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Year 2009 No. 32, May 15, 2009 ARCHIVE HOME JBBOOKS SUBSCRIBE

No to Israeli War Crimes! Palestine Will Be Free!

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No to Israeli War Crimes! Palestine Will Be Free!

Gaza: Pursuit of the Laws of War

UN Committee Charges Israel with Maintaining Secret Jail

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No to Israeli War Crimes! Palestine Will Be Free!

On Saturday, May 16, people are taking to the streets of London to remember Gaza, demand the end of the Zionist siege, to condemn Israeli war crimes and their Anglo-US backers, and to support the right of the Palestinian people to their homeland.

The state of Israel came into existence 61 years ago on May 14, 1948. The anniversary of the Nakba, the Catastrophe, is observed by Palestinians on May 15. In the months before and after May 15, 1948, Israeli forces drove around 750,000 Palestinians from their homes. Over 500 villages were emptied of their Palestinian population and most of them were destroyed so that those expelled had no homes to return to. Another 350,000 were dispossessed in 1967 following the Six-Day War during which Israel occupied the Gaza Strip, West Bank, Sinai Peninsula and Golan Heights. Now, Israel's war against the Palestinian people has reached unprecedented levels, with over six million refugees still in exile and with millions within Israel living as second-class citizens.

The people of the world are demanding an end to Israel's war crimes, which have brought death and destruction to the Palestinian people. The latest war crimes in Gaza left thousands dead and injured, and the continued siege of Gaza is a crime amounting to genocide. The Israeli assault on Palestinian freedom, human rights and international law in the West Bank have also never ceased for a moment, even when thousands of Palestinians in Gaza were being brutally murdered. There has been increasing repression of Palestinians in Jerusalem amid growing attempts to destroy the Aqsa Mosque. But as long as the Israeli oppression of the Palestinians continues there will be resistance.

Britain too must be condemned for its historical role in this great tragedy of a people, who have heroically persisted in their struggle for their rights and their homeland. After World War I, Britain was granted a mandate to administer Palestine by the newly formed League of Nations. Under British rule, the Jewish colonisation of Palestine gathered pace and by the mid 1930s Jews made up nearly 30% of the population compared with around 10% twenty years earlier. On the eve of World War II, it was the British government which proposed the partition of Palestine.

The criminal role of the British government has continued to this day for its own strategic purposes. For over 60 years, it has shored up Israeli governments with arms and support. In the recent atrocities committed by the Israeli Zionists, the British government not only failed to condemn the onslaught by Israel on Gaza, but tried to place the blame on the Palestinian people’s elected administration and the resistance of the Palestinians, whilst calling for an end to the violence on both sides under the guise of being "balanced".

It must be emphasised that the territory of Palestine occupies an important strategic position for the Anglo-Americans, at the junction of Europe, Asia and Africa. It is being made the focus of the world-wide threat of so-called "Islamic extremism", and while warning of war the US and Britain are creating the conditions for further involvement in the region, with talk of the dire consequences of "inaction". Similarly, the democratically elected government of Hamas is being made the source of the problem, for instance by Tony Blair and others, and further aggression and intervention planned in the name of "stopping weapons flows to Hamas in Gaza". In his role as "Middle East Quartet Envoy", Blair is announcing that a new policy for the region is to be unveiled in the coming weeks. US imperialism and the British government will not stop short at plunging the region into a new war, as Obama, with a new-found sense of legitimacy, sets out to achieve what the hated and discredited Bush regime failed to accomplish in terms of military interventions in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

The Palestinians are asserting their right to exist as a people, their right to resist an unjust, illegal and brutal occupation, their right as human beings to affirm their dignity, and their right to affirm their identity and national unity.

On the occasion of the 61st anniversary of the Nakba, RCPB(ML) calls on the working class and people to add their weight to the movement to bring an end to the Zionist regime and win justice for the Palestinian people, including the right of return for the Palestinian diaspora. They must be especially vigilant about the role of the British government and that of the Anglo-US alliance, which are planning stepped-up interventions in the Middle East under the signboard of achieving a lasting peace. The working class and people must ultimately become the decision-makers in this country, in order to stay the hand of the warmongers.

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Gaza: Pursuit of the Laws of War

Tom Porteous, The Guardian, May 8, 2009

The Israeli government and its supporters have lashed out at the report of the UN board of inquiry into Israeli attacks on UN installations during Israel's latest offensive in Gaza. The report, they say, is biased, tendentious and inaccurate. According to Robbie Sabel, writing in Comment is Free, the "unbalanced report" does "little to bring understanding or justice to the conflict in Gaza".

The full report has not been published, but there's little in the summary that UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon sent to the Security Council on Tuesday to support such claims. On the contrary, it provides careful but compelling evidence that Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) violated the laws of war during their military operations around UN installations in Gaza.

According to the summary, the board of inquiry concluded that "IDF actions involved varying degrees of negligence and recklessness with regard to United Nations premises and the safety of United Nations staff and other civilians within those premises, with consequent deaths, injuries and extensive physical damage and loss of property". The board also holds "Hamas or another Palestinian actor" responsible for one attack on a UN installation - a World Food Programme warehouse hit by a Qassam rocket.

The terms of reference of the UN inquiry were extremely narrow. Its job was to look at attacks on eight UN installations and one UN convoy during the period of Israel's military offensive. As far as one can tell from the summary, the board has been meticulous in sticking to these terms of reference.

However, the conclusions of the inquiry, as represented in the summary (which, it should be noted, was not written by those who wrote the full report), raise broader questions about the use of force by the IDF during the conflict. It appears the authors of the UN report felt these questions should not be ducked. The summary notes that the board of inquiry was "deeply conscious" that the attacks on UN installations investigated in its report "are among many incidents during Operation Cast Lead involving civilian victims".

The board therefore recommended that "these incidents should be investigated as part of an impartial inquiry, mandated and adequately resourced, to investigate violations of international humanitarian law in Gaza and southern Israel by the IDF and by Hamas and other Palestinian militants".

But in his letter to the Security Council presenting his summary, secretary general Ban Ki-moon says bluntly: "I do not plan any further inquiry." Whether under pressure from external sources - as reported in the Israeli media - or not, the secretary general has thus rejected his own board of inquiry's most important recommendation even before the Security Council has had time to discuss it.

Indeed Ban could not even bring himself to put his weight behind an inquiry that has already been mandated by the UN human rights council to investigate broader laws of war violations in the Gaza fighting. Although the human rights council has often been criticised for an anti-Israel bias, this inquiry is headed by Richard Goldstone, who gained international respect for his critical role in dismantling apartheid in his native South Africa and served with distinction as the chief prosecutor at the international criminal tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. Goldstone has said that he will look at violations committed by both sides in the conflict.

So what happens now? The media and human rights organisations like Human Rights Watch have already documented serious violations of the laws of war by both sides in the conflict in Gaza, several of which have now been corroborated by this latest UN report. There is a strong prima facie case for a broad international and impartial inquiry, as recommended by the UN board.

Justice Goldstone's inquiry (which has been accepted by Hamas but rejected by Israel) should be fully backed by the secretary general, the Security Council and all those states who profess to care about the vital importance of upholding the rule of law in international affairs.

There is a wide perception, backed up by strong evidence, that serious laws of war violations were committed in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead. Failure by the UN to investigate and make recommendations for the prosecution of individuals responsible for war crimes will perpetuate the climate of impunity that characterises this conflict, like so many others, and ensure that in the next round of fighting once again it will be civilians who suffer most. That will only further polarise and radicalise both sides and dim even further the prospects of peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

(Tom Porteous is the London director of Human Rights Watch)

Article Index

UN Committee Charges Israel with Maintaining Secret Jail

The UN committee against torture has denounced the Israeli general security apparatus for using a secret detention centre for interrogation that could not be visited by the Red Cross, lawyers or relatives of those detainees.

The ten independent experts, members of the committee, said that the installation "1391" was located in an unspecified area in Israel. They added that the committee received complaints on torture, maltreatment and inappropriate detention conditions in this installation.

The committee said that some of the Israeli security officers were exercising practices against Palestinian detainees that violate the convention against torture whether during the interrogation or after it.

Such practices include severe beating, forcing detainees to sit in awkward positions for long period, tightening the handcuffs, violently shaking the detainee and turning his head suddenly and violently, the committee elaborated.

It criticised Israel for issuing military detention orders against 12-year-old children for eight days whether they were indicted or not and without appearing before a military judge.

The committee noted that the military memo allows retaining those detainees for 90 days without seeing a lawyer and for 188 days without charge.

It asked Israel on the measures taken in response to the UNHCR call for an immediate end to the siege on Gaza Strip, which deprives one and a half million Palestinians from the simplest human rights.

The committee is expected to hear answers from Israel before issuing its report at the end of its current session on 15th May.

(PIC, May 6, 2009)

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