Terrified fleeing boy (14) breaks leg after being shot at by Israeli troops
Israeli Army tear gas grenades set fire to Palestinian wheat crops
Israeli settlers stone Palestinian schoolchildren
Israeli Army fire forces vehicle to overturn
Two youngsters (aged 12 and 14) injured in Israeli Army violence
Zionist fanatics set fire to Palestinian crops, supported by Israeli troops firing rubber-coated bullets
Petrol bomb-throwing settlers set vehicle ablaze
1am: Israeli mob invades Palestinian village and stones villager's home
Night peace disruption and/or home invasions in 23 towns and villages
2 attacks – 42 raids including home invasions – 2 beaten – 38 injured
5 acts of agricultural/economic sabotage
19 taken prisoner – 29 detained – 111 restrictions of movement
Church of Scotland forced into retraction of report on Christian Zionism. According to Stephen Sizer the Church of Scotland should be commended for its report entitled The Inheritance of Abraham? published a week or so ago but swiftly removed under pressure. He says “In no sense does the report disenfranchise anyone from legitimate rights to citizenship in Israel and Palestine, merely the claim made by some Zionists that the Bible mandates an exclusive right to the land for the Jewish people alone. On the contrary the Hebrew Scriptures repeatedly insist that the land belongs to God and that residence was always conditional. For example, God said to his people, “‘The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you reside in my land as foreigners and strangers.” (Leviticus 25:23).
(http://stephensizer.blogspot.co.nz/2013/05/church-of-scotland-report-questions.html) See original Church of Scotland report below:
The inheritance of Abraham? A report on the 'promised land'
The Church of Scotland | Church and Society Council
Ten years ago the General Assembly received the report Theology of Land and Covenant, from the Board of World Mission, Church and Nation Committee and the Panel on Doctrine. This report concluded with encouragement for us to listen more to others, “enriched by new insights through continuing questions that need to be faced”. Since 2003, two new insights have been noted by the General Assembly: in 2007, in the report What Hope for the Middle East? the Church of Scotland responded to a declaration from Church leaders in Jerusalem, and endorsed their criticism of Christian Zionism and encouraged members of the Church of Scotland to reject it, and in 2009 Christians in the Holy Land came together and produced Kairos Palestine: a moment of truth, offered as a word of faith, hope and love from the heart of Palestinian Suffering (information at www.kairospalestine.ps).
1 The 2003 report Theology of Land and Covenant is available at http://www.churchofscotland.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0009/13230/Theology_of_Land_and_Covenant.pdf
2 The 2007 report What Hope for the Middle East is available at: http://www.churchofscotland.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/3776/middle_east_07.pdf
3 Information about Kairos Palestine is at www.kairospalestine.ps
4 The Hebrew Bible corresponds with the Christian Old Testament.
With the co-operation and support of the World Mission Council, we present this report in 2013 as our latest reflection on the ‘questions that need to be faced’, as the political and humanitarian situation in the Holy Land continues to be a source of pain and concern for us all.
The Bible and the land of Israel
There has been a widespread assumption by many Christians as well as many Jewish people that the Bible supports an essentially Jewish state of Israel. This raises an increasing number of difficulties and current Israeli policies regarding the Palestinians have sharpened this questioning. This assumption of biblical support is based on views of promises about land in the Hebrew Bible. These views are disputed. The guidance in the Bible, notably the interpretation in the New Testament, provides more help in responding to questions about land and covenant. It also provides insight (discussed later in the report) into how Christians might understand the occupation of Palestinian land by the state of Israel, threats to Middle East peace and security, human rights, and racial intolerance, especially in the forms of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.
The phrase “the land of Israel” has a range of understandings amongst the three world faiths, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The city of Jerusalem, which is a holy place for all three religions, is the most contentious religious and political issue. In general terms there have been three main ways of understanding the promises about land in the Bible:
1. A territorial guarantee
2. A land held in trust
3. A land with a universal mission.
This idea presents scripture as making unconditional, literal promises referring to a specific, identifiable territorial area for the Israelites. Such texts as the following have been cited to support this view: 
Genesis 12:7 “To your offspring I will give this land.” (All translations are from the New Revised Standard Version.)
Genesis 13:15-17 “For all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring for ever. I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth … walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you.”
Genesis 15:18-21 “On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates …’ ”
Genesis 17:7-8 “I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you … for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give … the land where you are now an alien, all the land of Canaan, for a perpetual holding.”
These verses contain the promise of God to give the land to Abraham and his descendants. There are no ‘so long as…’ or ‘until…’ clauses in them. Alone, they can be read to show that God promises the land to the Israelites unconditionally. This is the position of Zionism. “The Bible is our mandate”, declared David Ben-Gurion, the 20th-Century’s most famous Zionist politician, to Lord Peel’s Royal Commission in 1936. The visionary geographic concept Eretz Yisrael Ha’Shlema (from the Nile to the Euphrates) was fundamental to Ben-Gurion’s ideology. From early in the 19th century, some influential Christians encouraged these ideas. The mores of the colonial and imperial age pervaded all aspects of life, including the Church of Scotland. It may well have been a Kirk minister, the Rev Alexander Keith, who coined the phrase “a land without people, for a people without land.” This view of the land of Palestine was linked from the 1840s to a literalistic view of Hebrew Bible prophecy being fulfilled and the widely held attitude that European colonialism meant that a land was ‘empty’ if western power and culture was not present. This attitude, repugnant to our thinking today, was widely accepted. It was taken up by the 7th Earl of Shaftesbury’s evangelical circle with dreams of restoring the Jewish people to the Holy Land. This in turn led to the Balfour Declaration of 1917, when the British Government agreed to a policy of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Interestingly, some Jewish leaders, like Ahad Ha’Am (active at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries) resisted this literalist view, and recognised the need for Zionist Jews moving to Palestine to treat the indigenous Palestinians with respect and good judgement.
Kairos Palestine (2.3.1):
Our land is God’s land, as is the case with all countries in the world. It is holy inasmuch as God is present in it, for God alone is holy and sanctifier. It is the duty of those of us who live here, to respect the will of God for this land. It is our duty to liberate it from the evil of injustice and war. It is God's land and therefore it must be a land of reconciliation, peace and love. This is indeed possible. God has put us here as two peoples, and God gives us the capacity, if we have the will, to live together and establish in it justice and peace, making it in reality God's land: "The earth is the Lord's and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it" (Psalm 24:1).
Naim Ateek a contemporary Christian thinker in Israel has written that: “the sole ambition of Zionists, Christians and Jews alike, has been the acquisition of the land for the Jewish people.” He characterises Christian Zionism as: “a movement within Protestant fundamentalism that understands the modern state of Israel as the fulfilment of biblical prophecy and thus deserving of political, financial and religious support.”
 Ateek is a former Canon of St George’s Anglican Cathedral in Jerusalem and head of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Centre. Politically powerful in the USA, it has enjoyed the backing of Presidents Reagan and Clinton, as well as tele-evangelists and novelists like Jerry Falwell and Hal Lindsay. Clarence Wagner is a representative voice. He sees the modern State of Israel as the fulfilment of God’s promise to Abraham, as well as the fulfilment of biblical prophets such as Ezekiel who spoke about ’the barren mountains of Israel’ becoming fruitful and ‘the ruined towns’ being rebuilt as the people returned from Exile. The following extract is taken from his 12 Keys to Understanding Israel in the Bible:
 12 Keys to Understanding Israel in the Bible by Clarence Wagner is published by Bridges for Peace (2003)
 For instance, in the building of illegal settlements; the continuing policy of driving out of Palestinians from East Jerusalem; disregard of UN resolutions and violation of international law; and the daily provocation and humiliation of the Palestinian people.
“Truly, the return of the Jews from over a hundred nations of the world is a modern-day miracle. Large waves of immigrants began to come in the 1880s. Since those early days, the deserts have been reforested, the rocky fields made fertile, the swamps drained and planted, the ancient terraces rebuilt, and the ruined cities of old re-established. Israel is now a nation of over six million people, that is a food exporting nation, that boasts high levels of literacy, health, education and welfare, high technology and agricultural development…We, who believe the Bible is God’s Word and every promise of God will come to pass, must stand and support Israel’s right to its land. It is a Divine right. We cannot say on the one hand that we believe there is a God who has revealed His perfect will in His Holy Scriptures, and on the other hand, deny Israel its right to the land God promised her.”
This statement gives rise to questions and observations, among them:
i) How do we understand biblical texts that tell us that occupation of the land must go hand in hand with obedience to God’s law and God’s concern for justice? (See section 2, below.)
ii) Did the prophets not warn that pursuit of power and wealth would lead to inequality, injustice and the loss of land, as it did in the Exile?
iii) What land is being discussed? Is it the land claimed by Joshua, or the land of David and Solomon, or Judah, or the Northern Kingdom of Israel? (See section 3, below.)
iv) How do we view the narratives on the occupation of the ‘promised land’ in Joshua and Judges? (Violent ethnic cleansing was apparently condoned by God in some passages, while others suggest assimilation.)
v) Do any of the Hebrew Bible accounts really sanction future occupation of the land and the driving out of the people already there? For example, the occupation of the land by Jewish immigration in recent times and the violence used to deprive some 750,000 Palestinian people from their homes at the time the State of Israel was established in 1948? (This is known by the Palestinian people as Al Nakba – the catastrophe).
vi) Clarence Wagner describes the creation of the modern state of Israel as a ‘miracle’. What is meant by ‘miracle’? Was Al Nakba a ‘miracle’ – driving people from their ancestral land and property with no right of reclaim; the creation of the Gaza Strip; all the refugee camps; the occupied Palestinian territory with the destruction of community life; and the impoverishment of the Palestinian people?
vii) Justice is a major theme in both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. For example “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8) and “Strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness…” (Matthew 6:33). Are these not a challenge to the policies of the State of Israel?
viii) How can Christians support the violation of human rights in the name of alleged divinely conferred exclusive rights to a specific area of land?
2. A land held in trust 
A second view is that the promise of land is literal, but that it is given conditionally to the Jewish people; on this understanding the land is God’s, given in trust to be cared for and lived in according to God’s instruction. Walter Brueggemann says in Reverberations of Faith:
 Brueggemann is a Christian scholar of the Hebrew Bible in the United States and a minister in the United Church of Christ.
 Reverberations of Faith: A Theological Handbook of Old Testament Themes by Walter Bruggemann is published by Westminster / John Knox Press (2002)
 Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land,
 Witnessing for Peace: In Jerusalem and the World by Munib Younan is published by Augsburg Books (2003)
 (See the report of the International Affairs Committee, General Assembly 2012 Acts and Proceedings, page 275, www.presbyterian.ca/download/aand)
“The great articulation of land theology in the Old Testament is found in the book of Deuteronomy. The importance of the collection of sermonic addresses and commandments is to assert the non-negotiable conditions of land possession, conditions that are worked out in policy and public action but are understood theologically as the commandments of [Jehovah]. At the centre of the land-ethic is the ‘year of release’ in Deuteronomy 15:1-18 which provides cancelling debts among the poor in community so that they may participate viably and with dignity in public. The same legal provision is writ large in the provision of the jubilee year in Leviticus 25. These laws on the year of release and jubilee year have the intention of curbing an unfettered economy by subordinating economic transactions to the needs and requirements of the civic community...The covenantal tradition of Moses and the prophets knows that no community can hope to occupy land peaceably and justly unless the claim of the neighbour is honoured in the face of exploitative possibility. Israel’s own sad experience is taken to attest to the truth of that advocacy.”
Munib Younan has pointed to the widely accepted view of scholars that the idealised biblical conquest narratives were put into their present form only centuries later, with the writers "intent on justifying their own status in the land on the basis of nationalistic perspectives." In his book Witnessing for Peace: In Jerusalem and the World he urges us to read the Pentateuch in the light of the prophets. The land is a gift, not a right, and one which brings with it obligations, most particularly to practice justice and to dwell equitably with the stranger. The Presbyterian Church in Canada’s 2012 General Assembly reached a similar conclusion: “For neither ancient nomadic peoples nor modern corporations is the land a free gift without the responsibility.” Possession of any land is clearly conditional. The question that arises is this: Would the Jewish people today have a fairer claim to the land if they dealt justly with the Palestinians? According to the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel of 14 May 1948, the intention was to create a just society:
“The State of Israel will be open for Jewish immigration and for the ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure the complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race, or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.”
This formal acceptance of the equality of all its citizens created a tension from the start with the state of Israel’s ethno-national, Zionist goals. There is a direct conflict of interest between wanting human rights and justice for all and retaining the right to the land. The decision not to adopt a formal constitution led to  the limiting of civil liberties, for example, in relation to land expropriation and the imposition of military government on Palestinians in Israel until 1966. Despite an independent judiciary, liberal-democratic values were violated in immigration, citizenship, education, economic, and most of all in land policies. The state of Israel has always been an ethnic democracy. Under Ben-Gurion, the first Prime Minister and Minister of Defence, the Arab minority had to live separately under Jewish rule. It has to be recognised that the enormity of the Holocaust has often reinforced the belief that Israel is entitled to the land unconditionally. There is guilt among Western Christianity about centuries of anti-Semitism that led to discrimination against the Jews, culminating in the total evil of the Holocaust. There is also a belief among some Jewish people that they have a right to the land of Israel as compensation for the suffering of the Holocaust. One contemporary commentator who faces these two issues is Mark Braverman, an American Jew who grew up sharing the beliefs of his community. In his book Fatal Embrace he writes:
 Fatal Embrace: Christians, Jews, and the Search for Peace in the Holy Land by Mark Braverman is published by Synergy Books (2010)
“As a Jew born into a religiously observant family in post-World War II America, I was raised in a potent combination of Rabbinic Judaism and political Zionism. I grew up immersed in the Zionist narrative of return to the Jewish homeland. I was taught that a miracle – born of heroism and bravery – had blessed my generation. The State of Israel was not a mere historical event – it was redemption from millennia of marginalisation, demonisation and murderous violence. The legacy of this history was a sense of separateness – a collective identity of brittle superiority for having survived, despite the effort ‘in every age’ – so reads the Passover liturgy – to eradicate us. The ideology and mythology of the birth of the State of Israel partook of this legacy of separateness, vulnerability and specialness. I embraced it.”
His attitude was radically changed by visiting Palestine in 2006 and seeing the reality, the range and the reach of the injustices on the ground and his horror that these were being done in his name. He is clear about the fact that Christian people have to repent of the wrongs done to the Jewish people, but this does not mean that the church cannot criticise Zionism today: “Christian people must not sell out the Palestinian people because of repentance for the Holocaust, ‘sensitivity’ to Jewish feelings, and fear of being labelled anti-Semitic.” To be critical of Zionism is not anti-Semitic. Braverman is adamant that Christians must not sacrifice the universalist, inclusive dimension of Christianity and revert to the particular exclusivism of the Jewish faith because we feel guilty about the Holocaust. He is equally clear that the Jewish people have to repent of the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians between 1947 and 1949. They must be challenged, too, to stop thinking of themselves as victims and special, and recognise that the present immoral, unjust treatment of Palestinian people is unsustainable. Braverman challenges, too, what he calls ‘revisionist Christian theology’, more widely known as Western post-Holocaust theology, i.e. theology which takes away Jesus’ radical critique of Jewish theology and practice in order to provide no excuse for Christian anti-Semitism. In this approach, he claims, the Jewish people are and remain God’s chosen. This gives them the right to land, to triumph over enemies and a sense of specialness. Other people’s part in this is limited to being pushed aside to make way for occupation, being agents of God’s punishment of the Jews for their disobedience and witnessing to God’s glory through Jewish survival and prosperity.
As long as Zionists think that Jewish people are serving God’s special purpose and that abuses by the state of Israel, however wrong and regrettable, don’t invalidate the Zionist project, they will believe themselves more entitled to the land than the Palestinian people. A final difficulty is Jewish ‘exceptionalism’, with its interpretation of the covenant in Exodus 19:3-6:
“Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain and said, ‘This is what you are to say to the house of Jacob and tell the sons of Israel: You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I have carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you here to me. If only you will now listen to me and keep my covenant, then out of all peoples you will become my special possession; for the whole earth is mine. You will be to me a kingdom of priests, my holy nation. Those are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.’”
3. A land with a universal mission
An adequate Christian understanding of the ‘promised land’ must take into account two further points, in addition to the conditional nature of promises in the Hebrew Bible:
i. There are different meanings attached to “land” in different contexts and in the theological and political agendas of the various authors of the Hebrew Bible.
ii. The New Testament contains a radical re-interpretation of the concepts of “Israel”, “temple”, “Jerusalem”, and “land”.
i. The Hebrew Bible
The boundaries of the land are described in different ways in different situations. Abraham’s descendants, “numerous as the stars in the sky”, will receive “all these lands”, and through them “all nations on earth will be blessed” (Genesis 26:4). This suggests a more inclusive picture than “the land of Canaan” (Genesis 12:5) or even “from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates” (Genesis 15:18). The lack of detailed archaeological evidence supports the view that the range of scriptural material makes it inappropriate to try to use the Hebrew scriptures to determine an area of land meant exclusively for the Jewish people. The prophetic writings especially were developing a different understanding In Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings, force is used to achieve Israel‘s nationalistic goals. This is continued by the Maccabees in the 2nd century BC and the Zealots in AD 1st century. That exclusivist tradition implied Jews had a special, privileged position in relation to God. But the prophetic tradition stood against this. Narrative of the Babylonian captivity demonstrated that God was not confined to ‘their’ land, or was concerned only for ‘them’.
 Naim Ateek explores this matter in his book Justice and Only Justice, arguing that from Amos in the 8th century BC, God’s purposes begin to be thought of as inclusive and universal. The book of Jonah is a key text for understanding the Hebrew Bible’s promise of the land to Abraham and his descendants. Written at a time when Jewish people were turning inwards, the book presents Jonah as a Jewish nationalist to drive home the point: God‘s universal, inclusive love is for all. God in Jonah is merciful, gracious, a liberator of the oppressed and sinful who looks for just living. The people of God even include the hated Assyrians. So Jonah suggests a new theology of the land, because God was not confined within the land of Israel, but also embraced the land of Assyria.
Kairos Palestine (2.3):
We believe that our land has a universal mission. In this universality, the meaning of the promises, of the land, of the election, of the people of God, open up to include all of humanity, starting from all the peoples of this land. 
ii. New Testament
The New Testament is even clearer about a process in the unfolding of God’s purposes of good for humanity, Hebrews 1:1-2: “Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a son whom he appointed heir to all things.” Previous experiences of land, including the peaceful returns from exile, were stages towards a wider future. This is the understanding throughout the New Testament. The Good News of Jesus is inclusive. The incident that follows the ‘Nazareth Manifesto’ in Luke 4 (verses 25-30) makes the point clearly:
“But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up for three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.’ When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.”
Jesus offered a radical critique of Jewish specialness and exclusivism, but the people of Nazareth were not ready for it. John’s gospel speaks of Jesus being lifted up and drawing all people to himself (John 12:32). Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple means not just that the Temple needs to be reformed, but that the Temple is finished. Stephen‘s speech in Acts 7 makes it clear that God is no longer confined to the place of the Temple. Temple and land give way to a new understanding so Paul can say that all the barriers that separated Jews from the rest are down – “there is neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, male or female in Christ Jesus.” The new ‘place’ where God is found is wherever people gather in the name of Jesus. If Jesus is indeed the Yes to all God’s promises the promise to Abraham about land is fulfilled through the impact of Jesus, not by restoration of land to the Jewish people. Jesus gave a new direction and message for the people of God, one which did not feature a special area of land for them. From the day of Pentecost his followers were sent to work for a different kind of kingdom. When the apostle Paul spelt it out for the emerging church in Rome he began to answer the question about the Jewish people who were not following Jesus. His conclusions that “all Israel will be saved”, and that “God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all” (Romans 11:26, 32) have tested all subsequent interpreters, but most recent ones see a vision of a reconciliation beyond this age. No part of the New Testament gives any support to a political state of Israel beyond that to any other state. All are challenged to the same requirements for justice and the protection of human rights for all their inhabitants.
The challenge of a new kingdom?
Promises about the land of Israel were never intended to be taken literally, or as applying to a defined geographical territory. They are a way of speaking about how to live under God so that justice and peace reign, the weak and poor are protected, the stranger is included, and all have a share in the community and a contribution to make to it. The ‘promised land’ in the Bible is not a place, so much as a metaphor of how things ought to be among the people of God. This ‘promised land’ can be found – or built – anywhere. Jesus’ vision of the kingdom is not for one limited area of territory, it is a way of anticipating how things can be if people are obedient to God. Metaphor and symbol are often used by the Biblical writers. Words such as ‘widow’, ‘stranger’, ‘orphan’, ‘wilderness,’ ‘neighbour,’ ‘Egypt,’ ‘exodus’ and ‘exile’ have symbolic reference. So Walter Brueggeman comments on the poetry of Isaiah 2: 9
 2 Corinthians 1:20 “For in him every one of God’s promises is a ‘Yes’…”
“Exile is a sense of not belonging, of being in an environment hostile to the values of the community and its vocation. Babylon refers to a concentration of power and value which is dominant and which is finally hostile to the covenant faith of this community. The empire regularly seeks to domesticate such a community and characteristically ends in oppression. Homecoming is a dramatic decision to break with imperial rationality and to embrace a place called home where covenantal values have currency and credibility. The juxtaposition of exile, Babylon and homecoming means that this poetry of Isaiah 2 is not aimed simply at geographical, spatial possibility but at relational covenant reality.”
[Story – in a box :Bethlehem Bible College, from an historic Baptist and evangelical stance, has recently been hosting Christ at the Checkpoint conferences (see www.christatthecheckpoint.com). At the most recent, participants were challenged to move away from seeing the Middle East through the lens of “end times” prophecy and instead look to follow Jesus in the prophetic pursuit of justice, peace and reconciliation. The evangelical leaders in the Palestinian Baptist community are engaging with Kairos Palestine, and the non-geographic nature of God’s promises.]
Kairos Palestine (3.4.3):
Our Church points to the Kingdom, which cannot be tied to any earthly kingdom. Jesus said before Pilate that he was indeed a king but “my kingdom is not from this world”. St Paul says: “The Kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:7). Therefore religion cannot favour or support any unjust political regime, but must rather promote justice, truth and human dignity.
From this last perspective, the desire of many in the state of Israel to acquire the land of Palestine for the Jewish people is wrong. The fact that the land is currently being taken by settlement expansion, the separation barrier, house clearance, theft and force makes it doubly wrong to seek biblical sanction for this. Church leaders from South Africa, following a visit to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories in the autumn of 2012, observed similarities to the concluding years of the apartheid regime in South Africa. They concur with proposals to consider economic and political measures involving boycotts, disinvestment and sanctions against the state of Israel focused on illegal settlements, as the best way of convincing Israeli politicians and voters that what is happening is wrong, and that Christians around the world should not contribute in any way to the viability of illegal settlements. This raises particular questions for the Church of Scotland as we seek to respond to the question: “What does the Lord require of you…?”
From this examination of the various views in the Bible about the relation of land to the people of God, it can be concluded that Christians should not be supporting any claims by Jewish or any other people, to an exclusive or even privileged divine right to possess particular territory. It is a misuse of the Bible to use it as a topographic guide to settle contemporary conflicts over land. In the Bible, God’s promises extend in hope to all land and people. Focussed as they are on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, these promises call for a commitment in every place to justice in a spirit of reconciliation. In the context of the present situation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory we remain committed to the following principles, previously set out and agreed by the General Assembly (the years indicate Deliverances passed which back up these points):
That the current situation is characterised by an inequality in power and therefore reconciliation can only be possible if the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and the blockade of Gaza, are ended. (2001, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2011, 2012)
The Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank are illegal under International Law. The Church of Scotland, individuals and civil organisations should urge the UK government and the international community as a matter of urgency to put pressure on Israel to cease from the expansion of these settlements. (2003, 2006, 2011)
The Church of Scotland must remain in dialogue and fellowship with ecumenical partners to support concerns for justice and peace. (2002, 2006, 2011, 2012)
That the Church of Scotland should do nothing to promote the viability of the illegal settlements on Palestinian land. (2006, 2011, 2012)
The Church of Scotland should support projects which prioritise peace-building, poverty alleviation and the Palestinian economy. (2006, 2011, 2012)
That human rights of all peoples should be respected but this should include the right of return and / or compensation for Palestinian refugees. (2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2012)
That negotiations between the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority about peace with justice must resume at the earliest opportunity and the Church of Scotland should continue to put political pressure on all parties to commence such negotiations, and asking all parties to recognise the inequality in power which characterises this situation. (2007, 2009, 2012)
That there are safe rights of access to the sacred sites for the main religions in the area. (2006, 2007)
Refute claims that scripture offers any peoples a privileged claim for possession of a particular territory.
Note that the current situation is characterised by an inequality in power and therefore reconciliation can only be possible if the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and the blockade of Gaza, are ended, and on that basis encourage all parties and the international community to renew peace negotiations.
Instruct the C&S Council to publicise resources to encourage wide discussion of the report The Inheritance of Abraham and its concluding principles.
Encourage the appropriate committees in Presbyteries to consider the report The Inheritance of Abraham and bring it to the notice of their Presbytery.
Urge the UK Government and the European Union to do all that is within their power to ensure that human rights are respected in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
Urge the UK Government and the European Union to do all that is within their power to ensure that international law is upheld in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
Urge the UK Government and the European Union to use pressure to stop further expansion of Israeli settlements in the Occupied West Bank.
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
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An interview with Frank Barat (co-ordinator of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine)