Feb 10, 2009

Israeli University Welcomes “War Crimes” Colonel: Counterpunch

JONATHAN COOK

The Israeli government has moved quickly to quash protests over the appointment of the army’s senior adviser on international law to a teaching post at Tel Aviv University. Col Pnina Sharvit-Baruch is thought to have provided legal cover for war crimes during the recent Gaza offensive.
Government officials fear that recent media revelations relating to Col Sharvit-Baruch’s role in the Gaza operation may assist human rights groups seeking to bring Israeli soldiers to trial abroad. A Spanish judge began investigating Israeli war crimes in Gaza under the country’s “universal jurisdiction” laws this month, and a prosecutor at the International Criminal Court in The Hague is considering a Palestinian group’s petition to indict Israeli commanders. Meanwhile, the furore — by highlighting the close ties between the army and Israeli universities — is adding weight to a growing campaign in Europe and the US to impose an academic boycott on Israel, say activists. Tel Aviv University’s decision to hire Col Sharvit-Baruch to teach international law prompted protests from staff after the local media published details of the military planning for the Gaza offensive.
More than 1,300 Palestinians were killed during the operation, the majority of them civilians, and thousands were injured. According to critics quoted by the Haaretz newspaper, Col Sharvit-Baruch and her staff manipulated standard interpretations of international law to expand the scope of army operations to include civilian targets. Leading the protest is Haim Ganz, a law professor who has called the colonel’s approach to international law “devious jurisprudence that permits mass killing”. In a letter to the university, Prof Ganz said he was lodging “a moral protest against a state of affairs where somebody who authorized these actions is teaching the law of war”.

Students are revolting: The spirit of ’68 is reawakening: The Independent

They are the iPod generation of students: politically apathetic, absorbed by selfish consumerism, dedicated to a few years of hedonism before they land a lucrative job in the City. Not any more. A seismic change is taking place in British universities. Around the UK, thousands of students have occupied lecture theatres, offices and other buildings at more than 20 universities in sit-down protests. It seems that the spirit of 1968 has returned to the campus. While it was the situation in Gaza that triggered this mass protest, the beginnings of political enthusiasm have already spread to other issues. John Rose, one of the original London School of Economics (LSE) students to mount the barricades alongside Tariq Ali in 1968, spent last week giving lectures on the situation in Gaza at 12 of the occupations.

“This is something different to anything we’ve seen for a long time,” he said. “There is genuine fury at what Israel did. “I think it’s highly likely that this year will see more student action. What’s interesting is the nervousness of vice chancellors and their willingness to concede demands; it indicates this is something that could well turn into [another] ’68.” Beginning with a 24-hour occupation at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) on 13 January, the sit-ins spread across the country. Now occupations have been held at the LSE, Essex, King’s College London, Birmingham, Sussex, Warwick, Manchester Metropolitan, Oxford, Leeds, Cambridge, Sheffield Hallam, Bradford, Nottingham, Queen Mary, Manchester, Strathclyde, Newcastle, Kingston, Goldsmiths and Glasgow. Among the demands of students are disinvestment in the arms trade; the promise to provide scholarships for Palestinian students; a pledge to send books and unused computers to Palestine; and to condemn Israeli attacks on Gaza.Campus sit-ins began as a response to the Gaza attacks, but unrest is already spilling over to other issues. Emily Dugan reports

Currently we know of 23 universities under occupation, with some joining every day. There may wel be some we do not even know about!

Mediterranean/Dossier: We are All Gaza: Babelmed

The well-known website has published a large and excellent collection of items on Gaza, under the title: We are all Gaza! Please have a read to fully realise the depth of feeling, the anger and frustration from all corners of the earth on this issue.

Jeremy Bowen election diary: BBC

BBC Middle East Editor Jeremy Bowen’s diary of the Israeli election.

Some cities are designed for the winter, and some, like Tel Aviv, are best in the sun.
So on a wet Tuesday night in February, with the surf crashing in from a stormy Mediterranean sea, the place to be was somewhere warm with a warm someone, not tramping Tel Aviv’s streets looking for the meaning in this election. But that’s what reporters are paid to do. Tel Aviv does not look like a city gripped by election fever, because it isn’t. As I drove down an empty boulevard towards the Likud election night HQ, a big poster of the Labour leader Ehud Barak was tearing itself to pieces in the wind whipping off the beach. He has admitted that the best he can hope for is to keep his job as defence minister in a new coalition. Mr Barak, Israel’s most decorated soldier when he was uniform, seems to have reached his ceiling as a politician.

Read how while Israel is celebrating this racist, war-mongeringa nd aggressive election campaign, journalists like Bowen seem to have forgotten of the starving and bombed people of Gaza.

Arab press despair as Israel votes: BBC

The Arabic press contains widespread scepticism that the general election in Israel will offer any impetus for change in regional relations, irrespective of the result. Opinion polls suggest that there is little to choose between the incumbent Kadima party, headed by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, and the right-wing Likud, led by Benjamin Netanyahu. One commentator in the UAE expressed concern that this would provide the far-right Avigdor Lieberman, whose popularity has soared recently, with a decisive role in the formation of a government.
Commentaries in Jordan, Syria and the UAE feared that the election would see the appointment to power of Israeli “extremists”. One Palestinian writer said that the victory of the Israeli right would “push Palestinians to stand by Hamas”, while another questioned how the new US administration would handle the situation.

Time to hold Veolia to account: Adri Nieuwhof and Daniel Machover, The Electronic Intifada

The tramway under construction in Jerusalem, February 2008. (Anne Paq/ActiveStills)

The tramway under construction in Jerusalem, February 2008. (Anne Paq/ActiveStills)

During the bidding process for an eight-year, $4.5 billion dollar contract to operate Stockholm county’s subway, the French company Veolia came under heavy pressure in the Swedish media for its involvement in Israel’s tramway project that links illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank to Jerusalem. With its involvement in this project, Veolia is directly implicated in maintaining illegal settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) and the company is playing a key role in Israel’s attempt to make its annexation of Palestinian East Jerusalem irreversible. In 2005, Amnesty International-France and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) already warned Veolia to stay away from the tramway project. Despite international actions against Veolia’s participation in the tramway project, the company still refuses to take action, at the risk of increased damage to its already questionable image and losing business in Europe.
Recently, Diakonia in Sweden organized protests calling on the Stockholm Community Council to exclude Veolia from bidding for the subway contract. The council received thousands of signatories from people demanding that the council choose an operator that was not associated with violations of international humanitarian law. On 20 January, the council announced that Veolia, after operating the subway for the past 10 years, had lost the contract to Hong Kong-based rail operator MTR. When Veolia was not re-awarded the contract to run bus services outside Stockholm in 2007, Veolia Transport Manager Joachim Ytterstene stated that “We are very sad to hear this. We worked hard on this offer during the whole year and it feels really heavy to receive this decision.” If the loss of a contract to run a bus service with about 650 employees and 180 buses is painful, then it is obvious how painful the loss of the biggest European public contract procurement process will be. The recent bidding experience in Stockholm should help to get the message across that Veolia should withdraw from the Israeli tramway project.

Rightist MK whisked out of poll in Arab city after violent protest: Ha’aretz

Police whisked rightist MK Aryeh Eldad (National Union) away from Umm al-Fahm Tuesday after protestors tore down the fence of a polling station in the Israeli Arab city that he was overseeing. Five Israeli Arabs were arrested after throwing stones and scuffling with police during the incident. Eldad was to replace fellow far-rightist Baruch Marzel, who was denied entry into the town by police earlier on Tuesday after intelligence indicated that unrest was likely if he had been permitted to oversee the voting station. As a large police detail accompanied Eldad into the school in which the poll was held earlier Tuesday, demonstrators shouted “murderer!” at him. The Northern District police chief decided Tuesday to ban Marzel from entering the Israeli-Arab city of Umm al-Fahm to oversee its polling station. Major General Shimon Koren’s decision came after intelligence warnings of a threat to the safety of the public should Marzel be allowed to supervise the voting.

UN appoints panel of inquiry to probe deaths at Gaza compounds: Ha’aretz


United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday appointed a board of inquiry into incidents that caused deaths and destruction at UN compounds in Gaza Strip during the recent Israel-Hamas conflict. The board will be headed by Ian Martin, a Briton that has led various crucial UN missions around the world, who is called to complete the inquiry and submit a report within one month. Ban said the board will comprise legal advisers and a military expert. The UN agency caring for Palestinian refugees in the Middle East maintains several offices and schools throughout Gaza, which have been used to shelter thousands of people who fled the fighting. A number of Palestinians died at its compounds during the Israel Defense Forces’ 22-day offensive in Gaza. The UN last week reversed its stance on one of the most contentious and bloody incidents of the recent Israel Defense Forces operation in Gaza, saying that an IDF mortar strike that killed 43 people on January 6 did not hit a United Nations Relief and Works Agency school after all.


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