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Israel sabotages the UN’s investigation into war crimes
A host of prominent international personalities with former UN Human Rights Council spokeswoman Mary Robertson and former chief prosecutor of the former UN Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, Richard Goldstone, in March 2009, recommended the UN Human Rights Council set up an expert commission investigating alleged other occupied territories and Israel. In early April, the council decided to set up such a commission, headed by Judge Goldstone, who is South African and has a Jewish background. The Palestinian side immediately recognized the Commission and stated its willingness to cooperate with it. The right-wing Israeli foreign minister declared April 16 that Israel would not recognize the commission. It therefore did not have the opportunity to conduct independent investigations in either Israel or the occupied territories. In 2002, Israel similarly sabotaged an independent UN investigation into the IDF massacre at the Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank.
Israel flag source: Countryaah.com
At the same time, the Israeli government declared the “peace process” dead. During a visit by the United States peacemaker to the John Mitchell conflict in Israel on April 16, Prime Minister Netanyahu declared that a peace process no longer existed and that it should be reinvented, if necessary. He went on to declare that there would be no negotiation of a two-state solution until all Palestinians recognize Israel (Israel does not, however, recognize Palestine). The Israeli point of view is not shared by the United States, where both President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton emphasized the need for the establishment of two states.
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2009 Rising gap with the US
Even before his inauguration as president of the United States, Barack Obama declared that peace in the Middle East would be a high priority for his administration. Following his takeover of power in January 2009, he deployed Senator John Mitchell as a peace broker in the region. When Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu visited Washington in May 2009, Obama declared that a stop for Israeli settlements in the occupied territories was high on the agenda. The US statement was ignored by the newly elected government in Israel, and Obama subsequently tightened the US position: “Israel’s settlements in the occupied territories are detrimental to the US security policy situation.” While the last 6 years of Bush jr. government term was impossible to distinguish between statements from Tel Aviv and Washington, marked the growing gap between North American and Israeli rhetoric in the first months of 2009. During his speech in Cairo in June 2009, Obama went a step further by declaring that the settlement of Israeli settlements must be followed by settlement closures. These are clear demands for Israel on the road to peace in the Middle East.
Breaking the Silence
The Israeli soldiers’ organization Breaking the Silence published in July a report based on interviews with 53 Israeli soldiers and officers serving during Israel’s attack on Gaza in January.
Interviews with soldiers and officers confirmed the following systematic breaches of the 4th Geneva Convention:
- The soldiers were informed by their superiors that there were no civilians in the areas they entered. All the people they met were pr. by definition armed opponents.
- Because all people were “rules of engagement”: shoot to kill. All were enemies that could be killed.
- In all house searches, the IDF used civilian Palestinians as human shields. They were first sent into the houses.
- Phosphorus grenades were routinely used. Not only in open areas, but also in inhabited areas.
The soldiers also reported that the rabbis who had dismissed them in Israel had referred to the attack on Gaza as “holy war.” Slightly older soldiers reported that it was especially the younger soldiers who had lived fully into the Rambo role, and went live to kill as many (civilian) Palestinians as possible. The IDF routinely denied the war crimes.
Illegal settlement construction continues – regardless of the relationship with the United States
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman declared in August that the country’s consul in Boston, Nadav Tamir should be dismissed. A week earlier Tamir had written an internal memo stating that Israel’s reluctance to give in to US pressure to halt settler construction in the Israeli-occupied territories has “worsened relations between the two countries and inflicted strategic damage on Israel.” As a result of the internal memo, Tamir was immediately called back to Israel for a reprimand, but the Foreign Minister wanted him removed completely. As part of the Oslo Peace Agreement that Israel signed with the PLO in 1993, Israel committed to a complete halt to settlements in the occupied territories. Nevertheless, the number of settlers has doubled since 1993. Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai, who is also chairman of the Shas party, also visited the new E1 settlement on the outskirts of East Jerusalem in August, declaring that settlement construction must continue regardless of Washington’s views. The purpose of E1 is to cut off Palestinian East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank. (Avigdor Lieberman calls for Israeli diplomat to quit over US ties warning).
Israel to fight against human rights organizations
In August, Israel passed legislation banning foreign support for Israeli human rights groups. The purpose was to close the mouth of Israeli groups documenting Israel’s war crimes. This applies to groups like Coalition against House Demolitions, Breaking the Silence and B’tselem. It was the soldiers’ organization Breaking the Silence that a month earlier documented Israel’s use of white phosphorus and “shoot to kill” policies against civilians during the January invasion of Gaza.
In August 2009, there was a diplomatic crisis between Sweden and Israel. The occasion was reportedly an article in the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet on August 17 (Our sons are looted on their bodies), describing the Israeli military’s organ thefts among killed Palestinians. Three weeks earlier, Israeli rabbi Levy Izhak Rosenbaum had been arrested in Brooklyn, New York for organ trafficking. He bought kidneys in Israel for US $ 10,000 and sold them to dead sick North Americans for US $ 150,000. Aftonbladet referred to a 1992 case in which Israeli military killed 19-year-old Bilal Achmed Ghanan, flew him away and first delivered him back to the family 1 week ago where he had been stitched together from abdomen to neck. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “did not demand an apology from the Swedish, but to condemn Aftonbladet and its article” (Israel-Sweden row over media report). It was rejected by the Swedish government, pointing out that freedom of expression exists in Sweden. The Israeli claim was compared to Arab demands on the Danish government in 2006 that it should withdraw from the so-called Muhammad drawings in the Jutland post. However, the Israeli offensive against Sweden had two other purposes. Sweden took over the presidency of the EU on July 1, backing the US’s criticism of the continued and illegal Israeli expansion of its settlements in the occupied territories. In addition, the offensive was aimed at the public in the United States to prove that anti-Semitism continues to live at its best in Europe. Israel routinely characterizes any criticism of the country’s abuse of the Palestinian population as anti-Semitism. (See also: Palestinians seek organ theft probe)
After months of rhetoric of anti-Semitism, former head of Israel’s forensic institute, Jehuda Hiss, in December, admitted that Israeli doctors had for several years removed organs from killed Palestinians to use them for transplants. The Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) stated in Israeli TV2 that this practice was a decade old and no longer occurred. (Israel admits to organ thefts)
The UN characterizes Israel’s war against Gaza as war crimes and crimes against humanity
The Commission of Inquiry, set up by the UN Human Rights Council and headed by Richard Goldstone, issued its report on Israel’s war against Gaza in September / January. Western media, including the Danes, presented the report as a criticism of both parties to the conflict. However, the conflict was not symmetrical. While nearly 1,400 Palestinians were killed by Israelis – most civilians – 13 Israelis were killed – most soldiers. The overall theme of the report is that Israel conducted its war against Gaza with an overwhelming amount of violence and sought to kill civilians. The same point had previously been made by Israeli soldiers and human rights groups. The report stated that Israel has committed serious violations of the Geneva Convention on a number of points: through its use of highly explosive grenades, by its proven use of white phosphorus, by not allowing the civilian population to escape the conflict zone. Israel was probably throwing leaflets down over Gaza, but since all of Gaza was transformed into a war zone, the civilian population had nowhere to flee to avoid the Israeli military. The report finally stated that on a number of points, Israel went even further and “committed crimes against humanity”. Israel had banned Goldstone from entering Israel in advance and had tried to prevent the commission of inquiry into Gaza. Following the report’s release, the Israeli Foreign Ministry characterized it as “one-sided.” In previous weeks, Israel had provided its embassies and friends abroad with material intended to back Goldstone and the Commission of Inquiry. However, it did not stop, that the report finally dismantled the Israeli claim of the Israeli army as the world’s most moral. (HUMAN RIGHTS IN PALESTINE AND OTHER OCCUPIED ARAB TERRITORIES. Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, Report to the UN Human Rights Council, 15 September 2009. File version).
Goldstone’s documentation of Israel’s war crimes was particularly burdensome to the regime, and it therefore put in place an unprecedented offensive to get him to withdraw his report. In South Africa, Israel arranged for him to be thrown out of the Jewish community, and under the auspices of the United Nations, his work was tense. In the spring of 2011, he succumbed to the massive pressure and partially withdrew from his 2009 report by declaring that he regretted his conclusions that Israel had committed war crimes by deliberately murdering civilian Palestinians. Goldstone’s knee drop for the Israeli offensive was immediately contradicted by the other three authors of the report: top lawyers from Pakistan, Britain and Ireland. (UN Gaza report co-authors round on Goldstone).