For Israel, the payment of small amounts in reparation is not out of the question if it helps to serve Zionism’s geo-political objectives. Israel is to pay Ankara US$20m in reparations in return for Turkey dropping legal action over the war crime committed by Israel when its marines stormed a Turkish ship on the high seas in May 2010. The unprovoked Israeli violence against unarmed civilians killed nine people aboard the Mavi Marmara. Unsurprisingly, Israel got away with murder, with Turkey agreeing to pass legislation indemnifying the Israeli military. This means the legal case against the Israeli commandos who staged the raid will be dropped. Likewise, individual Israeli nationals will also not be held criminally or financially liable.
Israel has a habit of committing war crimes, at sea, in the air and on land – all of them exemplifying the scant regard it has for human life or international law. Gaza fisher folk can attest to that, with the Israeli Navy opening fire on them nearly every day. These attacks constitute a flagrant violation of international humanitarian and human rights law, particularly with respect to the right to work, and the right to life, liberty and security of person, as codified in Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) – Israel is a State Party to the Covenant. Then there is the 1967 Israeli attack on the USS Liberty that killed 34 crew and wounded 174. As Alan Hart observed: “The lesson of the cold-blooded attack on the Liberty was that there is nothing the Zionist state might not do, to its friends as well as its enemies, in order to get its own way.” There has been no compensation for the victims of this attack, even though US aid to Israel amounts to approximately one-third of the US foreign-aid budget. This generosity from US taxpayers is lavished upon a country that enjoys per capita income amongst the highest in the world. Plainly, Israel has powerful allies in very high places. In 1973, Israeli fighter jets shot down Libyan Arab Airlines Flight 114 (LN 114) while in Egyptian air space over the Sinai Peninsular, killing 108 people. The shooting down of the airliner was personally authorised by Israeli Chief of Staff, David Elazar. In this case, as with the Mavi Marmara slaughter, Israel chose to pay compensation to the victims of its attack on a civilian aircraft.
Bulldozing Palestinian olive groves
With every Israeli barbarity in Palestine there comes fresh dependency on outside aid. Last year, Ecologist Magazine’s website featured an article on Israeli settler attacks on Palestinian olive trees. Here is an extract:
“By occupying Palestinian agricultural lands and destroying Palestinian olive trees, crops and property, Israeli settlers seek to deprive the Palestinians of their main livelihood. Olive trees are also of huge symbolic, cultural and historic significance to Palestinians, and represent their ‘rootedness’ in the land.”
“Universally regarded as the symbol of peace, the olive tree has become the object of violence. For more than forty years, Israel has uprooted over one million olive trees and hundreds of thousands of fruit trees in Palestine with terrible economic and ecological consequences for the Palestinian people.”
The destruction of olive trees is a specific violation of Article 54 of the 1977 Protocol to the 1949 Geneva Conventions: “It is prohibited to attack, destroy, remove or render useless objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population, such as foodstuffs, agricultural areas for the production of foodstuffs, crops, livestock, drinking water installations and supplies and irrigation works, for the specific purpose of denying them for their sustenance value to the civilian population or to the adverse Party, whatever the motive, whether in order to starve out civilians, to cause them to move away, or for any other motive.”
An article published in The Independent describes the bulldozing of olive groves by Israeli Occupation forces last year. In Gaza, Palestinian agriculture is either under fire or being bulldozed during Israeli Army incursions, nearly every day.
Send the bills to Israel
The Palestinian economy is in thrall to constant Israeli sabotage and manipulation and the Zionist state shows no remorse for the staggering daily toll it takes on Palestinian life, limb, liberty and property. Instead of bringing Israel to account by forcing it to stop its violations of international law and make reparation, a principle that is established in international law, state donors (principally the European Union, the United States, Japan and UN agencies) contribute a little aid to Palestine but do nothing to restrain the Occupying power. The bills for all of this should be sent to Israel because otherwise it benefits in two ways – first, the cost of reparations is being borne by anyone but Israel and, second, the Zionist state is being allowed to continue profiting from the Occupation while plundering Palestinian water and land. And the profitability of Israel’s impunity doesn’t end there. Israel’s military Occupation of the West Bank and blockade of Gaza serve as laboratories for the development of Israel’s lucrative population-control arms industry.
Destroying aid-funded projects
In June 2016, Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor released a report discussing Israel’s repetitive destruction of EU-funded projects in Palestine. The report, Squandered Aid, reveals that since 2001, the Israeli Occupation destroyed around 150 development projects, which represent a financial loss to the EU of approximately €65 million. This wasted aid money had been spent on development and humanitarian projects. At least €23 million was lost during the 2014 assault on Gaza alone. The Monitor called for investigations into every Israeli destruction of structures built with funding from the UN, EU or member states on Palestinian land. In addition, it recommended that investing in Palestinian development should continue but that Israel should be appropriately penalised whenever it chooses to target UN- or European-funded projects. It should also be obvious that sanctions should be imposed upon Israel for all of its targeting of Palestinian property and agriculture. Why single-out donated aid projects? A Palestinian NGO, Aid Watch Palestine, estimates that at least 72% of foreign aid actually ends up back in Israeli hands.
On 1 September, UNRWA, the UN agency responsible for aiding some five million Palestinian refugees, announced a new $2.7 million project to rebuild and restore the buildings destroyed by Israel during its Gaza blitz of 2014. The statement confirmed UNRWA’s commitment to rebuilding the Palestinian homes destroyed during Israel’s 51-day assault which left some 100,000 homeless. While Gaza has a large number of graduates and a talented capacity to thrive, employment rates remain low because of Israel’s blockade and constant crippling assaults on the local economy. According to UN reports, Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza (Operation ‘Protective Edge’) killed 1,462 Palestinians, a third of whom were children. At least 142 families lost three or more members in attacks on homes that caused 742 deaths. According to the UN, there is credible evidence that harm to civilians caused by the blitz amounted to war crimes. Israel is, yet again, getting away with murder, facing no demand for reparations and offering no guarantee that it will not later destroy all that has been rebuilt.
The UN is supporting the Israeli economy
Israel’s Channel 2 Television has celebrated a huge increase in the sale of Israeli products and services to United Nations agencies over the past two years, with the UN spending US$91.8 million in 2015 alone. The spending boost to the Israeli economy more than doubled the 2013 expenditure and increased by more than 30% the value of purchases made last year. Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, was exultant over the spending, saying: “It makes us proud when blue and white products are purchased and I call on Israeli companies to increase their dealings with the UN.” The Middle East Monitor commented that “the new data comes amid international calls to boycott Israeli products over Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian land.”
UN support for Israeli economy also encourages illegal settlement
In May last year, the Israeli Human Rights organisation B’Tselem listed 247 Israeli settlements and settlement outposts established in the Occupied West Bank since 1967. The purpose of the Occupation is obvious and the Israeli Government’s declaration of the permanent nature of these settlement colonies is, as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) reminds us, prohibited under the Fourth Geneva Convention (Article 49): “Prohibited actions include forcibly transferring protected persons from the occupied territories to the territory of the occupying power.
“It is unlawful under the Fourth Geneva Convention for an occupying power to transfer parts of its own population into the territory it occupies. This means that international humanitarian law prohibits the establishment of settlements, as these are a form of population transfer into occupied territory. Any measure designed to expand or consolidate settlements is also illegal. Confiscation of land to build or expand settlements is similarly prohibited.”
Under the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention the term ‘protected persons’ includes the native population living under foreign military rule. The militarily-Occupied Palestinian people have no protection, no security and are permitted no means of self-defence.
Aid and compassion for Palestine
There are forms of help for the Palestinian people that can in no way help Israel to further its Zionist objectives. First-hand medical aid and surgery relieve much suffering and bring the warmth of practical compassion. Peace activists, who witness and report on the daily cruelties and injustices that the Palestinian people are forced to endure, bring friendly reassurance and comradeship. Collective opposition from anti-Zionists world-wide, including Israelis and anti-Zionist Jews challenges Israel on the ground in Palestine and across the world. All forms of aid should be carefully assessed with the crucial question answered: do they, in any way, help Israel to further its territorial ambitions and thus the agony of Palestine?
The Community Centre in the Palestinian village of Umm Al Khair was a place where children were taught and homework completed and where visiting women’s health clinics were held. The Centre was also a place of greeting and social cohesion. The villagers regarded it as the very soul of Umm Al Khair (Mother of All Goodness). On 23 August 2016, Israeli Army bulldozers came and destroyed the Community Centre. see this short film. The villagers have a defiant message of resistance – “they destroy – we rebuild”.
At 9:10am, 24 August 2016, raiding Israeli forces destroyed a well and uprooted several trees in south-east Yatta. At 10:40am on the same day, Israeli troops, firing stun grenades and tear gas, raided al-Jiftlik village, removed a 1000-megawatt electrical power grid funded by the Palestinian Authority and left in its place a 500-megawatt grid (without connecting it). The 1000-megawatt grid had been an essential upgrade to the village power supply.
Again, on 24 August, Israeli troops shot dead a 24-year-old Palestinian man in his car – photographic evidence disproved Israeli Army lies about the killing of Sari Mohammad Abu Gharab, who was hit with several rounds fired by Israeli troops. The Israeli Army claimed the man got out of the car and attempted to knife a soldier but photos taken at the scene show Abu Gharab still seated in the vehicle. The Electronic Intifada website carries photos showing his body still seated in the car he had been driving, and soldiers removing his body from the vehicle. No soldiers were injured.
Also on 24 August, Israel committed 16 Gaza ceasefire violations, including ten air strikes and several attacks on fishing boats, with one vessel hijacked. There have been no Palestinian ceasefire violations since 20 August when a single rocket was fired.
On 26 August, Israeli troops, manning the Ofra Occupation settlement watch-tower in Silwad, opened fire on and killed a handicapped special-needs patient as he drove past them.
On 27 August, in Northern Gaza, the Israeli Navy opened fire on Palestinian fishing boats off al-Sudaniya, hijacked a vessel and took prisoner two crew members, Abdel-Latif Zaki Taroush and Ahmad Waheed Abu Hassan.
On 29 August at 4:30am, the Israeli Army invaded a Bedouin community in Jaba’ village and destroyed five homes and three livestock shelters.
Day after day, decade after decade, Israel’s selfish and spiteful racist oppression blights Palestinian lives while world leaders and politicians keep silent. In this they are aided by news media reporting that, for the most part, downplays or ignores the daily horrific reality. The actual daily toll on Palestinian life, limb, liberty and property can be seen at www.palestine.org.nz.
Making Israel pay
As yet, the only opposition to Zionism’s criminal behaviour that actually makes Israel pay is the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS). This non-violent resistance has become a global force, with Israel and its supporters now forced to spend millions to prop up the country’s crumbling image. The movement began in Occupied Palestine and now has the support of much of the world at grass-roots level. Modelled on the example set by the successful efforts to boycott supporters of South Africa’s racist apartheid regime, the BDS movement is proud to count figures such as Desmond Tutu among its supporters.
The founding letter of the BDS movement observes that “all forms of international intervention and peace-making” have “failed to convince or force Israel to comply with humanitarian law, to respect fundamental human rights and to end its occupation and oppression of the people of Palestine.” The letter concluded by saying: “Inspired by the struggle of South Africans against apartheid and in the spirit of international solidarity, moral consistency and resistance to injustice and oppression: We, representatives of Palestinian civil society, call upon international civil society organisations and people of conscience all over the world to impose broad boycotts and implement divestment initiatives against Israel similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era. We appeal to you to pressure your respective states to impose embargoes and sanctions against Israel. We also invite conscientious Israelis to support this Call, for the sake of justice and genuine peace.”
New Zealand’s voice
In an address to the Lowy Institute in Sydney on 15 March 2016, New Zealand Foreign Minister Mr McCully noted that progress towards peace was vanishing because of Israel’s Occupation settlements. He said the United Nations Security Council needed to act because the situation posed a serious challenge to the Council’s credibility. New Zealand has put on hold a draft UN Security Council resolution it had earlier circulated that simply called on Israel to stop building settlements while telling Palestinians to stop taking cases to the International Criminal Court. This attempt to shield Israel from facing the consequences of its gross violations of international law contributes nothing towards promoting peace and stability in the Middle East. If McCully believes that Israel has no case to answer he would surely welcome the opportunity for this to be proved at the ICC. Instead, because Israel’s supporters fear the public airing of evidence that could prove Israel’s violations of international humanitarian law, everything possible is done to keep the truth under wraps.
New Zealand has begun its second term as President of the United Nations Security Council which will continue until the end of the month. The Presidency also coincides with the annual UN Leaders’ Week, which Prime Minister John Key will Chair as well as addressing the 71st General Assembly. New Zealand is also to deliver a statement in the General Debate. McCully stated in his address to the Lowy Institute that for the Security Council to do nothing “would be a total abrogation of its responsibilities.” There never have been greater opportunities for New Zealand to speak out in defence of international law at the Security Council and the UN General Assembly. Not to do so would indeed be a total abrogation of responsibilities. Effective defence for the Palestinian people’s human rights means total support for BDS – and support for the movement includes demanding that the UN Security Council impose Sanctions upon Israel until it conforms with the norms of civilised behaviour and stops its violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention. All BDS supporters should put relentless pressure on politicians to say where they stand on Sanctions.
Many parliamentarians would rather stay silent on a matter that is at the centre of destabilisation in the Middle East and we cannot let them get away with it. Here in New Zealand, we must remind our Government that there are only four months left for it to speak up at the Security Council to demand that UN Sanctions be imposed upon Israel. This morally responsible initiative would awaken world leaders and force them to recognise the global support that exists for such a call. It would also serve as a warning to Israel’s leaders that their impunity will not last forever. And remember, while Israel faces no demand for reparations, its leaders will continue to feel free to destroy all that is rebuilt.