course, the domain of international law goes far beyond this simple definition as it encompasses, among other issues, human rights, disarmament, refugees, the treatment of prisoners, the use of force and the conduct of war. As the record clearly demonstrates, in practise, the satisfying of great power interests and egos often takes precedence over respect for international law. Three of the five veto-wielding members of the Security Council (the US, the UK and France) are members of the NATO military alliance and, sadly, international peace and security are the exclusive domain of the Security Council. As it is civilians who are the chief victims of war, it is clearly an abuse of human rights to deny the majority of humanity a voice in matters concerning their very survival and well-being.
To help bring him back to reality, John Key might care to watch this five minute video. The water shortages that plague West Bank villages are man-made – made by the occupying power that is – and in this example it is Al-Ma’asara, a village near Bethlehem, that has its water supply cut off for extended periods of time while nearby illegal Israeli occupation settlements take all the Palestinian water they want. But the New Zealand government fails to demand that Israel respect the Palestinian people's right to water. Likewise, urgent issues such as the defence of Palestinian children suffering under Israel's cruel breaches of article 76 of the Fourth Geneva convention, are left to people who do care, including those who wrote a letter published in Britain's Guardian newspaper calling on Israel to implement all recommendations made in the independent report Children in Military Custody
New Zealand's Prime Minister could have based his criticism of the United Nations upon the dangers to world peace and security posed by the disproportionate influence of great-power militarism on the Security Council but he preferred to associate his call for so-called reform with belligerent US propaganda. Sanity, however, is returning, with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announcing that the international community aims to hold a Syria peace conference, 'Geneva II', in mid-November. Hopefully, the increasingly fragmented Syrian opposition groups will now also declare their readiness to take part in the international conference without preconditions, as has the Syrian government. But nothing should be taken for granted; those elements that wish to strike at Syria militarily will continue to seek opportunities to do so. John Key and a few other world leaders have shown that they are out of step with the needs and aspirations of the majority of humanity. Their perspective is that of the Security Council and they pay scant attention to the feelings expressed in the General Assembly. Global grass-roots peace movements and an abundance of human rights NGOs, both secular and religious, represent a coming together of humanity that puts many of our political leaders to shame. Violence breeds violence and bombing Syria would achieve nothing other than to create more misery and chaos, more resentment and yet more instability.
Israel's Bedouin citizens appeal for protection
By Leslie Bravery | 05 August 2013
Following the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, Palestinian Bedouin villages in the south of Israel were officially categorised as ‘unrecognised’ by the new government. Since then, the people there have been denied water, sanitation, electricity, health care and education. Today, Palestinian Bedouin citizens of Israel face a fresh wave of ethnic cleansing.
On 24 June 2013, the Israeli Knesset approved the discriminatory Prawer-Begin Bill for the expulsion of the Palestinian Bedouin community in the Naqab (Negev) Desert in the south of Israel. If implemented, the 'Prawer-Begin Plan', as it is known, will result in the forced dispossession and displacement of tens of thousands of Palestinian citizens of Israel and the destruction of a further 35 villages.
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports that, according to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, “the Law for the Regulation of the Bedouin Settlement in the Negev is discriminatory and would legalise racist practices.” Last year the EU called upon Israel to withdraw the Plan. A European Parliament Resolution of 5 July 2012 on EU policy on the West Bank and East Jerusalem calls upon Israel to stop the Prawer-Begin Plan. In Part 12 of the Resolution, the EU calls for:
“the protection of the Bedouin communities of the West Bank and in the Negev, and for their rights to be fully respected by the Israeli authorities, and condemns any violations (e.g. house demolitions, forced displacements, public service limitations); calls also, in this context, for the withdrawal of the Prawer Plan by the Israeli Government”.
And section Q of the Resolution reads in part:
“. . . Arab Bedouin communities, threatened by Israeli policies undermining their livelihoods and including forced transfer, are a particularly vulnerable population both in the occupied Palestinian Territory and in the Negev;”
The Bedouin people are appealing to the world community for protection and New Zealand surely has a duty to help in averting a human rights catastrophe. The Palestine Human Rights Campaign urges all MPs to ask the New Zealand Government to both publicly condemn the Prawer Plan and make immediate representations to the government of Israel in this regard.
Open letter to New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister, Murray McCully:
Silence will not end the suffering
31 July 2013
Dear Mr McCully,
You may possibly have read the Palestine Human Rights Campaign (PHRC) comments (McCully fails to make independent stand for justice) on your press release dated 20 July 2013, which was sent to several MPs, including yourself.
We are writing to you now because of further developments that have a direct bearing on the opinions and assumptions expressed in your press release. We asked why anyone should believe that Israel would deal fairly with the Palestinian people in 'direct negotiations' when there is evidence that Israel has already made decisions that show it is not prepared to even consider abiding by earlier agreements or international law. We raised the issue of Israel’s discriminatory abuse of its own citizens and would now draw your attention to a 25 July 2013 statement by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, urging Israel to reconsider a bill that would displace thousands of Bedouin. The proposed law would result in the demolition of up to 35 Bedouin villages, displacing as many as 40,000 people from their ancestral homes.
It is shocking that Israel's leaders should have to be reminded that the Bedouin are, as citizens of Israel, “entitled to the same rights to property, housing and public services as any other group in Israel”. In your press release you expressed admiration for what you described as Israel's “constructive and responsible leadership”. Yet the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights fears that legislation is contemplated that would “legitimise the forced displacement and dispossession of indigenous Bedouin communities in the Negev desert in southern Israel”. What sort of leadership needs to be reminded that “respect for the legitimate rights of minorities is a fundamental tenet of democracy.”?
Israel’s facts-on-the-ground pre-conditions have been allowed to make a mockery of the so-called peace talks for too long and at tragic human cost. In case anyone doubts that Israel's engagement in the 'peace process' is anything other than stand-over tactics, consider this: Israel's International Relations Minister Yuval Steinitz was reported in the Jerusalem Post on 26 July 2013 warning that the Palestinians will have to make “territorial concessions – because there will be settlement blocks . . .” and on the UN-recognised right of return of ethnically- cleansed Palestinians, Steinitz added that the refugees “would also have to abandon the 'right of return' to their homes.” On Jerusalem, the Minister was equally uncompromising, saying that the “status quo was the only option.” He also made clear that any future Palestinian 'state' that nuclear-armed Israel might allow would have no true sovereignty and would be defenceless. Yuval Steinitz used the term 'demilitarised' in reference to the Palestinian people, who never have had an army, navy or air force. Even as the talks proceed, the day-to-day experience of Palestinians living under Occupation is one of continuing cruelty and injustice.
A non-violent alternative
The PHRC press release spoke about a non-violent alternative to the fruitless so-called peace process, that includes the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. A prominent Israeli writer, columnist and member of the Haaretz newspaper's editorial board, Gideon Levy, also calls for an economic boycott of Israel that he regards as “the least of all evils” that “could produce historic benefits.” He writes of the boycott: “On the assumption that the current status quo cannot continue forever, it is the most reasonable option to convince Israel to change. Its effectiveness has already been proven. More and more Israelis have become concerned recently about the threat of the boycott.”
As Levy puts it: “The change won’t come from within. That has been clear for a long time. As long as Israelis don't pay a price for the occupation, or at least don't make the connection between cause and effect, they have no incentive to bring it to an end.” This is precisely what the PHRC has been trying to get through to those New Zealand politicians who insist that rewarding Israel will somehow produce a change for the better in the Zionist state's behaviour. Gideon Levy points out that,
“. . . change will only come from the outside. The United States won’t apply pressure. If the Obama administration hasn't done it, no American administration will. Economic boycott was proven effective in South Africa. When the apartheid regime’s business community approached the country’s leadership saying that the prevailing circumstances could not continue, the die was cast.”
The UK Government admits that Israel is violating international humanitarian law
In a written answer to a Parliamentary question from Lord Hylton on 25 July 2013, Baroness Northover revealed that “the issue of forcible transfer has been highlighted in a number of recent reports from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, including a fact sheet about communities on the Jerusalem periphery.” In her reply, Baroness Northover also said, “The UK has made clear that we view demolitions and evictions as causing suffering to ordinary Palestinians, harmful to the peace process and, in all but the most limited circumstances, contrary to international humanitarian law, and we condemn them.” Sadly, this admission was made without any publicity. The UK and other western governments will not publicly condemn Israel or call for sanctions which, as the worsening situation unfolds, are clearly and urgently needed.
According to a 9 July 2004 International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling,
“Israel is under an obligation to terminate its breaches of international law,” and “to cease forthwith the works of construction of the wall being built in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem, to dismantle forthwith the structure therein situated...” The ICJ has further affirmed that Israel must “make reparation for all damage caused by the construction of the wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem.” The ICJ Advisory Opinion also stated “all States parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 12 August 1949 have in addition the obligation, while respecting the United Nations Charter and international law, to ensure compliance by Israel with international humanitarian law as embodied in that Convention.”
A New Zealand voice
Is the National Government prepared to respect its obligation to ensure compliance by Israel with international humanitarian law? New Zealand, the first western democracy to adopt universal women's suffrage, is also respected for its unwavering, independent stance against nuclear weapons. If this country were to heed the ICJ and make our voice heard on behalf of justice and human rights, the world would applaud our integrity and courage. We would certainly earn the gratitude of the Palestinian people and those Israeli citizens who suffer at the discriminatory hands of the Zionist state. Jews who say “not in my name” in response to Israel's war crimes would also be encouraged to hear, at last, an influential voice that recognised the outrage they feel. A ringing appeal for justice could inspire a rebirth of the spirit that brought about the Geneva Conventions. Continued silence can only perpetuate the suffering.
Leslie Bravery, Palestine Human Rights Campaign www.palestine.org.nz
McCully fails to make independent stand for justice
By Leslie Bravery, 24 July 2013
In a press release, 'McCully welcomes US announcement on Middle East peace process', dated 20 July 2013, the New Zealand Minister of Foreign Affairs, Murray McCully, expresses support for “direct negotiations” as a means “to move the peace process forward”. But why would he promote a 'peace process' that, over the years, has served as nothing but a cover for Israel to acquire more Palestinian territory? “Direct negotiations” have so far left the Palestinian people with fragmented portions of their original homeland (a mere eight per cent); some commentators have described the remaining territory as an archipelago. Moreover, it goes against natural justice to demand that a defenceless, occupied population should negotiate its freedom with a super-power armed occupation that has nothing to gain by making concessions.
Why should anyone believe that Israel would deal fairly with the Palestinian people when Zionist ideology drives Israel's leaders to extreme acts of cruelty, even against their own citizens? The ethnic cleansing of Israel's Bedouin people, outlined in the Prawer-Begin plan, will forcibly remove nearly 40,000 Bedouin and destroy their society and way of life. Israel refuses to recognise 35 Bedouin villages in the Negev that house nearly 90,000 people. The Israeli state already denies them access to basic services and infrastructure, such as electricity and running water, and frequently demolishes their homes and other buildings. The Israeli Army even conducts regular military exercises around Bedouin communities, forcing families from their homes and subjecting them to the sound of gunfire and explosions. Both the United Nations’ Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and Amnesty International, among others, have criticised the plan as an affront to Bedouin human rights. Ann Harrison, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International, says: “What the proposed law does is send the Bedouin communities into a human rights desert by stripping already vulnerable citizens of legal safeguards . . . This blatantly violates international law.”
Israel's contempt for its unfortunate Bedouin citizens also applies to Palestinians living under belligerent Israeli military occupation. The Palestinian people are forced to live, hemmed in by checkpoints and threatened by racist settlers, in a nightmare existence that New Zealanders could scarcely imagine. If Mr McCully believes this to be an exaggeration then he should try living under those conditions himself. What sort of state uproots olive trees that people depend upon for their livelihood? What sort of state uses its military might to demolish homes, irrigation networks and wells? Israel continues to commit these ideologically-driven human rights abuses because the politicians that lead the most powerful and influential governments refuse to bring Israel to account for its actions. The same states that wilfully placed the Palestinian people in this situation also refuse to defend them.
Last century, the Geneva Conventions came into existence as a result of conflict generated by an ideology that defied humanity and would not be deterred. Today we have non-violent mechanisms designed to bring pressure on rogue states that refuse to reform. If governments could be persuaded to invoke international law and support the world-wide movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), then Israel would be encouraged to stop its human rights violations. The grass-roots movement to bring Israel to account is already beginning to have a sobering effect and the Zionist state has cause to fear the possibility of arrests for war crimes. A Jewish Chronicle Online article reveals that Israeli Military Chief of Staff, Benny Gantz, made a trip to London earlier this month that was given “special mission” status by UK Middle East Minister Alistair Burt in a move aimed at avoiding an attempt to arrest Gantz. A similar fear led to Israeli Opposition leader, Tzipi Livni, cancelling a planned visit in 2009. The principle of universal jurisdiction, as the Jewish Chronicle Online article says, allows UK courts to prosecute serious human rights violations, regardless of where they were committed.
Stand for justice
It would be nice to think that our country could be more independent and take a stand for justice, as it has against nuclear weapons. Instead, the New Zealand Government merely follows the direction set by Israel's powerful allies. UK Foreign Secretary, William Hague, said recently: “I pay tribute to the efforts of Secretary Kerry and his team and I commend the leadership shown by both Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas.” Mr McCully said in his press release: "We place on record our strong support for Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas and the constructive and responsible leadership that has made today's announcement possible." Netanyahu, the Israeli leader so admired by McCully, has made it clear that he will not negotiate over Jerusalem. He says repeatedly that Jerusalem must remain Israel's indivisible and eternal capital. Regarding Israel's illegal settlements, Netanyahu has also said “we're here to stay” and that there will be no more settlement withdrawals.
The two-state illusion
Murray McCully and other politicians speak of the 'two-state solution' as a way to bring peace. But, as with the 'peace process', the meaning behind the words needs careful scrutiny. Israel has made it plain that, as far as it is concerned, any Palestinian state that might one day be permitted would be allowed no sovereignty over its airspace and would certainly have to remain defenceless. Indeed, Benjamin Netanyahu lays down other preconditions, declaring that the pre-1967 border is not up for consideration and asserting that the nature of any Palestinian state must be decided in the negotiations. In other words, Israel claims the right to determine the nature of any future Palestinian 'state'. Netanyahu is thus denying the Palestinian people, for all time, any semblance of sovereignty.
Netanyahu's arrogant approach concerning the proposed resumption of 'talks' is depressing: "Our negotiating partners will have to make concessions that enable us to preserve our security and crucial national interests." It is worth noting that neither Israel nor Western government spokesmen ever acknowledge the Palestinian need for security. The omission is striking and revealing. Netanyahu's two principal goals, we are told, are maintaining a Jewish majority in Israel and, in an insulting reference to the Palestinians, the avoidance of the creation of a “terrorist state” on its borders. The Zionist obsession is with maintaining supremacy for one ethnicity over all others. If any other politician or state were to espouse such policies they would rightly be reviled for their racism.
It is time to consider the one-state alternative future for Israel/Palestine. Even before the expansion of Israel into territory far outside the limits of the arbitrary UN Partition Plan, the geography, population distribution and natural resources of Palestine made partition unjust and untenable. A bi-national state that guaranteed equality for all its citizens would offer a practical way of dealing with these seemingly insurmountable difficulties. The Western democracies proclaim their support for the principals of racial equality and equal citizenship and they are quick to condemn (since the defeat of apartheid) those who are accused of racial and ethnic discrimination. The one exception to such condemnation is Israel. Those who have encouraged this special dispensation are complicit in the facilitating of decades of human suffering and injustice. They are responsible for policy that has also contributed in large measure to fearful and widespread instability.
Zionism in practise is cruel and inhuman and the daily suffering of the belligerently-occupied Palestinian people is undeniable witness to that horrible reality. It must be brought to an end now and international law provides the means. All that is required is the will.
Australia Post stamp issue demeans New Zealand and Palestine
The 60-cent joint Australia Post/Israel Post stamp (one of a two-stamp commemorative issue) with its Tel el Saba inscription implies that the 1st Australian Light Horse Brigade took the Turkish hill position. In fact, an attack planned for the Australian Light Horse was being held up until the threat from the Turkish machine-guns on Tel el Saba could be eliminated. It was actually the Auckland Mounted Rifles that took the hill and a photo of them (http://www.nzmr.org/beersheba.htm) can be seen on top of Tel el Saba after its capture from the Turks. The caption explains that the “hill was the key to taking the outpost township of Beersheba – with Turko-German weaponry dug in overlooking all the approaches to the township and its trench defences, it had to be in the hands of the Anzacs before a frontal attack on the town could take place.”
The re-writing of history to suit Israel and its Australia Post propagandists went far beyond implying that it was Australian, not New Zealand, forces that took Tel el Saba. An Australia Post website article referring to the collaboration of Israel and Australia in the stamp issue states: “The Battle of Beersheba is a significant event in the history of both countries and one of Australia's greatest and least-known military triumphs.” The battle took place over 30 years before Israel came to establish itself in Palestine and to imply that the battle was a part of Israel's history is a slap in the face for Palestinians whose forbears fought with ANZAC forces in Palestine. The Palestinians were led to believe that fighting for victory with the allies would help to ensure their independence when the war was over. Australia Post's tribute to the (at the time) non-existent Israel in the fighting is absurd. As Ali Kazak has pointed out, “Jews did not fight with the Australian forces, they were merely 6.8 per cent of the population in Palestine, according to British statistics.” Instead of gaining independence with the defeat of the Turkish empire, the Palestinian people were subjected to merciless terrorism with the Palestinian residents of Beersheba being ethnically cleansed from their city by Zionist forces.
Australia Post's reference to the Battle of Beersheba as being a part of Israel's history implies that the organisation regards Beersheba to be an Israeli town. If Australia Post had any respect for international law it would give due recognition to the indisputable fact that Beersheba is still a part of Palestine and that it is illegally occupied by a foreign power. Israel continues to defy international law by denying the refugees their United Nations-recognised right of return.
Australia Post could have made a more honest stamp issue, jointly with Palestine Post, that recognised the true participants and with the Arabic language included. It is cause for alarm when a government agency (Australia Post describes itself as a 'Government Business Enterprise') allows itself to become involved with a foreign government in such an exercise. It is easy to understand that Israel must, of necessity, attempt to deny history in the promotion of its ideology but the Zionist state should not be allowed to subvert our democratic institutions or undermine respect for international law. – Leslie Bravery | 01 July 2013
Auckland hosts inspirational two-day Conference on Palestine
The weekend of 23-24 June 2013 saw a historic coming together of all the New Zealand pro-Palestinian activist groups, Global Peace & Justice, Auckland, Kia Ora Gaza, Students for Justice in Palestine, Palestine Human Rights Campaign, Auckland and many other workers in the cause of justice for Palestine. The atmosphere was electric and all the contributing speakers spoke with knowledge, humanity and dedication. We hope to be sharing more news of this event after hearing from the main organisers. Two highlights of the conference were moving addresses by Palestinian activist and film-maker, Gaza resident Yousef Aljamal, and Israeli writer and activist, Miko Peled, author of The General's Son. The conference's sponsorship of this visit by Miko Peled to New Zealand made possible two interviews with him, one on New Zealand TV One's Q+A programme and the other on Radio New Zealand. The radio interview with Kim Hill lasted for 45 minutes and the questions and opinions she raised, along with the emails that were read out, afforded a perfect opportunity for Miko to dispel so many of the misconceptions that surround the founding and the conduct of the Zionist state of Israel. His personal and painful journey in search of truth ought to be an inspiration for others. It should encourage those who have been nurtured under the spell of Zionist myths to re-examine their assumptions. For many, the interview must have been a rude awakening and the corporate news media must take its share of the blame for this. – LB
Holding the mirror up to Zionism
There is nothing more inhumane than the mind that ensnares itself in blind adherence to ideology. The belief that any one people, ethnicity or religion has superior rights over others, when put into practice, necessarily leads to acts of inhumanity and war crimes. Thus it has all too tragically come to pass in Palestine with Palestinian refugees refused their internationally-recognised right of return, purely because they are not Jewish. The world community forced the Palestinian people into this nightmarish existence, ignoring their pleas to be treated justly in their homeland.
By Leslie Bravery 2 June 2013
Marcus Dysch, writing in the Jewish Chronicle Online on 30 May 2013, notes that the UK Liberal Democrat Party MP, David Ward, has been told to attend a meeting over his Shoah remark and that the LibDem leader Nick Clegg, deputy leader Simon Hughes and chief whip Alistair Carmichael had originally intended to force Mr Ward to meet the Party’s Friends of Israel group to agree “proportionate and precise” language for his future comments on Israel. The Jewish Chronicle article went on to report the LibDem spokesman's comment that his party believed that it was “unacceptable and offensive to conflate criticism of the actions of the Israeli government with an entire people . . . ” Marcus Dysch also reported that, “Mr Ward took to Twitter this week to ask his followers for 'advice' ahead of the meeting.”
David Ward is being vilified for holding the mirror up to Zionism while Israel's supporters are silent regarding the shocking prejudice contained in comments made by Zionist leaders. An Israeli Prime Minister, Golda Meir, for example, denied the very existence of the Palestinian people saying, “. . . It was not as though there was a Palestinian people in Palestine considering itself as a Palestinian people and we came and threw them out and took their country away from them. They did not exist.” Another Zionist, Menachem Begin, who later became Prime Minister, was the subject of a letter to the New York Times written by prominent American Jews (including Albert Einstein) critical of Begin's visit to the US on 2 December 1948. The letter began, “Among the most disturbing political phenomena of our time is the emergence in the newly created state of Israel of the "Freedom Party" (Tnuat Haherut), a political party closely akin in its organisation, methods, political philosophy and social appeal to the Nazi and Fascist parties. It was formed out of the membership and following of the former Irgun Zvai Leumi, a terrorist, right-wing, chauvinist organisation in Palestine.” The article deplored the Party's role in the terrorism and massacre that took place in the Palestinian village of Deir Yasin.
By defining itself as a Jewish state, Israel is bound to accuse its critics of anti-Jewish prejudice and, while anti-Zionist Jews find no reason to criticise David Ward, Israel and the Jewish National Fund, the Board of Deputies of British Jews and Israel's supporters among British Parliamentarians ignore their protests, thereby continuing to implicate them in Israel's violations of international humanitarian law. Thanks in part to Israel's British Parliamentary supporters, the self-styled 'Jewish state' with its Jewish-only settlements – illegally and violently imposed beyond Israel's UN Partition Plan borders – is effectively granted impunity for every criminal act that it commits. Under cover of the darkness granted to Israel by the corporate news media, the Zionist state gets away with inflicting, day-by-day, intolerable suffering and injustice upon a captive population and indeed upon anyone it believes gets in its way. Here we shine a searchlight on this behaviour and the abhorrent Zionist thinking that inspires it.
Double standards and Israeli state violence in international waters
On 31 May, the Board of Deputies of British Jews published a statement regarding the murder of a soldier in Woolwich that read in part: "We stand with other faith groups in deploring violence in the name of religion. The Board of Deputies works tirelessly with all faith groups to promote dialogue and understanding, and to root out extremism." Really? In the light of this statement, LibDem MP David Ward, Jews opposed to Zionism and other critics of Israel are entitled to know when, or if, the Board of Deputies of British Jews is ever going to deplore the violence in the name of religion that prompted Israel's extreme action in storming the Mavi Marmara aid ship and killing nine civilians aboard the vessel. An 18-year-old US citizen, Furkan Doğan, was among those victims. The UN Human Rights Council documented what it described as Israel’s “extra-legal, arbitrary and summary execution” of Furkan, who was filming with a video camera when he was first hit by live-fire. As he lay on the deck, Furkan received five bullet wounds, all of them in his back except for a face wound. According to forensic analysis, that shot was delivered at point-blank range.
The grim reality of life under military Occupation
The day-by-day reality of life for Palestinians under Israel's rule is, by itself, evidence enough of the discriminatory and inhumane nature of Israel's founding ideology. The Israeli Occupation Army enforces a permit system for the benefit of settlers that determines where Palestinians may live in their own land. Every area of Israeli-Occupied Palestinian territory experiences varied and arbitrary restrictions of movement imposed by the Israeli Army. The lack of freedom of movement is the frustrating and humiliating background to daily life for the Occupied Palestinian people, whose suffering includes a variety of human rights abuses, from night home invasions to wanton acts of agricultural and economic sabotage.
In Occupied Palestine
What sort of state conducts military training exercises amid civilians? No civilised regime, certainly. A daily newsletter describing Israeli rule over Palestinians, that can be seen on-line, makes harrowing reading. See, for instance, the most recent two days of reports  and  for 28 and 29 May presently available (it takes time under the appalling difficulties of military Occupation to compile these statistics) and note the general forbearance of the Palestinian people under extreme provocation.
The Great Water Crime
Access to safe, clean water is a fundamental human right. Across the Occupied West Bank, Israel's illegal settlements have completely free access to water. Settler homes enjoy full swimming pools and well-watered gardens yet Palestinian access to their own water is severely restricted. Israel compounds this crime in two ways: (1) The Zionist state forces Palestinians to pay the Israeli government for what little water they are allowed and (2) at the same time, Israel forbids Palestinians to sink wells or even build water storage facilities. Thus the Israeli regime profits while maintaining crippling control over a captive population's water supply. In addition, reports by both the World Bank and the United Nations Environment Programme show that the water crisis in Gaza is likely to be both critical and irreversible by 2020. Both international bodies express concern that Israeli military occupation in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip means severe limitations on people's access to essential water supplies.
Checkpoints and other Restrictions of Movement
Israel places checkpoints at the entrances to towns and villages to prevent people entering or leaving. Interference with people attempting to move around towns and villages consists of blocking roads with concrete blocks, barbed-wire and/or earth mounds. People attempting to transport farm produce and other goods find obstacles placed on the roads by the Israeli Army. Trucks have to be unloaded by hand and similarly re-loaded onto vehicles brought from beyond the obstructions. Road closures are used to isolate areas wherever the Israeli Army considers the presence of Palestinians to be ‘illegal’. There are instances of Palestinian mothers giving birth at checkpoints, having been denied ready access to hospital.
Gaza City's ruined international airport is permanently closed. Palestinians needing to enter or leave Palestine can do so only with Israeli permission. In addition to Israel's occasional massive bombing raids, Gaza residents are forced to live with the constant fear of overflying drones and the traumatising effects of sonic booms created by Israeli war-planes. The effects on the children of Gaza are particularly distressing.
Agricultural and Economic sabotage
Farmers are prohibited, and often terrorised by both illegal settlers and the Israeli Army, from going to work on their land. Occupation settlers and the Israeli Army uproot or set fire to olive trees and bulldoze Palestinian crops. The Gaza fishing industry is ruined by the enforcement of a draconian fishing limit. The Israel Navy forces Palestinian fishing boats to remain within a re-instated three-nautical-mile, over-fished zone, sometimes at the cost to crews of life, limb and property.
House Demolitions, Evictions and Abductions of Minors
The Israeli Army destroys Palestinian houses built without Israel's permission and invades homes, very often at dead of night, often abducting Palestinian minors. The soldiers frequently terrorise the youngsters with threats and/or by blindfolding them and tying their wrists behind their backs. Many Palestinian children are illegally taken to prison in Israel, where more terror is practised against them, such as solitary confinement and shackling in painful positions for long periods.
Israel’s Toxic Hazard Weapon
Israel has devised yet another technique designed to drive Palestinians from their land and weaken their resolve to resist. It is a direct assault on their health that carries the menace of further agricultural and economic sabotage. For instance, activity at Israel's Barkan industrial complex generates growing quantities of polluting waste-water from the production of plastics, lead and other commodities that endanger human health. Pollution from Barkan flows into the streams that run through valleys or wadis where there are Palestinian farms as well as towns. Israeli Occupation settlements discharge their untreated waste to add to the pollution. This practice poisons Palestinian land, crops, farm animals and essential, meagre, water supplies. Settlers – with Israeli Army assistance – release wild pigs, that reproduce rapidly, into Palestinian areas, spoiling agriculture and damaging olive trees, fencing and small buildings. The pigs cannot be controlled because Israel will not allow the people to own or use firearms, or even knives to kill the pigs. Poison cannot be used because of the danger to Palestinian farm animals.
Forced Evacuations of Homes to Facilitate Israeli Army Military Exercises
An example of this practice is contained in an International Women's Peace Service (IWPS) report on the Israeli Army's terrorising of a Bedouin community in the Jordan Valley. The report tells of a continual programme of Israeli military training in the village of 'Atuf that traumatises the population. Every week 22 families, amounting to 172 individuals, are displaced from their homes from 4am to 5pm by Israeli military live-fire exercises. Since 1967 Israeli troops have been forcing the Bedouin people to leave their houses each week. Whole families and their livestock are displaced to outlying fields to the sound of gunfire and explosions. The entire area is designated area “C” and there is a 'closed military zone' where nothing is allowed to be built or improved. An entire valley of fertile farmland lies uncultivated while the nearby Occupation settlement of Beqa constantly expands. In both 'Atuf and Tamun, countless houses have been demolished by the Israeli Army and many more are under demolition orders. Since 1970, 14 people have been killed and 30 have lost limbs due to exploding abandoned Israeli Army ordnance. The explosives can be as small as a pen, easily mistaken by children as harmless. The continual sound of explosions and gunfire results in many cases of psychological trauma, especially to children, and the only school in the district is within earshot of the weekly Israeli military exercises.
Israeli Army Violence in the service of Discrimination
The Israeli Occupation Army enforces many of the above restrictions with the threat, or actual use, of military action as well as personal physical assault. Thus, daily life for Palestinians is conducted in an all-pervasive atmosphere of violence and fear imposed by an occupying foreign army. In addition to all of the above, Palestinians have to contend with Israel's anti-Palestinian laws of discrimination: There are more than 50 Israeli laws that discriminate against Palestinian citizens of Israel in all areas of life, including their rights to political participation, access to land, education, state budget resources and criminal procedures.
There is nothing more inhumane than the mind that allows itself to be ensnared in blind adherence to ideology. The belief that any one people, ethnicity or religion has superior rights over others, when put into practice, necessarily leads to acts of inhumanity and war crimes. Thus it has all too tragically come to pass in Palestine with Palestinian refugees refused their internationally-recognised right of return, purely because they are not Jewish. It is this state of mind that enabled Israel's first Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion, to state in the New.York Times, 22 April 1963: “Jews are in truth a separate element in the midst of the peoples among whom they live – an element that cannot be completely absorbed by any nation – and for this reason no nation can calmly tolerate it in its midst.” Imagine the outcry if Israel's critics were to say such a thing! In 1938 Ben-Gurion also said: "If I knew it was possible to save all the children in Germany by taking them to England, and only half of the children by taking them to Eretz Israel, I would choose the second solution. For we must take into account not only the lives of these children but also the history of the people of Israel."
The world community, and Britain in particular, bear responsibility for having forced the Palestinian people into this nightmarish existence and of having ignored their pleas to be treated justly in their homeland. David Ward has had the courage to witness for truth and his example should inspire everyone of us not to be afraid to follow his example. The Jewish National Fund, the Board of Deputies of British Jews and Israel's supporters among British Parliamentarians should be invited to repudiate Zionism and to use their influence instead to restore respect for international humanitarian law, especially the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention that are totally violated by Israel. Such an appeal to their consciences might even persuade them to join the international movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS). We can but hope.
 Sunday Times (15 June 1969), also in The Washington Post (16 June 1969) http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Golda_Meir http://www.economist.com/node/9507245
 No 459 / Human Rights Summary: Weekly Military Training in ‘Atuf, Jordan Valley http://iwps.info
What sort of state drives people out of their homes in order to conduct live-fire military exercises?
By Leslie Bravery - 15 April 2013
An International Women's Peace Service (IWPS) report (http://iwps.info) on the Israeli Army's terrorising of a Bedouin community in the Jordan Valley tells of a continual programme of Israeli military training in the village of ‘Atuf. IWPS report 459 / 9 April 2013 describes how Israeli military training in the village forces 22 families, that is 172 people, every week to evacuate their homes from 4am to 5pm while the Israeli military conducts live-fire exercises. This has been going on since 1967 and whole families and their livestock are displaced to outlying fields to the sound of gunfire and explosions. Israel has declared the area a 'closed military zone' where nothing is allowed to be built or improved and a valley of fertile farmland lies uncultivated while the nearby Israeli Occupation settlement of Beqa continues to spread itself ever further. In both ‘Atuf and neighbouring Tamun, countless houses have been demolished by the Israeli Army and many more are under demolition orders.
Since 1970, 14 people have been killed and 30 have lost limbs due to exploding abandoned Israeli Army ordnance. The explosives can be as small as a pen, easily mistaken by children as harmless. The continual explosions and gunfire have caused many cases of psychological trauma, especially to children, and the only school in the district is within earshot of Israeli military exercises. What sort of state drives people out of their homes in order to conduct live-fire military exercises? The US-armed nuclear power, pandered to by the West, continues to demand recognition of what it calls its special need for security while brutally denying the Palestinian people any vestige of peace and safety for themselves.
According to the New York Times, when talks between Iran and six world powers ended earlier this month, with no apparent progress towards an agreement on the easing of damaging sanctions on the Iranian economy, Israel's minister of strategic affairs, Yuval Steinitz, commented: “The time has come for the world to take a more assertive stand and make it unequivocally clear to the Iranians that the negotiations games have run their course.”
The world should recall the minister's words every time President Obama asserts, on Israel's behalf, that the only path to peace open to the Palestinian people is through direct negotiations with Israel. Substituting only one word, 'Iranians' and replacing it with 'Israel', the quote would read, the time has come for the world to take a more assertive stand and make it unequivocally clear to Israel that the negotiations games have run their course. Decades of deferential treatment and 'dialogue' have served only to convince the occupying power that it enjoys total impunity. The time to face UN-imposed sanctions is long overdue for Israel.
Watch your language!
By Leslie Bravery, 16 March 2013
In the Western news media the term 'Islamist' has, it seems, become so perfectly acceptable that it is used daily in a wide range of contexts. Now suppose the Israeli Occupation settlers in Palestine who spray racist slogans, such as “Arabs to the gas chambers” on the walls of Palestinian homes and mosques and who set fire to Palestinian olive trees, were to be referred to as 'Judaists'. Such a term would undoubtedly invite condemnation as being 'anti-Semitic'. Actually both expressions are repugnant.
The term Semite  includes any of the various ancient and modern Semitic-speaking peoples. Arabic is, of course, one of the Semitic languages. The state of Israel denies the internationally-recognised right of return to their homes of ethnically cleansed and dispossessed Palestinians, on the grounds that they are not Jewish. Such discrimination, supported by pro-Zionist groups in the West, must therefore, in their terms, be anti-Semitism towards Palestinian Arabs. Those bigots who see the Jewish people as members of an inferior race are racists, pure and simple. Their crime is racism. Racism is an inclusive term, that acknowledges the fact that the members of any race, religion or ethnic grouping may be singled out for persecution.
Before the start of the Zionist enterprise, the native Jews of Palestine discriminated against nobody, nor were they themselves discriminated against. It took the intervention of Europe, the home of anti-Jewish prejudice and pogroms, to introduce divisiveness to the Holy Land. Further afield, for nearly 800 years, the Jews of Moorish Andalucia enjoyed respect and some cities in Andalucia had Jewish governors. Sadly, the European conquest of Andalucia brought forced conversions of Jews to Christianity and/or banishment. Anti-Jewish prejudice has always been a European sickness but prejudice has not been aimed at Jews alone. European imperialism has created both anti-Arabism and its patronising counterpart, Orientalism.
Denying the status of refugees
In a Jerusalem Post  commentary entitled Envoys work to end UN's Palestinian refugee status, written by Benjamin Weinthal and dated 10 March 2013, we learn that: “At a small conference at the Harvard Club in Manhattan on Thursday, a host of dignitaries and experts, including Israel’s envoy to the UN Ron Prosor, addressed the UN’s classification of Palestinian refugees as the principal stumbling block to a peace agreement between Israel and the PLO.” Dr Daniel Pipes, described by The Jerusalem Post as “a leading international expert on the Middle East”, declared at the opening of the conference that UNRWA's approach to the Palestinian refugee situation “creates a narrative of victimhood and leads to extremism.” In the report, Pipes went on to say “. . . the real obstacle [to a two-state solution] is the right of return for millions of Palestinian refugees.” Ron Prosor even went so far as to say, “The refugees problem is the main obstacle to peace, not settlements.”
There are verbal contradictions in the opinions expressed by Prosor and Pipes. Zionism's traditional victimhood card is here neatly transferred to the Palestinians. Prosor blames them for the fact that the world recognises them as victims of Israeli ethnic cleansing. The illogicality is glaring: Prosor would have it that UNRWA's policy of allowing Palestinians to “transfer their refugee mileage to their children”, is “misguided” while, on the other hand, he continues to promote an unconditional "right of return" for the descendants of Jews who, it is argued, left the land 2000 years ago! According to Pipes, it is the fact that Israel’s victims are recognised as refugees that “leads to extremism”.
If resistance to military occupation is extremism, how would one describe the occupation that, daily, severely restricts the movement of Palestinians in their own land? It is an occupation that manifests itself through the bulldozing of crops, destruction of wells, irrigation systems, homes and olive trees. Is it not 'extreme' to steal land for the benefit of an illegally transferred Jewish Israeli population? According to the Rome Statute article 8, such settlement is more than extreme, it is a war crime:
“The transfer, directly or indirectly, by the Occupying Power of parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies, or the deportation or transfer of all or parts of the population of the occupied territory within or outside this territory.” 
It would therefore be against natural justice for the UN to allow Israel any influence over the status of Palestinian refugees.
The Christian community under Israeli occupation
It is often overlooked by the outside world that the Christians of Palestine also suffer from Israeli oppression. A Palestinian researcher at the Bethlehem and Birzeit Universities in occupied Palestine, Professor Mazin Qumsiyeh, serves also as chairman of the board of the Palestinian Centre for Rapprochement Between People and is co-ordinator of the Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements in Beit Sahour. Speaking at a gathering in South Africa on 11 March 2013 , Mazin recalled the sad fact that “. . . the birthplace of Jesus, Bethlehem, has 180,000 native Christians and Muslims squeezed into only 13% of the land of the district of Bethlehem. Eighty-seven per cent of the land of Bethlehem is now off-limits to our development and open for the expansion of 23 colonial settlements built on our land. And this canton of Bethlehem is increasingly surrounded by a wall and I, as a Palestinian Christian, am not allowed into Jerusalem, my Church of the Sepulchre.”
Israel’s benefactors will never acknowledge the crime of ethnic cleansing suffered by Palestinians at the hands of Zionist terrorism but, as Mazin Qumsiyeh tells us, “The truth is that Zionists have worked hard to methodically transform our country from a multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multi-cultural society into a Jewish state. By necessity this entailed ethnic cleansing so that 530 villages and towns were destroyed and today seven million of our people are refugees and displaced people. Refugees are still living in camps under very difficult circumstances, waiting for implementation of their internationally recognised right of return, generation after generation. What will be their fate? And the prisoners? The thousands of prisoners languishing in Israeli prisons are part of our reality. The Israelis move heaven and earth to gain the release of one prisoner, and those thousands of Palestinian prisoners, when will they have their freedom?” 
Against this background it is important to recognise another example of word manipulation – the insidious so-called 'direct negotiations'. Those who call for them hope that the idea will sound perfectly reasonable but the demand for direct negotiations is designed to serve twin purposes that have nothing to do with a just and peaceful settlement. Direct negotiations between the nuclear-armed occupying power, Israel, and its defenceless victims, the Palestinians, (a) buys time for Israel to consolidate and expand its illegal settlement programme and (b) allows Israel's allies to abdicate their responsibility to require Israel to abide by international law. Israel believes that the pressure of unremitting military occupation and terror will eventually be sufficient to force the Palestinian people into total surrender of their rights.
Another method employed in covering for Israel and attempting to defend the indefensible, is the discriminatory reservation of what should be universal terminology exclusively on Israel's behalf. Speaking at the annual luncheon of the Conservative Friends of Israel in June 2007, the leader of Britain's Conservative Party, David Cameron, described himself as a Zionist . In answer to a question he said, "If what you mean by Zionist, is someone who believes that the Jews have a right to a homeland in Israel . . . then, yes, I am a Zionist . . ." The UK Liberal Democrat MP, David Ward, was recently vilified by supporters of Zionism, for saying 'the Jews' when referring to the lessons that might be learned from the World War Two Holocaust. But as we see above, there is no such outcry when Israel's apologists say 'the Jews' when promoting the cause of Zionism!
Israel – 'self-defence' and 'violence'
Discriminatory use of terms such as 'self-defence' when referring to Israel and 'violence' when accusing the Palestinians, are further examples of the technique. At the same Conservative Friends of Israel luncheon, Cameron demanded that Hamas should “put an end to violence” but he never even mentioned the armed violence exercised by Israel in the course of military occupation – and he certainly did not demand that Israel put an end to it. Similarly, while Cameron noted that “Israel is a country that has a right to its own legitimate self-defence”, he never criticised Israel's well-documented illegitimate uses of aggressive violence, much less its war crimes, and neither did he acknowledge any Palestinian right to self-defence.
The 'separation barrier'
The so-called 'separation barrier' is another example of dissimulation. Israel's annexation Wall is a monstrous ideologically-inspired device that dwarfs the notorious Berlin Wall, both in height and length. Zionists call it the 'separation' barrier in the pretence that it follows the border between internationally-recognised Israeli territory and what is left of Palestine. In this case, 'separation' does reveal a truth – but it is not the one Zionists and their allies would wish to advertise. The Wall certainly does separate Palestinian communities from each other and villages from their farmland in order to consolidate Israel's grip on the West Bank. No wonder the International Court condemned it as illegal! 
Yet another piece of Zionist language manipulation is the idea of 'land swaps'. As the Jewish Israeli author, Miko Peled, wrote in his revealing book about Zionism, The General's Son, page 143, land swaps “. . . seemed like a totally insane notion. Families from Bil'in would be given land somewhere miles away, probably in the Negev Desert, in return for these choice ancestral lands right next to their village. I found it hard to believe that anyone really took this seriously. Was there a single Israeli who would agree to take a land swap like that?”
Jerusalem – the 'democracy' of discrimination and dispossession
Israel claims that it is a democracy but for Palestinians on the ground, reality tells a different story. Mazin Qumsiyeh speaks of his own experiences: “Even with my American Passport I am not allowed into Jerusalem, as are 99% of our people. The truth is that Jerusalemites are being driven from their land to be replaced by Jews, including converts to Judaism brought from around the world. Jerusalem is the heart of our reality. It is, at the same time, symbol of peace and sign of conflict. While the separation wall divides Palestinian neighbourhoods, Jerusalem continues to be emptied of its Palestinian citizens, Christians and Muslims. Their identity cards are confiscated, which means the loss of their right to reside in Jerusalem. Their homes are demolished or expropriated. Jerusalem, city of reconciliation, has become a city of discrimination and exclusion, a source of struggle rather than peace.” 
In addition, Zionism's contempt for others manifests itself in another, particularly repellent, manner. Since the signing of the Oslo Accords, Israeli Occupation settlements have been growing and the setting up of what are called 'outposts' (precursors to the establishment of fresh settlements) has been increasing. All the outposts and many settlements regularly discharge both waste-water and sewage onto nearby Palestinian farmland.  But the US continues to supply arms to Israel and our political leaders liberally supply the diplomatic support that ensures impunity for the occupying power. So sycophantic has the adoration of Israel become, that Britain's PM David Cameron went so far as to say that he believed there was “something in the DNA of Conservatives that was profoundly impressed by what Israel has achieved.” 
The problem with unreserved commitment to an ideology is that when its precepts conflict with logic and verifiable evidence, these cornerstones of sanity and reason have either to be sacrificed or the ideology abandoned. Equally, when the practice of a fanatically held belief necessitates the denial of justice and contempt for the most fundamental of human rights, the descent into war crimes and inhumanity is inevitable. Reminding ourselves, once again, of the demand by Israel and its allies for 'direct negotiations' we might do worse than to recall Albert Einstein's definition of insanity – that it is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them."
On 10 April 1948, Einstein wrote the following words of condemnation to Shepard Rifkin, Executive Director of the American Friends for the Fighters for the Freedom of Israel.
“When a real and final catastrophe should befall us in Palestine, the first responsible for it would be the British and the second responsible for it the Terrorist organisations built up from our own ranks (Jewish.) I am not willing to see anybody associated with those misled and criminal people. Sincerely yours, Albert Einstein.” 
By supporting Israel so unconditionally, Cameron, Obama and other Western leaders are also declaring their allegiance to Zionism. They do so with the aid of carefully constructed language designed to camouflage an ugly reality. Their problem is that the political propaganda-speak is sounding increasingly less convincing. The disparity between what they proclaim and the glaringly obvious reality is becoming ever more apparent. It seems that the lessons learned in the painful winning of the Geneva Conventions are being set aside for Israel's sake – what was it that Einstein said about insanity?
Holocaust Remembrance – in defence of David Ward
By Leslie Bravery – 27 January 2013
The British Daily Mail reported on 25 January that a Liberal Democrat MP in the UK faces expulsion from his party for saying that supporters of Israel's conduct towards the Palestinian people had not learned from the Nazi Holocaust murder of six million Jews.
The reactions of Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, and Jon Benjamin, chief executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, to UK Liberal Democrat MP David Ward's observations regarding Holocaust Memorial Day go far in proving Ward's point. The reality is that the Palestinians are suffering in their own homeland, because they are not Jews, at the hands of a state that arrogantly claims to represent all Jews. There are, of course, many Jewish individuals and organisations, their voices sadly muffled by the mass corporate news media, that are horrified by Israel's conduct.
The pursuit of Israel's territorial ambitions involves land theft, house demolitions, segregated roads, cruelty to Palestinian children and sabotage of Palestinian agriculture. These crimes represent just some of the Israeli state's daily violations of international humanitarian law. The Fourth Geneva Convention was enacted precisely because of world community revulsion at the horrors of ideologically-driven acts of inhumanity and the determination that such persecution should never be tolerated.
According to the Daily Mail report, Jon Benjamin found the idea “shocking” and “outrageous” that those who suffered the unspeakable cruelties inflicted upon them by the Nazis should support Palestinian human rights! The article quotes Benjamin: “We are outraged and shocked at these offensive comments about Jewish victims of the Holocaust and the suggestion that Jews should have learned a lesson from the experience.” He went further – “For an MP to have made such comments on the eve of Holocaust Memorial Day is even more distasteful, and we welcome the fact that the Liberal Democrats have sought to disassociate the party from David Ward's comments.” If the chief executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews does not consider Holocaust Memorial Day a most appropriate occasion for standing resolutely against human rights abuses anywhere in the world, then David Ward's comments are timely.
The Daily Mail also quotes Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust: “. . . Mr Ward has deliberately abused the memory of the Holocaust causing deep pain and offence – these comments are sickening and unacceptable and have no place in British politics.” Pollock's criticism of Ward suggests that to be moved at such a time with compassion for a people suffering under a great injustice is sickening and unacceptable. The greatest honour that could be given to the memory and sacrifice of the victims of the Holocaust is to enable fresh generations to better understand the dangers inherent in allowing those who abuse human rights to do so with impunity.
Conservative MP Robert Halfon went even further and actually justified Israel's conduct, asserting that David Ward's comments were “a tragic trivialisation of real evil.” If Israel's supporters do not consider Israel's bombing of homes, schools and hospitals and burning children with white phosphorus to be a real evil then they are, indeed, incapable of learning from the past. The Tory MP's comment that, “It should be remembered that Israel withdrew from Gaza. . .” raises the question – why were Israel and its settlements occupying Gaza in the first place – and at what cost to the Palestinian people? Most of Gaza's present population are refugees, driven there against their will by Israel.
Holocaust Memorial Day should sear our consciences and, more to the point, it should inspire us to defend all who continue to suffer injustice and oppression.
Ambassador reveals Israel's preconditions
By Leslie Bravery – 3 December 2012
Last Thursday, 138 nations voted in favour of a United Nations resolution giving non-member observer status to Palestine. The countries voting in favour of the resolution represent some 75% of the world's population. The Israeli Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, responded to news of the vote with the ominous comment that, "This is a meaningless decision that will not change anything on the ground", which was echoed by the Israeli Ambassador to New Zealand, Shemi Tzur, in his press release on Friday, 30 November.
Also on Friday, Netanyahu unilaterally ordered the establishment of 3000 new, illegal settler homes in the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem, where the Israeli government is already attempting to lessen the proportion of Arab residents.
Shemi Tzur says in his press release, “The way to peace between Jerusalem and Ramallah is in direct negotiations, without preconditions, and not in one-sided UN decisions.”
Without preconditions? Shemi Tzur has admitted to one of Israel's most significant preconditions. In his “way to peace” comment he implies that Palestine's capital is to be Ramallah and, contrary to international law, that the whole of Jerusalem is Israel's capital! Indeed, we have Netanyahu's opinion that Jerusalem is “Israel's eternal and undivided capital”. So it is plain that what Israeli rhetoric means by the term “preconditions” is actually an objection to the provisions of international law.
Israel's actions are, and always have been, one-sided. Not only have they been one-sided, they have also been enforced by means of overwhelming military superiority. As a result, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) is having to respond to the needs of nearly five million Palestinian refugees. Most of the population of the grossly overcrowded Gaza Strip consists of refugees, and the annexation of yet more Palestinian homes and land for additional Israeli settlement can only compound the suffering. Annexation and settlement growth create further preconditions in the form of irreversible facts on the ground. That has been Israel's modus operandi ever since the Zionist state's inception and the world can see, in the succeeding maps of an ever-more fragmented Palestine, evidence of the result.
Israel's growing isolation
Israel and its supporters are outnumbered in world public opinion, and rightly so. Israel stands condemned by 65 UN resolutions, the Palestinians by none. Apart from dealing with the plight of refugees, these UN resolutions reflect the international community's abhorrence at Israel's continual violations of human rights and its refusal to abide by the UN Charter and the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons. The Palestinian people and the world have had enough of deportations, land theft, house demolitions, the destruction of olive trees and irrigation systems, night home invasions and economically-crippling restrictions of movement.
The people of Palestine are “protected persons” within the meaning of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The Convention applies to the West Bank, to the Gaza Strip, and to the whole of the City of Jerusalem. Security Council Resolution 1322 (2000), paragraph 3, for example, “Calls upon Israel, the occupying Power, to abide scrupulously by its legal obligations and its responsibilities under the Fourth Geneva Convention . . .” Israel believes that it can continue to act as it does, with impunity, because its allies will continue to give it unconditional support.
But the world wants to see restraint, at last, placed upon Israel. Times are changing and Israel now has to face the possibility of some serious reckoning. The customary, non-violent method of effecting change in the behaviour of states that violate international law is the imposition of UN sanctions. In addition to the possibility of facing sanctions, Israeli leaders may find themselves held personally to account.
The International Court of Justice
With the successful UN status vote Palestine can now join the Statute for the International Court of Justice (ICJ) with the opportunity to sue Israel at the World Court. The evidence of Israel's war crimes, when placed before ICJ, will mark a turning point, leading at last to a true appreciation of what pandering to the Zionist enterprise has meant, both in terms of Palestinian suffering and the poisoning of international relations.
The way to peace
The 'peace process' has proved fruitless because it never was about justice. No people should be forced to negotiate their inalienable right to liberty and sovereignty with an oppressive and determinedly-occupying power. Truth and openness are the pathways to justice and reconciliation. It is to be hoped that with the lessons learned, a new respect for hard-won international humanitarian law may be established. No ideology should ever again be allowed to usurp the human right to happiness and well being. Never, never again.
The November 14 assassination of Hamas military leader, Ahmed Jabari, killed in an Israeli drone-launched air strike occurred just as a shaky ceasefire had begun to establish itself. This is the second time that Israel has mounted a major Gaza offensive when about to hold an election, the first being the occasion of Operation Cast Lead. Debate over grave social issues in Israel will once again be pushed aside in favour of crude war propaganda.
Before the Israeli drone strike, the New York Times reported the shooting dead by Israeli forces of a mentally-handicapped Palestinian man in Gaza.
On November 8 the Israeli Army invaded the Gaza Strip. Eight tanks, escorting four bulldozers (routinely used to destroy crops on Palestinian farms in both Gaza and the West Bank), invaded Abassan village, shooting 13-year-old Ahmed Younis Khader Abu Daqqa in the abdomen and killing him as he played football with his friends. Later that day the Palestinian Resistance blew up a tunnel along the Gaza-Israel frontier, injuring one Israeli soldier.
On Saturday, November 10, an anti-tank missile fired by the Palestinian Resistance wounded four Israeli soldiers driving a Jeep along the Israel-Gaza boundary. This was not a civilian target but a legitimate occasion for armed resistance. Palestinians, after all, have the same right to defence as any other people. Israeli artillery shelled a soccer field in Gaza, killing two children, aged 16 and 17. Later, an Israeli tank shelled mourners at a funeral, killing two more people and wounding more than two dozen others.
On Sunday, November 11, one Palestinian was killed and dozens more wounded in fresh Israeli attacks. Israel's Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz called on his government to cut off water, food, electricity and fuel supplies to Gaza's population.
On Monday, November 12, the Palestinians offered to renew the ceasefire if Israel would end its attacks.
On Wednesday, November 14, Israel assassinated Ahmed Jabari, who had been a prominent player in negotiations for the release of the Israeli soldier Corporal Shalit in exchange for Palestinian prisoners, At least eight other people were killed in the Israeli attack, at least two of them child bystanders.
Radio New Zealand's Morning Report, in common with many Western news media, always refers to Israeli air strikes, shelling and other acts of violence against Palestinians as 'retaliation'. Never is it acknowledged that Palestinian rocket fire could ever itself be retaliatory. Occasional acts of legitimate armed Palestinian resistance are, of course, never reported as such by our news media.
Israel calls the shots – literally
At the time of the planned Operation Cast Lead (December 2008-January 2009), Israel had successfully provoked Hamas rocket fire by breaking a six-month ceasefire. Up until then the Palestinians had adhered to the ceasefire and there was no benefit for them in ending it. During Operation Cast Lead, Israel committed war crimes that targeted and killed hundreds of civilians, using weapons that did not discriminate between targets. The Israeli offensive intentionally destroyed civilian infrastructure, including schools and hospitals. All this is a matter of verifiable international record.
Is it so hard for Western commentators to grasp the essential truth that the occupying power is the aggressor and that the occupied people are the victims? Is it not self-evident, after so many decades, that Israel enjoys vast military superiority over a people that has no defence force and severely limited capacity for retaliatory resistance? International law describes the Israeli presence as belligerent occupation. The great majority of Gaza's population are refugees, ethnically cleansed from their homes by Zionist militias and, later, by the new self-declared state of Israel. Israel continues to deny these refugees their UN-sanctioned right of return.
Meanwhile it should not be forgotten that the people of the West Bank, from whence no missiles are fired, suffer daily oppressive violence at the hands of the Israeli Occupation. From the grotesque forcing of a man to demolish his own home and then pay a fine to the Israeli Occupation, to the destruction of olive harvests, irrigation and power supply systems and the torture of children (an acknowledgement of these abuses can be found in the UK Parliamentary record – Hansard.) Whether or not missiles fly from Gaza, it seems that Israel is provoked by the mere existence of the Palestinian people.
The policy of requiring the Palestinian people to negotiate their liberty, under the duress of military occupation, is plainly unjust and doomed to failure. Respect for international law offers the greatest hope for peace but Western governments have so far lacked the will to enforce it. Urgent intervention in the form of sanctions on Israel could save many lives and provide hope for the future. – Leslie Bravery, 16 November 2012.
Only some of the truth – the trouble with selective news reporting
Today, after days of silence regarding the toll on Palestinian life and limb being taken by Israel in Gaza, Radio New Zealand's Morning Report carried the news of Israel's killing of a Hamas military leader. Up until then, in one 72-hour period alone, seven Palestinians, including three children, were killed and 52 others, including six women and 12 children, were wounded. Four of these deaths and 38 of the injuries resulted from Israeli Army shelling, in which two children playing football in a playground were killed. Why is it that the deaths of Palestinian children seldom rate reporting but the killing of a Hamas military figure does?
The nearest thing to balance in this morning's report came when it was acknowledged that civilians were also killed in the Israeli air strike and that a seven-year-old child was among those “reportedly” killed. We did not hear from the people of Gaza but did hear a lot from the Israeli side and from foreign reporters that formulated their commentaries with the usual assumptions.
For instance, we were told that Hamas (the elected representatives of the Palestinian people) rules in Gaza and the “moderate Palestinian Authority (PA) rules in the West Bank.” In fact the PA has condemned the Israeli atrocities with the following statement by Dr Saeb Erekat on 14 November, speaking while on an official visit to Switzerland: “We hold Israel fully responsible for the consequences of this new act of aggression”, going on to say, “We condemn in the strongest terms this new Israeli assassination which aims to initiate a bloody escalation. We hold the Israeli government fully responsible for the consequences that this new act of aggression would bring to the region” and “This exposes that Israel has an agenda for war but not for peace.”
To get things further into perspective Radio New Zealand could visit the Israeli Foreign Ministry's website and see for itself the statistics of death, injury and damage caused by those missiles launched from Gaza that actually hit southern Israel and compare them with the results of the violence meted out daily by Israel in the Gaza Strip. Relentless shelling from Israeli tanks recently forced the closure of an UNWRA school in the Gaza Strip, Gaza homes and farms are under constant attack and the Israeli Army bulldozes crops on Palestinian farms during frequent incursions. The Israeli Navy enforces an over-fished three-nautical-mile fishing zone upon the Gaza fishing industry with sometimes deadly violence. The children of Gaza are regularly terrorised by sonic booms from over-flying Israeli F-16 fighter jets.
The news is easy to come by and people on the ground in the Gaza Strip; residents, journalists (including New Zealand's own journalist, Scoop's Julie Webb-Pullman
) and foreign aid workers, are happy to give interviews. The years go by and the daily suffering is routinely ignored by the Western news media. Until, that is, when Israel takes action that the West considers newsworthy and which at the same time provides a platform for Israeli propaganda. This morning, Morning Report uncritically reported the view that Israel had generously “given” Gaza to the Palestinians! Truth and justice are inseparable and news reporting should serve both.
Leslie Bravery – 15 November 2012
Sound and fury
Addressing the 67th Session of the United Nations General Assembly on 29 September 2012, New Zealand's Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully drew attention to the use of the veto by some members of the Security Council. Mr McCully said in his General Debate Statement that it was “. . . difficult to overstate the extent to which the Security Council is at risk of losing its credibility in the eyes of reasonable and fair minded people through its inability to act.”
At a time when yet another Palestinian fisherman has been killed and another seriously wounded while illegal enforcement by the Israeli Navy of crippling fishing restrictions upon the Gaza fishing industry continues, it is certainly timely to reflect on the failure of the United Nations to uphold international law. In that regard it would also be timely to consider the negative influence of the frequent use by the United States of its veto to frustrate the will of the world community regarding Israel's non-compliance with international humanitarian law.
The US has, through its veto, supported Israeli colonialism in the West Bank and Israeli aggression against its neighbours, effectively preventing any solution based on either international law or UN Security Council and General Assembly resolutions. The US has used its veto on scores of occasions to prevent sanctions from being imposed upon Israel, a UN member state that thumbs its nose at international humanitarian law, belligerently occupying and ethnically cleansing the Palestinian people and brutally denying them their UN-sanctioned right of return. Israel's illegal settlements continue to grow in defiance of UN Security Council Resolution 446, which defines the presence of Israel's settlement colonies as a “serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East.”
New Zealand's Foreign Affairs Minister, however, has declared his faith in rewarding Israel, as exemplified through his fervent support for Israel's application for OECD membership, effectively encouraging Israel's Prime Minister in his repeated assertions that East Jerusalem belongs to an "eternal and indivisible" capital of Israel. While McCully claims that rewarding Israel is in the interest of what he calls 'dialogue', Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu continues to lay down unacceptable pre-conditions. So long as Israel does not have to pay a price for continuing the military occupation of Palestinian territory it is hardly likely that it will abandon its present course.
United States use of the veto
The US has used its Security Council veto:
In 1982, to avoid sanctions against Israel for occupying Syria’s Golan Heights. Also in 1982, to save Israel (3 vetoes) from condemnation over its invasion of Lebanon. In 1983, to avoid condemning Israel over the slaughter of civilians in the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila. In 1986, to prevent the passing of a resolution criticising Israel’s hijacking of a Libyan civilian aircraft. In 1989, to stop the United Nations Security Council passing a declaration condemning Israeli violence in the Palestinian occupied territories and demanding compliance with the Fourth Geneva Convention regarding the human rights of populations living under belligerent military occupation. In 1997, to prevent the passing of a resolution denouncing the construction by Israel of Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem's Mount Abu Ghuneim area. In 2001, fearing the monstrous nature of the Israeli Occupation would become more apparent, to obstruct the UN Security Council in accepting a resolution that would permit the creation of an international observer group to act to protect Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. In 2002, to prevent the passing of a resolution condemning Israel for killing several UN workers. In 2003, to ensure the continued growth of Israel's annexation Wall, the illegality of which has been pronounced by the World Court.
Having fretted his hour upon the stage it is certain that when next the United States misuses its veto, New Zealand's Foreign Affairs Minister will be heard no more upon this theme – and McCully's sound and fury will be shown to have signified nothing.
Leslie Bravery – 3 October 2012
Compounding the Nazi Holocaust
Political support for Israel makes use of ideologically sponsored myths and unjustifiable assumptions. The constant repetition of these assumptions by politicians and news media precludes debate and effectively exempts Israel from its obligations under international humanitarian law. The Zionist state's use of the Holocaust to justify itself betrays both the memory of those who suffered and humanity's hope that the necessary lessons will ever be learned.
The pervasive propaganda of powerful interests has infiltrated the thinking of Western Society to the extent that well-meaning people feel compelled to adopt a contorted form of even-handedness regarding the questions of Israel and political Zionism. Even-handedness can never be appropriate in the context of ethnic segregation and other gross violations of the Fourth Geneva convention. Use of the term anti-Semitism, often to silence Israel's critics, refers solely to anti-Jewish bias and that in itself is anti-Semitic because such use deliberately excludes the majority of Semitic peoples. Semitic languages are spoken in much of the Middle East and the Horn of Africa. The most widely spoken of the Semitic languages today is Arabic; ancient Arabic and Hebrew were dialects of Canaanite Aramaic. Anti-Semitism is a European sickness and has long been directed against both Jews and Arabs. European colonialism fuelled contempt for Arabs and political Zionism proceeds from the same assumptions of Arab inferiority. An examination of the assumptions that lie behind the West's attitude to Israel follows:
Assumption 1 – forced exodus: Following a Parliamentary trip to Israel and the Palestinian West Bank this year former New Zealand Prime Minister, Phil Goff, now Labour spokesperson on foreign affairs and trade, wrote an article entitled Chance for peace in Palestine should be grasped. At the start of his article Goff wrote “After centuries of persecution of Jews in the diaspora, culminating in the Nazi murder of six million Jews during the Second World War, their desire for a state of their own was understandable.” No reputable historian has found evidence to support the myth that the Romans forced the Jewish people into exile (the diaspora) from what is now known as the Middle East. The colonising of the indigenous Palestinian's land, the destruction of villages and the removal of the inhabitants into refugee camps and exile upon the pretext of a supposed 2000-year-old historical event is unjustifiable and irrational. The Zionist plan to colonise other people's lands came long before the Holocaust of course and the racist European colonial mentality, taken up by Zionism, in effect transferred the onus for the crimes of Nazism onto the Palestinian people.
Assumption 2 – The Six Day War; that the existence of Israel was at stake: The article stated “When Israel launched the six-day war in 1967 it did so in the belief that its existence was threatened by universally hostile neighbours whose aim was to destroy the state of Israel.” As with the so-called forced exodus, the historical assumption is not supported by the facts. First of all the Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin actually admitted in a speech to the National Defence College in 1982 that Israel's war on Egypt in 1956 was a matter of choice. Begin said “In June 1967 we again had a choice. The Egyptian army concentrations in the Sinai approaches do not prove that Nasser was really about to attack us. We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack . . . We did not do this for lack of an alternative. We could have gone on waiting. We could have sent the army home. Who knows if there would have been an attack against us? There is no proof of it.”
The Israeli people may have been told, as was indeed the rest of the world, that the Zionist State's existence was threatened by Egypt, but the Israeli government knew better. So did the CIA. A CIA assessment on 23 May 1967 was presented to President Lyndon Johnson stating that Israel could “defend successfully against simultaneous Arab attacks on all fronts … or hold on any three fronts while mounting successfully a major offensive on the fourth.” A future Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, told Le Monde on 28 February 1968, “I do not think Nasser wanted war. The two divisions he sent to the Sinai would not have been sufficient to launch an offensive war. He knew it and we knew it.” http://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com/2010/07/04/israels-attack-on-egypt-in-june-67-was-not-preemptive/ In the aftermath of Israel's Six Day War and the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, ten additional UNWRA refugee camps were established to accommodate a new wave of displaced persons, both refugees and non-refugees. The Zionist project had completed one more stage.
Assumption 3 – Israel must be an ethnically pure state: The Chance for peace article repeated the ethnic balance arguments that are commonly expressed in support of Israel: “If Israel annexed the West Bank the Arab population in the wider Israel would soon approach that of the Jewish population with the Palestinian population growing faster.” The United Nations partition plan proposed an Israeli state on 55% of Mandate Palestine but Israel continues to expand (the Zionist State refuses to declare its borders) and Israeli control of 61% of the West Bank (Area 'C') enables settlements to continue to expand and build ethnically segregated Jewish-only roads to divide Palestinian land. Israel has illegally settled more than 500,000 Jewish Israelis in East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank in violation of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention which prohibits the transfer of an occupying power’s civilian population into occupied territory. Such actions have no moral or legal justification. Similarly Israel's annexation Wall (ruled illegal by the International Court of Justice) that Israel calls a 'separation barrier' continues to divide Palestinian communities from each other and from their agriculture.
The article continues “The very essence of Israel is that it is a Jewish state. It could not remain so if it absorbed the Arab population, according them equal rights.” When it comes to discussing the nature and purpose of Israel, Goff echoes the Western practice of referring to the indigenous people as Arabs rather than Palestinians. But where in international law is it acceptable for any state to define itself as the state of one ethnic group above all others? He goes on to say, “Expelling non-Jews or creating an apartheid state where some citizens had lesser rights would be utterly unacceptable.” It certainly is unacceptable to most people but the West has stood by while Palestinian villages have been obliterated and millions of Palestinians have been consigned to refugee camps. A large number of United Nations reports reveal the ethnic discrimination that prevails in Israel, especially in annexed East Jerusalem.
Assumption 4 – What Israel requires is paramount: Phil Goff comments “A unified and secular state might in principle be a proper solution to this problem but Israel will not allow that to happen." Israel will not allow that to happen! End of argument apparently. This is the ultimate give away of Western assumptions and thinking. The only sane solution is dismissed because Zionism objects. The fact that accommodating Israeli intransigence for over 60 years has been counter-productive is apparently not even worth debate. All hope therefore of an end to ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, their imprisonment without charge or trial, the destruction of their homes, night home invasions and abductions of children, the cessation of the deliberate uprooting of olive trees and attacks on fishing boats must be abandoned apparently because Israel will not allow that to happen! It is easy to understand why negotiations have been fruitless. Just as Israel's continual settlement expansion represents bad faith in negotiating a peaceful outcome, so does unconditional Western support for Israel. This colossal injustice fuels instability. But Western politicians and the corporate news media seem addicted to the process. In a world with sane, intelligent leadership it would be unacceptable and the fact that it has been with us for over half a century is an indictment of generations of political leaders.
Assumption 5 – Israel and Zionism speak for all Jews: Phil Goff tells us “As I went through Yad Vashem, the Israeli holocaust museum, I shed a tear for the brutal inhumanity towards and suffering of the Jewish people.” How many visitors shed a tear for the ethnically cleansed Palestinian village of Deir Yassin? A group calling itself Righteous Jews (http://righteousjews.org/) that established itself in 2003 felt that it was a way for its members “to commemorate the memory of those Palestinians who have been, and continue to be depopulated, dispossessed, humiliated, tortured, and murdered in the name of political Zionism and its quest to create a Jewish state in the lands between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River.” Righteous Jews tells us that its founding was inspired by the website of the Holocaust museum at Yad Vashem, located on Mount Herzl on the land of the Palestinian village of Ein Karem, 1400 metres south of the Palestinian village of Deir Yassin. Yad Vashem lists the names of non-Jews who risked their lives, freedom, and safety in order to rescue one or several Jews from the threat of death or deportation to death camps. For many years this list was referred to as the list of 'Righteous Gentiles' the list is now called “Righteous Among the Nations'. According to Righteous Jews “Deir Yassin is as important a part of Jewish, as it is of Palestinian, history. Deir Yassin, coming in April 1948, just three years after the liberation of Auschwitz in January 1945, marks a Jewish transition from enslavement to empowerment and from abused to abuser. Can there ever have been such a remarkable shift, over such a short period, in the history of a people?”
“Deir Yassin signalled the ethnic cleansing of 750,000 Palestinians leading to their eventual dispossession and exile and was just one example of a conscious and premeditated plan to destroy the Palestinians as a people in their own homeland. “ . . . since the establishment of the state of Israel, successive Israeli governments whether Labour or Likud, and whether by force as at Deir Yassin, or by chicanery as at Oslo and Camp David, have followed the same policy of oppressing and dispossessing Palestinians to make way for an exclusively Jewish state. Even now, when Israel could have peace and security for the asking, Israeli governments persist in their original intention of conquering the whole of Palestine for the use of the Jewish people alone. And all this was done, and is still being done, by Jews, for Jews and in the name of Jews.” http://www.righteousjews.org/article23.html The group lists, among the many people it calls 'Our Initial List of Righteous Jews', Albert Einstein, Amira Hass, Anna Baltzer, Antony Loewenstein, Gideon Levy, Hedy Epstein, Ilan Pappe, Jeff Halper, Jennifer Lowenstein, Lenni Brenner, Miko Peled, Norman Finkelstein, Richard Falk, Tanya Reinhart and Yehudi Menuhin. All have worked to expose the evils of the practise and ideology of political Zionism.
More than half the global Jewish population chooses not to live in Israel and at present many young Israelis consider Berlin to be a fashionable and cool place to hang out. The Zionist claim that only in an exclusively Jewish state could Jews live free from persecution is manifestly disproved – but at a terrible cost to both Jews and non-Jews.
Assumption 6 – It is only Palestinians that are violent: In any discussion of violence in the context of Israel and Palestine it is only ever Palestinian violence that is condemned. The term violence is used five times in Goff's article but never with reference to Israel. Many people, in spite of the goodwill and humanity in their souls simply cannot see how far Zionist propaganda has entered their psyche. The final reference to violence in the article reads, “If the threat of violence against Jewish people is removed, Israel has little justification to continue its hard line against the Palestinians” is a good example of the thinking. There are two elements in this statement. The first is 'violence' and the second is 'Jewish people'.
Taking the term 'violence' first, the Israeli Occupation, blockade, land theft, sabotage of the Gaza fishing industry, bulldozing of crops, imposition of ethnically segregated roads, relentless home invasions (often in the middle of the night – with the abductions of minors as young as 11 this year) is somewhat more than what one could call 'hard line'. If the Palestinians were to inflict a fraction of such suffering upon Israel it would be reported in our news media with outrage and banner headlines and it would certainly be referred to as violence. But Israel has no intention of fostering non-violence. Most non-violent Palestinian protests are met with Israeli violence, usually in the form of rubber-coated bullets, tear gas and stun grenades and clubs and rifle butts. Sometime the Israeli Army uses live fire against protesters. But Western news media and politicians never refer to Israeli 'violence' even in the context of air raids in which homes are destroyed and children killed and maimed. The term violence is censored whenever the perpetrator is Israel.
The second element in the statement 'Jewish people' prompts the question why not use the name of the Occupying power, Israel? It is the belligerent Occupation perpetrated by the Israeli state that prompts armed Palestinian resistance. Undeniably, Zionism implicates Jewish people in Israeli violence because the ideology arrogantly claims to speak for all Jews. That is why so many Jewish people refute Zionist ideology, oppose Israeli violence and risk abuse and physical danger through their steadfast support for Palestinian human rights.
Assumption 7: That 'negotiations' and the Oslo Accords are the path to peace. Phil Goff wrote in his article that "The parameters of the solution have already been set out in the numerous initiatives taken over the last twenty years, including the Oslo Accords, the Arab Initiative and the renewal of the peace process at Annapolis in 2007. In return for a guarantee of peace and secure borders for Israel, the Palestinians must have a state which is economically and politically viable.” Note the omission – “In return for a guarantee of peace and secure borders for Israel” yet no mention of secure borders for Palestine! Indeed, one of Israel's pre-conditions in the so-called negotiations with the Palestinians is that Palestine must remain defenceless (Israel terms it 'demilitarised') and with no Palestinian sovereignty over Palestinian air space or coastal waters. Which brings us to the nonsensical Oslo Accords that have served no purpose other than to enable Israel to buy time to annex more Palestinian land and resources. From 1916 to 1948 the Jewish National Fund (JNF) purchased 6% of Palestinian land near Jerusalem and from 1929 to 1947 30% of Palestine was lost due to registration regulations imposed by Britain and Zionist organisations. In 1947 the UN Partition plan cost the Palestinian people a further 55% of their land. In 1948 the Palestinian loss of homeland amounted to 70%. The Six Day War and interminable and fruitless so called negotiations have resulted in a total loss of at least 85% of Palestinian land. Palestinians have to live with the consequences of Israeli-imposed restrictions of access to land, annexation and settlement expansion. Over the past three years or so, that is since Prime Minister Netanyahu was elected, the Israeli population in the West Bank has grown by 18%.
Assumption 8 – 'Final status issues' take precedence over observance of international law and UN Resolutions. Reflecting orthodox Western attitudes towards Israel and the Palestinians, the article states simply, “Israeli justification of their harsh treatment of Palestinians and disproportionate reaction to Hamas missile strikes in the Gaza is that Palestinian militants pose a threat to the security of their people. Any form of terrorist action against civilians such as suicide bombers and rocket attacks deserves condemnation. There is no justification for the taking of innocent lives. Hamas must change its position and Iran must stop its support for violence by Hamas and the Hizbollah. Israel is right to condemn terrorism”. Note the language employed here: “harsh” treatment by Israel but “terrorist action against civilians” by Palestinians. The death toll of Palestinians compared with Israelis is about a hundred to one. Is it not state terrorism when children are killed in their homes by the Israeli air force? Harsh treatment?! Goff is absolutely right when he writes “There is no justification for the taking of innocent lives.” The article echoes the West's view that “Hamas must change its position and Iran must stop its support for violence by Hamas and the Hizbollah”. Does that mean that Hamas was wrong in declaring its recognition of Israel's 1967 frontier, basing proposals for open ended cease-fires based upon such recognition? “Iran must stop its support for violence”, says the article while there is no suggestion that the US must stop the arms supplies and diplomatic support that make Israeli violence so unstoppable. But then of course, Western politicians and news media never acknowledge that Israel is violent. For them, Israel only ever responds to violence. What initiated the violence? Was it Palestine that colonised Israel? Of course not.
Establishing peace with justice
To his credit, Phil Goff acknowledged in his article that Israeli settlements violate the Fourth Geneva Convention. He also writes, “The final status issues such as the status of East Jerusalem, right of return for refugees and water won’t be easy to resolve.” Zionism dictates that Jews born anywhere in the world may 'return to Israel' but rejects the UN sponsored right of ethnically-cleansed Palestinians to return to their homes and villages. The demand that a defenceless, belligerently occupied population (recognised as such in international law) must negotiate under duress with its oppressor is unprecedented. The outrage is even more egregious when the elected representatives of the victims are not even allowed to be party to such 'negotiations'. As we have seen, the so-called peace process is in thrall to Israel's ideological pre-conditions. Zionism is the last to survive of the 20th century state-sponsored ideologies of ethnic separation – it took a world war and the anti-apartheid movement to get rid of the others. The lessons of the Nazi Holocaust teach us that theories of ethnic 'apartness' lead to cruel acts of inhumanity, and pandering to Zionist demands can only compound that suffering and betray its victims. A rational solution, therefore, must be sought elsewhere.
Reference to the Fourth Geneva Convention points the way to one of two complementary pathways to a sustainable and harmonious solution. The first is the application of international law. The international community must require of Israel that it respect and abide by hard-won, established, international law, under threat of sanctions for non-compliance. The second, most essential element, referred to by Phil Goff, is what he called "People to people relationships”. Disappointingly, he also declared that these relationships “scarcely exist”. That is a measure of the influence of the assumptions that dominate the debate. Like so many other well-meaning people, many of our Parliamentarians seems to be unaware of the powerful grass roots relations that have formed both between Palestinians and Israelis and the wider Jewish and non-Jewish communities. It would come as a surprise therefore for many people to learn, for example, that there are courageous Israeli women who risk their liberty when they smuggle Palestinian women into Israel to enjoy a day at the seaside.
Both within Israel and beyond, organisations and individuals opposed to racial discrimination are working for change. Holocaust survivor, Hedy Epstein, who never saw her family again after they had managed to find a way out for her on a children's transport to Britain. Actors, such as Miriam Margolyes and Warren Mitchell, comedian Alexei Sayle, Israeli Jazz musician Gilad Atzmon, are just a very few of large numbers of prominent individuals whose voices should be listened to.
In a letter to the Anglican Church Times welcoming a decision by the Church of England General Synod to support the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), the secretary of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) in Aberystwyth, Elizabeth Morley, wrote “I have friends both in the West Bank and in Israel who tell me how invaluable is the work they do. And I have friends in the UK who have been accompaniers. So you could say I am biased. I am also Jewish and if I wanted, I could make Aliyah. But I believe it would be wrong to do so because non-Jews have been ethnically cleansed from Palestine to make way for people like me who have no family connections on that land. My great-grandparents and other members of my family who did not survive the Holocaust would not want me to do that, I am sure.”
Then there are the countless organisations, among them:
Jewish Voice for Peace http://jewishvoiceforpeace.org/
The International Women's Peace Service (IWPS) http://iwps.info/
Jews for Justice in the Middle East http://ifamericansknew.org/history/origin.html
Rabbis for Palestine http://www.rabbisforpalestine.org/
Neturei Karta rabbis http://www.nkusa.org/
ICAHD The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions http://www.icahd.org/
Gush Shalom http://www.gush-shalom.org/
Other women's peace movements in Israel http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/peace-movements-in-israel
BDS – the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign http://www.bdsmovement.net/
Sharing the Land of Canaan
There are many views represented above but together they offer far greater hope for humanity than the sterile and meaningless so-called 'peace process' fostered by the great powers and Israel. Their voices cannot be ignored forever. The Palestinian author and activist, US citizen, Professor Mazin Qumsiyeh has written a book called Sharing the Land of Canaan http://www.qumsiyeh.org/sharingthelandofcanaan/. In the 1990s he worked for the rights of refugees and by 1999 had helped to collect 750,000 signatures for the Palestinian Right of Return. His experience and the positive results were an example to everyone of how action on the ground could change public perceptions. The book reminds us of how the people once coexisted with differing religious beliefs and how racism irrationally distorts our understanding. The question of Palestinian refugees makes notions of segregation/separation impossible. As Mazin points out “It is the basic and elemental right of Palestinians 11.5 million of us, 7 million of us are refugees or displaced people. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) provides a base for a real road map to a durable peace”. The book deals with the future of the the environment, water, other natural resources and the tourism industry. The geographical and economical realities argue strongly against separation and segregation.
The dominance of power politics, allied with outdated ideology, at fearful cost, has betrayed us all. Therefore it is not unreasonable to ask that other, more representative voices be listened to and the debate widened to give sustainable peace a chance based on the rational observance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international law.
Leslie Bravery – 16 July 2012
Murray McCully's Middle East dreams and dramas
In his 22 June 2012 speech to the Otago Foreign Policy School, The Middle East unfolding: dreams and dramas in the early 21st century, New Zealand's Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully spoke about what the New Zealand government sees as the strategic and economic significance of the Middle East to New Zealand.
Early in his speech McCully said, “Sadly, we are reminded by our television screens most evenings that the Middle East remains the world’s major source of potential and actual conflict. We now have, in effect, a civil war in Syria. The Assad regime is treating its own civilian population with almost unbelievable brutality. In doing so it is thumbing its nose at the international community.” Just who is thumbing their nose at the international community we shall examine below but the reference to “our television screens” and “most evenings” draws attention to the role of the corporate news media in promoting US, NATO and Israeli plans for the Middle East. A Jerusalem Post (http://www.ekurd.net/mismas/articles/misc2012/5/syriakurd499.htm) article of 16 May 2012 entitled: 'Veteran Kurdish politician calls on Israel to support the break-up of Syria' cites the objective of the US-sponsored armed insurgency, with the help of Israel, to "Break Syria into Pieces".
The power political manoeuvrings over Syria are being falsely promoted by the news media as a concern for human rights. The role of the US-NATO-Israel military alliance in triggering an armed insurrection is not mentioned and neither is the role of CIA-MI6-Mossad covert intelligence operations and acts of terrorism. The US State Department's involvement is on record (US admits funding Syrian opposition - World - CBC News 18 April 2011 http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/story/2011/04/18/syria-united-states-backing-wikileaks.html). No wonder the five permanent members of the Security Council are divided. The division reminds us that people have not forgotten the lies and deceit that were used to justify the criminal war of regime change in Iraq. That war destroyed the country's infrastructure and economy. It has also cost countless lives and sown a deadly cancer-inducing legacy of white-phosphorus and depleted uranium. Whatever else such wars are about, the welfare of ordinary people is not one of them and television screens are certainly no way to decipher the truth behind the propaganda.
Israel and Palestine
In a statement of the blindingly obvious, New Zealand's Foreign Affairs Minister observed, “Tragically, the Middle East is no stranger to conflict.” He went on to say, ”One of the world’s most enduring, complex and dangerous conflicts is between Israel and the Palestinians. The basic elements of this conflict are well known.” Well known? Not if the news media and politicians like McCully have anything to do with it. The Zionist ideology that drives Israel to thumb its nose at international law and the world community is never mentioned. One example of nose-thumbing is Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's boast to US President Obama regarding Israel's illegal settlements that “we're here to stay”. Another affront to the international community is the Israeli assertion that Jerusalem is the “eternal and undivided capital of Israel”.
McCully's speech continued, “For too long, the Palestinian issue has been the fuse that threatens to ignite wider conflict in the Middle East. Festering differences that find their origins in this conflict have done much to inspire extremist attitudes affecting the wider region and beyond.” The first of these sentences is revealing. McCully does not say “the Israeli issue” or even the “Israel/Palestine” issue. He chooses to say “the Palestinian issue”. It is a matter of historical fact that before the Zionist project and the unilateral founding of the Israeli State there was no “Palestinian issue”. Palestine was simply Palestine, a part of the Ottoman Empire and later ruled under the British Mandate. The 'issue' plainly began with Israel and the interests of the imperial European powers. But Western propaganda implies blame upon the Palestinian people for the consequences of foreign-sponsored colonisation of their land. The reference to “festering differences” and “extremist attitudes” ignores the extremism of Zionist ideology which is amply recorded in the statements and actions of Israel's leaders.
Not forgetting the dissembling that preceded the invasion of Iraq and following his “Palestinian issue” remarks, McCully went on to accuse Iran of threatening destabilisation in the Middle East through what he called “the Iranian nuclear programme”. Once again the speech revealed the Foreign Affairs Minister's main concerns when he went on to say “the Israelis see the question of Iran as inextricably linked to Palestine.” For McCully, Israel's interests are paramount and the blame placed upon the Palestinians is now linked to Iran. For good measure he added, “At the end of the day, to Israel, both are about security.” Not once in the speech did he mention the Palestinian people's need for security. In McCully's Middle East fantasy Iran, which has signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and which co-operates with IAEA over its nuclear weapons programme, must suffer sanctions while Israel, the state that introduced modern terrorism and nuclear weapons to the Middle East, is treated favourably. The Zionist state refuses to sign the NPT and will not co-operate with the IAEA. Yet, for McCully, it is Iran that remains the threat and Israeli intransigence is excused on the grounds of 'security'. Security, that is, only for Israel to pursue its objectives with impunity.
While the New Zealand Government will not consider sanctions as a non-violent way to help persuade Israel to respect the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention, the speech reveals a willingness to use sanctions against Iran, astonishingly, as a means of “arriving at a sensible and durable settlement in relation to Palestine”. Indeed, McCully said in the speech that, “I am intent on promoting legislation similar to that enacted in Australia last year to provide the capacity to impose autonomous sanctions.” Bearing in mind that, regarding the “conflict in the Middle East”, McCully declared his belief that “we can make a difference”, what better demonstration of independence and leadership could New Zealand show than to autonomously impose sanctions upon Israel? Instead, Iran, which does not occupy its neighbours' territories, must suffer sanctions but Israel, which occupies and exploits neighbouring lands, must be allowed to do so with impunity. Israel is of course armed and equipped by the US in order to be able to maintain its regional hegemony.
In his speech, McCully made much of New Zealand's part in the removal of land mines from nearly 400 square kilometres of unusable land in the West Bank. Israel laid more than 1.5 million mines in the 1950s and 1960s, contaminating a combined area of 200 square kilometres in the Golan Heights, in the Arava Valley and along the Jordan River. This includes more than 300,000 that render 20 sq. km. of agricultural and residential land in the West Bank unusable. Unexploded Israeli ordnance causes further problems. http://maic.jmu.edu/journal/15.3/notes/or/or.htm
Another type of mine
In a 3 January 2012 report Israel's Supreme Court ruled that Israel's mining companies may exploit the occupied West Bank's natural resources for economic gain. http://www.minesandcommunities.org/article.php?a=11410 The Supreme Court ruling is in favour of activity that is illegal under international law. In 2004, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) declared Israel's occupation of the West Bank territories illegal under international law.
The daily toll
Just this month alone, to 8am, 21 June, Israel carried out at least (figures for one of the days are unavailable) 141 night-time home invasions in the West Bank. In the same period, ten Palestinians died at the hands of Israeli Occupation forces and settlers, one of them a 14-year-old boy. This month Israeli forces and settlers committed 88 acts of agricultural/economic sabotage, including setting fire to olive trees and the destruction of 20 tons of wheat. There were 34 Israeli air strikes, in one of them a poultry farm was strafed and 69 Palestinians have been injured in Israeli violence so far this month. These statistics are only the tip of the iceberg. Underlying the violence is the constant daily harassment. For example, Israel blocks Palestinian roads at intervals so that farm produce has to be unloaded and reloaded onto another vehicle brought up to the obstacle from a point beyond it. This exercise may need to be repeated more than once. Israeli checkpoints force Palestinians to make journeys of several hours that could be accomplished in minutes. Ethnically segregated roads for Israeli use only dominate the Palestinian landscape. Palestinian families regularly endure the abductions of terrified young people from their homes at dead of night. Israeli abductions of minors from the West Bank under the age of 18 number at least 226 this year. The youngest so far is aged 11 and five children aged 12 have also been abducted. United Nations agencies have reported extensively the cruel treatment of Palestinian youngsters at the hands of Israel. The statistics come from the Palestine Monitoring Group (PMG) daily situation reports (http://www.nad-plo.org/dailyreports.php). Children and adults are often incarcerated by Israel without charge or trial by means of a process the Zionist regime calls 'administrative detention'. See also United Nations sources such as: http://unispal.un.org/unispal.nsf/0/ba91e8d28cf53b44852579ea006e229d
Sadly, these crimes seldom, if ever, reach our newspapers or television screens. Likewise, radio does not seem interested either. One can be certain that if Israeli homes were to be invaded night after night or Israeli vessels fired upon and hijacked, our news media would report such violence with outrage and large headlines.
What must be borne in mind is that decades of Israeli Occupation, land theft, settlement, Israel's annexation Wall and ethnic discrimination are all in gross violation of international law, particularly the Fourth Geneva Convention, as well as scores of UN General Assembly and Security Council Resolutions. If ever a UN member state were a candidate for the imposition of sanctions it is the state of Israel.
The dreams in the title of McCully's speech are in reality nightmares and the dramas, nothing but Western play-acting. Does he really believe the Israeli/US propaganda line on the Middle East? Or, does his speech reflect New Zealand Government complicity in a policy that has created generations of ethnically-selected refugees? The public must be the judge of that. But the responsibility for the continued dispossession of the Palestinian people and the denial of truth and justice upon which it rests lies with us, the international community. We can make a difference.
Leslie Bravery – 25 June 2012
New Zealand Month – time for straight talking
New Zealand's Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully's meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the planned series of top-level visits, described by Israel's Foreign Ministry as "New Zealand Month", are an opportunity for this country to show the world where it stands in relation to human rights and international law.
Recent questions posed by the New Zealand Palestine Human Rights Campaign (PHRC) in a recent Open Letter to Murray McCully (see below) raise urgent and long-neglected issues. While our Foreign Minister wholeheartedly supports Israel's membership of the OECD, Israel is encouraged to continue stifling the Palestinian economy through belligerent military occupation. The Palestinian people have no control over their borders, air space, sea or access to the wider global economy. Israel severely restricts access by Palestinian fishing boats to essential fishing grounds, often at the expense of fishermen’s livelihoods, vessels and even life and limb. In addition, Israel uses its military might to take a grossly disproportionate amount of Palestine's water, to the detriment of Palestinian agriculture and health. For 44 years now the US and the UK, and, by association, New Zealand, have stood by Israel and allowed this exploitation to continue while pressuring the victims to negotiate with their oppressor.
Although the Gaza Strip and the West Bank are recognised under international law as a single territorial unit, Israel continues to prevent the movement of Palestinians between the two areas. As the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports, Israel maintains an average of 520 permanent checkpoints, road obstacles and other restrictions besides imposing hundreds of mobile checkpoints, all inside Palestinian territory. Furthermore, Israel’s illegal settlements and annexation Wall, with its ethnically discriminatory Israeli-only roads, place intolerable costs upon the movement of Palestinian goods, workers and students.
Our Foreign Affairs Minister is unable to show any softening of Israel's relentless suppression of Palestinian human rights, and aspirations through decades of what he likes to call "dialogue" with Israel. The PHRC invites Mr McCully, once again, to answer the questions posed in our Open Letter to him dated 30 April 2012. Consideration of these questions might help him concentrate his mind on the vital issues that confront, not only the Palestinian people but also the wider world community. "New Zealand Month" should be used to demonstrate to Israel that dialogue no longer means cosy chats and complicity but plain speaking and the demand that Israel end its gross violations of international law.
Leslie Bravery – 11 May 2012
Open Letter to Murray McCully: Invitation to support international law regarding Israel's trading practices
30 April 2012
Dear Mr McCully,
The fifth-biggest UK food retailer and biggest Co-operative Group in Europe has ceased trading with suppliers that are linked to Israeli settlements. The Co-op’s decision will immediately hit four suppliers, Agrexco, Arava Export Growers, Adafresh and Mehadrin, Israel’s largest agricultural export company. The reason for the Society's action is that Mehadrin sells its produce from illegal settlements, including Beqa’ot in the Occupied Jordan Valley. Furthermore, grapes and dates packaged in the settlement are illegally labelled ‘Produce of Israel’. In addition, Mehadrin’s role in providing water to settlement farms (illegal under international law) and its relationship with the Israeli state water company, Mekorot, makes the company complicit in Israel’s ethnically discriminatory allocation of water. This discrimination inflicts much hardship on the Palestinian people.
In your statement supporting Israel's application for admission to the OECD you claimed that it was important to the process of what you called “dialogue” with the Zionist state. The Palestine Human Rights Campaign (PHRC) would like to offer you the opportunity to demonstrate how such dialogue has so far succeeded in persuading Israel to adhere to the norms of civilised trading, OECD rules and international law. In other words, are you able to show that Israel's admission to the OECD has in anyway modified its behaviour?
An International Women's Peace Service (IWPS) base in Deir Istiya has informed us that the West Bank village recently received notice from the Israeli Army that it will be uprooting 1400 village trees on May 1. IWPS has drafted an online petition concerning this that is addressed to the Israeli PM and the Israeli Ministries of Defence and the Environment. Uprooting trees is one of the many strategies the Israeli government uses in its attempts to suppress the spirit of Palestinians trying to continue to live in their homeland. Is there any reason why the New Zealand Government should not also bring pressure to bear on the Israeli government to observe international standards of decency?
We ask you to state (with your reasons) whether or not you agree or disagree with the following statement:
The Israeli government's vindictive and unnecessary acts of economic and agricultural sabotage in belligerently occupied territories are crimes against humanity. They demonstrate clearly the Zionist state's present unsuitability for membership of the OECD. Such acts are certain to strengthen support for the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and it would be in Israel's own best interests to reform its behaviour. There is never any excuse for failing to abide by the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Visitors to our website, both at home and internationally, will be very interested to read your response to this Open Letter.
Yours sincerely, Leslie Bravery, Palestine Human Rights Campaign, Aotearoa/New Zealand www.palestine.org
Futile posturing at the 2012 Seoul Nuclear Security Summit
29 March 2012
US President Barack Obama says he is pushing for "a world without nuclear weapons." Disingenuously lumping together the nuclear-armed state of North Korea and nuclear weapon-free Iran Mr. Obama claimed that a "new international norm" was emerging to deal with their “intransigence”. Perversely turning a blind eye towards the West’s double standards and special allowances for close friends, the US head of state asserted, as if it were an accomplished fact "Treaties are binding. Rules will be enforced. And violations will have consequences," President Obama did not make clear though, that the US and its allies exempt close friends from any enforcement of international law and protects them militarily and diplomatically from the consequences that should be due for gross human rights violations.
Iran has been overrun and occupied frequently and its territory has been altered throughout the centuries by Greeks, Arabs, Turks and Mongols. In modern times the West overthrew the legitimate Mossadeq government and imposed the corrupt regime of the puppet Shah. It was the West, of course, that armed and supported Iraq in its war against Iran. But since the end of the Persian Empire the land of Iran has not invaded its neighbours' territory for well over 1400 years.
Israel, on the other hand, continues to occupy its neighbours' land and frequently violates Lebanese air space, from time to time destroying lives, property and infrastructure. The destruction of life, livelihood, property and infrastructure by Israel is an almost daily occurrence in Occupied Palestine. All this, in defiance of international law.
Which Middle East Power, therefore, is the greater threat to global peace and stability? Is it Israel, the only country to have introduced nuclear weapons to the Middle East and that refuses to respect the borders of its neighbours? Or is it Iran, which, unlike Israel, respects its neighbours' borders and has signed the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty? Is it Israel that refuses to co-operate with the International Atomic Energy Agency? Or is it Iran, that does co-operate with the IAEA?
Justice and accountability after the Holocaust
“Justice and accountability after the Holocaust” was New Zealand's theme for its observance of United Nations Holocaust Remembrance Day, 27 January 2012. Whatever else Holocaust remembrance signifies, it should be supported by a determination to learn the lessons of history and uncompromising opposition to the commission of further ideologically-driven crimes of inhumanity – whoever the perpetrators may be. The death on 22 January of a young girl from the effects of white phosphorus, illegally used by Israel in its murderous Cast Lead offensive in the Gaza Strip three years ago, is a stark reminder that, for Palestinians, justice is totally denied while an indulgent world continues to protect Israel from all accountability.
January also saw the publication, by the United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Occupied Palestinian territory, of its report: “Demolitions and forced displacement in the Occupied West Bank”. The report on conditions for Palestinians under belligerent Israeli military occupation reminds us, for instance, that “almost 1100 Palestinians”, over half of them children, “were displaced due to home demolitions by Israeli forces in 2011, over 80% more than in 2010.” New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key has declared that he believes New Zealand could “learn a lot from Israel” and our Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully has enthusiastically supported the occupying power's application for membership of the OECD. John Key perhaps admires Israel's capacity to garner foreign aid for its economy, especially from the US.
Israel's behaviour is determined by its founding ideology of Zionism. The Zionist state claims to represent all Jews and thereby attempts to implicate all Jews in its justification of its war crimes. Many Jewish people strongly resent this, including those who adhere to pre-Zionist Judaism. The US-based organisation Jewish Voice for Peace, for instance, reminds us in a statement (http://jewishvoiceforpeace.org/content/us-military-aid-and-israel) that a large part of US military aid to Israel goes to purchase tanks, helicopter gunships, machine-guns and bullets that are used against Palestinian civilians. “Our tax dollars have been used to destroy homes; uproot trees and crops; seize land from its lawful owners; close all access to food, medicine, and the outside world for small towns in the West Bank and Gaza; staff checkpoints that cut off ambulances and other civilian traffic; and carry out assassinations that kill children in addition to summarily executing political leaders . . .” Israel continues to demolish Palestinian family homes and destroy agriculture and industry throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Earlier this month, Israel's Supreme Court upheld a law passed in 2003 that denies Palestinians from the West Bank or Gaza Strip who are the spouses of Israeli citizens any right to citizenship or residency. Palestinian citizens of Israel, who form 20% of the population, have citizenship but do not enjoy Israeli nationality. Israel's 1950 Law of Return welcomes any Jew immigrating to Israel. But Palestinian refugees are denied their right of return to homes from which they were driven. That right of Palestinian return is enshrined in UN Resolution 194. Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the UN in 1948, states: (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state, and (2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country. Israel denies these rights to Palestinians.
The 1995 European Union-Israel Association Agreement declares as its purpose the promotion of (1) peace and security, (2) shared prosperity through, for example, economic co-operation, free trade and free movement of capital, and (3) cross-cultural rapprochement. That agreement also applied to Israel's relations with the EU’s other Mediterranean partners – including the Palestinian National Authority. Israel continues to enjoy “favoured nation” trading terms with the EU. The failure by the European Union-Israel Association and the OECD to suspend association and membership until Israel complies with international humanitarian law amounts to complicity in the Zionist State's violations. The US also could bring enormous pressure to bear upon Israel by denying aid. And so, with impunity, Israel continues its population transfers, territorial aggrandisement and ethnically discriminatory legislation both within Israel and in territories it occupies.
Progress towards ending state-sponsored human rights violations depends partly upon restraining the perpetrators and an uncompromising requirement upon them to observe tragically hard-won international laws. The world community's failure to render Israel accountable to justice in this regard is an affront to both United Nations Holocaust Remembrance Day and the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Leslie Bravery – 28 January 2012
An open letter to New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully:
Why not peace and security for Palestinians, Mr McCully?
The Palestine Human Rights Campaign has seen a copy of your letter of reply to an email sent to you from Sue Berman dated 14 November. You say in your reply: “We support the Palestinians' right to self-determination, and equally Israel's right to exist in peace and security.” The National Government's earlier claims of “even-handedness” in its approach to Palestine/Israel seem to have been lost in the sentence quoted above, which avoids mentioning the Palestinian right to live “in peace and security”. It is incontrovertible to state that, after decades of 'direct talks', Israel continues to defy international law, both in its illegal Occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem and in the criminal actions it takes in order to enforce its unwelcome rule. The requirement that the defenceless Palestinian people engage in direct talks with a nuclear-armed, occupying power that benefits from US$3 billion of US tax-payer funded annual aid, most of it earmarked for military purposes, is surely little more than naked coercion.
Nowhere to be found in National Government pronouncements regarding this conflict are the terms: international law, sanctions, justice, human rights or the Fourth Geneva Convention. Yet the road to a just peace must lie in recourse to these hard-won arenas of conflict resolution. Talk of 'direct negotiations' between such unequal parties, over what are referred to as “all final status issues”, can be seen only as an attempt to render as 'negotiable' and therefore to legitimise, Israel's gross breaches of international law. Your government appears ignorant of the facts that Israel forthrightly asserts that its illegal settlements are “here to stay” and that East Jerusalem is part of the “eternal and indivisible capital of Israel”. What is there to negotiate?
Where is the New Zealand Government's humanity, Mr McCully? Does the National Government not understand or care what daily life is like for Palestinians living under belligerent military occupation? Before the Occupation, Palestinian drinking water came from wells, cisterns and the Jordan River but now Palestinians must pay Israel for their water. You can find out more about this from the Emergency Water, Sanitation and Hygiene group (EWASH), a coalition of almost 30 UN and associated NGOs working in the water and sanitation sector in Occupied Palestinian Territory. Israel doesn't just profit from Palestinian suffering, it aggravates it. For example, Israel uses its troops to destroy the water storage infrastructure of villages in southern Palestine that are already struggling for water. Children are the most vulnerable. In communities such as Hadharin, the growth of 28.5 per cent of the children is stunted and nearly six per cent have malnutrition related to long-term thirst. Diarrhoea and other water-borne diseases disproportionately affect the young. According to a 2009 World Bank report, water takes up twice the “globally accepted standard” of the average West Bank Palestinian person’s budget.
Provided annually with 31 million cubic metres (mcm) from Israel and another 44 mcm from within the West Bank, the illegal Israeli Occupation settlements show off their water wealth with their swimming pools, verdant gardens and flourishing farmland. The cost to Palestinians of this military occupation is not confined to water shortages. House demolitions and the threat of displacement are also ruining people’s lives. Whole communities suffer the daily anxiety of losing their homes and livelihoods in the 60 per cent of the West Bank that includes East Jerusalem. More than 800 people have been displaced in the first nine months of this year alone, surpassing the entire number displaced in 2010 (594 people). There are 3000 outstanding demolition orders on homes and infrastructure in the rural West Bank that affect tens of thousands of people. In East Jerusalem, at least 28 per cent of the houses, home to 60,000 Palestinians, are at risk of demolition. The effects on children are devastating, with many showing signs of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety. Their academic progress also suffers impairment through oppression and uncertainty.
As though all this suffering were not sufficient, Israel continues its blockade of Gaza – fishing boats are pursued and shot at, sometimes with fatal results, and Gaza crops are bulldozed by the Israeli Army. Palestinians also suffer agricultural sabotage in the West Bank, perpetrated by both illegal settler fanatics and Israeli troops. The Christian Science Monitor (15 November 2011) reminds us of the racism practiced by Israel which has prompted Palestinian Freedom Riders to risk violent arrest by boarding segregated Israeli buses in protests that are reminiscent of the earlier freedom riders in the southern United States. One Freedom Rider, a 27-year-old pharmacist, Bassal Araj, whose family is originally from a small village near Jerusalem, says: “Under Israeli law we are forbidden to visit Jerusalem. It’s a racist law like the Jim Crow laws and the apartheid laws in South Africa.”
The purpose of such uncompromising and wanton cruelty is understood by most people around the world who see the territorial gains for Israel resulting from decades of 'direct negotiations'. And yet, Mr McCully, you feel able to say that “ . . New Zealand's support for any resolution on Palestinian statehood will be considered . . . in the context of progress in direct negotiations between the parties.” In other words, you seem prepared to distance New Zealand from the majority of the world community by continuing to demand that Palestinians be part of a process that allows Israel to ignore its obligations under international law.
The attack on a United Nations Compound during Israel's notorious Cast Lead onslaught on the Gaza Strip caused a huge explosion, set fire to fuel in the Compound, destroyed tons of humanitarian supplies and forced hundreds of refugees to flee. UN spokesman, Chris Gunness, described how the fire resulting from the white phosphorus shelling was impossible to extinguish by conventional means. The atrocious nature of such acts prompted a Jewish UK MP, Sir Gerald Kaufman, to comment in the House of Commons that the Israeli Government 'ruthlessly and cynically' exploited guilt over the Holocaust as justification for the assault on Gaza. He said, “my grandmother was ill in bed when the Nazis came to her home town . . . a German soldier shot her dead in her bed.” He went on to say, “My grandmother did not die to provide cover for Israeli soldiers murdering Palestinian grandmothers in Gaza.”
The Palestinian people have had this tragedy imposed upon them through no fault of their own. The Security Council decision to establish the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) paid scant regard to the wishes of the native Palestinian people with most of the 11 committee members having little knowledge of the Middle East, let alone of Palestine. In May 1947 The Jewish Agency provided UNSCOP with a map of Palestine which showed a future Jewish state in over 80 per cent of Palestine – the equivalent area claimed so far by Israel today. Zionist ideology spurs Israel on to the unilateral planting of illegal occupation settlements, the building of its wall of annexation through the West Bank and the blockade of the Gaza Strip. None of these actions have had the slightest element of 'negotiation' about them, indeed the very founding of Israel was a unilateral act, carried out as a pre-emptive measure while the issue was still before the United Nations.
Today, apartheid is considered a crime and it is to be hoped that no New Zealand government would condone it. A veteran of the South African anti-apartheid struggle and former president of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, the Reverend Allan Aubrey Boesak said in a recent interview referring to the Israeli Occupation that, “. . . we had the Bantustans and we had the Group Areas Act and we had the separate schools and all of that but I don't think it ever even entered the mind of any apartheid planner to design a town in such a way that there is a physical wall that separates people and that that wall denotes your freedom of movement, your freedom of economic gain, of employment, and at the same time is a tool of intimidation and dehumanisation.” The Reverend Boesak also pointed out that they did not go so far as to have two separate justice systems. Palestinians are tried in Israeli military courts and Israelis are tried in the civil courts. He went on to say, “we could in the end muster and mobilise international solidarity on a scale that enabled us to be more successful in our struggle. The Palestinians cannot do that. The whole international community almost conspires against them.” The insistence on 'direct talks' by powerful members of the world community is certainly a key factor in encouraging Israel to continue on its present course.
In the 1950s and 1960s the civil rights struggle in the United States, and then more recently the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, became the moral standard by which the world judged governments and societies and the positions they took regarding humanity's demand for justice and the restoration of dignity. Today, an imaginative, humane and independent foreign policy in support of international law and human rights would earn New Zealand the gratitude of most of the world's people.
Leslie Bravery 20 November 2011
New Zealand's abstention at UNESCO
Commenting on New Zealand's abstention from voting on the Palestinian application for membership of UNESCO, Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully said he would have preferred the United Nations to “make a decision on Palestine before any of its other agencies”. Once again, our Foreign Affairs Minister has distanced New Zealand from the majority of the world community in failing to support the Palestinian people. The vote for Palestinian membership of the international cultural organisation was carried by a majority of 62%. New Zealand joined the 30% of member states that abstained from voting. The United States and Israel could only persuade 14% to vote against the Palestinians.
Why would our Foreign Affairs Ministry include New Zealand among those states that would not support a people suffering under decades of belligerent military Occupation? Murray McCully's claim that New Zealand is 'even-handed' in its approach to Israel and Palestine seems at odds with reality. The United Nations Palestine partition plan that New Zealand voted for provided for an Israeli State and a Palestinian State, yet New Zealand will not even support the relatively modest Palestinian application for UNESCO membership. It should be obvious by now that a world in turmoil, and on the threshold of unprecedented economic and political upheavals, needs more than ever the restoration of respect for the provisions of international law. Most of the world community has grown tired of pandering to injustice.
The World Court has ruled on the illegality of Israel's annexation Wall while Israel continues to refuse to recognise the Palestinian right of return (supported by UN Resolutions) to land and homes from which they were ethnically cleansed. Decades of direct peace talks between the occupying power and an occupied people have achieved only territorial gains for Israel and impunity for Israeli aggression both within and beyond Palestine. What is the point of 'direct talks' when Israel has already defiantly laid down uncompromising pre-conditions? On the illegal settlements, Netanyahu triumphantly proclaimed in front of US President Obama:“We're here to stay”.
Mr McCully should know that world-wide and in Israel many Jews, both religious and secular, appalled by Israel's war crimes, are joining the majority of world opinion in trying to bring those cruelties to an end. Now, an Israeli NGO, the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD), has presented the United Nations with yet more findings concerning Israel's abuses in occupied East Jerusalem. They reveal the extent of the continuing demolition of Palestinian homes, revocation of residencies and a decline in quality of life for Palestinians. “We are witnessing a process of ethnic displacement,” says Michael Sfard, the lawyer who helped draw up the 73-page report. “Israel is manifestly and seriously violating international law ... and the motivation is demographic.” Israel has annexed East Jerusalem, including the Old City and surrounding West Bank villages, forming a Jerusalem municipality that it declares part of the “united and eternal capital of Israel.” No country recognises Jerusalem as Israel's capital, so how can McCully justify clinging to the US/Israeli pretence that no agreement can be reached without direct 'peace talks'?
What do Israel and the United States really expect to be the result of brow-beating the Palestinians into further 'direct talks'? Perhaps it is hoped that, under intolerable pressure, the Palestinians will eventually cave in. The fact that Israel has forthrightly declared that talks cannot include the inalienable rights of Palestinians it appears the time is overdue for the enforcement of international law, especially UN Security Council Resolutions and the requirements of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Israel and the US are terrified by the success of the Palestinian bid for membership of UNESCO because it means the game is up. Full membership of UNESCO means that Palestine can apply for the listing of sites for World Heritage Status, such as in Bethlehem and Jericho and the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron. The location of such sites on Palestinian territory and Palestinian sovereignty over the land will, inevitably, come to be formally recognised internationally. Israel will no longer be able to sustain the myth that these national monuments are not located in Palestine and will find itself facing the International Court of Justice, an avenue for redress previously beyond the reach of the Palestinian people.
Even-handedness is no excuse for turning a blind eye to injustice.
Leslie Bravery – 2 November 2011
Palmer proves need for appeal to the World Court
Leslie Bravery, 5 September 2011
The UN Report of the Secretary-General's Panel of Inquiry on the 31 May 2010 Flotilla Incident, known as the The Palmer Report (described by award-winning US journalist Max Blumenthal as “factually challenged”) attempted to justify the blockade of Gaza, in contradiction of a UN Human Rights Council official fact-finding mission last September that found the blockade to be illegal. Turkey certainly rejects the Palmer Report finding and intends to challenge the Israeli siege of Gaza before the International Court of Justice at the Hague. The Palmer Report found that Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip was lawful, taking on trust Israel's claims that its blockade was necessary for security. The Commission failed to take into account evidence that showed Israel's true motive for the blockade was not security but collective punishment. In April 2006, the Guardian newspaper reported Dov Weisglass, an adviser to Ehud Olmert, giving the game away when he summed up Israel’s policy of blockading Gaza thus: “The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger.”
Of the four-member Palmer Report commission besides Chairman Geoffrey Palmer, one member, Süleyman Özdem Sanberk, was chosen by Turkey. Another member, representing Israel, was Joseph Ciechanover Itzhar and tipping the balance in favour of Israel was the invitation to serve as Vice Chairman on the commission extended to the former President of Colombia, Álvaro Uribe. Uribe's loyalty to Israel was warmly recognised in May 2007 when the American Jewish Committee awarded him its "Light Unto The Nations" award, describing him as a good friend of Israel. Uribe has shown no respect for international law; his government used the International Red Cross emblem in a hostage rescue mission in July 2008 in contravention of Geneva Conventions that prohibit improper use of the Red Cross symbol. Uribe's support for paramilitary forces, illegal under Colombian law, further undermines his suitability to serve on the commission, as does his overseeing of the wire-tapping of Supreme Court Justices and opposition leaders.
The Palmer report was certainly no fact-finding mission and it sought no evidence from civilian victims and eyewitnesses on board the Mavi Marmara at the time of the Israeli assault upon an unarmed vessel on the high seas. The Report therefore did not concern itself with the circumstances that led to the aid flotilla's presence and the manifestly illegal collective punishment of the people of Gaza. Without genuine fact-finding, any suggestion of impartiality is both an illusion and an affront to the families of the nine dead civilians (most of those killed had been shot several times, some either in the back or at close range), the injured and the 1.5 million people suffering under belligerent Israeli blockade.
Partiality towards Israel can be the only explanation for the apparent lack of interest by our leaders in the evidence and facts contained in the UN Human Rights Council fact-finding mission report (published last September) of interviews with more than 100 eyewitnesses in Geneva, London, Istanbul and Amman. Besides information provided by governments, the Human Rights Council relied on forensic reports and interviews with medical experts in Turkey, as well as written statements, video film footage and other photographic material relating to the incident. Israel refused to co-operate with the Human Rights Council fact-finding mission. The Palmer panel report claims that the Israeli military that boarded the Mavi Marmara “faced significant, organised and violent resistance from a group of passengers”, forcing the commandos “to use force for their own protection”. The problem is that the Palmer panel did not gather any evidence of its own and simply accepted Israel's version of events. Israel never actually produced independent evidence to support its assertions but, on the other hand, in spite of Israel's best efforts, some video footage escaped that contradicts the Israeli version. The surviving video footage shows indiscriminate live-fire by the Israeli attackers, the apparent execution of a journalist and the targeted assassination of at least one other passenger. The hyperlinks to these videos are available.
At least the Palmer Report admitted that the loss of life and injuries resulting from the Israeli assault was unacceptable but it did accept Israel's propaganda claim that its soldiers were mistreated, even though photographs show passengers giving aid and protection to those Israeli troops who had been disarmed. These photos are also available online. It would be surprising if some passengers had not attempted to defend themselves against a terrifying assault in the dead of night by elite commandos equipped with modern weapons and assault helicopters. Video footage reveals frightened passengers in a companion way stained with blood, attempting to hide or cowering away from Israeli gunfire.
The Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Saturday that Turkey would be applying, as early as next week, for an investigation by the International Court of Justice into the legality of Israel's naval blockade of Gaza. The futile and ineffectual Palmer Report proves that The World Court is the best place for matters of international law and war crimes to be considered. The Court's ruling on the illegality of Israel's annexation Wall, which to hide the facts Israel calls a separation barrier, is encouraging. Turkey will also pursue criminal cases against Israeli officials responsible for the killings of nine Turkish citizens in international waters.
Who is willing to take up the cause of Israel's chief victims, the Palestinian people, whose decades-long daily losses of life, limb, liberty and land are so egregiously overlooked by the world community?
McCully's 'Arab Spring' delusion
Leslie Bravery / 4 August 2011
The Hon. Murray McCully, New Zealand Government Minister of Foreign Affairs, gave a speech on Tuesday, 2 August 2011, addressed to the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs (NZIIA) Conference at Turnbull House, Wellington, New Zealand. In his speech, McCully made one valuable observation: “a key part of this equation of regional security is how the international community deals with the Middle East Peace Process.” One of the key failings of the so-called Middle East Peace Process has been an almost total disregard for international law. Mr McCully called instead for what he termed the voices of “constructive Palestinian moderation” to prevail, going on to say, “it is my firm view that resolving a basis for a two-state solution can only be achieved by getting the two parties into direct talks.” In all the pro-Israeli rhetoric that masquerades as even-handed diplomacy, a certain bias emerges. The call for 'moderation' is made only upon the Palestinian victims of belligerent Israeli foreign occupation and illegal settlement building. No such call is made upon Israel. To say that direct talks are the only way for the Palestinians to receive justice is tantamount to saying that the victim of foreign military occupation must be pressured to negotiate terms that allow the occupier to keep much of the conquered land and natural resources.
Thus, according to Mr McCully, the World Community should view the “key part of this equation of regional security” to mean dispensing with the Fourth Geneva Convention and somewhat legitimising Israeli occupation as a matter to be negotiated between unequal parties. He couldn't even bring himself to mention the settlements. What voice of Israeli “moderation” is being called upon here?
McCully no doubt avoided the question of settlements in his address because their growing presence betrays the futility of the so-called peace talks and the true intentions of the Israeli state that forces them upon the Palestinian people. It is sheer hypocrisy to demand that the Palestinian people negotiate away their human rights under duress. The UN Relief and Works Agency said in a report on 2 August 2011 that settlement development had resulted in the demolition of 356 Palestinian and other structures in the first six months of this year, compared with 431 for the whole of 2010. The agency reported 700 people displaced in the first six months of 2011, compared with 594 in the whole of 2010. In June and July, around 605 Palestinians, many of whom were children, were displaced or affected by these demolitions. According to UNRWA: “Many displacements are taking place where settlements are expanding and with it we are seeing an upturn in vicious attacks by Jewish settlers.” As the report reveals, Israel's purpose is to create a change in the ethnic make-up of the West Bank.
The Palestinian people have been placed in this position by decisions made over their heads by the very international community that McCully acknowledges is a key player in the facilitating of regional security. The Palestinian people are therefore the responsibility of the world community – they have a right to internationally guaranteed security – and yet spokesmen such as Mr McCully concern themselves solely with Israel's uniquely perceived “need for security”.
In his speech, McCully said that Israel knows “that we understand their need for a guarantee of security as part of any settlement. And they know that we understand the need for a firm international position on Iran's nuclear ambitions as part of that improved regional security environment.” Focusing on Iran while choosing to ignore Israel's glaringly obvious nuclear arms stockpile and Israeli refusal to sign the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty is further confirmation of McCully's pro-Israel leanings. McCully's claim that “we pride ourselves on being fair minded and even handed” is so manifestly absurd it is either delusional or downright dishonest. His apparent lack of concern for international law and natural justice enabled him to say “during my visits to the oPt and Israel, the various actors were talking in almost identical terms, about settling on the 1967 borders, plus or minus land swaps of 4-5 or 6%, with appropriate buffer zones.” If McCully does not know, somebody should tell him that Israel has no right to 'swap' land that does not belong to it. There can be no just solution until Israel dismantles its annexation Wall, as required by the World Court, and removes its Jewish-only segregated colonies in the West Bank, as required by UN Resolutions and other international law. Israel's implacable refusal to abide by the provisions of international law demonstrates not only a lack of goodwill but also a determination to achieve its territorial ambitions with the same preconditions that have made an utter mockery of the so-called peace process.
Meanwhile, Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem go on suffering under foreign occupation and the Gaza Strip remains illegally blockaded. Within Israel, discriminatory laws abound, the latest being the recently passed anti-boycott legislation that targets individuals or organisations that publicly call for a boycott against Israel or any area under its control. Mr McCully should visit Occupied Palestine for a while and experience for himself the relentless nightmare of night home invasions, see for himself the beatings of children in their homes and the crass vandalism that accompanies such raids. He should see for himself the demolition of homes and the bulldozing of crops. McCully should also witness the heartbreaking destruction of ancient olive trees perpetrated by Israeli settlers and troops alike. Perhaps then he will stop deluding himself and be honest with his audience. We leave the final words to Israeli peace activist, Miko Peled, who served in Israel’s Special Forces Commando unit. His grandfather was a signatory to Israel’s unilateral Declaration of Independence and his father was one of Israel’s most famous generals. These words of warning form a conclusion to his soon-to-be-published book The General's Son. They could very well have been addressed to Murray McCully:
".. . those people who want to associate themselves with Israel . . . need to know this: that when the trials begin and the tribunals take their place, and when the truth and reconciliation commission begins its work and they are finally shamed into admitting they were wrong, they need to remember to go down on their knees and beg forgiveness from the people they so greatly wronged."
PHRC deplores US Senate threat to Palestinian bid for UN recognition
The passing by the United States Senate of Resolution 185, calling on Palestinians to halt their bid for recognition of statehood at the United Nations, reveals once again the extent of unreasoning bias in favour of Israel. The Senate also called on Obama to use the US veto in the forthcoming September vote. There is a cruel cynicism in the threat to withdraw the $550 million that the United States provides to the Palestinians annually, bearing in mind that Obama's 2012 budget proposes $3.075 billion in US military aid for Israel. That is $75 million more than in 2011 and US military aid is expected to increase by a further $25 million to $3.1 billion in 2013. The Occupying power's belligerence is further encouraged with the joint US-Israel missile defence programmes, including the 'Arrow' and 'David's Sling', which are expected to receive $106.1 million in 2012.
US objections to the Palestinians turning to the United Nations or other international bodies are a panic reaction because direct negotiations – the so-called peace process – have proved to be nothing but a cover for Israeli territorial gains. According to the terms of the Oslo agreement of 1993 (the mutual recognition agreement signed by Yasir Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin), the Palestinians were promised self-determination by 2000 at the latest. In the past 18 years, Israel has tightened its grip on Palestine, including blockade and absolute control of Gaza's air, land and sea entry points. Israel's blockade of Gaza is a clear violation of international humanitarian law, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) says Israel is punishing the whole civilian population of Gaza describing conditions in Gaza that include hospitals short of equipment, power cuts lasting hours each day and drinking water unfit for consumption. "The whole of Gaza's civilian population is being punished for acts for which they bear no responsibility. A Red Cross statement said the closure therefore ". . . constitutes a collective punishment imposed in clear violation of Israel's obligations under international humanitarian law."
In direct contravention of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention Israel has trebled the rate of transfer of its citizens into occupied territory from 100,000 to over 300,000. Turning a blind eye to Israeli-state terrorism, US Senate Resolution 185 calls for the Palestinian unity government to "publicly and formally forswear terrorism, accept Israel's right to exist, and reaffirm previous agreements made with the Government of Israel." The US has never demanded that Israel forswear its militarism against the Palestinian people. As for Israel's so-called US/Israeli defined 'right to exist', the Zionist state's ideologically racist policies of Occupation settlement in the West Bank and discrimination within its borders are indefensible. Formal recognition of such a state of affairs would not only be offensive but also contrary to international law.
The crime of apartheid
Israel defines itself as a state of the Jewish people. Discrimination, such as the revocation of Israeli Arab citizenship, the absentee property law, the theft of land and occupation settlement are all directed at non-Jews. Consequently, many Jewish people are offended when the Israeli state claims that it speaks for them. The crime of apartheid is defined by the 2002 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court as inhumane acts of a character similar to other crimes against humanity "committed in the context of an institutionalised regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime."
The path to peace lies in respect for, and observance of, international law. Ideologies that, by harming others, seek to accord a privileged status for any racial or ethnic group should be outlawed. Failure to uphold justice plays into the hands of extremists and is destabilising. If humanitarianism doesn't have sufficient appeal, our elected leaders might at least consider enlightened self-interest because the path they have followed has failed, totally. If acceded to, the demand for recognition of the discriminatory Zionist state demanded of Israel's victims would be tantamount both to surrendering to the crime of apartheid as well as acquiescence in it. Discouraging the Palestinians from seeking a state could end with the demise of Zionism sooner than anyone might expect. A single state solution is looking ever more likely.
Leslie Bravery – 4 July 2011, Palestine Human Rights Campaign Aotearoa/New Zealand
Kairos Palestine response to Archbishop His Grace Dr Rowan Williams
Read article in newsletter
An interview with Frank Barat (co-ordinator of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine)