Next month, from 14-20 November the USS Sampson will attend the Royal New Zealand Navy’s International Naval Review, which just happens to coincide with a Weapons Conference & Expo sponsored by the NZ Defence Industry Association (NZDIA), 16-20 November. The NZ Government’s decision to spend $20 billion upgrading weapons over the next 15 years is welcomed by both the global arms industry and the countries with which New Zealand aligns itself militarily. On its website, the NZDIA says of itself:
“Formed in 1993 on the back of the ANZAC Frigate Project, the NZ DIA [sic] is New Zealand industry’s principle [sic] conduit to the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF). The primary focus of NZ DIA [sic] remains enabling Members to be informed about, understand and support the Crown’s Defence procurement programme. NZ DIA [sic] works to deliver mutually beneficial process improvement, lower business cost and improved commercial outcomes for Defence, associated agencies (e.g. security, intelligence, border control, police, customs) and NZDIA members by achieving recognition as the Defence Industry Stakeholder Representative of Choice for reference, consultation and engagement across industry, sector and procurement initiatives.”
“Our Forum continues to be the critical event that brings Defence and Crown officials together with Industry to build relationships and understand how best to leverage the genuine interdependence that exists for the benefit of all stakeholders. With the launch of the NZ Government’s Defence White Paper, Australia’s Defence Industry Policy and the NZDF’s Industry Engagement Strategy, along with significant capital acquisition plans, there will be plenty for delegates to network over. Our Forum continues to be the critical event that brings Defence and Crown officials together with Industry to build relationships and understand how best to leverage the genuine interdependence that exists for the benefit of all stakeholders. Finally, I would like to thank the Secretary of Defence and the Chief of Defence Force for their joint support for the 2016 Defence Industry Forum.”
War, defence, politics and profit
Notice the emphasis that all is for the benefit of ‘stakeholders’. The global arms industry acts in the best interests of shareholders and uses its enormous bargaining power to lobby politicians. In turn, the armed services of nation states act at the behest of politicians. The arms industry profits, without distinction, from every participant on all sides of armed conflicts, which makes the endless process of destabilisation good for investors. While the word ‘defence’ predominates when arms are marketed and wars are either under way or being planned, it is the defenceless victims who always pay the grimmest price. What follows is a glimpse of what this has meant to humanity since the end of the Second World War (when war ministries were renamed ‘defence’ ministries!)
The Israeli military Occupation of the Syrian Golan Heights (along with the merciless violence being visited upon the rest of Syria) is part of a long history of foreign interference and advantage-taking in the Middle East. At the end of World War One, Britain and France disrupted the lives of people living in what had been relatively quiet regions of the Ottoman Empire and imposed their own destructive brand of imperialism. The two European nations turned the region into one of the least stable and most explosive in the world, thus laying the foundations for the present mayhem.
In World War Two, Syria came under the control of Nazi-aligned Vichy France until the Allies and the Free French Forces drove out the German forces and took their place in July 1941. Syria proclaimed independence but was forced to wait until 1 January 1944 for recognition as an independent republic. France, however, was reluctant to relinquish control and, in 1945, French artillery opened fire on Syrians protesting against the slow pace of withdrawal. Eventually, in May 1945, French troops occupied the Syrian Parliament and cut off the electricity supply to Damascus. French artillery then bombarded the Old City of Damascus, killing 400 Syrians and destroying hundreds of homes. Finally, in April 1946, the Syrian Resistance did eventually force the French to leave Syria.
Israel’s invasion of Syria and the price paid by the crew of the USS Liberty
During the so-called ‘Six-Day War’ in 1967, Israeli forces deliberately attacked, in international waters, a vessel they knew to be the American intelligence-gathering ship USS Liberty. Israel had been about to invade the Golan Heights but postponed the manoeuvre for 24 hours until it had disabled the US Navy vessel. The attack by Israeli Air Force jet fighter aircraft and Israeli Navy motor torpedo boats killed 34 crew members, wounded 171 and severely damaged the ship. The US Government went to extreme lengths to cover up the true enormity of the attack and the crew felt betrayed. An on line video is available that includes the real-time conversations between Israeli Air Force pilots and their controllers.
Continuing the Western tradition
On 19 February 2014, the Jerusalem Post reported a visit by Netanyahu to an Israeli field hospital that had been established for militants wounded in combat against Syrian forces. The visit was a publicity exercise to put a favourable face on news that was emerging of Israel’s direct military aid to fighters under the banners of Jabhat al-Nusrah, Liwa-al-Islam and other Al-Qaeda brigades. An Austrian United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) officer had warned in June 2013 that Israel was maintaining a joint intelligence and operations room with “Syrian rebels”. The UN Security Council, however, chose to ignore this as well as similar warnings.
Plan to exploit and profit
In 2015, a New York Times article revealed something of Israel’s plan to exploit and profit from the desired, foreign-inspired breaking up of Syria. “Israel looks to expand settlements in Golan Heights”, wrote Jodi Rudoren, with an “aggressive development goal — 100,000 new residents across the Golan in five years — being promoted by Naftali Bennett, a senior Israeli minister and one of many Israeli leaders and thinkers seizing on the chaos in Syria to solidify Israel’s hold on the Golan.” Israel and the US hope that, with “Syria disintegrating after years of civil war”, American recognition of Israel’s 1981 annexation of the Golan would be gradually accepted by the international community. Naftali Bennett revealed Israel’s aggressive expansionist ambition, saying: “Given the storm we’re in that can go on for the next five or 50 years, nobody knows, we need some constants, and one big constant is for the big mountain of the Golan to be Israeli.” It seems evident that Israel would be in no hurry to see peace restored in Syria.
“An act of Zionism”
The NY Times article tells us that Israeli settlers moved to the Merom Golan kibbutz in Syria “as an act of Zionism”. It also celebrated the fact that Israel had plundered “the 400-plus square miles” and deprived the Syrian people of “lush agricultural terrain yielding prize apples, cherries and beef.” Not to forget either that the stolen land affords “a vast playground that drew 3 million tourist visits last year.” While the United Nations Security Council has condemned Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights, with most of the world considering the territory to be under foreign military Occupation and the settlements there illegal, Jodi Rudoren celebrated the fact that “it is rarely the focus of international activism or diplomacy; the construction in Merom Golan drew no public criticism . . .” She also gloated over the thought that the defeated “Druse residents who have for decades dreamed that the land would be returned to Syria have begun to acknowledge a new reality.”
Early last month, Christof Lehmann of nsnbc international reported that the Israeli Occupation had started demolishing Syrian homes, just as it does to homes in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Israel is bound by international law, as an Occupying power, to assure that its administration adheres as close as possible to Syrian law. Instead, the Zionist state has imposed modern Hebrew as the official administrative language and imposed severe restrictions on Syrians in order to advantage Israeli settlers. Israeli restrictions render it impossible for the Syrian population to obtain building permits. Syrians in the Golan Heights are forced to pay taxes to the Israeli regime but, because Israel does not regard them as citizens, they receive next to nothing in return. They run their own hospitals and build their own schools. In May 2014, Israel even denied Syrians in the Golan Heights the right to vote in Syrian elections. In spite of appeals, the United Nations failed to respond.
Because Israel will not allow for natural population growth, the people are forced to build without permission. Syrians in the Occupied Golan Heights face severely restricted access to their land and water, on top of land confiscation. The effect on farming is devastating. According to the NGO, Jawlan-Golan for the Development of the Arab Villages, the area’s Israeli settlers use as much as “17 times more water per capita“ than the indigenous inhabitants. As in Occupied Palestine, forced expulsions and settler expansion have also split Golan Heights families. In 1967, “130,000 Syrian inhabitants were expelled from the Golan Heights”, leaving only 6000 residents behind. As a result, “Syrian families are now split” between the Occupied Syrian Golan Heights and Syrian territory beyond. Some residents of the Golan Heights have, naturally, “resisted“ Occupation by the Israeli regime and many have been incarcerated by Israel as political prisoners. A UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) report takes Zionist Israel to task for racial discrimination, both at home and in Occupied territories, including the Syrian Golan Heights.
The Syrian Golan Heights are NOT in Israel
The reason why Zionist expansionism is “rarely the focus of international activism or diplomacy” is because Israel has powerful allies and plenty of not-so-powerful hangers-on. New Zealand’s squandered presence at the Security Council is a good example of the latter. Earlier this year, a New Zealand Government Press Statement implied that the Golan Heights are in Israel. The statement read: “Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee will today arrive in Stuttgart, Germany, following his first visit to NZ Defence Force (NZDF) troops at South Camp in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, and the Golan Heights in Israel.” Following a Palestine Human Rights Campaign Press Release drawing attention to the fact that the Golan Heights are not in Israel, the statement was changed to read: “Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee will today arrive in Stuttgart, Germany, following his first visit to NZ Defence Force (NZDF) troops at South Camp in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, Israel, and the Golan Heights.” How is it that the New Zealand Government could ever have used such careless language? According to a BBC article, the Israeli-Occupied Syrian territory provides a third of Israel’s water supply, enabling the Zionist state to use the fertile, volcanic soil to “cultivate vineyards and orchards and to raise cattle”. Tourism is a thriving Israeli enterprise in the Syrian territory, which is now home to Israel’s only ski resort. But there is more than territorial ambition driving Israel’s criminal annexation of the Golan Heights — a WikiLeaks release shows that it has been US policy to violently overthrow the Syrian Government.
In another recent example of misleading use of language, a news item in the NZ Herald published on 14 September, reporting on a missile that landed in the Golan Heights, commented: “The incident was the fifth case since last week in which fighting in Syria has spilled over into Israel.” Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu stated at a Cabinet meeting in April that “after 50 years, the time has come for the international community to finally recognise that the Golan Heights will remain under Israel’s sovereignty permanently.” It looks as though the Herald got the message.
The Israeli Tourism website, GoIsrael, claims the Golan Heights are in Israel
The website boasts: “The Golan Heights, Israel’s mountainous northern region, is one of the most beautiful and most travelled parts of the country. There are wonderful scenic treasures alongside lovely nature reserves, historic and archeological sites and attractions for the whole family. Some people call this area the Israeli Texas, because of its size, while others see it as a land of plentiful water sources.” The Zionist propaganda site goes on to say: “The Golan Heights is the only part of Israel with basalt stones, originating from long ago volcanic eruptions.”
Hiding war crimes
On 20 September, an article in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz released news of recently-leaked cables issued by Israeli Foreign Ministry officials in 1967 and 1968 that admitted to Israeli violations of the Geneva Conventions in East Jerusalem and the West Bank (referred to by Israel as “administered territories”) and put forward recommendations to help keep them from public knowledge. One cable, sent in March 1968 to Israel’s ambassador in Washington at the time, Yitzhak Rabin, read:
“Our consistent policy has been and still is to avoid discussing the situation in the administered territories with foreign parties on the basis of the Geneva Conventions. … Explicit recognition on our part of the applicability of the Geneva Conventions would highlight serious problems under the convention with house demolitions, expulsions, settlement and more — and furthermore, when we’re obligated to leave all options open with regard to the issue of borders, we must not recognise that our status in the administered territories is solely that of an occupying power.”
Betrayal and complicity
A New Zealand Government press release claimed in May this year that “New Zealand is committed to international peacekeeping and peace monitoring efforts . . .” and in a speech on 28 September 2015, the New Zealand Minister of Defence, Gerry Brownlee, made the following observations of principle:
1. “New Zealand’s approach to security, and particularly maritime security, is anchored in strong support for international laws of the sea.”
2. “A rules based system is particularly important for ensuring continued freedom of navigation and collective maritime security.”
It is time our Government lived up to its claims. The attack on USS Liberty illustrates most clearly that Israel has never respected international law, yet the New Zealand Government recently chose to support Israel over the armed hijacking, in international waters, of the peaceful Women’s Boat to Gaza. In doing so, the New Zealand Government betrayed the rights of New Zealand citizens and helped to undermine the principles of international maritime law.
There is still time for our voice to be heard at the Security Council in defence of all the victims of Israel’s territorial ambitions. But with the discovery of substantial oil deposits in the Golan Heights in 2015, there is cause for concern that the West will incline more towards support for Israeli annexation of territory possessed of such substantial hydrocarbon resources. In 2013, Israel granted Genie Energy (shareholders include Jacob Rothschild and Rupert Murdoch) exclusive oil and gas exploration rights to a 153-square-mile radius in the southern part of the Golan Heights.
The Palestinian people also, desperately in need of security, look to us and the rest of the world to bring Israel to account. The UN Security Council has stood passively by and allowed the Gaza Strip to be turned into the largest concentration camp in history. Similarly, Israel rules the West Bank and East Jerusalem with implacable brutality – and impunity – while world leaders tell the Palestinians that they are on their own and must negotiate directly with the Zionist regime, as if they were equal parties! Will the Security Council ever be brought to recognise that the Palestinian people, like the rest of humanity, also have a right to security?
There is a moral choice; it could be an electrifying game-changer if New Zealand were to step up and demand that all UN member states show paramount respect for the Fourth Geneva Convention. Without justice, all the rhetoric concerning ‘defence’ is merely self-serving marketing. Without justice there can only be lawlessness; and as we have seen, failure to stand for justice serves only the greed of those who profit from Middle East instability.