UN to probe Israeli war crimes as global outrage grows

Thursday, July 24, 2014
Palestinian citizens of Israel march during a protest against Israel’s assault on Gaza in Nazareth on 21 July. Photo via ElectronicIntifada.net.

The United Nations Human Rights Council voted on July 23 to launch an international inquiry into allegations of human rights violations and war crimes committed by Israel during its latest bloody assault on the besieged Gaza Strip that began on July 7.

By the time the council passed its resolution, almost 700 Palestinians had been killed in the ongoing assault on Gaza. Despite 32 Israeli soldiers having been killed in the fighting after Israel began a ground invasion on July 18, Israel has indicated it has no intention of ceasing its offensive.

ABC.net.au said on July 24: “The 47-member forum adopted a resolution presented by Palestinians by a vote of 29 states in favour, to 1 against — the United States — with 17 abstentions including all nine European Union members.”

The resolution condemned the Israeli campaign, which has involved "disproportionate and indiscriminate attacks", including aerial bombing of civilian areas and collective punishment.

ABC.net.au reported that Palestinian officials Palestinian officials said at least 475 houses have been destroyed by Israeli fire and 2644 partially damaged by July 23. It said, “about 46 schools, 56 mosques and seven hospitals have also suffered varying degrees of destruction”.

Israel has rejected calls for a ceasefire by Hamas, which governs Gaza, that includes lifting the blockade on the Gaza Strip, which denies Palestinians essential goods including badly needed medicines.

A statement signed by dozens of representatives of Palestinian civil society, published at Electronic Intifada on July 22 and titled “No ceasefire without justice for Gaza” said: “Hamas represented the sentiment of the vast majority of residents when it rejected the unilateral ceasefire proposed by Egypt and Israel without consulting anyone in Gaza.

“We share the broadly held public sentiment that it is unacceptable to merely return to the status quo — in which Israel strictly limits travel in and out of the Gaza Strip, controls the supplies that come in (including a ban on most construction materials), and prohibits virtually all exports, thus crippling the economy and triggering one of the highest poverty and unemployment rates in the Arab world.

“To do so would mean a return to a living death.”

The statement demanded: freedom of movement of Palestinians in and out of the Gaza Strip; unlimited import and export of supplies and goods; unrestricted use of the Gaza seaport; and monitoring and enforcement of these agreements by a body appointed by the United Nations.

Israel's latest round of killing in Gaza has sparked greater international solidarity with Palestine. Support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign (BDS) targetting Israel, called for by Palestinian civil society groups, has grown.

In the United States, the Critical Ethnic Studies Association announced on July 16 it was joining the BDS campaign and boycotting Israeli academic institutions.

Electronic Intifada said this follows a similar decision by the American Studies Association, which describes itself as the “nation’s oldest and largest association devoted to the interdisciplinary study of American culture and history”.

In July 23, Electronic Intifada said the African Literary Association had endorsed and pledged to honour the BDS.

In Australia, there was a big victory for the BDS campaign on July 9. In support of the BDS, Sydney University academic Jake Lynch had refused to endorse a fellowship application from Dan Avnon of Hebrew University. Lynch cited its going links to the Israeli arms industry.

The Tel Aviv based Shurat HaDin, Israeli Law Centre, took Lynch to Australia's federal court claiming his actions were motivated by anti-Jewish racism. However, Electronic Intifada said on July 11 that the law suit had “come to an abrupt end” and Shurat HaDin had “thrown in the towell”.

Lynch told Electronic Intifada that that this now meant that the BDS “policy we adopted in the first place is effectively fireproof in a court of law”.

Meanwhile, Ecuador withdrew its ambassador from Tel Aviv on July 18 in protest at Israel's offensive. Middle East Monitor reported that Ecuador's foreign minister Ricardo Patino said: “We condemn the Israeli military incursion into Palestinian territory, we require cessation of operations and indiscriminate attacks against civilians.”

On July 19, Venezuela's socialist government condemned Israel, saying it had “initiated a higher phase of its policy of genocide and extermination with the ground invasion of Palestinian territory, killing innocent men, women, girls and boys”.

The statement said: "Venezuela also rejects the cynical campaigns trying to condemn both parties equally, when it is clear you cannot morally compare occupied and massacred Palestine with the occupying state, Israel, which also possesses military superiority ...”

Bolivian President Evo Morales also condemned the Israeli invasion of Gaza, Press TV said on July 21, saying it was time to take action “to end the genocide that Israel is carrying out on Palestine”.

The anti-imperialist governments of Venezuela and Bolivia had already cut ties with Israel in response to its 2009 Operation Cast Lead attack on Gaza.

On July 19, 64 public figure, including seven Nobel laureates, issued a call for a global arms embargo against Israel, “similar to that imposed on South Africa during apartheid”.

On July 14, Dublin City Council passed a motion calling for trade sanctions and an arms embargo on Israel, condemning it as “the third massive attack on a largely defenseless civilian population of 1.8 million people in five and half years”.

There have been demonstrations all over the world, including a huge protest of 100,000 in London on July 19. Thousands of people also marched in cities around Australia on July 19 and 20.

There have also been protests against the slaughter by Palestinians in the West Bank and inside Israel. Electronic Intifada has published a photo essay highlighting these demonstrations.

Thirty-two-year-old Mahmoud Hamamra was shot dead on July 23 during a confrontation between Palestinians and Israeli forces in the village of Husan near the West Bank city of Bethlehem, Ma’an News Agency said that day.

Hamamra was the third Palestinian in the West Bank killed since the start of Israel’s bloodbath in the Gaza Strip on July 7.

After an angry protest in Sydney on July 20, a Socialist Alliance meeting was addressed by Gazan activist Shamikh Badra. A member of the left-wing Palestinian People's Party, the Gazan-based Badra is currently in Australia.

Badra told those present: “The tiny Gaza Strip has been subjected to daily air strikes and naval bombings from the Israeli military. The United Nations estimates that 80% of the Palestinians killed are civilians, of whom 21% are children.

“The Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) in Gaza Strip continue targeting houses with their residents inside, or without proper warning or time to evacuate. Nearly 2760 houses have been destroyed or severely damaged in the attacks, displacing 6000 people.

“A further 16,000 Palestinians have had to flee their homes to shelter in UN-run schools and other facilities.

“Hospitals in the strip are working overtime to treat injured Palestinians. However, the Gaza Red Crescent Society has reported that medicines are running out in their facilities.”

Badra said that when the ground invasion began, Israel called up of a further 18,000 reservists, taking the total number mobilised for the offensive to 65,000.
“My family have described the situation to me as genocide. I realise the dangerous situation well, because I suffered, as all Palestinians in Gaza did, from the two previous wars in 2009 and 2012.

“Everywhere in Gaza there is the destruction of homes, the smell of blood and death, funerals, explosions, sound of ambulances, fires, burned bodies, horror among children and women. The Israeli occupation continues to intensify its aggression against the besieged territory.

“People live in Gaza in difficult circumstances. There is not enough water, electricity, fuel or medicine.

“The Israeli occupation describes the situation as a war between two armies. They claim that to justify their crimes. As you know, Gaza has no navy, no air force and no army.

“This is not a war, it is genocide. This occupation is racist, and the enemy of humanity and progress.

“The occupation is responsible for the dangerous situation in Gaza. The occupation is the enemy of the peace, security, democracy and human rights.

“Palestinians have the right to defend themselves. In face of the continued failure of international community to hold Israel accountable and enforce compliance with basic principles of law, Israeli crimes have continued with impunity.

“Therefore, we rely on the people of the world and their power to change the course of the future. We believe in people to people solidarity in order to being down the apartheid regime.”

Badra appealed for greater solidarity with Palestine: “I would like to seize the opportunity to express our deepest gratitude to our international friends and encourage you all to take a leading role in the struggle for justice and peace in Palestine.

“We also demand parliamentarians, politicians and human rights activists intensify efforts to end the murderous attack in our people — and to criminalise the Israeli occupation in the international forums.”

Badra ended on a defiant note, insisting: “In spite of these crimes, aggressions, and massacres, Gaza will never surrender. Gaza will never die, but will resist the oppression and the occupation.”

Like Green Left Weekly on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

From GLW issue 1018