On Wednesday, 3 March, the International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, confirmed the “initiation of an investigation respecting the Situation in Palestine”. This will only “cover crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court” over a very short period of time, since 13 June 2014. Bensouda note that “the decision to open an investigation followed a painstaking preliminary examination undertaken by my Office that lasted close to five years.” There is certainly nothing hasty or ill-considered about this ICC decision. It should be remembered that, in 2017, it was Fatou Bensouda who declined to commence an investigation into allegations made about the conduct of the Israeli Defence Forces in the case of the Mavi Marmara protest vessel, in spite of clear eyewitness evidence. In that case, the Prosecutor “remained of the view that the information available did not provide a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation.” Undoubtedly, the evidence for this month’s investigation announcement must be pretty compelling.
An observation in the ICC statement concern’s an aspect that is too often overlooked: besides the decades-long suffering of the Palestinian people themselves, the Prosecutor’s Office is also “aware of the wider concern, respecting this Situation, for international peace and security.” The ICC recognises, as well, that its role is “to guarantee lasting respect for, and the enforcement of, international justice.”
Last month, on 24 February, the UN Humanitarian Co-ordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory, Lynn Hastings, spoke of his visit to the al-Buqai’a community the previous day to see how the people were coping after Israeli Occupation forces‘ repeated seizures of their tent-dwellings, food, water tanks and livestock fodder. Hastings appealed to Israel, demanding that it “immediately halt all further demolitions of Palestinian homes and possessions, allow the humanitarian community to provide shelter, food and water to this most vulnerable group and these people to remain in their homes.” A 23 February UN data release on Israeli Occupation dem`olition and displacement, carried out in the West Bank since 2009, reveals the cruel inhumanity employed by Israel to pressure residents to give up and leave. Such crimes have been condemned by human rights organisations, including B’Tselem, Amnesty, Human Rights Watch and the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights all of whom have observed that they are grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Even its allies cannot deny Israel’s crimes. In answer to a recent Parliamentary question regarding the demolition by the Government of Israel of a donor-funded water network serving 700 Palestinians during the covid-19 pandemic, the UK Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, James Cleverly, lamely admitted that the “practice causes unnecessary suffering to Palestinians and is harmful to the peace process.” He did say also that a government minister had “called on Israel to stop demolitions” and had even “raised his concerns about demolitions of Palestinian and humanitarian structures with the Israeli Ambassador”. He did not, however, indicate what measures, if any, would be taken to restrain Israel from undertaking further human rights abuses.
The world’s mainstream news media (and our politicians) kept silent over Israel’s recent cruelty towards the al-Buqai’a community, just as they are over yet another Zionist humanitarian outrage. No doubt in order to quieten growing concern that even the news media might no longer be able to ignore, Israel announced on 22 February that it will compensate Yemenite families for the abduction of hundreds of their children. This astounding announcement has, of course, been ignored.
Israel has been forced to acknowledge that hundreds of newborn babies and young children of Jewish immigrants, mostly from Yemen, mysteriously disappeared shortly after arriving in the country. Jewish American Heritage Month states that “for decades, human rights defenders and Jewish immigrant families have reported that thousands of children were abducted from their biological parents in the first years after Israel was created in 1948. In their opinion, these children, many of whom are of Yemeni descent, were given to Ashkenazi Jewish (Central and Eastern Europe) couples who lived in Israel or abroad. Doctors told the biological parents that the children had died in childbirth, but the bodies were never handed over.”
In July last year, the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, published an article, confirming that Israeli “Doctors Did Take Yemenite Immigrants’ Kids”. Even Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has acknowledged the atrocities, saying: “The time has come for the families whose infants were taken from them to receive recognition by the state and government of Israel, and financial compensation as well.” The Israeli Finance Minister, Israel Katz, confirmed compensation for Yemenite families to a total of 162 million shekels (US$50 million). After being told by hospital staff that their babies and young children had died, parents were denied any chance of seeing them to mourn and say farewell. The families were, moreover, denied death certificates! Hanna Gibori, a social welfare worker, from 1948 to 1954, testified that: “Hospital physicians handed over babies for adoption straight out of the hospital, without the official adoption agencies being involved.” In the late 1950s, a callous law was passed containing a clause that removed the right of parents of an adopted baby or child to be present in court, either to give their agreement to an adoption permit or appeal against it. Other adoptions were carried out, with no legal justification at all and the whole practise could only be described as trafficking.
An Al Jazeera investigation revealed examples of how adoptive Ashkenazi parents of stolen children deceived them about their true parentage. When, as adults, two of them tried to discover the identies of their biological families, they found the records sealed and unavailable. There is a moving account of the reunion with his mother in the 1990s of one person, Gil Grunbaum, who, as a baby, was stolen by doctors at a hospital in northern Israel in 1956. In 2014, the poet activist, Shlomi Hatuka, published an account of her visit to other adult victims of the Israeli policy, revealing further, the human cost of this crime.
Fatal medical experimentation on Yemenite babies
A Knesset enquiry into medical experiments on Yemenite babies reveals a chilling ideological direction. For those who rely solely on the mainstream news media, this revelation should be gobsmacking, especially as this particular news item is already four years old and facts relating to it have been emerging ever since. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, in furtherance of its ideological ambition, Israel airlifted tens of thousands of Yemenite Jews to Israel. Writing in the Jewish Tikun Oram, Richard Silverstein notes that: “Within months of their arrival, reports began circulating of babies who disappeared from hospitals and medical clinics. The final count amounted to hundreds, perhaps even thousands of babies who were purportedly kidnapped from their parents or even killed.” Israel HaYom first broke the story, which included reports of US collaboration with Israel in the experiments. US National Institutes of Health paid Israeli hospitals to provide foetuses of dead Yemenite babies and corpses of adults that were used in medical experiments to determine why Yemenites did not develop heart disease. The sickening pseudo-scientific racism behind many of the experiments is outlined in the Tikun Oram (Repair of the World) account.
Pitiless agricultural sabotage
There is another, very recent Israeli war crime that the mainstream news media have also chosen to ignore, this time perpetrated in Gaza. On 18 February, Israeli forces flooded large areas of Gaza farmland with rainwater from massive reservoirs, causing substantial losses to the impoverished farmers. The following day, it repeated the exercise. Israel built the reservoirs to serve two purposes: The first gives Israel the power to restrict the normal flow of water into Gaza, severely limiting the farmers’ ability to irrigate their land and store water. The second enables it to open the flood-gates and inundate the land without warning. Greenhouses and other facilities get flooded, soil erosion destroys crops, many hectares are filled with mud and agricultural roads are severely damaged. To make matters worse for farmers, Israel has also fenced off much of Gaza‘s farmland adjacent to the Green Line. In some cases, this has prevented farmers from accessing most of their land. By choosing to flood the land at harvest time, Israel is able to inflict the maximum amount of economic damage.
It is not flooding alone that the farmers have to endure. Israeli Army incursions often lay waste to the land and, after checking that the wind is blowing away from the Israeli side of the Green Line, the Zionist regime’s aircraft spray chemical herbicides over the crops. Apart from the ruin, there is always the risk to the health of people who might eat crops without knowing that they had been sprayed. The spraying not only damage the crops but also poisons the soil, harming farmers and livestock, as well as polluting groundwater. Israeli forces also intimidate farmers and agricultural workers, occasionally opening live fire as well as assaulting them with stun grenades and tear gas. These assaults on Palestinian agriculture were also committed by Israel in January this year and also last year. If it’s harvest time in Gaza, it can be predicted.
Israel may have stopped bombing Lebanon but that does not mean it respects the country’s airspace. The Washington Times has reported Lebanon’s intention to lay a complaint with the United Nations against Israel‘s daily violations of its airspace, amid intensifying drone reconnaissance and mock air raids over the country. On one occasion, in January, the Lebanese Army recorded Israeli war planes flying over the south of the country for nearly six hours. The noise from Israeli drones and war planes is traumatic, especially for children, and the United Nations Interim Force (UNIFIL) confirms these Israeli Air Force violations. Also in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which calls on Tel Aviv to respect Beirut’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, Israeli war planes continue regularly to fly low over Lebanon on their way to bomb Syria, in order to avoid triggering Syria’s Russian-made aerial defence system.
Ending the silence
Opposition to Zionist atrocities is growing apace; how much longer can our news media ignore the voices of protest? Jewish Voice for Peace is promoting a documentary, OBJECTOR, which follows the story of Atalya, a young Israeli woman, imprisoned by her Government, who refused to serve in the IDF because of her disgust at such racist militarism and her commitment to equality and freedom. Meanwhile, Israel continues to enjoy its immunity, enabled by a combination of silence and hypocritical, empty expressions of ‘tut-tut, oh dear!‘ When the UK Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs was asked what steps his Department had taken to press for an end to the incarceration of Palestinian children in Israeli military prisons, the answer was sadly predictable: “We remain committed to working with Israel to secure improvements to the practices surrounding children in detention and regularly raise this with the Israeli Ministry of Justice . . .” After decades of unremittingly abducting children, the affirmation that “our Embassy in Tel Aviv will continue to have a regular dialogue with Israel on this issue” and promising to “call on the Israeli authorities to comply with their obligations under international law” is, to Israel, nothing less than a green light.
New Zealand prides itself on standing up for justice and human rights, as it did for example, only last month, after the military coup in Myanmar when we took the lead on the world stage in suspending high-level military and political contacts with the regime. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called for the international community to “strongly condemn what we’re seeing happen in Myanmar”. She announced measures that included travel bans on senior military figures, saying also that New Zealand wanted the UN Human Rights Council to hold a special session to discuss developments in Myanmar. Yet, when it comes to the decades of cruel human rights abuses committed decade after decade by Israel, New Zealand remains, for the most part, decidedly quiet.
Where is there any expression of outrage? Where is there the slightest sign of shame and regret that the world community has so utterly failed all victims of Israel’s ideologically-driven inhumanities? Following the Prime Minister’s announcement, our Foreign Affairs Minister, Nanaia Mahuta, addressed a rally outside Parliament, saying “here in New Zealand we understand just how important our democratic principles are and what it means to belong to an inclusive society.” Will she also condemn, unequivocally, the Israeli State’s undeniable war crimes? Will Jacinda Ardern announce that New Zealand wants the UN Human Rights Council to hold a special session (as she has with regard to the Myanmar coup) to discuss Israel’s relentless violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention human rights provisions?
Our Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) informs us that “Sanctions are a common tool for seeking to influence foreign governments and individuals to change their behaviour”, recognising also that: “The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) can impose sanctions in response to a threat to international peace and security.” MFAT should no longer be allowed to hide behind its fatuously-declared ‘evenhandedness’ approach when dealing with the consequences of belligerent Israeli military Occupation. New Zealand should instead be calling for Sanctions against Israel. Will Nanaia Mahuta, at last, show some concern and declare solidarity with indigenous Palestinians?