January 12, 2011

EDITOR: Russel Tribunal on Palestine report is out

This important international report is now out, after the lengthy procedure which has been used to collect, corroborate and edit it. As the report itself is exceedingly long, I have only provided here the bottom line conclusions. I strongly suggest reading this report if you wish to come into contact with the frightening and grim realities of the Israeli occupation and its iniquities, as put by the most authoritative international body to date.

To read the report and its three Annexes, use the link below:

Russell Tribunal on Palestine: 2010 Report

VII.    TRIBUNAL CONCLUSIONS
7.1    The Tribunal heard compelling evidence of corporate complicity in Israeli violations of international law, relating to: the supply of arms; the construction and maintenance of the illegal separation Wall; and in establishing, maintaining and providing services, especially financial, to illegal settlements, all of which have occurred in the context of an illegal occupation of Palestinian territory. On the basis of this evidence, the Tribunal draws the following conclusions.
7.2    The RToP reiterates that Israel committed serious breaches of IHL during the Gaza incursion (December 2008-January 2009), especially by launching attacks that, in terms of the damage inflicted on the civilian population, are sufficient in themselves to demonstrate their indiscriminate and disproportionate nature. These breaches constitute war crimes entailing the criminal responsibility of their perpetrators. Corporations provided Israel with weapons and military equipment that assisted it in committing these crimes. The supply of such equipment involves acts of assistance that constitute complicity in Israel‟s violation of international law.
7.3    The RToP reiterates that the establishment and maintenance of settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories are violations of international humanitarian law and regulatory entail the commission of war crimes by Israel. Corporations assist in the establishment of such settlements by supplying equipment that can be used to demolish dwellings, to destroy Palestinian land and to build property. They also contribute to the maintenance of the settlements through the economic relations that they forge with the settlements; for example, by financing the construction of property, by investing in business firms established in the settlements, by importing goods produced by the settlements and by providing them with commercial services. These corporations are complicit in Israel‟s violations of international law, including war crimes.
7.4    The RToP reiterates that the construction by Israel, inside the occupied territories, of a separation Wall between Israel and the rest of the territories violates a number of international legal rules by seriously restricting, without legal justification, the exercise of certain civil, economic, social and cultural rights by the affected Palestinian population. Corporations assist Israel in its violations of international law
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by providing Israel with cement, equipment and vehicles that are used in the construction and maintenance of the Wall.
7.5    With regards to the legal liability of corporations assisting Israel in the violation of international law, the Tribunal concludes as follows.
7.6    By assisting Israel, corporations have infringed the rights recognized by state obligations. Corporations may be liable under civil or criminal law (for example, money laundering and/or handling or receiving stolen goods) for infringing these rights in domestic law courts (many countries domestic law incorporates international law, including international humanitarian and human rights law). For example:
(a)    A claim for damages against a corporation that provided goods and services that they knew (or should have known) would be used in a manner that would cause the claimant (or a class to which the claimant belonged) damage/loss, particularly personal injury, may succeed under domestic tort law (e.g. in England and Wales or the United States) where it can be shown that damage was caused. The fact that the acts were those of the defendant‟s subsidiary need not be a bar to recovery.
(b)    Palestinians may bring a suit under the ATCA for aiding and abetting war crimes and/or crimes against humanity.
(c)    A prosecution may be brought against a corporation in the French, English or American jurisdictions, although the prosecution is likely to be for a crime within each jurisdiction rather than simply for „violations of international law‟.
(d)    The Special Representative‟s Guidelines, the Global Compact, the Norms and the OECD Guidelines all specify that corporations should refrain from violating and should actively promote human rights norms and principles.
(e)    Pursuant to Article 121-7 of the French Criminal Code, it may be possible to bring a claim against corporations operating on French territory that provide material support to the construction of the Wall.
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(f)    Because war crimes are criminal offences under US domestic law and aiding and abetting is criminalised under US law, a corporation could be prosecuted in the US for aiding and abetting war crimes committed overseas. U.S. war crimes statutes approve the exercise of extraterritorial jurisdiction to prosecute grave breaches of international criminal law by and against U.S. nationals.
7.7    The Tribunal concludes that corporate actors may be liable under international criminal law and/or under domestic criminal law if they have taken decisions as a result of which corporations have become involved in assisting Israel‟s violations of international law.    They may also be liable under civil law, in particular, under the Alien Tort Statute in the United States, which provides a tort remedy for serious violations of international law.
7.8    With regards to the non-legal liability of corporations, the Tribunal concludes that claims may be submitted to OECD National Contact Points for mediation and/or investigation and a final statement. The Tribunal recommends that a claim be brought before a domestic NCP where one is available for the state in which the corporation is domiciled. If no such NCP exists, corporations should be brought before an NCP in other states in which they have a permanent presence.
7.9    Representations to public bodies should make it clear that continued economic relations with these corporations would be contrary to their voluntary codes of conduct/guidance and to their government‟s obligations to promote and protect human rights. Continued economic relations may give rise to state responsibility.
7.10    States are advised to follow the example set by the Dutch public bodies that have investigated a Dutch corporation alleged to be complicit in in violation of international human rights and humanitarian law by supplying materials to Israel for the construction and maintenance of the illegal Wall.
7.11    The Tribunal concludes that states have an obligation to enforce existing law against corporations where they are acting in violation of international human rights and humanitarian law standards.
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7.12    States should ensure that there are sufficient remedies available, and that these remedies are accessible to victims of corporate violations of international and domestic law.
7.13    Finally, the Tribunal calls upon individuals, groups and organizations to take all necessary measures to secure compliance of corporations with international human rights and humanitarian law standards, in particular: boycotting corporations that assist in violations of international law, shareholders holding corporations to account, divestments by pension funds of investments tainted by illegality, and actions that continue to put corporations in the spotlight with the purpose of bringing about change in corporate culture. The Tribunal finds legal support for these initiatives in the Opinion of the International Court of Justice on the Wall, in which the Court stated that there exists an erga omnes obligation to refrain from recognizing or in any way supporting the illegality that arises from the conduct of Israel by building the Wall and violating international humanitarian law.

EDITOR: Beware of Israeli deception!

In its growing concern about the effects of BDS, Israel has now resorted to plain deception. The package below is advertising an oxymoron: Palestinian product sold by Israel’s offcial exporter, Agrexco. Beware and warn others of this new con! Nowhere on this package is the word Israel mentioned!

EU LAYS BASIS FOR SANCTIONS AGAINST ISRAEL: TikunOlam

In late Apartheid-era South Africa, the momentum among the international community shifted inexorably toward toppling the discriminatory system.  Crippling sanctions took their toll on the country’s economy and psyche.  While the white regime clung desperately to power, finally a spark of realism emerged within the ruling party which allowed the rise of a leader like F.W. de Klerk, who negotiated a peaceful transition to democracy and majority rule.
In the past few months, a similar process has emerged outside Israel with multiple Latin American nations (the latest being Chile) recognizing a Palestinian state within 1967 borders. Now, Haaretz reports on a sensitive new EU report drafted by consuls general in Jerusalem and Ramallah which would lay the groundwork for a possible EU sanctions regime against Israel as long as it continues the Occupation and rejects a Palestinian state.
Among the recommendations:
1. a boycott of all Israeli products, services and businesses operating outside the Green Line including East Jerusalem
2. refusal to attend meetings with Israeli officials outside the Green Line (including East Jerusalem)
3. creating a settler black list forbidding entry to EU countries of those suspected of committing violent acts against Palestinians
4. discouraging citizens of EU countries (most likely directed at European Jews) from purchasing property in East Jerusalem
Returning to the South African analogy, the chief difference is that there seems to be no realism whatsoever within the Israeli political system nor any moderate or pragmatic leader capable of being the Israeli de Klerk.  In that event, it seems that Israel’s future is deeply clouded.  Without political leadership, and with the gathering storm of opprobrium against the Occupation and denial of Palestinian national rights, it seems something has to give.  It could be an international diktat jointly negotiated by the U.S., EU, and Quartet compelling Israel to yield.  Or it could take some other form.  But it appears more and more likely that Israel simply cannot come to terms with what it must do and that the rest of the world must help or even force Israel to get where it needs to be so that both that country and the rest of the region can find stability and peace.

The nation is behind you, Galant: Haaretz

The synergy between settlers and soldiers derives from the intimate relationship between defender and defended, and from the basic fact that the IDF is a people’s army.
By Amira Hass

The seizure of public land, unauthorized road paving, misleading testimony, double standards in land allocation – all under the cover of an army uniform. Is this a precis of the history of Israeli colonialism? Not at all. These claims are the basis of the High Court of Justice petition by the Green Movement political party against Yoav Galant’s appointment as the next Israel Defense Forces chief of staff, accusations that Maariv journalist Kalman Liebeskind has made repeatedly in investigative reports over the past two years.

In the meantime, the High Court has asked the attorney general on Monday to explain how complaints lodged against Galant have been handled. Here is an explanation that has already been written, but in invisible ink:

The IDF, the greenhouse that has nurtured Galant, is the major land broker in Palestinian areas that were occupied in 1967. All the land that private speculators have managed to purchase by cunning and stealth does not come close to the vast territory stolen on military orders signed by our finest commanders. The army’s seizure of land “for military and security purposes” quickly turned into large-scale appropriation for the exclusive benefit of Israel’s super-citizens, at the expense of the subpar species.

The IDF is simultaneously the representative and the defender of a campaign to peddle the Bible as a real estate deed. Public land, private land, rocky ground, springs, unregistered land, irrigated land, unirrigated land, built-up land, precious artifacts of agricultural and architectural traditions – it’s all the same. Military and civilian jurists alike, ensconced in the robes of knowledge and boasting degrees conferred by the finest universities, have concocted infinite stratagems and machinations to plunder all types of land.

The jurists and the military commanders, like the soldiers who tack land seizure orders or demolition orders on olive trees, are the representatives, the emissaries, of the campaign. But in a state in which military service constitutes an admissions test for a successful political career, any lines that distinguish between those who devise policy and those who implement it become blurred.

Lest there be a misunderstanding, let me state that the settlers also play the role of emissary. Even when the puppet rises against its maker and protector, it is still an instrument, and it is implementing the consistent policy of undermining the prospect of a viable Palestinian state (as compared to a state of Bantustans, of the sort that Kadima and Labor are advocating.

Generations of soldiers and commanding officers owe to the settlement enterprise their social capital – their prestige – and their livelihood in the army, politics or business. As the settlement enterprise grows, so does the number of Israeli Jews who profit from it, whether directly or indirectly. And as that dual expansion takes place, the dispossession of those who aren’t Israeli Jews also increases, as does the need for more security techniques. Israelis serving in the army – whether recent recruits, career soldiers or reservists – are depicted as altruistic, as having no agenda of their own, as the prime human material behind these security techniques.

The synergy between settlers and soldiers derives from the intimate relationship between defender and defended, and from the basic fact that this is a people’s army. In a state in which the social welfare component has long since become watered down, it is the settlements that have become the best prospect for a socioeconomic upgrade for Israeli Jews.

For Galant, the synergy appears to have gone awry; according to the complaints, his actions were a scaled-down version of what his employer, the IDF, has been doing on a macro level.

If he lived in the West Bank settlement of Ofra and he took over land in the neighboring villages of Silwad and Ein Yabrud – just as he is accused of doing to his Jewish neighbors in Moshav Amikam – those who compile a report or file a complaint about it might be subject to a parliamentary investigation.

It would be pointless to file an altogether different kind of petition: one that protests Galant’s appointment as chief of staff not because of his private actions but because of the direct responsibility that he, as GOC Southern Command, bears for the killing of hundreds of civilians in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead, in non-combat circumstances.

The nation is behind you, Galant.

EDITOR: The countdown to the next Gaza War

In Israel, all sectors are now preparing for another brutal, inhuman and pointless arttack on Gaza, incredible as this might sound to the rest of us. In the absence of a policy which would lead towards just peace, either in Jerusalem, Rammallah or Washington, the default option of Israel is to attack, either in Lebanon or in Gaza, as it has done for decades. If you cannot think – Shoot!

Now they have roped in the Mubarak regime for another round of prparatory noises before the tanks move to kill more civilians, destroy those few parts of Gaza which are still standing, and inject even more bitterness and pain into the conflict. They do not know any other way. But why are the EU, USA and the rest of the west supporting those murderers?

Egypt to Hamas: Stop Gaza rockets or face new Israel war: Haaretz

PA official says Egypt and another Arab country, which he declined to identify, had discussed the issue with Hamas.

Egypt has told Hamas that Israel might launch a Gaza war to curb rocket attacks, a warning that led the group to urge other militant factions to cease fire, sources familiar with Egypt-Hamas contacts said on Wednesday.

“Egypt has told Hamas the Gaza situation was similar to that before December 2008,” said one source, referring to the start of the three-week war Israel waged in the Hamas-run enclave with the declared aim of halting cross-border rocket strikes.

“Hamas does not want a new escalation unless it is forced into it,” the source said.

A Palestinian official said Egypt and another Arab country, which he declined to identify, had discussed the issue with Hamas. Hamas officials declined to comment.

On Sunday, Hamas said it had made contact with other factions to urge them to recommit to an agreement they reached two years ago to stop rocket and mortar bomb fire.

In recent weeks, Palestinian militants have stepped up attacks along the Gaza border, drawing Israeli strikes that killed 13 Palestinians, most of them gunmen, in December.

An Israeli army spokeswoman said at least 20 rockets and mortar bombs have landed in Israel since the start of 2011.

Saleh Zidan, a senior leader of the Palestinian Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), told Reuters top Egyptian security officials he met in Cairo on Tuesday made their concerns known about a new Israeli offensive.

“The Egyptian leadership is in favour of not giving a pretext to the Israeli government to launch a new war on the Gaza Strip,” Zidan said.

The DFLP is a major faction in the Palestine Liberation Organisation and is at odds with Hamas over the 2007 Hamas takeover of Gaza. The DFLP has claimed several attacks on Israel from the Gaza Strip over the past two years.

Israel has said Hamas has largely held its fire over the past two years but the surge in rocket attacks meant it was not doing enough to curb other groups, which say their strikes are in retaliation for Israeli raids in Gaza and the West Bank.

“Terrible mistake”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, addressing foreign journalists in Jerusalem on Tuesday, said militants in the Gaza Strip would be making “a terrible, terrible mistake” if they continued to “test our will to defend our people”.

An Israeli air strike earlier that day killed an Islamic Jihad militant. The Israeli military said he had been planning to carry out an attack against Israel.

‘Evil spirit’ sweeping over Israel, warns opposition leader Tzipi Livni: The Guardian

Livni’s Kadima party to oppose legislation to investigate funding of civil and human rights groups
Harriet Sherwood in Jerusalem

Israel’s opposition leader Tzipi Livni: ‘Those sparking the flames are members of the Netanyahu-Lieberman government’. Photograph: Gil Cohen Magen/Reuters
Israel’s opposition leader, Tzipi Livni, today said a wave of evil was sweeping the country, characterised by legislation to investigate the funding of civil and human rights organisations.

Her party, Kadima, would oppose the establishment of a parliamentary commission of inquiry into groups such as B’Tselem and Physicians for Human Rights, she said. Her comments followed an attack by the foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, whose party sponsored the bill, on rightwing opponents of the measure. He said they had “bleeding hearts” and were harming the “national camp”.

In a statement Livni said: “An evil spirit has been sweeping over the country, and it is our duty to stand up against this wave. Kadima cannot be a passive participant in this process; our public duty is not to be part of such a thing and stand against it … Those sparking the flames are the members of the Netanyahu-Lieberman government, whether silently or in complicity with elements in the Knesset [parliament].”

Prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s government is dependent on the support of Yisrael Beiteinu, Lieberman’s party, and many commentators say the extreme right in his coalition is making the running on policy. The centrist Kadima party has refused to join the coalition while it contains Yisrael Beiteinu.

As well as citing the bill passed by a large majority last week to set up an investigation into the funding of rights organisations, Livni pointed to a video death threat issued against deputy state prosecutor Shal Nitzan for investigating two racist, anti-Arab Facebook groups. Netanyahu called for a police investigation into the video.

Concerns have also been raised about other bills presented to the Knesset, including a proposal to impose heavy fines on Israeli citizens backing boycotts of the country and the demand that new non-Jewish citizens must pledge loyalty to Israel as a Jewish state.

Earlier today, Lieberman told party colleagues that the rights groups whose funding would be investigated were “terror supporters whose only goal is to weaken the IDF [military]”.

He attacked rightwing politicians who opposed the bill, saying: “Some leaders of the right have become leftist proxies. They … are betraying the national camp.”

B’Tselem, one of the organisations which could face investigation, said in a statement: “Lieberman and his cronies are those who are damaging Israel’s international standing, in their policies as well as their attempts to silence human rights organisations that work fearlessly to save Israeli democracy and our country’s moral fibre.”

Physicians for Human Rights said: “We don’t have anything to hide. Our activities, which aim to bring about a more fair and inclusive society, are carried out by hundreds of committed volunteers, physicians, and staff. Leiberman could learn a thing or two from them, especially with regards to the values of fairness, compassion, and democracy.”

Jewish-British anti-Muslim event in Toronto draws protests, arrests: Haaretz

Canadian Kahanists host British-based English Defense League, drawing anti-racist demonstrations.

Dozens of anti-racist activists demonstrated in front of a Zionist community center in Toronto, Canada on Tuesday to protest a public event organized by Jewish and British anti-Muslims. Four protestors were arrested in the fracas, and at least one police officer suffered a broken rib, according to The Globe and Mail.

The local chapter of the Jewish Defense League, an extreme-right organization founded by the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, broadcasted a live speech by English Defense League founder Stephen Lennon, otherwise known as Tommy Robinson, drawing the ire of demonstrators.

The two groups on opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean have found common cause in nationalist pride and Islamophobic rhetoric. Both groups claim that they do not promote prejudice against others, only pride in their own respective ethnicities, but critics accuse them of spreading hate against Arabs and other Muslims.

One group of demonstrators maintained a vigil across the intersection from the Zionist building, while a separate group of demonstrators marched towards the community center to confront the JDL. Police on foot and on horseback intervened and corralled the protestors, The Globe and Mail reported.

Toronto police said that one of their officers was had been taken to hospital with a broken rib after he was hit with a flagpole. At the end of the demonstration, police noticed that one of their squad cars had been vandalized, its windows smashed.

Anti-Racist Action, which organized the second group of protestors, claim that police responded violently, kicking one demonstrator in the face. Officers confiscated the cameras of activists videotaping the arrests and wiped their memory cards clean, say the ARA.

The EDL website says that the group’s aims are to oppose what it calls the application of Sharia law in the U.K. “The root cause of the problem is the Koran, it’s Islam,” Lennon told the BBC in November. “And no one has got the balls to admit it and say it and talk about it. We will.”

“The EDL has organized violent street marches that target Arab and Muslim people,” read an open letter signed by the organizers of Tuesday’s protest. “They are part of an alarming rise in fascist, racist and neo-Nazi organizing in Europe over the last few years, including attacks on Muslims, immigrants and Roma people.”

“JDL supports the EDL,” says an announcement on the JDL Canadian website. “Now is the time to step forward and stop Political Islam. The British Establishment is following the appeasement policies of Neville Chamberlain,” it reads, a reference to the British prime minister who tried to placate Adolf Hitler, implying that Muslims represent a threat of Nazi proportions.

In Israel, the Kach political party established by JDL founder Rabbi Meir Kahane was banned from running for the Knesset in 1992, due to its racist platform, but in recent years Kahane’s followers have entered the Knesset under different names, and some of Kahane’s proposed policies are now unabashedly espoused by ministers in the current government.

Bernie Farber of the establishment Jewish organization Canadian Jewish Congress, said of the JDL on the CJN website, “As long as they maintain the peace, as long as they do not engage in racist language or hate or violate Canadian law, they have the right to exist.”

Farber said he was disappointed that the JDL would support the EDL because of its record of violence. But, he told the National Post, “Islamic fundamentalism is a real threat.”

West Bank protester has jail term extended: The Guardian

Leader of village demonstrations against barrier has sentence is extended by three months after appeal by Israeli military prosecutors

Israeli soldiers fire tear gas at protesters during a demonstration in the West Bank village of Bil’in against Israeli settlements and a separation barrier. Photograph: Abbas Momani/AFP/Getty Images
West Bank protester Abdallah Abu Rahmah is facing a further three months in prison after the Israeli military court of appeal today extended his sentence.

Abu Rahmah, a leader of protests against Israel’s separation barrier in the village of Bil’in, was convicted in August of incitement and organising illegal demonstrations. This was criticised by Cathy Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief, who described him as a “human rights defender committed to non-violent protest against the route of the Israeli separation barrier”.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa also condemned the conviction.

Abu Rahmah was due to be released in November, but military prosecutors argued for him to be detained until their appeal for a longer sentence could be heard. They wanted him to serve two years “as a deterrence not only to [Abu Rahmah] himself, but also to others who may follow in his footsteps”.

Today the judge extended the sentence to 16 months, of which Abu Rahmah has served 13.

Diplomatic representatives from seven European countries – including the UK – as well as the European Union were present in court today.

Abu Rahmah, the coordinator of the Bil’in Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements, was arrested in December 2009, and was sentenced to 12 months last October after an eight month military trial. He was cleared of stone throwing and possession of arms.

Bil’in is the village where a Palestinian woman, Jawaher Abu Rahmah, died 10 days ago after Israeli soldiers fired tear gas at protesters. Her brother, Bassem, was killed in April 2009 when he was hit by a tear gas cannister.

The village protests, which have involved Israeli and international activists as well as locals, against the route of the separation barrier in the West Bank have often included stone-throwing by youths, which the military counter with teargas and rubber bullets.

Menawhile, Israeli activist Jonathan Pollack began a three month prison sentence today after being of illegal gathering during a bicycle protest in Tel Aviv two years ago over the blockade of Gaza. His conviction activated an earlier suspended sentence.

Pollack has regularly attended the protests in Bil’in.

EDITOR: The naivity of Haaretz Editorial

A bit of liberal posturing from the Haaretz editorial team. Bearing mind that Lieberman is the real force in the Netanyahu government, with the connections to the street and to the racist mobs, he is crucial for Netanyahu, who uses him like his political whip – that way he remains clean of accusations of fascism himself… there is no real political difference between the two, and Lieberman says what Netanyahu thinks, and avoid voicing at the moment. To believe that Netanyahu will counter, or may counter, the racist and extreme positions of his second in command is not just naive, but misguided.

The extreme right’s incitement will end in murder: Haaretz Editorial

PM Netanyahu must denounce the inflammatory statements of Avigdor Lieberman loudly and clearly.

In response to a video clip that urged the murder of Deputy State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein and State Prosecutor Moshe Lador said it represented a new nadir in an ongoing trend of vicious incitement against civil servants who do their jobs professionally and properly. And indeed, calling for the murder of a lawman who decided to try to stop the incitement against Israel’s Arab citizens violently crosses the line that separates freedom of expression from freedom of incitement.

Public figures on the right have dismissed the issue with the tired claim that those responsible are “wild weeds.” But nowadays, these “weeds” are in fact sprouting in the garden of the cabinet and being enthusiastically cultivated by the Knesset.

Scarcely a day goes by in without the coalition joining hands with the extreme right in order to depict non-Jews as hostile elements. From here, the distance is short to inciting against Jews who strive to prevent harm to minority rights, and also to delegitimizing rightists who display sensitivity toward human rights.

The video clip “accuses” Nitzan of “protecting Arabs” and even of “collaborating with them against Jews.” But it’s hard to find the difference between these inflammatory statements and those of Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman, who accused organizations that defend human and civil rights of abetting terror and undermining the Israel Defense Forces.

Lieberman, the deputy prime minister and foreign minister, even claimed that “the terror being waged against us from within is more dangerous than the terror being waged against us from without.” And at best, people who abet terror belong behind bars.

As Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in response to Lieberman’s assault on Likud members who object to persecuting human rights organizations, “in a democratic country, it’s important to maintain a spectrum of opinion.” But the unbridled incitement by his senior coalition partner against Israeli citizens is outside the legitimate spectrum of opinion.

It’s a pity that Netanyahu does not see fit to get rid of his foreign minister. But at the very least, the prime minister, like the justice minister and the attorney general, must denounce his inflammatory statements loudly and clearly.

Irving Moskowitz demolishes part of Jerusalem hotel to build settler housing: The Guardian

US millionaire’s plans for 20 homes on historic Palestinian site will inflame already tense situation, say critics
Harriet Sherwood in Sheikh Jarrah

Bulldozers demolish part of the Shepherd Hotel to make way for settler housing. Irving Moskowitz bought the building in 1985. Photograph: Ammar Awad/Reuters

Heavy duty demolition equipment razed a section of the historic Shepherd Hotel in East Jerusalem today to make way for a new Jewish settlement in a move which opponents said further jeopardised the shaky prospects for peace.

Work began without warning in the early morning, and by 10am a wing of the hotel in the Palestinian neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah was reduced to rubble. The building, once the headquarters of Haj Amin al-Husseini, the former grand mufti of Jerusalem, has been the subject of controversial redevelopment plans since it was bought in 1985 by the US millionaire Irving Moskowitz, who is strongly pro-settlement. His ownership is contested by the Husseini family.

Both the US and UK governments have raised objections to the hotel’s replacement by a Jewish settlement. East Jerusalem was annexed by Israel in 1967, and settlements there are illegal under international law. The hotel was declared “absentee property” after 1967. Approval was given last year by the Jerusalem district planning and building council to demolish part of the building to make way for 20 housing units.

Sheikh Jarrah has been targeted by hardline settlers over the past few years, and a number of Palestinian families have been evicted from their homes. Israel says Jews have the right to build and live anywhere in the city. The area has become a focal point for weekly protests by locals and leftwing Israelis.

“[Israel] is not looking for peace but to take more land,” said Adnan Husseini, the Palestinian-appointed governor of Jerusalem, outside the gates of the hotel that were guarded by armed security personnel. “It’s clear they are doing everything to violate the situation. They are disfiguring this area by building a settlement here.”

Israeli actions, said resident Nasser Jawi, were “torpedoing the peace process”.

Nasser Isa Hidmi, of the Jerusalem Committee Against Demolition and Deportation, said the international community should act to prevent Jewish settlers moving into Palestinian neighbourhoods: “We don’t want sympathy – we want them to stop Israel from doing what it’s doing.”

A handful of settler supporters witnessed the demolition. Daniel Luria of Ateret Cohanim, a rightwing pro-settler organisation, said: “There is no more beautiful sound than the destruction of the house of a notorious, not just Nazi sympathiser, but Nazi.” Haj Amin al-Husseini was an ally of Hitler.

The demolition of part of the hotel follows an internal EU report on East Jerusalem last month that urged diplomatic intervention over demolitions, evictions, arrests, court cases and intimidation by Israeli authorities.

The EU heads of mission report, which is published annually and circulated privately to European diplomats, said the likelihood of East Jerusalem becoming the capital of a future Palestinian state is faint in the light of “interlinked Israeli policies and measures”, including continued settlement expansion, restrictions on access and movement, demolitions and evictions.

“The past year has again seen a further deterioration of the overall situation in East Jerusalem,” the report said. “If current trends are not stopped as a matter of urgency, the prospect of East Jerusalem as the future capital of a Palestinian state becomes increasingly unlikely and unworkable. This, in turn, seriously endangers the chances of a sustainable peace.”

The report called for an EU presence “when there is a risk of demolitions or evictions of Palestinian families … at Israeli court cases on house demolitions or evictions … [and] EU intervention when Palestinians are arrested or intimidated by Israeli authorities for peaceful cultural, social or political activities in East Jerusalem.”

Settlement construction in the east of the city, which, said the report, “embodies the essence of the conflict: territory, nationhood and religion”, resumed intensively two months after the end of the Israeli government’s building moratorium.

The report identified two types of settlements: small groups of ideologically-motivated settlers taking over homes in Palestinian neighbourhoods in an attempt to prevent the division of Jerusalem in any peace deal; and Israeli government initiatives squeezing East Jerusalem and separating it from the West Bank.

A year in jail not enough punishment for protesting: The Only Democracy?

January 11th, 2011,  by Jesse Bacon

Israel’s military went to court for the right to keep holding in jail Palestinian organizer Abdallah Abu Rahmah, the cousin of slain protester Jawaher Abu Rahmah. Happily for the Israeli Army, it’s a military court so they complied. Abdallah is now to serve an additional 2-3 months. Presumably they believe that’s enough that when Abdallah is released, Palestinians won’t mind having their land stolen or their political and human rights denied. I wouldn’t bet on it. I think the fact that a man committed to unarmed protest can end up in millitary court tells you everything you need to know about the Israeli regime. This will definitely be an example to others, but not the way the military wants it to be.e.
Here’s the account from Popular Struggle of the harshening of Abdallah’s sentence on appeal.
After ordering to keep Abdallah Abu Rahmah in detention past his release date on the 18th of November 2010, the Military Court of Appeals sided with the prosecution’s appeal demanding to aggravate the one-year sentence imposed on Abu Rahmah. The prosecution asked the court to harshen the sentence so that it exceeds two years imprisonment. However, the judge gave a sentence of a total of sixteen months. He has been in jail for exactly thirteen months and one day. He will now serve three more months to complete the sixteen month sentence.
The judge sided with the military prosecution in front of a packed courtroom, which included the German and Spanish heads of consul in East Jerusalem, as well as diplomatic representatives from France, Malta, Sweden, Austria, United Kingdom, and the European Commission. Despite international outrage, the prosecution openly argued that the sentence should be extended for political reasons, namely “to serve as a deterrence not only to [Abu Rahmah] himself, but also to others who may follow in his footsteps.” Abdallah Abu Rahmah served as the coordinator of the Bil’in Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements until his arrest last year. Such arguments by the prosecution expose the real motivation behind the countless recent arrests of anti-Wall organizers and activists, which is to squash the popular struggle movement in the West Bank.
Gabi Lasky, Abdallah Abu Rahmah’s lawyer: “Israel has tried violent means to hinder and stop the popular unarmed demonstrations in the West Bank. Military courts are an instrument of the occupation and their verdicts are devised to help the occupation continue. This decision makes a mockery of the law and justice itself.”
On October 11th 2010, Abu Rahmah was sentenced to twelve months imprisonment for his prominent role in his village’s successful campaign against the construction of Israel’s Separation Barrier on its lands. Abu Rahmah was convicted of two Freedom of Expression charges – incitement and organizing illegal demonstrations, but was cleared of all charges connecting him with direct violence.
Abu Rahmah was to be released from prison on November 18th, when the prison term he was sentenced to ended, but was kept in jail on the order of the Military Court of Appeals. The controversial decision directly conflicts with the jurisprudence of the Israeli Hight Court on the issue, instructing that a prisoner should only be kept under arrest after his term was over in the most extenuating of circumstances.
Abu Rahmah was declared a human rights defender by the European Union, and his conviction and sentence generated international outrage, and was denounced by human rights organizations and the international community alike, including EU foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton.
Background
Abu Rahmah, the coordinator of the Bil’in Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements, was arrested last year by soldiers who raided his home at the middle of the night and was subsequently indicted before an Israeli military court on unsubstantiated charges that included stone-throwing and arms possession. Abu Rahmah was cleared of both the stone-throwing and arms possession charges, butconvicted of organizing illegal demonstrations and incitement.
An exemplary case of mal-use of the Israeli military legal system in the West Bank for the purpose of silencing legitimate political dissent, Abu Rahmah’s conviction was subject to harsh international criticism. The EU foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, expressed her deep concern “that the possible imprisonment of Mr Abu Rahma is intended to prevent him and other Palestinians from exercising their legitimate right to protest[…]“, after EU diplomats attended all hearings in Abu Rahmah’s case. Ashton’s statement was followed by one from the Spanish Parliament.
Renowned South African human right activist, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, called on Israel to overturn Abu Rahmah’s conviction on behalf of the Elders, a group of international public figures noted as elder statesmen, peace activists, and human rights advocates, brought together by Nelson Mandela. Members of the Elders, including Tutu, have met with Abu Rahmah on their visit to Bil’in prior to his arrest.
International human rights organization Amnesty International condemned Abu Rahmah’s conviction as an assault on the right to freedom of expression. Human Rights Watch denounced the conviction, pronouncing the whole process “an unfair trial”.
Israeli organizations also distributed statements against the conviction – including a statement by B’Tselem which raises the issue of questionable testimonies by minors used to convict Abu Rahme, and The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) which highlights the impossibility of organizing legal demonstrations for Palestinians in the West Bank.
Legal Background
Abu Rahmah, the coordinator of the Bil’in Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements, was acquitted of two out of the four charges brought against him in the indictment – stone-throwing and a ridiculous and vindictive arms possession charge. According to the indictment, Abu Rahmah collected used tear-gas projectiles and bullet casings shot at demonstrators, with the intention of exhibiting them to show the violence used against demonstrators. This absurd charge is a clear example of how eager the military prosecution is to use legal procedures as a tool to silence and smear unarmed dissent.
The court did, however, find Abu Rahmah guilty of two of the most draconian anti-free speech articles in military legislation: incitement, and organizing and participating in illegal demonstrations. It did so based only on testimonies of minors who were arrested in the middle of the night and denied their right to legal counsel, and despite acknowledging significant ills in their questioning.
The court was also undeterred by the fact that the prosecution failed to provide any concrete evidence implicating Abu Rahmah in any way, despite the fact that all demonstrations in Bil’in are systematically filmed by the army.
Under military law, incitement is defined as “The attempt, verbally or otherwise, to influence public opinion in the Area in a way that may disturb the public peace or public order” (section 7(a) of the Order Concerning Prohibition of Activities of Incitement and Hostile Propaganda (no.101), 1967), and carries a 10 years maximal sentence.

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