On 8 August this year, Israel carried out two air strikes on Gaza, a territory that has no defence against air raids. Three Palestinians were injured at the time, one critically. These night-time air strikes brought yet more terror to Palestinian families, adding to the trauma of daily Israeli assaults on farmland and refugee camps in Gaza. All this violence, including almost daily Israeli Navy attacks on Palestinian fishing boats, comes while Gaza continues to suffer under Israel’s crippling ten-year blockade. The population has Israel to thank for the devastated water supply and sewerage. Severe damage to Gaza’s sole power plant is causing frequent, long-lasting blackouts. Hospitals have no way of coping with the enormous threats to health. Israel justified these latest air strikes as retaliation for a Palestinian Resistance missile-launching that had landed harmlessly in the Hof Ashkelon Region. While the Israeli Ynet news claims that the Gaza “ceasefire has largely held”, the reality is otherwise. As if the blockade itself were not sufficiently bitter, Israel unremittingly uses armed aggression, partly in order to provoke Palestinian missile launches. So far this year, there have been well over 500 Israeli Gaza ceasefire violations, as opposed to just 12 Palestinian. This month to date, there have been at least 30 Israeli ceasefire violations. Most of the very occasional Palestinian missile strikes from Gaza are claimed by Salafist groups. Israeli attacks on Gaza so far this month have also resulted in the death of a 16-year-old youth and the hijacking of a Palestinian fishing boat.
In the Occupied West Bank so far this month, the Israeli Army has destroyed nine Palestinian homes and issued destruction orders on 23 others. Palestinians in the West Bank also have to face the malevolence of Israeli settlers whose presence has been forced upon them by the Israeli Army. Recently, armed Israeli settler terrorists stormed Kobar village, opening fire and wounding two villagers: Alaa Ali Barghouthi and Iz Izzat Badwan. The daily toll imposed by Israel on Palestinian life, limb, liberty and property is intolerable – yet Israel calls it ‘security’ for Israel and describes all Palestinian Resistance, whether violent or peaceful, as ‘terrorism’.
On 13 August, Israeli forces closed two annexation Wall gates, preventing farmers from reaching their land trapped behind the Wall. At the beginning of the month, a Palestinian farmer finally received permission to harvest his wheat – but the crop had already withered away. Israel uses military force to prevent tens of thousands of Palestinian farmers from making a living off their land. Creating despair is an essential element in the Zionist plan for territorial expansion. As Amira Hass, writing for Haaretz put it: “The methods of preventing access [to Palestinian farmland] have been intimidation, harassment, vandalism, arson, physical attacks . . .” She says that Israelis consume produce grown in “outposts and settlements which, thanks to violence, had managed to take over land and water sources and usurp the livelihoods of dozens of [Palestinian] villages.”
UN Security Council
On top of this year’s defiance concerning UN Security Council Resolution 2334, Israel’s effrontery and contempt seem limitless as it continues to pursue efforts to gain a seat for itself at the Security Council. To date, Israel is in breach of at least 80 UN Security Council resolutions concerning violations of international law, and Israel holds the record for ignoring UNSC resolutions. “The Security Council is the highest level there is in the international arena,” says Yoram Meital, chairman of the Chaim Herzog Centre for Middle East Studies & Diplomacy at Ben-Gurion University. “Israel has been excluded for so long, and it desperately wants to be accepted in the diplomatic world.” Well Israel knows very well what it should do about that. Danny Danon, Israel’s ambassador to the UN says: “Our goal is to strive for full acceptance in every UN agency and forum.” In the light of Israel’s intransigence, such arrogance is chilling.
This state that introduced nuclear weapons to the Middle East refuses to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and insists also on maintaining its arsenal of cluster-bombs. According to Human Rights Watch, Israel’s use of cluster-bombs has been extensive. The Zionists dropped more than four million cluster-bombs over south Lebanon alone. According to the organisation Handicap International, 95% of all victims of cluster munitions are civilians. In 2011, Handicap International censured Israel for laying fresh land mines along the border of the Occupied Syrian Golan Heights. Human Rights Watch reports: “The European Union is giving millions of dollars of ‘research’ funding to a company that is helping Israel evade an international ban on cluster weapons. Israel has specifically chosen the company, Elbit Systems, to supply new artillery cannons because a European manufacturer would restrict Israel from using cluster munitions.”
The Brand Israel Group looks to improve the perception of Israel among Americans. Its goal is to “develop an overriding grand strategy for Israel, and to thus strengthen Americans’ relationship with Israel.” At the Herzliya Conference last June, Brand Israel released the findings of a study that showed a massive drop in support for Israel among US Jewish college students. It fears the loss of support for Israel in a new generation. The Group reports that support for Israel has dropped 27 percentage points among Jewish college students in the US since 2010. That year, 84% of US Jewish college students sided with Israel against Palestine but, by 2016, that percentage had dropped to 57%. The growing support for Palestine among the students is just one aspect of the decline in the appeal of the Zionist ideology as its crimes against humanity become more widely known. But Brand Israel does not recommend that Israel end its brutal military dictatorship over Occupied Palestine. The Group does not suggest that Israel should put an end to establishment of settler colonies on stolen Palestinian land either. All it can offer is a strengthening of Zionist propaganda: “Current communications approaches are not stemming the negative trends” because “they generally focus on ‘the conflict or beyond the conflict’ and set up the wrong paradigm. Neither approach targets the people we need to reach with the message that will overcome their issues with Israel/Israelis.” The report noted that: “We need to reach out to at-risk groups who largely don’t care about the details of the conflict, and we need to address their concerns about the decency and morality of the Israeli in general and in the context of the conflict.” The Brand Israel Group suggested a ‘push back’ against charges of immorality. The Jerusalem Post reported Brand Israel’s pathetic view that pro-Israel efforts should target Jewish youngsters even “before they reach college by considering starting Birthright programmes earlier or exploring ways to connect bar and bat mitzvas to Israel.”
“. . . the problem today in both East and West is that our governments are not our friends. They are our oppressors or masters, suppressors of the truth and allies of the unjust. Netanyahu wants to close down Al Jazeera’s office in Jerusalem. Crown Prince Mohammad wants to close down Al Jazeera’s office in Qatar. Bush actually did bomb Al Jazeera’s offices in Kabul and Baghdad. Theresa May decided to hide a government report on funding “terrorism”, lest it upset the Saudis – which is precisely the same reason Blair closed down a UK police enquiry into alleged BAE-Saudi bribery 10 years earlier.” – Robert Fisk, The Independent
Yakov M Rabkin, Professor of History at the Université de Montréal warns us:
“As long as Israel can rely on Western leniency it will continue to snub peace offers and expand its colonial settlement. But this support for Israel is shaky, while most Western governments show favouritism towards Israel, opinion polls consistently show that ordinary citizens view it as a major threat to world peace and security. Up to a point the fate of peace for Israelis and Palestinian is in our hands, in the hands of concerned citizens who care to express their opinions and engage in democratic action. By focusing public attention on bringing justice to Israel/Palestine, ordinary people around the world can help Israel choose peace.” Read Rabkin’s book: A Threat from Within: A Century of Jewish Opposition to Zionism.
The Israel Lobby
New Zealand’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Gerry Brownlee, has declared that “we stand by UN Security Council Resolution 2334” while at the same time affirming that he and the New Zealand Government “. . . respect Israel’s right to oppose it.” This raises a serious question. Resolution 2334 describes Israel’s actions as being “in violation of international humanitarian law and relevant resolutions” and, therefore, that they have “no legal validity”. Do Brownlee and the Government hold that every country that breaches international humanitarian law has the right to defy the international community and oppose relevant UN Security Council Resolutions? Or do they believe that Israel alone has such a right?
If Brownlee were to answer that he believes every country has a right to oppose and disregard Security Council Resolutions, he should then be asked to explain what he believes is the purpose of the existence of the United Nations and international law. If, on the other hand, the Foreign Affairs Minister says that he believes that Israel alone has the right to impunity when commiting human rights violations, he must explain what he believes was the purpose behind New Zealand’s sponsoring of UNSCR 2334.
After the election
Any rational person would view the passing of the Resolution as a contribution to the strengthening of world peace and stability. Brownlee’s perverse respect for Israel’s defiance and continuing human rights abuses not only undermines hope of achieving those essential goals but also raises another question: just how susceptible are Brownlee and the National Government to pressure from the increasingly desperate Israel Lobby? With the possibility of a change of government after next month’s election there may be more hope for a strengthening of New Zealand government support for international humanitarian law.
Debbie Abbas, on behalf of the Palestine Solidarity Network (PSN), has sent a request to the Labour Party, asking for information on its policy towards Palestine and the New Zealand-sponsored UN Resolution 2334. She has also asked Labour for its policy towards the international BDS Movement. Debbie has previously protested to the National Government concerning its policy of granting an automatic one-year working holiday visa to all and any Israeli with the sole proviso that they have $4200 upon which to live during their time here. National refuses to extend the same privilege to Palestinians. The Labour Party needs to state whether it would be willing to discontinue this discriminatory favour to Israel. Labour’s Foreign Affairs Spokesperson is List MP David Parker and his direct line is 04 817 8280.
Debbie also wrote via the Labour Party website asking, in particular, for Labour’s view on the 12-year-old call from Palestinian civil society for international boycott, divestment and sanctions. Debbie reminded Labour that BDS targets companies and products (both Israeli and international) as well as Israeli sporting, cultural and academic institutions that profit and benefit from the violation of Palestinian human rights. Labour was also asked for assurance that it would stand by, and support, UN Resolution 2334.
As sponsors of UNSC Resolution 2334, it is New Zealand’s responsibility to encourage the UN to deal resolutely with Israel’s defiance of international law – the world is watching. Accordingly, we expect and demand of our lawmakers that they unite, with determination, to fight for justice and human rights.