30 Jan 2008

The Meaning of Peace

By Randa Abdel-Fattah
Palestinians in Gaza are currently being denied food, water and electricity. Why isn’t Israel being brought to account under international law, asks Randa Abdel-Fattah
Life is coming to a standstill in Gaza. Electricity has been cut off to the whole population in the freezing winter. Bakeries have stopped production. Water wells, hospitals and sewage treatment facilities are unable to function. UN food trucks, upon which 80 per cent of Gaza's population depends, have been refused entry. Children on ventilators for asthma, patients on dialysis machines, babies in incubators - their lives are in danger.

Israel has justified its recent lockdown of Gaza as a response to the homemade rocket fire aimed at the Israeli town of Sderot bordering the Gaza Strip. One Ecuadorian volunteer on an Israeli communal farm was killed and three Israeli civilians injured.

Israel's response is to punish 1.5 million Palestinians using the most sophisticated weaponry in the world with merciless ferocity.

As the occupying power, Israel's disproportionate response is illegal. This is a crucial point. For if we are to retain any semblance of international law and order, and if the Israel/Palestine conflict is to ever have any hope of resolution, the international community must do more than merely pay lip service to international law.

Between 1967 and 2000 the UN Security Council passed 138 resolutions in relation to Israel's illegal occupation of Palestinian land. All of these have been ignored, the most significant being resolution 242 which referred to the "inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war" and called for Israel to "withdraw from territories occupied in the conflict."

Yesterday, after five days of consultations, the UN Security Council ended efforts to adopt a statement on the humanitarian and security situation in Gaza.

While it is comforting that strong statements of concern or rebuke have come from officials in Israeli human rights groups, the UN Relief and Works Agency, Oxfam, the European Commission, and governments of Egypt, Britain, France and others, words are no longer sufficient. We can no longer rely on an occupier to write the rules.

The common thread, from 1948 until today, is that Israel seeks to achieve its objectives outside the framework of international law. That is why the standards are fluid; they shift and sink because there is no accountability.

For years, Israel has implemented, as part of its 'war on terror', a declared policy of collective punishment against the Palestinian population. What it is doing in Gaza is a flagrant breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention which was specifically designed to protect civilians in time of war and focuses on the treatment of civilians in the hands of the adversary in occupied territories.

Except for Israel, the entire international community has unambiguously accepted the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention to those territories captured and occupied by Israel in the 1967 war, which include Gaza. Both the Security Council and the General Assembly have consistently issued resolutions calling on Israel to recognise the applicability of the Convention, a view that has been endorsed by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Israel refers to article 27 of the Fourth Geneva Convention to justify its measures on the basis of "military necessity". However, Article 27 requires that the measures respect the principle of proportionality. This is clearly not happening.

The catastrophic conditions in Gaza should provide the impetus for real action to finally be taken to hold Israel to account. UN Special Rapporteur John Dugard, has said that while "there are other regimes, particularly in the developing world, that suppress human rights, there is no other case of a Western-affiliated regime that denies self-determination and human rights to a developing people and that has done so for so long." According to Dugard, the West's commitment to the human rights of the Palestinian people is a test by which its commitment to human rights is to be judged.

Israel has been likened to apartheid South Africa by many respected individuals, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, South African Intelligence Minister Ronnie Kasrils, Willy Madisha President Congress of South African trade Unions, Israeli academic Uri Davis and historian Ilan Pappe and former US President Jimmy Carter. South Africa's apartheid regime was declared a crime against humanity by the UNO in 1994. It was not words that brought South Africa to its knees, but real international solidarity, sanctions and boycotts, despite the support South Africa was given by Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan and, funnily enough, Israel.

There can be no security in warfare and illegal occupation. Israelis and Palestinians will only know security through peace. Yet peace means different things to different people and where there is relativity there is the danger that might becomes right; that humanity descends into chaos and cruelty; that almost 60 years of dispossession and oppression are allowed to go on as leaders define peace without an over-riding standard that holds them to account. We should be championing respect for international law which, if we allow ourselves any credit, aspires to recognise people's intrinsic humanity and equal right to live with independence and freedom.

Israel must be brought to its knees and made to adhere to international law in the same way South Africa was: through sanctions and boycotts. Perhaps then it will learn that security is achieved through a respect for human rights, not the destruction of them.

Read Save the Children worker Rana Elhindi's diary on the current crisis in Gaza on the BBC News website.

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David Grayling
Posted Wednesday, January 30, 2008 - 14:22

America will have to be brought to its knees before Israel will join the world community and abide by its laws and conventions.

The reason? Israel is part of America's hegemonic ambitions.


Posted Wednesday, January 30, 2008 - 16:09

Yes Israel must be made to account but unfortunately the US which has the power to make Israel conform to international law, will not do so for fear of upsetting the Israel lobby in the US.

This has been calmly and meticulously documented in the book by Mearsheimer and Walt "The Israel Lobby".

The authors argue that whilst Israel & the US can remain close allies, the interests of the USA do not always co-incide with Israeli interests. Maintaining vigorous unquestioning support for Israel in the face of its flagarant human right violations does nothing for the cause of peace in the region. It perpetuates the injustice and fuels antipathy towards the US.

Those in the US who so often asked the question "Why do they hate us so much?" especially after 9/11, are either ignorant about their country's foreign policy agenda or disingenuously protest innocence but are fully aware of their country's complicit guilt in the debacle that is the Middle East at present

Elias Nasser

Posted Wednesday, January 30, 2008 - 16:50

Some facts and some contentious analysis. All very emotive. For some dispassionate common sense, see article by Ami Isseroff, Gaza Gimmix.


David Grayling
Posted Wednesday, January 30, 2008 - 17:20

Nassere, America doesn't always conform to international law or conventions itself! It has shown Israel the way! Both of them are imperial powers.


This user is a New Matilda supporter. pimpampa
Posted Wednesday, January 30, 2008 - 17:41

Thank you for publishing this excellent article by Randa Abdel-Fattah.

May I second her call for sanctions and boycotts.

Palestinian civil society organisations and the Palestinian trade union movement have called for boycotts, divestment and sanctions. The BDS movement is active in many countries around the world and we in Australia need to join them.

You can read "Palestinian Civil Society Calls for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel Until it Complies with International Law and Universal Principles of Human Rights" at http://www.palestinecampaign.org/?sel=32&page=111

“Apartheid was characterised by killings, hangings, disappearances, arrests, exile, confiscations, inferior education, rapes and the creation of Bantustans. All this was like a Sunday picnic compared to what is happening to the Palestinian people.” Willy Madisha, President of the Congress of South African Trade Unions."

Posted Wednesday, January 30, 2008 - 17:49

I am at a loss to understand why this garbage is being distributed by newmatilda.com

“[Israel] As the occupying power”

“[Israels] acquisition of territory by war”

“because there is no accountability”

“declared policy of collective punishment”

What misleading comments, untruths and blatant lies!

“Israel must be brought to its knees” –and the penny drops
I shudder to think of the extremeism that is now acceptable today.

I’m looking forward to reading Randa Abdel-Fattah’s writings on Irans place in all of this. Lets not forget President Ahmadinejad. “we will crush them into the sea” oh and “our nuclear ambitions are for peaceful purposes!”

I'm just dissappointed.

David Grayling
Posted Wednesday, January 30, 2008 - 18:09

I you want to experience what extremism means, L.L, go and live in the Gaza concentration camp for a few months. Israel will make your stay something you'll never forget.

Compliments of the IDF, you'll enjoy starvation, periodic invasions with tanks and stormtroopers, Apache helicopters raining missiles down on you, house demolitions, little medical care or medicines, no fuel, periodic supply of electricity, no jobs, no hope for you and your kids, and, worst of all, the special experience of having no freedom. None!

Enjoy yourself.


Posted Wednesday, January 30, 2008 - 22:15

I have never read such one eyed propaganda from an "Aussy" who has supposedly some interest in the M.E before.

Rana's hijab scaff must have slipped down over her eyes.

Is'nt she aware that Israel has vacated all of its settlements along the Gaza strip?
That Israel regards the protection of her citizens before anything else. Remember the holocaust? hitler and the holy land. Israel was in existence well before Palestine (A Roman and British colony)?

How about Hamas who want to wipe Israel off the map?

Ask the Egyptians, as you are family, Rana, why are they also with the international community, barring aid to the Hamas controlled territory.

I would rather continue the analogy with our fair country here in the antipodes than the south African one.

In our case though, the Jews are the Aborigines. Please don't argue with the historical fact.

When there are prisoner exchanges one Israeli for 1000 Palestinians, so when rockets kill one Israeli ,...

Get your sums right too please, you might need them calculating billable hours.


Posted Wednesday, January 30, 2008 - 22:20

Grab a seat, get comfortable ...this one is going to go on and on.

David Grayling
Posted Thursday, January 31, 2008 - 07:27

The comment below, which is reproduced in full, appeared on The Smirking Chimp. It seemed pertinent to this thread and gives an interesting perspective on the Palestinian problem in the Middle East!

DavidG: www.dangerouscreation.com

<i>"The Incredible Arrogance


“If all goes well, we won't start up again. What do they have to lose?”

* * *


The Palestinians did and they have and they lost it all.

With all due respect to my Jewish forefathers, I can only say that I condemn the state of Israel. It has become an abomination, which is now a major atrocity in its own right. What Israel could have been, or might have become, has been destroyed by the insanity governing it now, and since 1968.

As one who was raised knowing who I am and where I come from, I cast thee out. I will have nothing to do with you, my precious Jewish State.

You are not what Jewish is and you have sinned against everything we stand for.

Your stance towards the Palestinian people is despicable.

And you will pay for it.

Remember the price you paid, in the past, for your ignorance and for your arrogance.
Submitted by GreyRaven on January 25, 2008 - 7:13pm."</i>

Posted Thursday, January 31, 2008 - 12:58

David Grayling's post is wonderfully refreshing, and thanks to Randa Abdel-Fattah.

The "modern" state of Israel does not meet the minimum requirements of a modern civilised state. It's endless string of crimes offends against the international community, it's failure to recognise even the most basic of human rights of those living in the occupied territories and it's persistent adherence to a policy of genocide against Palestinians demands action from civilised people across the globe.

It is time for those civilised individuals to unite against these affronts to human decency in the same way in which they united against the barbarism which was called "apartheid".

Israel is a rogue terrorist state which, like all terrorist states, relies on a parasitic relationship with a superpower for it's existence. Perhaps it is also time for the world to demonstrate to the American people that their subsidy of Israel must bear a cost and in the hope that American policy makers will rethink their aggressive warmongering strategies which are destroying the Middle East and which are posing a serious threat to global peace.

How long will it take before a boycott can be organised and actioned?


Posted Thursday, January 31, 2008 - 16:44

"Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented" .. Elie Wiesel, writer, Nobel laureate

David Grayling
Posted Thursday, January 31, 2008 - 19:29

Abbas, whose Fatah party lost the democratic election to Hamas, has offered to run the Rafah Crossing in conjunction with the E.U., Israel and Egypt. Abbas, unlike Arafat, is a willing puppet of both America and Israel. His loyalty to the Palestinian people is underwhelming!

I'm sure, when Egypt seals the border again in the next few days (as a result of American pressure), the residents of Gaza will be so happy to have a traitor supervising their only access to the outside world.

The meek will inherit the world? I think not!


Adrien Sword
Posted Thursday, January 31, 2008 - 20:04

<i>Israel is part of America’s hegemonic ambitions</i>

Is it? I think the establishment of Israel has caused the Americans more problems than otherwise. I do seem to recall they weren't to happy about the idea in the first place. It complicates their dealing with the oil powers.

<i>Why isn’t Israel being brought to account under international law,</i>

International law can't bring anything or anyone to account. It's not really law because one can't enforce it. What do you do? Lock Israel in jail?

Look at the situation. Two peoples, each with certain legitimate groevances struggle over the same land. They do this in the context of a region characterized by dodgy regimes deliberately set up to disfunction populated by people who tend to political chauvanism (ask the Jurds). Outside of this there are the developed nations who are dependant on the one resource in which the region is rich.

The result is that a small but militarily advanced nation populated by people who are entitled to a certain amount paranoia struggle with a disenfranchised and poor people in a de facto war that has taken place over 50 years. The outside world sits arounds and exercises judgement either out of vested interest or sympathy for one side of the other. They neither consider the menatality of warfare nor the plight of the other side. They in fact take sides.

Does it help? No.

Meantime each side on this war says: yes we want peace. But you lower your gun first, then we will.

No you first.

No <i>you</i>.


And on and on and on.

Adrien Sword
Posted Saturday, February 2, 2008 - 17:06

David -
<blockquote>Nassere, America doesn’t always conform to international law or conventions itself! It has shown Israel the way! Both of them are imperial powers.</blockquote>

It's extremely unsophisticated to make such a blanket statement which is at least half-wrong. Characterising Israel as an imperial power is not accurate. Israel was founded by people rejected from the places they were living largely as the result of a perfidious campaign to wipe them out.

To be sure the Zionists originally started to repopulate Israel against the wishes of the local Arab population and felt right in doing so because of the European belief in their own superiority; European empires were the established way of the world in the late 19th century and the notion that Europeans might be wrong in occupying foreign lands was obscure in political discourse.

There is also theological conviction that God had promised the land to them. However as I understand it the original Zionists were post-Enlightenment Jews, ethusiastic about Nationalism (in its 19th century incarnation) who, having faced rejection by, say, German nationalists as rightful inmherotirs of the German nation decided to establish their own nation in the decaying Ottoman empire.

The Zionist push for a Jewish homeland reached an obvious tipping point after World War 2. Obviously in most cases it's not the done thing for a people to reclaim occupied land because they dwelt on it 2000 years past however the Holocaust changes the moral barometer. I can't judge the Israelis beacuse no-one's ever tried to wipe me, my family and my whole race of the planet. In the event that they did I don't think I'd be a paragon of multicultural consideration; I'd want to get a place that was safe for me and mine and be prepared to roll anyone that got in the way.

The Palestinians got in the way and that is another injustice that's continued ever since. They had nothing to do with the Holocaust but they paid the price.

Wrong? Yes. But what happened to the Jews was likewise wrong and since then the cycle of warfare has made the region one of the most hateful in history. I personally believe Israel makes a big mistake when it deliberately sobotages the Palestinian economy and wreaks police-state havok on their society. However I'm not locked in a state of war-frenzied hatred and don't have to deal with people lobbing bombs at me so can I judge?

Can any of us?

Adrien Sword
Posted Saturday, February 2, 2008 - 17:07

<i>America will have to be brought to its knees... </i>

Well good luck there laddie. :)

David Grayling
Posted Saturday, February 2, 2008 - 17:54

Adrien, economically, America is close to its knees now. If its creditors called home the loans it would be R.S!

Regarding the rights and wrongs of Israel, you do make admissions that, unlike some folk in Australia, suggest you have some kind of balance and fairness in your thinking.

I cannot however agree that the Holocaust during WW2 gives Israel rights to visit a similar kind of treatment upon the hapless Palestinians. And Israel is clearly an imperial power otherwise it wouldn't be trying to steal even more of what little remains of the Palestinians' land.


Posted Sunday, February 3, 2008 - 18:02

Israel not an imperialist power ? Perhaps not if we ignore those who campaign tirelessly for an Eretz Israel, an Israel stretching from Babylon (Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego) to Egypt (Moses, Aaron, Asinath) and well up into Syria (Cana'a, Damascus, etc.), which to some is the raison d'etre of Israel, and if we also ignore its strategic and probably temporary withdrawal from Gaza, such a description may be a bit excessive. Lickspittle of US imperialism perhaps, that might be a bit more accurate.

But if I were Palestinian, particularly if I knew chapter and verse where my family came form, which street and which house, I might not be so generous. Will there be a 'right of return' in the event of a two-state solution ?

No, I don't think so: ultimately, there can only be one solution: a secular, single-state Palestine, with an internationally-administered region around Jerusalem, and with a right of return for Palestinians.