The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has reported a sharp increase in the number of Palestinian houses being destroyed by Israel: Between 29 August and 8 September: “Israeli authorities demolished, forced people to demolish, or seized 13 Palestinian-owned structures in Area C [of the West Bank] and East Jerusalem, displacing 44 and affecting the livelihoods or access to services of 12 others”.
Since the beginning of the Corona pandemic, destruction of homes and other buildings has increased by 60%. The UN Humanitarian Co-ordinator, Jamie McGoldrick, responded to the most recent Israeli demolitions, saying: “The global pandemic has increased the needs and vulnerabilities of Palestinians who are already trapped in the abnormality of prolonged military occupation.”
On 11 September, a non-binding United Nations General Assembly Resolution, calling for the suspension of all economic sanctions while the coronavirus continues to be out of control, passed by 159 votes for and two against. Predictably, the two against came from Israel and the United States. The humanitarian appeal expressed the need for “intensified international co-operation and solidarity to contain, mitigate and overcome the pandemic and its consequences.” Struggling governments and overloaded health-care systems desperately need the freedom to import food and medicine but, sadly, neither the mainstream news media nor our politicians showed much interest in the vote.
Israel’s 2020 Gaza ceasefire violations already exceed 1,000
Also of little interest to mainstream news media, are Israel‘s relentless acts of violence in Gaza, which it justifies, with the assertion, that they are only ever in response to what it calls ‘Hamas terrorism’. As at 25 September, Israeli Gaza ceasefire violations exceeded 1,000 for the year (an average of 25 per week) while Palestinian missile-launches towards the Green Line, over the same period, totalled just 78. Israel depends upon retaliatory missile-firings from Gaza to draw attention away from its own, far more numerous, attacks on the enclave that accompany its crippling blockade.
The most recent Palestinian missile-launching was on 15 September, following a four-week lull during which Israel committed 53 Gaza ceasefire violations, including air strikes, waste-laying incursions and attacks on fishing boats.
Palestinian missile-firing retaliation resumed only after the Israeli Army made an 8am waste-laying incursion into Gaza, to the east of Juhur al-Dik, that persisted until 5:30pm. Shortly before that finished, an Israeli Army position behind the Green Line opened fire at 5pm, on farmland east of Abasan. Palestinian Resistance eventually responded at 8:15pm by firing two missiles from Northern Gaza towards the Green Line.
And so another cycle began that ended early the next morning, with Resistance fighter responding with five more missiles at 5:05 and 5:10am. From then on, there were no more Palestinian missile-launches, even after another Israeli air strike at 6:15am. There have since been 45 more Israeli military attacks, air strikes and incursions, with no Palestinian Resistance responses.
UAE, Bahrain agreements, Israel
Zionists, including David Cumin, Co-Director of the Israel Institute of New Zealand, are cock-a-hoop over the new UAE, Bahrein, Israel alliance, which betrays the Palestinian people and ignores much of the Fourth Geneva Convention’s human rights provisions. Cumin praised the agreement, saying “ . . . there’s no escaping the enormity of such peace in our time.” The term ‘enormity’ can also mean, and in this regard more appropriately, an extremely evil act or the quality of being extremely evil. The UAE and Israel have never been at war with each other and the idea that this is a peace deal is misleading.
The agreement completely ignores Palestine, and provides not the slightest relief from the daily Occupation, blockade and discrimination suffered by its people. According to the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, Israeli legislators are overjoyed at cuts made to humanitarian projects funded by the EU in the Occupied West Bank‘s Area C, which some describe as a ‘virus,’ ‘cancer’ or ‘territorial terror’. The US website Jewish Light notes that: “While Israel has made certain commitments not to annex parts of the West Bank in the short term — but hasn’t totally ruled it out — it has not committed to any concrete sacrifices on the Palestinian front.” Of course not, and as Haaretz explains, Israel has “sought constantly, through cynical bureaucratic and military methods, to reduce the number of Palestinians living there.” The US gains because the agreement enhances its Middle East influence, and ever-more rewarding arms deals will ensue, besides which, Jewish Light tells us that, “following decades of clandestine contacts”, the UAE and Israel can now collaborate openly on military intelligence and technological development.
The Palestine Solidarity Network Aotearoa (PSNA) is encouraging everyone to: “Send an email to Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Peters (and copy in the Prime Minister) condemning the government’s welcoming the ‘normalisation‘ agreement between the US, Israel, the UAE and Bahrain.” Peters has welcomed the agreement which has been reproduced, with comments, in PSNA Newsletter No 32. While most Green Party members appear to agree with policies in support of Palestine and international humanitarian law, it is proving difficult to get any response from the Greens regarding support, or otherwise, for the Palestinian movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS).
Israel Institute of New Zealand applauds James Shaw
David Cumin, commenting gleefully on the 8 September Aro Valley candidate debate, welcomed insulting allegations of anti-Semitism against the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) surprisingly made by Green Party co-leader James Shaw see video. He stated that, in the debate, “ . . . antisemitism within the BDS campaign was exposed by all political parties.” Actually, neither Labour nor The Opportunities Party (TOP) made any reference to ‘anti-Semitism’ in the debate. Bearing in mind the many failed attempts by Israel to provoke Palestinian Resistance, it is particularly ironic that Cumin should complain that “. . . Palestinian terror and incitement were conspicuously absent from the candidates’ responses . . .” On the other hand, he has never once acknowledged that Israeli forces destroy Palestinian homes and, along with Occupation settlers, uproot olive trees and seize ever more Palestinian land – Zionism introduced modern terrorism to Palestine.
PSNA: Election pledges for Palestine find strong support
Last month, the PSNA sent out three election pledges to all candidates from all parties standing in the 2020 general election. New Zealanders already show strong support for Palestinian human rights. It is, however, imperative that action be taken requiring Israel to abide by United Nations resolutions and international law. The Network states: “New Zealand votes the right way at the United Nations but takes no effective steps to back this up with practical policies. The outcome is 53 years of brutal military occupation of Palestinian land by Israel – the longest military occupation in modern history.” In the event, it was encouraging that most Green Party candidates, including all present Green MPs, responded in support of all three pledges.
On 17 September, the Palestine Human Rights Campaign (PHRC) emailed Green Party co-leader, James Shaw, regarding his harsh comments concerning the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS). In answer to an appeal for him to support BDS, Shaw replied that it is “often used as cover for anti-Semitic movements and so I cannot agree to the proposition because that particular movement actually has a very, very nasty undercurrent to it.”
Many Jewish human rights organisations, both internationally and within Israel, support BDS. Writers, such as Ilan Pappe and Miko Peled (The General’s Son) and organisations, such as Jewish Voice for Peace in the US, Jews for Justice for Palestinians in the UK and, in Israel, Breaking the Silence and B’Tselem, are among the many, many witnesses who speak truth to power concerning Zionist atrocities.
The PHRC email urged the Green Party Co-Leader to listen to the voices of Jews who reject Zionism, as well as those of the Palestinian victims of Zionism who live under a foreign military occupation that dictates when, where and even if, they may build homes in their own land.
As yet, there has been no answer from Mr Shaw nor anyone else in the New Zealand Green Party, and we still await anxiously to know exactly what the Party’s position is regarding support, or otherwise, for the international BDS movement. Most relevant to this are environmental issues and concern for human rights that we sent earlier in an email to the Greens, copied below (in part):
“The Israeli military Occupation of the West Bank and blockade of Gaza are severely damaging the environment in both areas. Emissions and chemical waste, ruining Palestine’s agriculture and polluting both the air and groundwater, endangers the health and well-being of future generations of Palestinians.”
US support for Israeli Occupation
“Israel’s most powerful supporter, the climate-change denier, US President Donald Trump, is financing Israel’s behaviour while, at the same time, doing his best to reverse rules designed to protect the environment in the US. This, at a time when wildfires are destroying vast areas in California, Oregon and Washington and an unprecedented series of hurricanes are causing floods so devastating that large areas are becoming uninhabitable. Trump also opposes BDS and, by Executive Order, has allowed the Federal Government to withhold funds from colleges, universities and other educational institutions that defend Palestinian human rights, including BDS.”
UN deplores Israeli aggravation of West Bank pandemic risk
A 10 September report from the United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) states that: “The period from March to August 2020 saw the demolition or confiscation of 389 Palestinian-owned structures in the West Bank, on average, 65 per month, the highest average destruction rate in four years.” OCHA’s Humanitarian Co-ordinator, Jamie McGoldrick, said that: “Early during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Israeli authorities indicated that they would restrain their longstanding policy of demolishing inhabited Palestinian homes. Sadly, demolitions during the period March-August 2020 left 442 Palestinians homeless, further exposing many to risks associated with the pandemic. In August alone, 205 people were displaced, more than in any other single month since January 2017.
“The destruction of property on territory subjected to foreign, military occupation is prohibited under international humanitarian law. Today, such devastation inflicted during the COVID-19 pandemic is particularly menacing as it inevitably compounds the risks faced in the already highly vulnerable West Bank.”
Human Rights Policy
Global support for BDS reflects the principles affirmed on the Green Party’s website, regarding human rights. On 15 May 2016, the Green Party of Canada (GPC) declared that it “supports the use of divestment, boycott and sanctions (“BDS”) that are targeted to those sectors of Israel’s economy and society which profit from the ongoing occupation of the OPT.
“BDS offers a non-violent way for the world community to bring pressure upon Israel to render less profitable its totally unacceptable abuses of Palestinian human rights. With the election fast approaching, there should be no ambivalence regarding New Zealand’s Green Party policy towards BDS.”
Julian Assange – an appeal to the Australian Parliament
On 9 September, as the Trump Administration’s extradition hearing began in the UK, Julian Assange’s legal adviser, Jennifer Robinson, told the world that the case could set a chilling precedent for press freedoms around the world. Julian has been charged under the Espionage Act, for the first time in the history of the United States, for receiving and publishing US classified information, including the Collateral Murder publication, Iraq and Afghan war logs, war crimes in Iraq and US secrecy, hiding what they were up to in those conflicts, as well as State Department cables covering corruption and human rights abuses the world over. His services to journalism led to Assange’s nomination for both the Nobel Peace Prize and the Sydney Peace Prize, and he won the Australian Walkley Award for the most outstanding contribution to journalism.
The Australian filmmaker and journalist, James Ricketson, who, for following his career, had been sentenced to six years imprisonment in Cambodia on charges of espionage, has written to members of the Australian Parliament on behalf of his fellow Australian, Julian Assange. As Ricketson points out in his letter, the ‘Collateral Murder’ video released by Wikileaks in 2010 is “one of the key reasons Assange is facing a 170-year term of imprisonment in the US if he is extradited from the UK after these proceedings.”
The Defence has presented to the court the facts related to the video, that can be viewed here. Ricketson writes: “Ask yourselves also if an Australian citizen deserves to die in a US prison for bringing to light this possible war crime, when it is an integral part of a journalist’s job, his or her professional responsibility, to do just that.” Read the key ‘Collateral Murder’ facts, as they were demonstrated to the court and watch the video, then judge for yourselves.
The importance of speaking up in defence of Julian Assange cannot be emphasised too strongly. The US accuses him of violating its espionage law but US law cannot be applied extraterritorially in pursuit of a politically-motivated objective. In any case, if Assange were such a threat to the US, why was he offered a way to avoid prosecution by denying that Russia was involved in leaking Democratic Party emails?
The continuing indifference of the news media and our lawmakers is calculated to move the wider public into believing that it is Assange who is the threat, and that support for him is nothing more than fringe extremist politics. Nothing could be further from the truth. Even Australia’s former Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, has demanded to know why “should Mr Assange be tried, convicted and incarcerated while those who publicly released the information are afforded protection under provisions of the US constitution concerning press freedom?” In a letter concerning the Assange case he noted, “In the very rare circumstances that the internal complaint systems within governments are corrupted, it is important that genuine whistle-blowers have the last resort of going to the media.”
An announcement by 161 prominent international political figures, including 13 former national presidents, past prime ministers and current or retired members of national parliaments, have declared their opposition to the injustice inflicted upon Assange, including his imprisonment in Britain’s maximum-security Belmarsh Prison, even though he has not been convicted of any crime. The signatories to the declaration endorsed a letter to the British Government issued last month by the Lawyers for Assange. Comprising more than 150 legal experts from around the world, as well as bar associations covering major countries, the world over, the group draws attention to the reality that there is an unprecedented appeal to the UK Government by the international political community in defence of Assange. There are major concerns raised by Amnesty International, the Council of Europe, the American Civil Liberties Union, Reporters Without Borders, Human Rights Watch, and numerous other human rights organisations regarding the grim threat that Assange’s prosecution represents to future Press freedom.
If the US and its allies get their way, Western society, especially the Five Eyes partners, will become increasingly subject to authoritarian expectations. The virus of political complicity is spreading rapidly because it serves those who covet power. Covert silence is the thin end of the wedge of totalitarianism; without freedom and clarity of speech, there can be no vestige of democracy. “First they came for . . .”