Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Ban Ki-moon's excusing of Israel

UN Special Rapporteur Richard Falk has expressed his serious disappointment over UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's decision not to pursue a full scale investigation into Israel's criminal attacks on Gaza. His decision comes after the release of a UN Board of Inquiry report documenting Israel's multiple human rights violations.

However, commending the "serious and scrupulously argued report", Falk notes that, despite Ban Ki-moon's prevarications, a parallel UN Human Rights Council team led by Justice Richard Goldstone is already authorised to conduct this kind of full scale investigation. Indeed, it's fitting that Goldstone, a Jew with considerable judicial experience in assisting the transfer from apartheid in South Africa, is now tasked with considering the effects of such oppression in Palestine.

Falk also notes that the attacks carried out by Israel on UN facilities were a "relatively minor part of the onslaught on Gaza as a whole and the real centre of inquiry should be the violations of international humanitarian law in relation to the civilian population and the civilian infrastructure of Gaza". Falk believes that any such investigation will conclude that "very serious crimes of war have been committed".

This latest hand-wringing by the Secretary General come in the wake of Ban's diplomatic pandering to Israel over the recent attack on Gaza, and his condemnation of Iranian president Ahmadinejad in daring to call Israel a "racist state" - a valid citation made at a conference, one must remember, on racism. Jordan's former representative at the UN has also criticised the lack of empathy shown by Ban on his visist to Gaza and his decision to embargo 'sensitive' information in the UN report allegedly damaging to Israel.

In more tenacious mood, a Spanish judge has ruled that a group of Palestinian plaintiffs can proceed with their case against top Israeli officials over a 2002 attack in Gaza which killed 15 and injured 150.

It's an admirable position by key elements of the Spanish judiciary which has also seen favourable rulings in bringing top US figures to book for crimes of torture.

The growing catalogue of war crimes inquiries and lawsuits comes on top of gathering international calls for legally-backed sanctions to break Israel's apartheid system.

In citing the legal definitions of apartheid, Omar Barghouti delineates the specific case for internationally-effected boycott, divestment and sanctions:
The Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid of 1976 defines apartheid [37] as “similar policies and practices of racial segregation and discrimination as practised in southern Africa” which have “the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them, in particular by means such as segregation, expropriation of land, and denial of the right to leave and return to their country, the right to a nationality and the right to freedom of movement and residence” (Article II). The similarity to South Africa is cited not as a condition but in recognition of its status as a historic precedent.

As a recent in-depth strategic position paper [38] published by the Palestinian BDS National Committee states, Israel’s origins, laws and policies against the Palestinian people fit to a large extent the definition of apartheid. The conceptual origins of Israel's unique form of apartheid are found in Zionism, a racist European ideology that was adopted by the dominant stream of the Zionist movement (World Zionist Organization, Jewish Agency, Jewish National Fund, among others) in order to justify and recruit political support for its colonial project of establishing an exclusive Jewish state in historic Palestine. Political Zionists dismissed the indigenous population of Palestine as non-existent in the famous Zionist slogan of “a land without a people;” making this a self-fulfilling prophecy, Zionist forces forcibly displaced 750,000-900,000 Palestinians from their homeland and destroyed hundreds of the depopulated Palestinian villages in an operation termed “cleaning the landscape” that lasted until 1960. [39]

Israel's regime over the Palestinian people amounts to apartheid precisely because it displays many of the main features of the crime as defined by international law:

1. Racial discrimination against the indigenous Palestinian people who became citizens of the State of Israel was formalized and institutionalized through the creation by law of a “Jewish nationality", which is distinct from Israeli citizenship. No “Israeli” nationality exists in Israel, and the Supreme Court has persistently refused to recognize one as it would end the system of Jewish supremacy in Israel. The 1950 Law of Return entitles all Jews -- and only Jews -- to the rights of nationals, namely the right to enter “Eretz Yisrael” (Israel and the OPT) and immediately enjoy full legal and political rights. “Jewish nationality” under the Law of Return is extraterritorial in contravention of international public law norms pertaining to nationality. It includes Jewish citizens of other countries, irrespective of whether they wish to be part of the collective of “Jewish nationals,” and excludes “non-Jews” (i.e., Palestinians) from nationality rights in Israel.

2. The 1952 Citizenship Law [40] has created a discriminatory two-tier legal system whereby Jews hold nationality and citizenship, while the remaining indigenous Palestinian citizens hold only citizenship. [41] Under Israeli law the status of Jewish nationality is accompanied with first-class rights and benefits which are not granted to Palestinian citizens.

3. The Israeli Status Law of 1952 authorizes the World Zionist Organization/Jewish Agency and its subsidiaries, including the Jewish National Fund, to control most of the land in Israel, for the exclusive benefit of Jews. In 1998, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, CESCR, expressed [42] grave concern about this law and stated that large-scale and systematic confiscation of Palestinian land and property by the State and the transfer of that property to these agencies constitute an institutionalized form of discrimination, because these agencies by definition would deny the use of these properties to non-Jewish citizens of the State.

4. Return of Palestinian refugees and Internally-Displaced Persons (IDPs), as required by international law, has been prevented by means of force and legislation on racist grounds. Simply because they are not Jews, Palestinian refugees were excluded from entitlement to citizenship in the State of Israel under the 1952 Citizenship Law. They were “denationalized” and turned into stateless refugees in violation of the law of state succession. Their land and other property were confiscated by the State. The approximately 150,000 Palestinians who remained in Israel after the 1948 Nakba were placed under a military regime (1948 – 1966) similar to the regime currently in place in the OPT.

For decades, racial discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel in every vital aspect of life has been the norm. From land ownership to education to health to jobs to housing, the indigenous Palestinians have been denied equality by the State’s laws and policies. For instance, they are not allowed, to buy or rent land in about 93% of the state lands of Israel. [43] To this date, polls consistently show overwhelming majorities of Israeli Jews standing in opposition to full equality with the indigenous Palestinians in the state. [44] So the fact those Palestinians can vote, unlike their black African counterpart under South African apartheid, becomes almost a formality, a tokenism of sorts, clearly designed to project a deceptive image of democracy and fend off well-justified accusations of apartheid. [45]

Israel's rejection of the apartheid label is all too predictable, just as its death-denier in chief Mark Regev has dismissed the latest UN report as "biased". Regev, lest we forget, will go down in the darkest pages of war crimes history for asserting that it was Hamas, not Israel, which was responsible for the bombing of hospitals and other civilian infrastructure in Gaza.

On which note, Stephen Shalom's latest piece, The United States and Gaza, provides a highly useful set of reminders about the lies and distortions levelled at Hamas. He also updates us on the sober truth of Obama's failure, so far, to engage seriously with the long-offered Arab Peace Initiative.

However, Shalom also believes that the Obama incumbency now offers an expanded opportunity for realising justice for the Palestinians through the kind of emerging civil pressure noted.

Part of that process will have to include further exposure of Ban Ki-moon and his 'anguished' inaction over Palestine. Nominal 'investigations' into Israeli violations amount to little if not accompanied by the determined pursuit of Israel and its war criminal leaders.


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