According to a Times of Israel report on the unity government agreement, on 1 July this year, between Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz may begin the process of formal annexation of parts of the Occupied West Bank, including the Jordan Valley and all illegal Israeli settlements. In February, Israel announced the introduction of thousands of new housing units in illegal settlements in the Occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem. The UK Government, among others, reacted to this, as always, with a simple condemnation.
But condemnation alone is proving totally ineffectual as a deterrent lacking, as it does, the imposition of sanctions against Israel. Israel must be called to account for its flagrantly illegal human rights abuses against the Palestinian people which constitute a war crime under international law. The Zionist state is driven by an ideological conviction of the superiority of its territorial and ethnocentric goals over both international law and human rights. The international community must recognise this reality because it shares responsibility and obligations to support international law and oppose serious breaches, especially when they inflict injustice and hardship. That means the withdrawal of all forms of co-operation that may grant or reinforce the offending state’s impunity and ability to profit from its illegal actions.
Security Council member acknowledges Israeli war crimes
A powerful Security Council member, such as the UK, does not deny Israel’s war crimes. Recently, on 29 April, Britain’s Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (FO), James Cleverly, was asked the following parliamentary question concerning:
“. . . what assessment he has made of the effect of recent demolitions and seizures of Palestinian (a) homes, (b) water and hygiene structures, and (c) clinics on the Palestinian Authority’s ability to contain the spread of covid-19 in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.”
“The UK is seriously concerned by any demolition and seizure of Palestinian property by Israeli authorities. In all but the most exceptional circumstances demolitions are contrary to International Humanitarian Law (IHL). We are particularly concerned that demolitions are continuing at this time. Such actions weaken the capacity of Palestinians to withstand the impact of COVID-19. Under IHL, an occupying power has the duty of ensuring and maintaining public health and hygiene in the occupied territory to the fullest extent of the means available to it. We call on both parties to avoid any provocative action which might undermine the co-operation that is so critical.”
While in no way attempting to deny the facts of Israel’s human rights violations outlined in the question, Cleverly’s final sentence disgracefully suggests a degree of equality and responsibility between perpetrator and victim. He might just as well have said, well they asked for it.
For over half a century, Israel has been shrinking the space it allows the people of the Occupied Palestinian homeland for developing their economy and agriculture or even to build homes. Worse still, Israeli Occupation forces actually destroy Palestinian homes at gunpoint, while forcing the people to accept the building and expansion of Jewish-only settlements on Palestinian land. In addition, Israel’s ever-encroaching annexation Wall, settler-only by-pass roads and military checkpoints impose further crippling restrictions on Palestinian freedom of movement.
On 1 May, more than 120 UK parliamentarians, including former Conservative cabinet ministers, wrote to Boris Johnson, urging him to impose economic sanctions against Israel should it annex parts of the West Bank. The letter unequivocally states that annexation would be clearly illegal under international law. Even diplomats and prominent campaigners against so-called ‘anti-semitism’ in the Labour Party, such as Margaret Hodge, have signed. In September last year, the UK Government joined with France, Germany, Italy and Spain by warning that unilateral annexation of any part of the West Bank would be a serious breach of international law. The case for sanctions is unchallengeable yet, even though Britain has joined with ten EU diplomats in a call, warning the Israeli Foreign Ministry against annexation, the imposition of sanctions, as opposed to mere condemnation, would be unprecedented.
In the British Parliament House of Lords, Baroness Tonge asked “Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of reports that Israeli aircraft have sprayed toxic herbicides onto crops near the border fence in the east of Gaza City and damaged farmlands; and what steps they intend to take in response.”
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Department for International Development, Lord Ahmed, did not contest the facts raised and simply replied: “. . . we are troubled by reports of assaults on farmers and vandalism of agricultural land. We continue to raise with Israeli counterparts our concerns about Israeli action.”
Israeli Occupation update
This month, up to and including 12 May, there were one Palestinian and 44 Israeli Gaza ceasefire violations. The Israeli violations included 23 Israeli Navy attacks on Palestinian fishing boats and 15 Israeli Army attacks on agriculture in Gaza.
On 12 May, the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported a sharp increase in settler violence that is “undermining already fragile farming livelihoods in various West Bank areas. Attacks have increased since the [Covid-19] emergency was declared, despite movement restrictions, lockdowns and social distancing. The attacks have included physical assault, torching of Palestinian vehicles, theft of livestock and vandalising of fruit trees.”
The Israeli Occupation continued its population-control tyranny in the West Bank, destroying homes, sabotaging the Palestinian economy and interfering with the people’s attempts to manage Covid-19 transmission – here are one or two examples, from each day:
1 May 2020:
In Kafr Qaddum, Israeli forces fired rubber-coated steel bullets, stun grenades and tear gas canisters at villagers protesting against the closure of their village, wounding six residents, including two children, and causing several tear gas casualties. Just after midnight, Israeli forces, firing rubber-coated steel bullets, stun grenades and tear gas canisters, raided al-Eisawiya village while, during the day, they raided the Cremisan area in north-west Beit Jallah, seizing and destroying beehives, the property of a resident, Nasr Nimr Abd Rabbo.
In Azzun Atma village the Israeli Army seized Palestinian farmland planted with olive and almond trees and trapped behind the Israeli Occupation Wall.
Israeli forces seized construction equipment from a man, Na’im Abdel-Qadder, who was digging a well in an area between Ras Atiya and Magharat Al-Dab’a villages, and
issued a destruction order against another well in Deir Istiya.
Israeli Occupation settler militants invaded Immatin village farmland, bulldozed crops and uprooted 24 olive trees.
During the morning, Israeli forces destroyed a barn near al-Aqbat village in the North Jordan Valley, as well as destroying a well under construction in al-Jiftlik village. Israeli soldiers also beat up and hospitalised a resident, Naseem Ayman Na’im Abdel-Qadder, near the entrance to Turmusaya.
The firing of a missile by Palestinian Resistance members was met with a further eight Israeli Gaza ceasefire violations, including five acts of agricultural/economic sabotage.
Israelis from the Efrat Occupation settlement invaded farmland in al-Khadr and uprooted 450 Palestinian grapevines. That evening, a gang from the Homish Israeli Occupation settlement invaded Palestinian pastoral land in the Bab al-Wad area, near Burqa village, and assaulted a goatherd, Harbi Mohammad Ali Abboud, leaving him hospitalised with a fractured foot and severe bruising. The settlers also made off with 70 goats belonging to Abboud.
With two 14-year-old boy refugees abducted and armed soldiers robbing a man of his bulldozer, the daily Israeli Army population-control violence also included the beating and hospitalisation of 15-year-old Ameer Ziyad Rushdi Yusef who, as a result, suffered broken bones as well as internal bleeding in his pelvis and upper chest.
Two members of a fishing crew were wounded during five Israeli Navy attacks on Palestinian fishing boats off Gaza. In the West Bank, Occupation settler malevolence included the destruction of 40 olive trees and the theft of crops from Palestinian farmland. The number of Palestinian wounded totalled six by the end of the day.
Four people were wounded and a journalist was taken prisoner after Israeli troops invaded his home.
Murad Bassam Al-Bayed, aged 12, was shot and wounded by Israeli troops. Two 16-year-old youths were also wounded.
Another four Israeli Navy attacks on Palestinian fishing boats and two armed Israeli Army incursions into Gaza, together with the familiar agricultural sabotage, marked another miserable day in Gaza. In Nablus, in the West Bank, Israeli settler militants raided an agricultural nursery and stole fruit tree seedlings, water reticulation material and other agricultural equipment.
At 4:30am, the Israeli Army, firing live ammunition, rubber-coated steel bullets, stun grenades and tear gas canisters, raided Ya’bad, earched several homes and took prisoner four people. As the soldiers moved out with their prisoners, one of them, 21-year-old Staff Sgt Amit Ben Ygal, was hit by a stone thrown from a nearby roof and died of his injury a few hours later. The four people taken prisoner during the invasions of their homes were identified as: Ali Muhammad Nazmi Abu Bakr, Yazen Kamel Abu Shamla, Marcel Bassem Lotfi Abu Bakr and Anas Kamel Abu Shamla.
On 6 May, Israeli Defence Minister, Naftali Bennett, announced his approval of the addition of 7,000 new housing units in the Israeli Efrat settlement on Occupied land in al-Khadr, Bethlehem. Bennett tweeted that he had instructed the military to continue to strengthen settlements. The US Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, gave a newspaper interview in which he said America is prepared to recognise an Israeli declaration of sovereignty over settlements in ‘Judea and Samaria‘ and the Jordan Valley, so long as the Jewish state accepts conditions requested by the Trump Administration.
Zionist influence over the US
On 7 May, it was reported that the US Department of Justice is dropping its case against Trump’s former National Security Adviser, Mike Flynn, even though he has admitted that he lied to the FBI. In 2016, Flynn called on a number of countries, in an attempt to get them to counter a US decision to allow the New Zealand-sponsored Security Council Resolution 2334 to go unchallenged. According to the original Justice Department charge sheet, to which Flynn pleaded guilty: “On or about December 22, 2016, a very senior member of the Presidential Transition Team directed Flynn to contact officials from foreign governments, including Russia, to learn where each government stood on the resolution and to influence those governments to delay the vote or defeat the resolution . . .” Fortunately, Flynn failed in the attempt and, with the US abstaining, the resolution was adopted 14-0. In 2017, the New York Times expressed unease over the role of Israel in the case and today the issue of Israel’s ability to influence US politics has been exposed once again.
Due to the Covid-19 crisis, UN officials are calling for the immediate release of all Palestinian children held in captivity in Israel and Palestine. In a joint Press Statement, Jamie McGoldrick, Humanitarian Co-ordinator in the Occupied Palestinian territory, Genevieve Boutin, UNICEF Special Representative in the State of Palestine and James Heenan, Head of the UN Human Rights Office in the Occupied Palestinian territory reminded the world that, according to the Israeli Prison Service, 194 Palestinian children were being detained in prisons and detention centres, mainly in Israel. This is higher even than the monthly average number of children held in 2019. The UN appeal states: “Children in detention face heightened risk of contracting COVID-19, with physical distancing and other preventive measures often absent or difficult to achieve.”
The majority of these children have not been convicted of any offence but are being held, while awaiting trial. The removal of abducted children from Palestine to Israel is a gross violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states: “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” It also prohibits the “individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory”. Under Article 147 of the 1949 Geneva Convention IV, “unlawful deportation or transfer . . . of a protected person” constitutes a grave breach of the Convention. See also Statement by the Committee on the Rights of the Child.
The law clearly recognises that such population transfer is often a step towards intended colonisation and annexation, yet the international community does nothing to stop what amounts to a war crime under international criminal law.
NZ Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT)
New Zealand should stand by its declared support for rules-based international law and human rights. On its website, MFAT reminds us that: “After a 10 year campaign New Zealand was voted onto the UN Security Council in 2014 and served two years in 2015 and 2016. Our seat on the Security Council placed New Zealand at the heart of international decisions on peace and security.” In 2016, this country successfully promoted Security Council Resolution 2334 which, sadly, although passed without opposition, has achieved nothing to halt Israel’s gross violations of international humanitarian law. An appeal by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian territory, Professor Michael Lynk, calls upon the international community to ensure that Israel must face the cost of its violations of international law. It is high time the UN imposed sanctions upon Israel.
The Israel lobby is used to getting its way in the US and the UK. The power and influence of these UN Security Council members is immense but it is not absolute. Those who would have us stay silent, whether they be our ‘traditional allies’ or those closer to home who are dedicated to serving Zionism’s ambitions, must be opposed and told so in no uncertain terms. MFAT tells us: “The United Nations works to make the world peaceful and secure, and to promote social progress, better living standards and human rights.” The highest judicial body in the world, the International Criminal Court (ICJ), finds Israel guilty of war crimes which violate “principles outlined in the UN Charter and long-standing global conventions that prohibit the threat or use of force and the acquisition of territory that way, as well as principles upholding the right of peoples to self-determination.”
New Zealand could, and should, lead the demand for an end to the shameful lack of decisive international action that is required if Israel is ever to be brought to account.