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Sunday, 25 January 2009

I'll make my point very sanely

Sanity in motion

From Channel 4.

Part of the problem was the IDF's expansive definition of a military target. It attacked a range of civilian facilities, from government offices to police stations, on the theory that they all provided at least indirect support to Hamas militants. But by that theory, Hamas would have been entitled to target virtually any government building in Israel on the ground that its office workers indirectly supported the IDF. That would make a mockery of the distinction between civilians and combatants that lies at the heart of the laws of war, which require direct support to military activity before civilians become legitimate military targets. Behind the unsupportable legal claim seemed to lie a determination to make Gazans suffer for the presence of Hamas--a prohibited purpose for using military force.

The IDF's credibility probably took the biggest hit on the issue of its use of white phosphorous. A typical artillery shell of white phosphorous releases 116 phosphorus-soaked wedges which, upon contact with oxygen, burn intensely, releasing a distinctive plume of smoke. That smoke can be used legitimately to obscure troop movements, but white phosphorous can be devastating when used in urban areas, igniting civilian structures and causing people horrific burns. Its use by the IDF in densely populated sections of Gaza violated the legal requirement to take all feasible precautions during military operations to avoid harming civilians. It never should have been deployed.

The IDF has tried to defend itself with denial and obfuscation. It first denied using white phosphorous at all. Then, when that proved untenable, it claimed that use was limited to unpopulated areas of Gaza. Neither claim is true. On Jan. 9, 10 and 15, a Human Rights Watch military expert personally observed white phosphorous being fired from an artillery battery and air burst over Gaza City and the Jabalya refugee camp. Its telltale jellyfish-like plume was a dead giveaway, as can be seen from many photographs that are now emerging from Gaza of white phosphorous raining down on civilian areas.
Predictably, the IDF holds Hamas wholly responsible for civilian casualties in Gaza, alleging that Hamas combatants stored weapons in mosques and fought from among civilians. Those allegations may or may not be true. Long experience, as during the 2006 war in Lebanon, shows that we must take such ritual IDF pronouncements with a grain of salt. We will not know exactly how Hamas waged the war until human rights monitors can conclude the on-the-ground investigations that they are only just beginning because of the IDF's earlier refusal to let them into Gaza.

Israelis seem dismayed that the world has not embraced the justness of its latest war in Gaza. Of course Israel is entitled to defend itself from Hamas' rocket attacks, but when it does so in violation of its duty to spare civilians, and with so massive a civilian toll, public outrage is entirely predictable. Meanwhile, the IDF does itself no favor when it resorts to censorship, PR techniques and misrepresentation rather than subject its conduct to the open and independent scrutiny that should characterize any military that is genuinely committed to respecting the laws of war.

"The Incendiary IDF", Kenneth Roth, Human Rights Watch, 22 January, 2009. Kenneth Roth is the executive director of Human Rights Watch.
BBC vs Disasters Emergency Committee

Well, Channel 4 shows that it can go for the jugular, but the BBC's approach is a little more mixed.(Pressure still on BBC in Gaza row, BBC News, UK, 25 January, 2009).

They have come under flak for so far deciding not to show a charity fund raising appeal for the people of Gaza. The BBC feels that it would compromise its impartiality in an ongoing story by airing the appeal. However:

The BBC has given free air time to previous appeals by the Disasters Emergency Committee, an umbrella for groups including the Red Cross, Oxfam and Save the Children. The appeals have raised millions of pounds (dollars) for victims of war and natural disaster in Congo, Myanmar and elsewhere (BBC slammed for not airing gaza appeal, Ninemsn, January 24, 2009).

From the first link above, International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the British public could "distinguish between support for humanitarian aid and perceived partiality in a conflict".

There is quite a lot of governmental pressure on BBC to run the appeal, and 2000 people protested the fact that they have, so far, decided not to. Of course the governmental pressure is worrying for any news group, but as BBC has supported other appeals, as detailed above, which were also surely dealing with ongoing news stories, the reasons given for not showing the appeal do not necessarily stand up, unless of course, by showing the appeal they are somehow limited in their access to Gaza and Israel. Within the articles I have read, that does not seem to be the case.

From the Ninemsn article (the second one linked above):

International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander said the BBC had made the wrong decision. He called on the BBC to reconsider, "to recognise the immense human suffering and to address the concern which I think otherwise may develop that somehow the suffering of people in Gaza is not taken as seriously as the suffering of people in other conflicts."

Health minister Ben Bradshaw called the BBC's decision inexplicable and accused the publicly funded broadcaster of being cowed by the Israeli government.

"I am afraid the BBC has to stand up to the Israeli authorities occasionally," Bradshaw said.

ITV, Channel 4 and Five are going to broadcast the appeal, though ITV had said earlier that it would not.

It is interesting that 2000 people protested the BBC's decision. I wonder if in Australia

a) there would be or is a similar appeal , and

b) whether 2000 people would care enough to protest (somehow I think everyone is thinking of Australia Day tomorrow).
Rubber Bullets and Boycotts

On Wednesday, 21 January 2009, at 12.30, residents of Ni’lin, along with International and Israeli solidarity activists, gathered to demonstrate against the construction of the Apartheid Wall. The demonstration began in the olive fields but was forced back when the Israeli army shot teargas and threw sound bombs. After the demonstration began, the army invaded the town from the fields and the checkpoint at the entrance of the village, firing tear gas canisters, rubber coated steel bullets and plastic coated steel bullets. The army proceeded towards the centre of the town, shooting at houses and cars. Israeli forces arrested three Ni’lin residents who were not participating in the demonstration and injured nine individuals.

This is a peaceful demonstration, as can be read here, and the demonstrations are held regularly, with Palestinian people, ISM volunteers and Israeli volunteers.

All the above is very worrying, of course, but the thing that most worries me is this:
This is the second invasion of Ni’lin in one week. The Occupation is collectively punishing the Palestinians of Ni’lin for their resistance to the Apartheid Wall. When completed, the Apartheid Wall will annex land belonging to villagers. Furthermore, the simultaneous establishment of the Apartheid Wall and a tunnel will allow the Israeli army to bar all but one connection leading to complete control over movement for Ni’lin residents.

There has just been an update posted on the town, too.

Israel is often cited as the "only democracy in the Middle East". But these practices seem pretty undemocratic to me. Once people are finally and completely hemmed in. What then? Further stories and statistics can be found at B'tselem. Australia currently has United Nations security sanctions on Sudan and Congo. It supported the security sanctions on Rwanda, which have recently finished. It has autonomous sanctions on Zimbabwe.

I assume that these sanctions are mostly in place due to the practices of genocide and human rights abuse. So, again, to the people who say why not look at the problems of these countries instead of Israel and Palestine, well, my government seems to be concerned about the injustice that occurs there, and I think, at the very, very least, my government could follow Malcolm Fraser's following suggestion of . . .support[ing] the appeal for the Australian Parliament to pass a resolution recognising the hardships of the Palestinian people and committing Australia to work for a fair and peaceful resolution and the establishment of a viable independent state for Palestinians. At the very least. So much more could be done. ( Balanced policy the only way to peace, Malcolm Fraser, The Age, May 10, 2008) such as the following moves:
Both Oxford City council and Quebec Colleges and Universities are endorsing and calling for extensive boycotts of Israel. Maybe it's time for the "culpably ignorant" to ask ourselves why.
Essential reading

Because she says far more than I ever can.
The last two entries from Eva Bartlett's blog:

Beneath the surface and

It's a ceasefire, just not on the beach, not in your home. Children are still getting injured by Israeli fire, by the way. A 'siege-fire' as one commenter put it.

Further interesting reading (not from Eva) is as follows, if you are up to it:
Gaza crisis: Regimes react with routine repression, January 21, 2009; Human Rights Watch and,
Newsweek:, Feb 2nd, 2009 and,
Francis A. Boyle,, 30 December, 2008.

Depressingly, but not suprisingly, fundamentalism is further on the rise and has a focus as articles from this site can attest. And a big shout out to it for a lot of the material presented above, though it can readily be found on the Net also. Also to the other blogs I visit and friends who send me things they think I might be interested in.

If you've stuck with me this far, Gong Xi Fa Cai‏ ! for the 26th (two hours away for my side of the world), and Happy Australia Day.

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this cutie was taken by Crazyegg95 in 2005 and is from flickr