Why the Palmer-Uribe report on Israel’s flotilla attack is worthless

Turkey has imposed sanctions on Israel following Turkey’s rejection of a UN report on Israel’s attack on the Gaza flotilla last year.

In the latest developments on Friday morning, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu rejected the findings of the report and announced unprecedented sanctions on Israel saying “it’s time for Israel to pay a price.”

From 7 September, diplomatic ties will be reduced to the lowest level, all Turkish-Israeli military agreements will be canceled, and Turkey will support victims of the Israeli attack on the flotilla to pursue justice through legal cases.

Crucially, Davutoğlu affirmed that Turkey does not recognize the blockade of Gaza which the Palmer report attempted to justify, and which a UN Human Rights Council official fact-finding mission had already ruled to be illegal. Turkey will also challenge the Israeli siege of Gaza through international legal channels.

Palmer report attempts to whitewash attack on flotilla, justify Israeli siege

A leaked copy of the Palmer report into Israel’s attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla in May 2010 was published by the New York Times on Thursday, a day before its expected official release by the UN Secretary General.

On 31 May 2010, Israel attacked the largest ship in the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, the Mavi Marmara, killing 9 people on board.

Publication of the report had been delayed several times as Turkey and Israel attempted to negotiate a settlement. Turkey demanded an apology for the attack, compensation for victims and an end to the siege of Gaza. In his statement today Davutoğlu said Israel had passed up many opportunities to resolve the issue.

The four-member committee that wrote the Palmer report was appointed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and was chaired by former New Zealand prime minister Geoffrey Palmer and vice-chaired by former president of Colombia Alvaro Uribe.

This panel is in addition to an official UN Human Rights Council fact-finding mission which reported last September that Israel’s attack on the ships was illegal.

According to the The New York Times article on the Palmer report, the Palmer panel:

has found that Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza is both legal and appropriate. But it said that the way Israeli forces boarded the vessels trying to break that blockade 15 months ago was excessive and unreasonable.

The report, expected to be released Friday, also found that when Israeli commandos boarded the main ship, they faced “organized and violent resistance from a group of passengers” and were therefore required to use force for their own protection. But the report called the force “excessive and unreasonable,” saying that the loss of life was unacceptable and that the Israeli military’s later treatment of passengers was abusive.

An initial examination of the report indicates that these many of findings are not credible on their face for a number of reasons including the composition of the panel, its reliance on Israel which has controlled and withheld most of the evidence, and a skewed and politicized perspective which ignores the realities of Israel’s decades-long violent occupation of Gaza.

Palmer panel was stacked for Israel and includes notorious human rights abuser

As Jose Antonio Gutierrez and David Landy explained on The Electronic Intifada in August 2010, the panel was selected almost entirely according to Israel’s dictates:

The commission is composed of four persons, one chosen by Turkey, one chosen by Israel and two chosen from a list provided by Israel. The latter two are former Prime Minister of New Zealand Geoffrey Palmer, who will be the chair, and Uribe, who will serve as vice-chair. While Palmer, an expert in international law, is an uncontroversial choice, the appointment of Uribe is as perplexing as it is shocking. It appears that “balance” in this commission involves balance between someone versed in international and human rights law and someone who is adamantly opposed to it. This notion of balance fatally weakens this commission even before it has started, and tarnishes the process of international law.

Uribe himself has a long and notorious history of violating human rights on a massive scale, attacking human rights defenders and organizations, and expressing contempt for any notion of law that restrains states from engaging in almost any kind of violence they desire.

Gutierrez and Landy on Uribe’s record in Colombia:

In June 2010 an international human rights mission investigated the biggest mass grave in the western hemisphere — containing some 2,000 execution victims who had been dumped there since 2004 — which had just been discovered in the Colombian town of La Macarena. At the same time Uribe travelled to that very locality but not to pay his condolences to the victims’ families, or guarantee that an investigation would determine what happened there. Instead, he went to visit the local military base — exactly the same people that, according to victims’ reports, filled that mass grave with its grisly contents — to praise them for their work.

On Uribe’s attacks on human rights defenders, Gutierrez and Landy write:

Uribe’s scorn for human right defenders is notorious. According to Human Rights First, “President Uribe and other administration officials have branded [human rights defenders] as terrorist sympathizers and have insinuated that illicit connections exist between human rights NGOs [nongovernmental organizations] and illegal armed groups. Irresponsible comments by government officials in Colombia put the lives of human rights defenders at even greater risk and threaten to undermine the value and credibility of their work” (“Human Rights Defencers in Colombia”).

In September 2009 Colombia was visited by Margaret Sekaggya, special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders from the UN Human Rights Commission. Sekaggya found that constant problems faced by human rights defenders in Colombia include “Stigmatization [of human rights defenders] by public officials and non-State actors; their illegal surveillance by State intelligence services; their arbitrary arrest and detention, and their judicial harassment; and raids of nongovernmental organizations’ (NGOs) premises and theft of information” (“Report of the Special Rapporteur …,” 4 March 2010, pp. 13-18 [PDF]).  Public officials in Colombia constantly attack human rights defenders and members of the political and social opposition as aides of “terrorists,” that is, left-wing guerrillas.

Uribe has led these attacks, calling human rights defenders “rent-a-mobs at terrorism’s service who cowardly wave the human rights flag,” “human rights traffickers,” “charlatans of human rights,” “bandits’ [ie. guerrillas] colleagues,” “intellectual front of the FARC [the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia]” and he has stated that “Every time terrorists and their supporters feel they will be defeated, they resort to denouncing human rights violations.

This is just a small selection of Uribe’s verbal attacks on human rights organizations in his own country, but he has also referred to Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch as “rats.”

Uribe’s alliance with Israel

During Uribe’s term, Colombia, which is one of the top three recipients of US military aid along with Israel and Egypt, developed a close military alliance with Israel, as Gutierrez and Landy explain:

In recent years, according to news reports, Israel has become Colombia’s number one weapon supplier, with arms worth tens of millions of dollars, “including Kfir aircraft, drones, weapons and intelligence systems” being used against opponents of the Colombian regime (“Report: Israelis fighting guerillas in Colombia,” Ynet, 10 August 2007). According to a senior Israeli defense official, “Israel’s methods of fighting terror have been duplicated in Colombia” (“Colombia’s FM: We share your resilience,” 30 April 2010).

There is a reason that Latin Americans often refer to Colombia as the “Israel of Latin America,” and indeed why Colombian President-elect Juan Manuel Santos, ex-Minister of Defence and right hand of Uribe, expressed his pride at such a comparison (“Santos, orgulloso de que a Colombia lo comparen con Israel,” El Espectador, 6 June 2010).

As Gutierrez and Landy also point out, top officials in Uribe’s administration, including the president himself, frequently expressed full support for Israel’s fight against what it terms “terrorism.”

Israel withheld and manipulated evidence

The Palmer panel cannot be described in any sense as an independent investigation. As the report states:

The Panel received and reviewed reports of the detailed national investigations conducted by both Turkey and Israel. Turkey established a National Commission of Inquiry to examine the facts of the incident and its legal consequences, which provided an interim and final report to the Panel along with annexes and related material. Israel provided the report of the independent Public Commission that it had established to review whether the actions taken by the State of Israel had been compatible with international law.

The Panel reviewed these reports and further information and clarifications it received in written form and through direct meetings with Points of Contact appointed by each government.

The report adds:

In particular, the Panel’s means of obtaining information were through diplomatic channels. The Panel enjoyed no coercive powers to compel witnesses to provide evidence. It could not conduct criminal investigations. The Panel was required to obtain its information from the two nations primarily involved in its inquiry, Turkey and Israel, and other affected States.

The panel therefore interviewed no survivors or witnesses. Only Israel controlled most key physical evidence – the ship itself and the belongings and recordings of all the passengers and the weapons Israel used in carrying out the attack. The panel did not have uncensored access to the massive amounts of evidence in the form of photo and video from passengers on board that Israel has stolen, hidden and refused to release or return. As a consequence, of these crippling limitations, the report states:

It means that the Panel cannot make definitive findings either of fact or law. But it can give its view.

The panel also implies that its own independence is further in question because:

It will be clear from the above that the essential logic of the Panel’s inquiry is that it is dependent upon the investigations conducted by Israel and Turkey.

In contrast, the UN Human Rights Council fact-finding mission report published last September went much beyond merely commenting on information provided by governments. That fact-finding mission:

conducted interviews with more than 100 witnesses in Geneva, London, Istanbul and Amman.

And in addition to information provided by governments, the Human Rights Council also relied on information

including the evidence of eyewitnesses, forensic reports and interviews with medical and forensic personnel in Turkey, as well as written statements, video film footage and other photographic material relating to the incident.

Perhaps because of its thoroughness, Israel refused to cooperate with the Human Rights Council fact-finding mission, just as it refused to cooperate with the Goldstone report.

Accusations of “violent resistance”

The Palmer panel report claims:

Israeli Defense Forces personnel faced significant, organized and violent resistance from a group of passengers when they boarded the Mavi Marmara requiring them to use force for their own protection. Three soldiers were captured, mistreated, and placed at risk by those passengers. Several others were wounded.

Given the fact that Palmer panel did not gather any evidence of its own, its conclusion that the Israeli military attackers who  boarded the Mavi Marmara under cover of dark in international waters, faced “organized and violent resistance” can be given no more credibility than any common or garden Israeli military press release.

While Israel has repeatedly made such claims, it never produced independent evidence of it and – as noted – is still concealing evidence.

Nevertheless, the video footage that did escape Israeli confiscation showed:

Even the deeply flawed Palmer report is forced to admit:

The loss of life and injuries resulting from the use of force by Israeli forces during the take-over of the Mavi Marmara was unacceptable. Nine passengers were killed and many others seriously wounded by Israeli forces. No satisfactory explanation has been provided to the Panel by Israel for any of the nine deaths. Forensic evidence showing that most of the deceased were shot multiple times, including in the back, or at close range has not been adequately accounted for in the material presented by Israel.

Moreover, the propagandistic Israeli claims that their soldiers were mistreated were belied by photographs that showed passengers giving aid and protection to Israeli attackers who had been disarmed.

It is possible of course that passengers defended themselves against a terrifying Israeli assault in dead of night with a full military arsenal that included assault helicopters and elite commandos against a civilian ship.

Indeed, footage shows terrified passengers hiding and attempting to fend off indiscriminate fire with sticks in a blood-stained stairwell. But to equate any of this to “organized and violent resistance” that could in any way justify Israel’s execution-style killings is completely absurd.

The blockade is “legal”

The Palmer report’s assertion that the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza is legal and necessary for “security” echoes the other aspects of the report that accept Israeli military propaganda as given.

By privileging the security of Israel, the occupying power, the report also ignores the rights and needs for security of the Palestinian people in Gaza who are being collectively punished and who have been subjected to decades of indiscriminate Israeli military attacks in which thousands of civilians have been killed and injured.

Yet this opinion of the Panel is, as the report states, not binding in any legal sense. But more importantly, it has no bearing at all on the assault on the Mavi Marmara, which Israel attacked in international waters as it was moving away from the Gaza Strip and the Israeli-controlled coast of Palestine.

Israel’s claim that it needs to blockade people it is violently victimizing in order to prevent them obtaining any means means whatsoever to defend themselves can only be made by wholly ignoring the context of Israel’s violent occupation of Gaza and decades of well-documented war crimes.

Israel is not in a defensive position in which it can claim a “security” need to impose a blockade. Israel is the military aggressor which for decades from 1967 until 2005 violently colonized the Gaza Strip, placing settlers there in blatant violation of international law. Since 2005, Israel has continued to occupy besiege, harass, attack and kill civilians in Gaza with almost no respite culminating in the indiscriminate killing of hundreds of civilians during the 2008-2009 “Operation Cast Lead.”

A perfect example of Israel’s wanton violence was its unprovoked series of attacks on the Gaza Strip last month which killed more than two dozen people, including children.

Human Rights Council fact-finding mission and legality of Israeli blockade

The UN Human Rights Council had already concluded that Israel’s interception of the flotilla was illegal because the blockade was unjustified:

In evaluating the evidence submitted to the Mission, including by OCHA oPt [Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs in the occupied Palestinian territories), confirming the severe humanitarian situation in Gaza, the destruction of the economy and the prevention of reconstruction (as detailed above), the Mission is satisfied that the blockade was inflicting disproportionate damage upon the civilian population in the Gaza strip and that as such the interception could not be justified and therefore has to be considered illegal.

It also concludes:

The Mission considers that one of the principal motives behind the imposition of the blockade was a desire to punish the people of the Gaza Strip for having elected Hamas. The combination of this motive and the effect of the restrictions on the Gaza Strip leave no doubt that Israel’s actions and policies amount to collective punishment as defined by international law.

and that:

the blockade amounts to collective punishment in violation of Israel’s obligations under international humanitarian law.

Palmer panel went against international consensus on blockade

Moreover, the Turkish appointee on the Palmer panel, Süleyman Özdem Sanberk, noted in a dissenting statement rejecting large parts of the report:

On the legal aspect of the blockade, Turkey and Israel have submitted two opposing arguments. International legal authorities are divided on the matter since it is unprecedented, highly complex and the legal framework lacks codification. However, the Chairmanship and its report fully associated itself with Israel and categorically dismissed the views of the other, despite the fact that the legal arguments presented by Turkey have been supported by the vast majority of the international community. Common sense and conscience dictate that the blockade is unlawful.

  • Also the UN Human Rights Council concluded that the blockade was unlawful. The Report of the Human Rights Council Fact Finding Mission received widespread approval from the member states.
  • Freedom and safety of navigation on the high seas is a universally accepted rule of international law. There can be no exception from this long-standing principle unless there is a universal convergence of views.
  • The intentions of the participants in the international humanitarian convoy were humanitarian, reflecting the concerns of the vast majority of the international community. They came under attack in international waters. They resisted for their own protection. Nine civilians were killed and many others were injured by the Israeli soldiers. One of the victims is still in a coma. The evidence confirms that at least some of the victims had been killed deliberately.
  • The wording in the report is not satisfactory in describing the actual extent of the atrocities that the victims have been subjected to. This includes the scope of the maltreatment suffered by the passengers in the hands of Israeli soldiers and officials.

After Goldstone, protecting Israel

Based on what was known before its report became public, and now that we have read the report, it is clear that the Palmer panel was no more than political exercise by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to whitewash Israel’s attack on the flotilla and protect it from any real accountability.

After Israel and the United States’s all out war on the Goldstone report detailing Israeli war crimes in Gaza, it appears that international officials are unwilling to repeat the experience.

Indeed, an exclusive report on The Electronic Intifada in June 2010 revealed intense diplomatic efforts to undermine Turkey’s push for an independent UN investigation into Israel’s flotilla attack.

The Palmer panel was stacked from the start to ensure Israeli impunity, not to provide truth for the victims and survivors of the Mavi Marmara.

(Ali Abunimah / electronicintifada.net / 02.09.2011)

Turkey Expels Israeli Ambassador

Turkey, (Pal Telegraph) – Turkey said Friday that it was suspending all military agreements with Israel and would expel its ambassador from Ankara, blaming the Israeli government for the collapse of a once-strategic alliance.

The comments from Foreign Minister Ahment Davutoglu came as a United Nations panel was due to release its report on last year’s clash off the coast of Gaza, in which Israeli commandoes killed eight Turkish citizens and one American of Turkish descent while blocking an aid flotilla.

Mr. Davutoglu said Turkey was taking action due to Israel’s failure to apologize for the deaths. “Israel’s government is responsible for the point that we have reached today. Unless necessary steps are taken, it won’t be possible to return from this point,” Mr. Davutoglu said in a televised statement.

“Relations between Turkey and Israel will be downgraded to second-secretary level. All officials over the level of second secretary, primarily the ambassador, will turn back to their country at the latest on Wednesday.”

Turkey and Israel signed a number of military agreements in the 1990s that led to a close, military-led alliance. At its peak, the relationship had Israeli pilots training over Turkish airspace and Israel supplying Turkey with high-end technology such as unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs. A foreign-ministry official said “all” agreements would be suspended, but didn’t elaborate.

The rapprochement between two countries that hadn’t always been close came at a time when Turkey was isolated from many of its neighbors. In the 1990s, Turkey came close to war with both Greece and Syria, while its relations with Iraq and Iran were strained. Turkey’s military at the same time was engaged in a vicious conflict with ethnic Kurdish militants and needed Israeli expertise.

Since then, however, Turkey’s situation has changed dramatically, in part due to Mr. Davutoglu’s foreign policy of “zero problems with neighbors.” Its defense industry has also become significantly more sophisticated. As Turkey has opened up to the Muslim Middle East, its need for alliance with Israel has declined, analysts say.

Indeed, it wasn’t immediately clear Friday what impact the downgrading of relations Mr. Davutoglu announced would have. Turkey has been freezing joint military exercises since 2009, while there have been few high-level political contacts. Turkey withdrew its own ambassador from Israel more than a year ago.

The conclusions of the U.N. panel, headed by former New Zealand Prime Minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer and Alvaro Uribe, Colombia’s former president, have come as a disappointment to Turkish officials. An earlier report from the U.N.’s human-rights commission was considerably more supportive of the Turkish account of events.

The Palmer report supports Israel’s right to enforce a naval blockade of Gaza, even in international waters, a right that Ankara has strongly contested. The report, a copy of which was posted on the website of The New York Times, also described the Mavi Marmara’s attempt to breach the blockade as “reckless.”

The report found that at least some of the Turkish activists on board had prepared for a fight and didn’t confirm the Turkish claim that Israeli soldiers fired live ammunition against the Mavi Marmara’s passengers even before boarding the ship.

At the same time, the report found the force that Israel used in stopping the flotilla to be “excessive and unreasonable.” It also cast doubt over Israel’s exoneration of its soldiers’ conduct, saying that Israel had failed to explain the fact that several of the dead had been shot in the head from behind, while lying down wounded, or in one case with a single shot to the head while armed
only with a hose pipe.

(networkedblogs.com / 02.09.2011)

PRESS RELEASE FROM BEETHOVIANS FOR BOYCOTTING ISRAEL

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

A new vocal ensemble, Beethovians for Boycotting Israel (BBI), gave its debut performance at a Prom concert at the Royal Albert Hall yesterday evening.

Their first piece was intricately interwoven with Webern’s Passacaglia, played by guest artists the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (IPO).

We thought we’d liven up the Webern a bit” said Deborah Fink (soprano).  “The performance of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony at the previous night’s Prom was so exciting that we decided to treat the audience to our own version of the Ode to Joy“.

The lyrics of the BBI’s ”Ode to Boycott” have an unmistakably Beethovian ring:

Israel, end your occupation:

There’s no peace on stolen land.

We’ll sing out for liberation

till you hear and understand.

Ethnic cleansing and apartheid

Should belong to history.

Human rights cannot be silenced:

Palestine will soon be free.

Sue Blackwell (alto), who penned the alternative lyrics, said: “We think Ludwig would have approved. He was known to be a bit of a subversive who had no time for conventions, and he admired the French Revolution with its themes of ‘Liberty, Equality, Fraternity’. Sadly, Israel represents the exact opposite of those ideals.”

During the second piece, Bruch’s Violin Concerto, and in Albėniz’s ”Iberia” after the interval, BBI duos and trios took part in the Proms charitable tradition of synchronised slogan-shouting, including “THE SIEGE OF GAZA – IS OUT OF TUNE – WITH INTERNATIONAL LAW” and “THE IPO – ARE INSTRUMENTAL – IN AN ILLEGAL OCCUPATION”.

The BBI recital was somewhat curtailed on this occasion due to its members being removed by the Albert Hall security staff, so that they had to continue outside. However, they are intending to build on their Proms success and are now looking for a suitable venue for their next performance.

[ends]

Quotations:

Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi (soprano) of Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods, who was one of the choral performers, said:

All this precious talk about the purity of the music ignores the toxic nature of Israel’s suppression of the Palestinian people.”

Willem Meijs (tenor, aged 70) said:

As someone steeped in classical music from an early age, and a frequent visitor to the Proms since the fifties, I was very hesitant about disrupting a concert in such a hallowed venue. However, I thought inviting the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra was a provocation in its own right. So I felt voicing a peaceful protest during their concert would be nothing compared to the bombing of innocent civilians and the slow but steady genocide inflicted on the Palestinians by the state of Israel, of which this orchestra claims to be a cultural ambassador.”

Aharon Shabtai, Israel’s greatest living poet, wrote recently:

I do not believe that a State that maintains an occupation, committing on a daily basis crimes against civilians, deserves to be invited to any kind of cultural event. That is, it is anti-cultural; it is a barbarian act masked as culture in the most cynical way. It manifests support for Israel, and … that sustains the occupation.’

Notes for editors: 

1.         An open letter was sent to the Proms organisers on July 18th by PACBI, the Palestinian Campaign for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.  PACBI referred to “the IPO’s complicity in whitewashing Israel’s persistent violations of international law and human rights”, mentioning specifically the IPO’s services to the Israeli army dating back to the ethnic cleansing of the Nakba in 1948 and the occupations of 1967, and continuing up to the present day: “the IPO proudly announces its partnership with the army under a scheme whereby special concerts for Israeli soldiers are organized at their army outposts”.  On behalf of the leading Palestinian musical and cultural organisations, PACBI called on the BBC to withdraw its invitation to the IPO.  http://www.pacbi.org/

2.         The British Committee for the Universities of Palestine, BRICUP, also wrote to the BBC calling on it to cancel the invitation.  http://www.bricup.org.uk

3.         Unknown to the Proms organisers, the protesters had bought over 40 tickets in a variety of locations in the Royal Albert Hall, including boxes.  A group of fifteen were seated in the choir.  During the Webern piece the “choir” stood up with letters spelling out “FREE PALESTINE” and sang the “Ode to Boycott” repeatedly until they were removed.  When a further group of protesters shouted slogans as the Bruch piece was about to begin, the BBC suspended their live transmission on Radio 3.  The BBC attempted to recommence after the interval, but further groups of protesters shouted slogans at the start of the Albėniz piece.  At this point the BBC stopped live transmission for the rest of the evening.  This is believed to be the first occasion when transmission of a Prom has been disrupted by protesters.

4.         All the protesters left peacefully when requested to do so by security. There were no arrests. Some of the protesters were assaulted by members of the audience but they did not retaliate.

(londonbds.org / (on this side more video’s (Red.)  / 02.09.2011)

Settlers Plan Attacks Against Palestinians In September

As Israel decided to further arm the settlers by providing them with stun grenades and tear gas bombs, the settlers, supported by extremist right wing factions in Israel, are preparing a plan to “respond to any popular Palestinian move that will likely take place as the Palestinian leadership asks the United Nations this month to recognize a Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Extremist right-wing factions in Israel are preparing a plan dubbed “children against children, women and women”, as part of settlers’ activities and attacks against the unnamed Palestinian population in the West Bank and in occupied East Jerusalem.

Jewish settlers, illegally living in the occupied territories, are a largely armed population and well trained for combat situations.

The settlers currently own more than half a million automatic rifles, and practically unlimited amounts of ammunition.

A number of fundamentalist settler organizations confirmed that the preparations started last month, and that plans to attack Palestinian areas are already in place to contain the anticipated Palestinian popular activities.

Such plans will most certainly lead to direct confrontation with the Palestinians, while a large number of casualties is a likely scenario.

The main figure behind the settlers’ plans to attack the occupied territories is Member of Knesset, Michael Ben-Ari, of the extremist National Union Party (Ichud Leumi) along with extremist settlers, especially from the Hilltop Youth Movement, and supporters of the outlawed Kahane Chai movement, the splinter group of Kach terrorist group.

It is worth mentioning that the current Israeli Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, used to be affiliated with Kach movement, and when he became a Knesset member, including when he served as the Minister of Strategic Affairs, he always called for the expulsion of all Arabs and Palestinians from the country, and considered them a “demographic threat to Israel”.

The eight-page plan includes instructions regarding operations in Palestinian cities and villages in the West Bank and in Jerusalem.

Its main slogan is “let’s transform September from a threat to a historic opportunity to change the rules of the game”.

It also states that “should the UN officially recognize a Palestinian independent state, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians will take off to the streets, to celebrate, and they might approach the settlements”, and adds, “Unarmed Palestinian women and children will lead the processions heading to the settlements, this will push the Israeli soldiers to open fire at them, and this issue will lead to a full collapse in the security situation, and the Palestinians will resume their attacks against the settlements”.

Therefore, part of the plan is to have settler women confront Palestinian women, and settler children confront Palestinian children. The male settlers, heavily armed, will then “deal with the Palestinian male population of protestors”.

MK Michael Ben-Ari stated that despite assurances from the army “to protect all settlements”, and maintain clam, “the army remains a protective entity and not a political one”, and added “therefore, we will initiate our plans; we will make our own decisions”.

Despite the settlers preparations and plans to attack popular protests in the
occupied territories, especially after a leaked report revealed the “Operation Summer Seeds” that was prepared by the army, and includes providing further arms for the settlers, the army “condemned settler plans to attack the Palestinians”.

Israel daily, Haaretz, released a leaked document that states that the army distributed maps with red lines drawn on them around Israeli settlements in the West Bank, with instructions to soldiers that if Palestinian protesters get too close to the settlements, they should be shot in the legs.

The instructions do not differentiate between non-violent demonstrations by Palestinians and violent attacks by Palestinians, instead implying that non-violent demonstrators would be subjected to being shot in the legs if they cross a ‘line’ whose location has not been shared with any Palestinians.

Israeli settlers in the occupied territories are already responsible for hundreds of attacks against the Palestinians, especially several West Bank villages, and have already torched hundreds of Dunams of Palestinian farmlands, and even torched mosques after desecrating them.

The settler population in the occupied territories is a largely armed population, and besides its frequent, and in many cases deadly attacks, against the Palestinians, the settlers even attacked Israeli soldiers trying to evacuate illegal settlements.

(www.imemc.org / 02.09.2011)

Erkennen Palestijnse staat?


4maps.jpg

De meningen zijn verdeeld, ook onder de Palestina-ondersteuners. Op de 20ste van deze maand zal president Abbas de Algemene Vergadering van de Verenigde Naties vragen om de Palestijnse staat te erkennen.

Netanyahu is tegen, onze minister Rosenthal is tegen, hoewel beide zeggen voor een twee-staats oplossing te zijn, en dat lijkt een reden om voor te zijn voor iedereen die rechtvaardigheid wil. Het wordt hoog tijd dat de Palestijnen als partij internationaal ‘erkend’ worden, is de gedachte. Maar is het zo simpel?
Continue reading “Erkennen Palestijnse staat?”

Palestine protesters disrupt Israeli concert in UK

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators repeatedly interrupted a performance by Israel’s Philharmonic Orchestra at London’s famed Proms festival in a protest against its links with the Israeli army.

Security was tightened before the show at London’s famous Royal Albert Hall after protesters set up camp outside and urged concert-goers to “rip up their tickets”.

However, the measures could not prevent a group of around 30 demonstrators from loudly booing and shouting as soloist Gil Shaham prepared to play Max Bruch’s violin concerto.

BBC Radio 3, which was broadcasting the event, temporarily took the performance off air.

“We regret that as a result of sustained audience disruption within the concert hall which affected the ability to hear the music, tonight’s Israel Philharmonic Orchestra Prom was taken off air,” a BBC statement said.

Palestine campaign director Sarah Colborne earlier called on “those who support peace and human rights” not to attend.

“The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra’s services to the Israeli army continue up to the present day, performing for Israeli soldiers at army outposts,” she said.

The concert was conducted by Zubin Mehta, who is celebrating 50 years with the orchestra, which last played at the festival in 2003.

The Proms, which is run by the BBC, is a world-renowned eight-week season of around 100 classical concerts that has been running since 1895.

A spokesman for the BBC said the invitation was “a purely musical one”.

“We will be having extra security as protesters could get into the hall but there will be bag searches of the audience which they will be alerted to,” the spokesman said before the concert.”

(www.maannews.net / 02.09.2011)

Inburgeren verplicht voor uitkering in Den Haag

DEN HAAG – De gemeente Den Haag gaat zo’n 800 allochtonen met een uitkering dwingen om Nederlands te leren en in te burgeren. Als zij dat niet doen, raken zij hun uitkering kwijt.

De woordvoerster van wethouder Marnix Norder (Integratie, PvdA) heeft een bericht daarover in het AD vrijdag bevestigd.

Met de maatregel wil Den Haag allochtonen met een taalachterstand ”vooral helpen om weer te kunnen participeren in de arbeidsmarkt’’, beklemtoont de zegsvrouw. ”Dit soort achterstanden vormt een enorme belemmering als zij proberen aan werk te komen.’’

//

De gemeente heeft een selectie gemaakt van mensen in Den Haag die een uitkering krijgen en bij wie de taalachterstand een grote belemmering vormt. Dit leverde een lijst op met 3000 namen.

Cursus

Deze worden op gesprek gevraagd en krijgen de keuze voorgelegd: of ze gaan een inburgeringscursus doen en de taal leren, of ze raken hun uitkering kwijt.

Zo’n 800 allochtonen zijn al op gesprek geweest en moeten nu een inburgeringscursus gaan volgen. Er staan nog zo’n 2200 andere uitkeringsgerechtigden op de lijst die binnenkort op gesprek komen en dezelfde keuze voorgelegd krijgen.

(www.nu.nl / 02.09.2011)

 

‘Israëlische zeeblokkade Gaza legaal’

Israël heeft te kampen met een reële bedreiging van de kant van militante groeperingen in de Gazastrook. De zeeblokkade die de Joodse staat aan het gebied oplegt om wapenleveranties te voorkomen, is dan ook niet in strijd met het volkenrecht.

Dit is de conclusie van een VN-commissie die het incident met het Turkse schip Mavi Marmara in mei 2010 onderzocht. Israëlische militairen doodden toen negen Turken. Het rapport is gelekt aan The New York Times, die er vandaag uit citeert.

Het rapport is al maanden klaar, maar niet gepubliceerd om de betrekkingen tussen Israël en Turkije niet verder te schaden. Ankara is niet blij met de conclusies van het rapport.

De commissie onder leiding van de voormalige Nieuw-Zeelandse premier Geoffrey Palmer concludeert wel dat Israël ‘buitensporig en onredelijk’ geweld heeft gebruikt bij het incident. Het rapport stelt dan ook dat Israël excuses zou moeten aanbieden en een schadevergoeding zou moeten betalen.

(www.parool.nl / 01.09.2011)

UN report into flotilla attack exposes Israeli lies and criminality

(Dr. Hanan Chehata    Wednesday, 29 September 2010)

UN report into flotilla attack exposes Israeli lies and criminality

Introduction

Israel has been condemned, yet again, by the United Nations for serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian laws. A UN report released last week has confirmed that there is “clear evidence to support prosecutions” against the Israeli authorities for the crimes of “wilful killing; torture or inhumane treatment; and wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health.” These are just some of the damning conclusions reached by the United Nations Human Rights Council report which investigated the circumstances of the Israeli attack on the Freedom Flotilla to Gaza in which nine of the humanitarians on board the Mavi Marmara were killed, dozens were injured, and hundreds of the civilian passengers were abused, detained illegally and transferred to Israel by Israeli commandos. This report has been awaited anxiously by many who have been seeking clarification of the events that took place on 31st May this year.

The conclusion of the report has vindicated all the international humanitarians on board the ships while condemning Israel’s behaviour in the strongest possible terms. “The conduct of the Israeli military… towards the flotilla passengers was not only disproportionate to the occasion but demonstrated levels of totally unnecessary and incredible violence. It betrayed an unacceptable level of brutality. Such conduct cannot be justified or condoned on security or any other grounds. It constituted grave violations of human rights law and international humanitarian law.” (Emphases added) 


The starting point of the UN report – is the siege on Gaza legal or illegal?

The report begins by posing some very simple questions to put the issue into context. First, is the siege on Gaza legal or illegal? Second, was the Israeli assault on the flotilla legal or illegal?

With regards to the first question, the report confirms yet again that the siege on Gaza is entirely illegal: “The Mission has come to the firm conclusion that a humanitarian crisis existed on the 31 May 2010 in Gaza. The preponderance of evidence from impeccable sources is far too overwhelming to come to a contrary opinion. Any denial that this is so cannot be supported on any rational grounds… the blockade is unlawful and cannot be sustained in law.”
You cannot get much clearer than that! The UN team bolsters this position by reference to the blockade amounting to “collective punishment”, a serious crime under the Fourth Geneva Convention. The resultant attack on the Turkish-registered Mavi Marmara, the report concludes, was also “clearly unlawful”.


Israeli lies exposed

Not only does the report make it clear that Israel acted illegally and in violation of international law but it also reveals clearly that many of Israel’s claims are actually unabashed lies and blatant attempts to mislead the public and cover up its own crimes. For example:

1- Israeli claim: The flotilla members had weapons on board and were therefore a threat to Israeli soldiers.

UN Report: “The Mission has found no evidence to suggest that any of the passengers used firearms or that any firearms were taken on board the ship… Further, the Mission finds the Israeli accounts so inconsistent and contradictory with regard to evidence of alleged firearms injuries to Israeli soldiers that it has to reject it.” (116)

2- Israeli claim: Lethal force was necessary to protect the lives of the Israeli soldiers.

UN Report: “None of the four passengers who were killed [during a particular phase of the assault], including a photographer who at the time of being shot was engaged in taking photographs and was shot by an Israeli soldier positioned on the top deck above, posed any threat to the Israeli forces.” (120) Furthermore, the report finds that “there was no imminent threat to soldiers”. (167) Nine people had been killed by the Israeli commandos by the end of the attack.

In contrast, those on board the boat gave medical assistance to three Israeli soldiers who were injured and then those soldiers were also released.


Examples of UN-documented Israeli brutality against the humanitarians on board

The report highlights a few very troubling acts that were perpetrated by the Israeli forces against the civilian flotilla members including inter alia:

  • “Widespread misuse of the handcuffs by the Israeli soldiers… Forensic reports confirm that at least fifty-four passengers had received injuries, transversal abrasions and bruises, as a result of handcuffing on board the Mavi Marmara.” This included the cuffing of seriously wounded passengers for hours. Three months later many people still have related medical complaints.
  • Many civilians were stripped naked and forced to wait hours before receiving medical treatment.
  • Medical treatment was denied for hours to some of the wounded.
  • Many passengers “exposed on open decks received serious sun-burn to their skin as a result of many hours exposure: medical reports show that at least thirteen passengers received first degree burns as a consequence.”
  • “There was physical abuse of passengers by the Israeli forces, including kicking and punching and being hit with the butts of rifles.”
  • Frequent instances of verbal abuse, including derogatory sexual remarks about the female passengers.
  • “Passengers were denied access to toilet facilities or made to wait for lengthy periods before being escorted to the toilet and then forced to use the toilet with Israeli soldiers watching and while handcuffed. Some passengers were in serious discomfort as a result, while others used makeshift receptacles, such as plastic bottles and others still were forced to urinate on themselves.”
  • Some passengers received dog bite wounds.
  • Some passengers who suffer from chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes or heart conditions were not allowed to take their medication.
  • A white flag was waved by the Head of the IHH (the Turkish charity which helped to organise the flotilla) and yet the Israelis continued to fire.

Fallout from the flotilla attack

Prosecutions

This UN report has laid the groundwork for a series of prosecutions against the Israeli authorities. In fact, the report specifically outlines some of the potential legal remedies that the victims are now at liberty to seek, including: “judicial remedies”; the “right to reparations”; “medical and psychological care” (for those victims of Israeli torture); “compensation”; and so on. The report states further that “as far as the grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention are concerned, these may give rise to individual criminal responsibility”. It also lists a few of Israel’s most serious violations, including, for example, the violation of the “right to life” and “torture and other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment”.

Prosecutions can be brought by individuals, families, the flag-bearing nation of the boats involved or the countries from whence the victims came, primarily Turkey (although one of the deceased, 19 year old Furkan Dogan, held Turkish-American dual citizenship).

One point the UN mission notes is that the Israeli authorities have refused, once again, to cooperate with a UN fact-finding mission (reminiscent of their refusal to cooperate with the Goldstone report team). However, given that some of the Israeli “perpetrators of the more serious crimes” were masked, the UN has urged Israel’s government to “assist in their identification with a view to prosecuting the culpable.”

Turkey’s relations with Israel

This report will also have a great bearing on Turkey’s already shaky relationship with Israel. The Turkish authorities are not going to let the murder of their citizens on the high seas by Israeli soldiers pass unnoticed. In an interview published on 28th September 2010 in the London-based Al Hayat newspaper, Turkey’s Foreign Minister, Ahmad Dawud Oglu, said, “We will never forget that our citizens were killed by the army of a foreign country. This is a matter of principle for us; it is not a transitional or tactical issue. We demand an official apology because the incident is regarded as a crime.”

This UN report will only bolster the Turkish sense of injustice. It confirms the many levels on which the incident breached international law and clearly paves the way for legal proceedings to follow. Turkey has essentially been vindicated by this report and it gives validity and support to the claims made by the Turkish passengers and Turkish authorities all along.

The Israelis need to do something substantial if they are to appease their erstwhile ally. As things stand at the moment all military cooperation between the two nations has essentially been suspended and political relations generally have become more or less frozen, with no significant efforts being made by any third party to mediate between the two countries. This situation is likely to get even worse over the coming months as legal battles begin to be waged. The battle is being taken from the high seas to the courtroom and this will no doubt be another PR disaster for Israel.

More bad PR for Israel

This report is a damning indictment of Israel’s behaviour, casting as it does a very bad light on the Israeli government and armed forces. It also seriously calls into question the effectiveness of the Israel Defence Forces. The IDF is touted around the world as a stellar fighting force and yet its commandos could not do something as relatively simple as divert a boat load of civilians without it leading to absolute carnage. Either this exposes the IDF as an army of poorly trained, unprofessional youngsters with high velocity weapons; or, if they stand beside their reputation as a fearless fighting force, that they display callous inhumanity when pitted against civilians and have little regard for human life. This calls into question the way that the troops are trained as well as the military philosophy passed down by senior officers to their troops.

Conclusion

The authors of the UN report stated that “the mission is satisfied not only that the flotilla presented no imminent threat [to Israel] but that the interception was motivated by concerns about the possible propaganda victory that might be claimed by the organisers of the flotilla.” If the Israelis intended to avoid a propaganda defeat, their plan certainly backfired and, once again, Israel’s criminal antics have been laid bare for the world to see. Now the Zionist state faces an even bigger PR disaster when the inevitable prosecutions reach the courts and the details of the events that unfolded on board the Mavi Marmara and in the days immediately thereafter are given in open court.

More flotillas are planned in the wake of this attack. A British boat, the Irene, carrying Jewish peace activists, has already been intercepted by Israeli forces en-route to Gaza. An even larger “Freedom Flotilla 2” is also due to set sail in the next few months. Israel should learn its lessons from its disastrous experience. The world will not give up on the besieged people of Gaza. If governments are afraid of the political ramifications that come from challenging Israel and its allies then the citizens of the world will step forward and do it instead.

The attack on the Mavi Marmara was the beginning and not the end. This latest UN report clearly exonerates the flotilla mission both in its principles and in its practice, bolstering future efforts by peace activists to break the siege on Gaza. It also sends a warning to Israel that its illegal siege on the 1.5 million inhabitants of Gaza will not be allowed to continue unchallenged. The new leader of the Labour Party, Ed Miliband, whose parents fled from Nazi Europe during the Second World War, has told his party’s annual conference that “the attack on the Gaza Flotilla was so wrong… the Gaza blockade must be lifted and we must strain every sinew to work to make that happen”. The UN report itself ends by saying that the “unsustainable” siege on Gaza “is totally intolerable and unacceptable in the 21st century”, a fact that it would be wise for Israel to wake up to sooner rather than later.

(www.middleeastmonitor.org.uk / 01.09.2011)

The Islamic Roots of Democratic Rebellion and Liberty

“There is no god but Allah, and Gaddafi is his enemy!” So reads one of the popular mottos used by the Libyan rebels, who just put an end to Muammar Gaddafi’s 42-year-long tyranny after a chaotic civil war. Similarly, most rebel fighters who captured Tripoli this week were chanting, “Allahu Akbar!,” which means, “God is the greatest!” (“Allah” in Arabic simply means “God.”)

Ironically, though, the now-dethroned Libyan colonel, too, had long been referring to God to justify his dictatorial rule. A mantra of his regime bluntly read: “Allah, Muammar, Libya — that’s all we need!”

The image of Allah, in other words, seems to have shifted in the minds of many Libyans from a pillar of authoritarian rule to a beacon of liberty.

A similar transformation seems to be ongoing in Syria as well, which used to have its own version of the authoritarian Arab trinity: “Allah, Syria, Bashar — that’s all we need!” But the peaceful Syrian protestors who have been raising their voice against the dictatorship of Bashar Assad and co., despite all the killing and torture they face, are now using a different motto: “Allah, Syria, Freedom — that’s all we need!”

It is perfectly understandable that such religious themes within the Arab Spring comes as confusing, if not worrying, to the Islamo-sceptic Westerners (and even some Arab secular liberals) who assume that all political manifestations of Islam will lead to tyranny. Moreover, they have in their mind the unpleasant case of the Iranian Revolution, which, after a brief “spring” in 1979, replaced the secular dictatorship of the Shah not with liberal democracy, but Islamic theocracy.

However, the history of the Muslim civilization shows that Islam has been understood in many different ways, and while it sometimes has been used to support tyrants, it more often than not challenged them. In fact, one of the very early theological splits in Islam was precisely on this issue. The successive caliphs of the Umayyad Dynasty (661-750 AD) promoted a theory of divine predestination, which implied that the corrupt Umayyad rule was predestined, and thus willed by God. The opposing theologians, who defended humans’ freewill, argued that rulers were responsible to both God and the people.

After a few centuries of debate, the Sunni view on this matter settled on a middle position, which valued strong rulers, but also expected them to be just and lawful. In other words, as historian Bernard Lewis notes, “Islamic tradition strongly disapprove[d] of arbitrary rule.” In the Ottoman Empire, the ritualistic expression of this idea was a popular slogan that common people would say to the sultans after Friday prayers: “Don’t be arrogant my sultan, God is greater than thou!”

In the modern age, however, traditional Islamic law, whose functions included constraining arbitrary power, failed to update itself, and was gradually rendered ineffective via “modernization.” As Noah Feldman illustrated brilliantly, this process produced not the liberal democracy of the West, but various secular (and sometimes fiercely secularist) autocrats — such as the Atatürk of Turkey, Reza Shah of Iran, or the Nasser of Egypt.

Islamism, the totalitarian ideology that aspires for an “Islamic state,” was more of a reaction to this modern crisis, rather than a direct continuation of the Islamic tradition. It was also based on an export of the worst ideas of the West. One of the founders of the Islamist ideology, Pakistani thinker Sayyid Abu al-A’la al-Mawdudi, had openly acknowledged that his “Islamic state” would “bear a kind of resemblance to the Fascist and Communist states,” in the way it would dominate the whole society.

Now, here is the key question for today: If Mawdudi and his followers synthesized Islam with totalitarianism, can others synthesize it with liberal democracy?

The answer does not look as grim as some suspect, as I argue in more detail in my new book, Islam without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty. Not only the symbolic combination of “Allah” and “freedom” in the minds of the Arab masses, but also the ongoing discussions within more moderate Islamic parties show positive signs. Turkey’s incumbent Justice and Development Party also seems to play an indirect role, by showing that pious Muslims can well be a part of the democratic game and gain from it. As covered in this very interesting report, at least the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood of Syria seems to have taken important lessons from the Turkish case, and got transformed from a militant and oppressive group to a moderate and relatively liberal one.

To be sure, a probable transformation of the Muslim mind from authoritarianism to liberalism would be a very challenging process, which would face many obstacles. But was the political evolution of Christianity any easier? It certainly took a lot effort to move from the Spanish Inquisition and the “divine right of kings” to the liberating motto of Benjamin Franklin: “Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.” Islam, I believe, is just no less capable of going the same distance.

(www.huffingtonpost.com / Mustafa Akyol / 01.09.2011)