Israel mobilises support in The Hague: Germany after Czech Republic

International Criminal Court building in The Hague on 30 July, 2016 in the Hague, Netherlands [Michel Porro/Getty Images]

International Criminal Court building in The Hague on 30 July, 2016 in the Hague, Netherlands

On Friday Germany submitted a demand to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, that it be a “friend of the court” in the procedures relating to examining the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice in the investigation of cases connected with the Gaza Strip. This follows the announcement by the prosecutor of the court, Fatou Bensouda, in December of last year, that she intends to investigate Israeli war crimes.

This is considered a step by Germany to support Israel, after the Czech Republic took a similar step on Saturday. Germany had announced, following the recommendation of Bensouda to open an investigation into Israeli war crimes, that: “We are confident that the court will resolve the raised issues, including the possibility of accepting the complaint (the authority to investigate crimes) that may be in doubt. Germany opposes the use of politicisation in files of any kind. We hope to deeply investigate all cases.”

Haaretz newspaper revealed on Friday that Israel views the opposition of “politicisation” as support for its position, and estimates that Germany’s joining of the investigation procedures in the ICC will help it to maintain this stance. Israel also maintains that Germany’s official non-recognition of the Palestinian state will help in these procedures.

Israel refrains from officially participating in the deliberations of the ICC, although it demanded the review of the court’s powers, because its participation will be considered as recognition of the court’s powers and procedures. Therefore, the Czech Republic submitted the request on Saturday to support Israel, according to the newspaper. The deadline for publishing all requests to join the procedures in the court is Sunday.

Read: Conservative Friends of Israel urge UK to oppose ICC’s war crimes investigation

The newspaper quoted Israeli political officials welcoming the Czech Republic’s submission of the request, stating that: “Israel has made efforts in the matter.” The Czech Republic is a close ally of Israel in international institutions, and has helped several times in preventing decisions that were opposed by Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, in European Union institutions as well. The Czech Republic is also a member of the Visegrád Group alliance, along with Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, which are governed by right-wing nationalist parties and are European Union member states. Therefore, Netanyahu has sought in recent years to strengthen relations with it, in order to prevent the issuance of decisions by the European Union against the occupation practices, whose decisions should be issued unanimously by the member states.

On Saturday, the Israel Bar Association submitted a request similar to the one submitted by the Czech Republic, after the association members approved the request of the member, Avi Haimi, to head to the ICC. This was initiated in case Bensouda’s request to open an investigation into the occupation’s crimes is accepted, and join the court as friends, which are parties that help the court in cases even though they are not a party to the deliberations.

The newspaper reported that the Israel Bar Association formed a working group to write its views, headed by attorney Nick Kaufman, who held a senior position in the former Israeli Public Prosecution.

Haimi wrote to the association members that he wanted to represent the Israeli position: “So that the Palestinian Authority’s position does not remain unanswered.” Most of the association’s members approved his request, but he was opposed by Arab and Jewish members, who stressed that this is a controversial political and judicial issue in which the association should not interfere.

Read: Netanyahu calls for imposing sanctions on ICC

(Source / 15.02.2020) 

Report: 7,500 Palestine refugees living in open air in North Syria

Syrian civilians seen fleeing towards the Turkish border, escaping airstrikes of Assad regime forces and Russia, in northwestern Syria’s Idlib de-escalation zone, on February 13, 2020 [Muhammed Said / Anadolu Agency]

Syrian civilians seen fleeing towards the Turkish border, escaping airstrikes of Assad regime forces and Russia, in northwestern Syria’s Idlib de-escalation zone, on February 13, 2020 

At least 7,500 Palestinian refugees displaced from the refugee camps of Daraa, Homs, Aleppo and Al Yarmouk, are currently living in North Syria, the Documentation Civil Centre for Palestinian Refugees in North Syria confirmed on Friday.

Speaking to Quds Press, director of the centre, Abu Mohannad, stated: “The Palestinian refugee families are distributed among several cities in North Syria.”

He noted that several Turkish charities and NGOs, which enter through Turkey, are supervising a number of the camps providing them with water tanks, food parcels, kitchen appliances, clothes and heating.

Meanwhile, the centre offers identification documents, including IDs and marriage deeds among other documents.

Palestinians of Syria: The Story of Unending Suffering - Buy the report

Abu Mohannad informed Quds Press that the situation in the east of Idlib is very difficult, due to the ongoing battles between the opposition forces and the Syrian regime, pushing the Palestinian refugees to move towards Afrin.

He pointed out that these are rural areas, so there are not enough homes to host the refugees. Therefore, most of the refugees live in primitive arbitrary camps without electricity and work.

Palestinian refugee, Fares Ahmed, told Quds Press that he did not witness the 1948 Nakba, but he experienced it when he was displaced from Al Yarmouk in 2018, where he has been unsafe and lacking in stability until today.

According to Abu Mohannad, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is completely absent in North Syria. However, he disclosed that there are many other United Nations groups entering through Turkey.

Several appeals for help were initiated, but UNRWA did not respond.

Meanwhile, he accused the Palestine Liberation Organisation of “completely” neglecting the refugees, despite reporting the situation to the senior Palestinian officials.

Palestinians of Syria: The Story of Unending Suffering

(Source/ 15.02.2020) 

Israeli Soldiers Prevent Activists From Planting Olive Trees In The Village Of Yasuf

Combatants For Peace (CFP) Activists participated, Friday, in a volunteer day to plant olive trees on the lands owned by Yasuf village farmers, near Salfit in central West Bank.

As the activists’ bus from Tel Aviv reached the entrance of Yasuf, the Israeli soldiers closed the street leading to the village and prevented them from entering.

After being stopped and questioned by the soldiers for a long time, the activists managed to reach the village, where the residents welcomed them at the Village Council.

The activity, which is organized by “Stand Together” and “Rabbis for Human Rights”, and aims at supporting the resilience of Yasuf village farmers who face escalating attacks by illegal colonialist settlers, and the Israeli occupation confiscation of their lands.

The activity ended with speeches delivered by CFP peace activists and rabbis for human rights, who supported the rights of the Palestinian people in an independent state and an end to the occupation.

Army Injures Many Palestinians In Beit Ummar

Israeli soldiers injured, Friday, dozens of Palestinians in Beit Ummar town, north of Hebron, in the southern part of the occupied West bank.

Media activist Mohammad Awad said several army jeeps invaded ‘Aseeda area in Beit Ummar, and resorted to the excessive use of force against Palestinian protesters.

Awad said the soldiers fired a barrage of gas bombs, concussion grenades and rubber-coated steel bullets at the protesters and many surrounding homes.

Dozens of residents, including children, suffered the effects of teargas inhalation, and many others sustained cuts and bruises. The army also sprayed the protesters and homes with wastewater mixed with chemicals.

Furthermore, the soldiers were seen choking a young Palestinian man after assaulting him and pinning him under their knees.

The soldiers also broke into and ransacked several homes, in addition to occupying their rooftops to use them as firing posts and monitoring towers.

In addition, the soldiers installed a roadblock at the main entrance of Beit Ummar, before stopping and searching dozens of cars, and interrogated the Palestinians while investigating their ID cards, in addition to detaining two young men for several hours.

(Source / 15.02.2020) 


By Yousef Alhelou

An overdue report has finally been published by the UN Human Rights office which lists 112 companies benefiting from illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Almost 100 of the companies are based in Israel, while the rest are from 18 other countries including the US, France, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Thailand and Britain. Listed are well-known companies such as, Expedia, Airbnb, TripAdvisor, tech giant Motorola and consumer food maker General Mills. Construction and infrastructure companies including Britain’s JC Bamford Excavators (JCB) and France’s Egis Rail are among many others.

The database was collected on a mandate by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in 2016, which was put to a vote at the time by four countries – Malaysia, New Zealand, Venezuela and Senegal — with the US abstaining.

In a prompt response, Israel’s Foreign Minister, Israel Katz, called the move a “shameful surrender” to countries and organisations that want to hurt Israel, elaborating that the UN body has become a partner and tool of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. This harsh condemnation was followed by a severing of ties with the UNHRC.

Benjamin Netanyahu, meanwhile, was furious and threatened to boycott “whoever boycotts us.” The Israeli Prime Minister slammed the UN list as the work of a biased and uninfluential body: “Instead of dealing with human rights, this body is trying to blacken Israel’s name. We reject any such attempt in the strongest terms and with disgust. Whoever boycotts us will be boycotted.”

The report was published a day after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas spoke at the UN Security Council, where he rejected the Donald Trump “peace plan” dubbed the “deal of the century”. The plan was unveiled to the world in Washington a week ago, in the presence of Netanyahu and opposition leader Benny Gantz, but with no Palestinian official in the room.

The long-awaited report was released despite pressure from Israeli companies and US law makers to prevent its publication. They fear that it will encourage the Palestinians to pursue the listed companies through international legal institutions. Such exposure to legal action might have the effect of foreign investors pulling out of Israel altogether.

Israelis regard the report as a stab in the back, and have rejected it completely. Pro-justice and anti-occupation campaigners, however, believe that this is the least that can be done to show solidarity with oppressed Palestinians who have been struggling since 1948 for self-determination and to be able to live as a free nation.

Not surprisingly, the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations also rejected the report. “This action is only further evidence that the OHCHR, which is supposed to be the lead human rights office in the United Nations, is overly politicised and focusing a disproportionate amount of time and resources on Israel,” said committee head Jim Risch, a Republican from Idaho.

The UN Human Rights office, though, defended its position. “While the settlements as such are regarded as illegal under international law, this report does not provide a legal characterisation of the activities in question, or of business enterprises’ involvement in them,” explained High Commissioner for Human Rights Michele Bachelet.

As far as the Palestinians are concerned, the UN report is a symbolic victory for international law and their own just cause. It’s being viewed as a crucial first step towards restoring faith in international law, according to some PA officials.

Indeed, veteran negotiator Saeb Erekat, who is also the Secretary General of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, the UN list boosts the credibility of the UNHCR in the face of the fierce attacks and intense pressure that the Trump administration places on UN institutions. “While this list does not include all of the companies profiting from Israel’s illegal colonial-settlement enterprise in occupied Palestine,” said Erekat, “it’s a crucial first step to restore hope in multilateralism and international law.”

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry urged the UNHCR member states to study the list and order the companies named to terminate their activities in the illegal settlements. Palestinian Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh vowed to take legal action against the companies, but also proposed that they should consider the possibility of moving their factories and branches to Palestinian cities and villages nearby if they want to rectify the current illegal setup. It was noted that they need to pay compensation for their illegal use of occupied Palestinian land and engaging in economic activity without obeying Palestinian laws and paying taxes to the PA.

“We will pursue the companies listed in the report through international legal bodies and the courts in their own countries for their role in violating human rights,” added Shtayyeh.

According to Human Rights Watch, the database will help companies and firms to end what it termed their “complicity in rights abuses” and “should put all companies on notice” that they cannot ignore international law forever.

All Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories are illegal under international law, although Israel argues that the settlements are built on “disputed” territory and their status should be finalised through negotiations. In the meantime, though, it continues to violate the law as it stands, as well as UN resolutions and human rights. As part of Netanyahu’s election promises and slogans last April and September he vowed to apply Israeli sovereignty and annex more than 100 settlements in the occupied West Bank. His initial excitement at being given everything that Israel has always wanted by Trump’s deal, was cooled when Washington put pressure on him to put annexation plans on hold until after the 2 March election.

Around 620,000 Israeli settlers live in over 230 illegal settlements and military outposts, roughly 11 per cent of the total Jewish population in historic Palestine. The reality on the ground is that settlements have already been annexed in all but name.

With 600 or so military checkpoints, the Apartheid Wall and the settlements, just 18 per cent of historic Palestine is available for a “Palestinian state”. However, it is made up of disconnected Bantustans, while Israeli settlements are connected by fortified bridges, tunnels and roads for the use of Jews only. Such punitive measures have devastated the Palestinian economy, with Palestinian-owned companies barely allowed to function under Israeli control, and the people of Palestine dependent entirely on the Israeli economy and currency.

That is why the UN Human Rights office report is being seen as a victory by Palestinians, albeit symbolic. No doubt accusations of “anti-Semitism” will be levelled at everyone who tries to boycott the companies profiting from Israel’s illegal occupation. Such accusations should be treated with the contempt they deserve. Now is the time for the Palestinians to benefit from this boost to their cause in what is an entirely asymmetric struggle.

(Source / 15.02.2020) 


Ramallah (QNN)- Confrontations erupted on Saturday between the locals of Deir Nidham in the north-west of Ramallah and Israeli forces, which have been besieging the village.

Local sources stated that the locals succeeded to break the siege, which has been imposed on the village for five days, by forcing two gates of the village open.

Israeli forces attacked the locals using rounds and tear gas after the siege was broken.

The Israeli army has been closing entrances to several villages in Ramallah since last week. Confrontations also erupted in the village of Aboud on Friday following a protest against the besiegement of the village.

(Source / 15.02.2020) 


By Omar H. Rahman

The Palestinian response to President Trump’s “deal of the century” was a swift and predictable “no.” After a brief flirtation with Trump and his team more than two years ago, Mahmoud Abbas, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and president of the Palestinian Authority (PA), has since characterized the White House’s efforts as a conspiracy to liquidate the Palestinian national movement — a charge he reiterated at the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday.

In the days after the plan’s release on January 28, Abbas called on his people to take to the streets in protest, requested an emergency meeting of the Arab League in Egypt, and sent a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that threatened to stop all coordination between the PA and Israel, including on security.

The details of the plan largely validate Abbas’ fears. Trump’s “vision,” as it’s called, hews very closely to the positions espoused by Israel’s ideological far-right, even adopting its language and narratives, such as using Biblical references to justify Israeli political control of Jerusalem. A Palestinian state, if it’s allowed to come into existence, will be in name only, stripped of all meaningful elements of sovereignty, and situated in an archipelago of ghettoized enclaves that resemble the Bantustans of apartheid-era South Africa. Israel would retain more than 30% of the West Bank, all its settlements, and the entirety of Jerusalem, as well as complete control over Palestine’s security, territorial air and waters, borders, and even treaties and alliances. So restricted is Palestinian autonomy that the new “state” would even have to ask Israeli permission to build a well because groundwater rights remain in Israel’s hands.

In another word, the plan is a farce. But even so, the real threat to liquidate the Palestinian national movement doesn’t come from Israel or the United States, but from the failure of its leadership. Indeed, Trump’s presidency has laid bare the fundamental weakness of Palestinian politics, the passivity of its leaders, and the dire state of its institutions after more than a quarter-century of peace processing and the fiasco of the Oslo Accords.

A string of setbacks

From the time of the British Mandate in Palestine to the regeneration of the national movement under the Yasser Arafat-led PLO to today, Israel has largely opposed Palestinian national aspirations, with the U.S. usually a willing ally in the effort to obstruct. Nonetheless, the national movement didn’t simply disappear — it persisted, and overcame many challenges and setbacks along the way.

Although Israel ultimately recognized the PLO as the legitimate representative for Palestinians in 1993 with the signing of the Oslo Accords, it did not then accept the Palestinians’ right to self-determination in a sovereign state of their own. Rather the Oslo Accords reflected the limit of what Israel was willing to agree to at the outset of negotiations: for a de-nationalized Palestinian entity to assume local governance in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, relieving Israel of most of its obligations as a military occupier while allowing it to exercise sovereignty over the entire territory. And with no shared basic assumption of where negotiations would lead, or any legal terms of reference, the ultimate breakdown of the accords turned this interim agreement into an indefinite situation. Furthermore, this is essentially what the Trump plan would permanently enshrine if implemented.

Yet for more than two years, while Trump’s team orchestrated one policy initiative after another aimed at either consolidating Israeli control over occupied territory — including Jerusalem — or undermining Palestinian positions, Abbas and his inner-circle of have done little but issue worn-out slogans. Instead of proactively countering the impending proposal by, at the very least, proffering an alternative vision and working with allies in the region and beyond to build support for it, the Palestinian leadership has sat back on its heels and waited without developing a cogent strategy or vision.

Israel knows that Abbas’ threats to end PA coordination or disband the PA altogether are not realizable. That would have required — at some point over the past 15 years — building the necessary alternatives to Oslo-era structures, which relieve Israel of governing responsibilities while reinforcing Palestinian dependence for everything from water and electricity to ports and permits. As such, ad hoc maneuvers like the recent PA decision to ban the import of certain Israeli products to Palestinian markets may be effective in principle, but Palestinians are woefully unprepared for the trade war that is likely to result from them. Extricating Palestinians from this bind without tremendous risk to their well-being is a task beyond this leadership’s competency.

Instead of seeking a way out of the Oslo imbroglio, Abbas has dug in deeper, becoming more reliant on Israeli and American goodwill in order to advance the cause of Palestinian statehood. Rather than strengthening meaningful relationships abroad, including among the Palestinian diaspora, his strategy has been to hold out for a paradigm shift to occur inside Israel or America, which might rescue the two-state solution. It is because of this overwhelming dependence that Israel and America are in a position to inflict such immense damage to the movement.

Certainly the Palestinian leadership will find comfort in the Arab League’s unanimous decision to reject the Trump proposal, which dashed the administration’s hopes that it would garner support for its vision in the wider region. This was followed days later by a resolution from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, which called on its 57 members “not to engage with [the] plan or cooperate with the U.S. administration in implementing it in any form.”

Yet these positions bely important shifts in the Middle East on the Palestinian question and relations with Israel. New geopolitical realities, including regional turmoil, the perceived threat of Iranian expansionism, and American retrenchment, have brought Israel and some Arab countries closer together. Moreover, how can one expect the Arab states to indefinitely refrain from pursuing common interests with Israel when the PA cooperates with Israel on a daily basis? Surely, Abbas can’t ask them all to be more Catholic than the Pope.

Connected to this is the broader Arab public and its zeal for the Palestinian cause, which has traditionally acted as a check on regional leaders. In recent years this passion has waned, in part because other, more urgent issues have taken priority, but also because the Palestinians’ unremarkable, blinkered, and aging leadership has done little of late to galvanize regional public opinion. (It only took the exploit of one teenage girl, Ahed Tamimi, confronting an Israeli soldier in 2017 to show how acts of resistance can capture the global imagination.)

The same is true at home where Abbas’ own popularity and credibility have eroded due to a lack of progress on statehood, poor governance in general, a suspension in democratic elections, and a willingness to maintain security coordination with Israel. In place of a legitimate mandate, he has increasingly relied on instruments of suppression to stay in power. In the process, he has silenced critics, stifled constructive debate, and demobilized the public, so that there are almost none of the structures in place that allowed Palestinians to previously challenge Israel’s occupation.

Where the PLO could once be considered a legitimately representative — though never democratic — body, efforts to consolidate control of the institution have reduced it to a shell: Refugee and diaspora populations have been severed from the political process; the large portion of Palestinian society affiliated with Islamist factions, such as Hamas, are not included under the PLO umbrella; and the remaining factions have lost much of their former relevancy.

(Source / 15.02.2020) 

After she was suppressed, Abby Martin files free speech lawsuit against Georgia Southern University

Martin scheduled to be key speaker at conference which was cancelled after her participation was denied as she had refused to sign an pledge not to boycott Israel

The famous documentary filmmaker Abby Martin has filed lawsuit against Georgia Southern University after cancelling her speech at conference over refusing to sign pledge before to not boycott Israel.

Martin said she was asked to sign paperwork agreeing not to support a boycott of Israel before making a speech at the university, which was scheduled for February 28.

The state of Georgia passed a law that took effect in 2016 prohibiting contracts exceeding $1,000 with any companies or individuals that engage in a boycott of Israel. Martin said she was supposed to be paid $1,000.

Martin said she was scheduled to be the keynote speaker at the 2020 International Critical Media Literacy Conference at the university’s Savannah campus.

She said she was asked to sign the pledge last September as part of her compensation agreement. The conference was cancelled that month, a university spokeswoman said.

Abby Martin @AbbyMartin  

After I was scheduled to give keynote speech at an upcoming @GeorgiaSouthern conference, organizers said I must comply w/ Georgia’s anti-BDS law & sign a contractual pledge to not boycott Israel. I refused & my talk was canceled. The event fell apart after colleagues supported me٨٬٠١٦٢:٤٩ ص – ١١ يناير ٢٠٢٠المعلومات والخصوصية لإعلانات تويتر

Martin said she refused to sign the paperwork and later pursued the lawsuit. Much of her work advocates in support of a boycott of Israel, she said in the lawsuit complaint.

“I will not forfeit my constitutional rights by signing this pledge,” Martin, who works with Palestinian rights organisations, said at a news conference Monday, flanked by supporters.

The lawsuit was filed in the US District Court of Georgia’s Northern District, in Atlanta.

Georgia Southern and a spokesman for University System of Georgia Chancellor Steve Wrigley, also a defendant in the lawsuit, said they are reviewing the complaint with the state attorney general’s office noting Martin’s complaint involves a state law. They declined further comment Monday.

Alongside Martin were Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund.

Her lawsuit complaint calls for the Georgia law to be ruled unconstitutional. She also wants $1,000 in compensatory damages.

Martin founded the website Media Roots, where she does podcasts about politics and global affairs.

The most recent topic includes criticism of the mainstream media’s coverage of the Democratic Party presidential race and of conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh, who’s called a “neocon monster.”

She recently produced a documentary called “Gaza Fights for Freedom.”

Martin has been criticised for past work, including a prior stint at the RT network, which was funded, according to news accounts, by the Russian government.

Her Twitter profile says she has been accused by the federal government of “‘fomenting radical discontent’ for covering the news.”

(Source / 15.02.2020) 

UN: Israel killed 3,602 Palestinians, injured over 100,000 during past decade

At least, 791 among the Palestinians killed by the Israeli occupation during the past decade were children

Israeli occupation forces killed 3,602 Palestinians citizens and wounded over 100,000 in the occupied Palestinian territories during the last decades, UN report revealed on Thursday.

In 2019, Israeli occupation forces killed 132 Palestinians, mostly by air-launched explosive weapons or live ammunition: 107 were killed in the Gaza Strip and 25 in the West Bank.

Another 15,368 Palestinians were injured during the year by Israeli occupation forces: 42 per cent required medical treatment after inhaling tear gas, 16 per cent were hit by steal coated with rubber bullets and 13 per cent were shot with live ammunition.

Some 20 per cent of the Palestinian fatalities across the occupied Palestinian territories in 2019 and at least 36 per cent of the injuries were of children (under 18 years of age); 25 of the children killed were boys and two girls.

Of the Palestinian fatalities in the Gaza Strip, 33 were civilians killed in the context of the ‘Great March of Return’ (GMR) protests by the eastern fence of Gaza, and the rest during Israeli occupation strikes and other incidents.

In the West Bank, 13 of the Palestinians killed were during demonstrations and eight allegedly carried out attacks against the Israeli occupation.

(Source / 15.02.2020) 

Israeli forces shot Jerusalem boy in the eye

According to medical source, the boy might lose his eye

Israeli occupation forces have shot Palestinian boy in his eye in the neighbourhood of Al Issawiyeh in the occupied Palestinian city of Jerusalem.

Palestinian medical source identified the boy as the nine-year-old Malik Issa, noting he sustained moderate wounds.

The boy, according to eyewitnesses, was shot while in his way home from school.

According to the medical sources, the boy might lose his eye.

(Source / 15.02.2020)