In an earlier post JBayeh quoting from Saree Makdisi revealed that the language and philosophy that the Israeli state projects outwards is very different from the language and philosophy of state employed internally. The spokespeople for the Israeli government and military knowingly spin the realities of their policies in a way that promotes Israel as an internationally responsible member of the “community of states” while engaging in a litany of abuses and crimes against the Palestinians that flagrantly contravene international norms and international laws.
However, somehow the Israeli state is still able to effectively promote itself as a “responsible” and upright member of the international system. For example, last week Mark Regev (spokesman for the Prime Minister of Israel and an advisor on foreign press and public affairs) appeared on the 7:30 Report where he said all the right things about human rights and minimizing civilian casualties in Gaza which was only middy challenged by the interviewer Scott Bevan. When Regev uttered a most incredible statement that “we want to cooperate with the United Nations, as I just said we have a good relationship with the United Nations” Bevan launched no objections despite a long history of Israeli transgressions against the UN, international law and international public opinion. Interestingly, just to add insult to injury in regards to the acceptance of the Israeli projection of itself as having a “good international standing”, only yesterday, the 10 January, the UN decided to return to Gaza because it had received assurances, not from Hamas, but from Israel that UN humanitarian workers would not be fired on. And yet in this context, it is Hamas which is still demonized by the “western” media and politicians who still portray Israel as the moral victim. The following is a brief and incomplete list of Israel’s violations of international law, their failure to comply with UN resolutions and the consistent Israeli disregard for international conventions that characterises Israel’s relationship with the international system.
The most recent incidents including the bombing of the UN schools in Gaza and the targeting of UN and aid workers (“Staff members have been killed, our installations have been hit, our refugees have been killed. All this in spite of the fact we have coordinated in detail the GPS coordinates of our installations and movement of vehicles and personnel with Israel,” Christopher Gunness, a spokesman for the UN Relief and Works Agency) by the IDF are just the tip of the iceberg.
Let’s begin with UN resolutions. Israel has failed to comply with countless UN resolutions. Here is just a short list of UN Security Resolutions toward Israel that the US has vetoed (note: in each case the US was the only member to vote against):
|Subject||Date & Meeting||US Rep Casting Veto||Vote|
|Palestine: Syrian-Lebanese Complaint. 3 power draft resolution 2/10784||9/10/1972||Bush||13-1, 1|
|Palestine: Examination of Middle East Situation. 8-power draft resolution (S/10974)||7/2/1973||Scali||13-1, 0 (China not partic.)|
|Palestine: Egyptian-Lebanese Complaint. 5-power draft power resolution (S/11898)||12/8/1975||Moynihan||13-1, 1|
|Palestine: Middle East Problem, including Palestinian question. 6-power draft resolution (S/11940)||1/26/1976||Moynihan||9-1,3 (China & Libya not partic.)|
|Palestine: Situation in Occupied Arab Territories. 5-power draft resolution (S/12022)||3/25/1976||Scranton||14-1,0|
|Palestine: Report on Committee on Rights of Palestinian People. 4-power draft resolution (S/121119)||6/29/1976||Sherer||10-1,4|
|Palestine: Palestinian Rights. Tunisian draft resolution. (S/13911)||4/30/1980||McHenry||10-1,4|
|Palestine: Golan Heights. Jordan draft resolution. (S/14832/Rev. 2)||1/20/1982||Kirkpatrick||9-1,5|
|Palestine: Situation in Occupied Territories, Jordan draft resolution (S/14943)||4/2/1982||Lichenstein||13-1,1|
|Palestine: Incident at the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. 4-power draft resolution||4/20/1982||Kirpatrick||14-1, 0|
|Palestine: Conflict in Lebanon. Spain draft resolution. (S/15185)||6/8/1982||Kirpatrick||14-1,0|
|Palestine: Conflict in Lebanon. France draft resolution. (S/15255/Rev. 2)||6/26/1982||Lichenstein||14-1|
|Palestine: Conflict in Lebanon. USSR draft resolution. (S/15347/Rev. 1, as orally amended)||8/6/1982||Lichenstein||11-1,3|
|Palestine: Situation in Occupied Territories, 20-power draft resolution (S/15895)||8/2/1983||Lichenstein||13-1,1|
From 1983-2003 there were another 32 UN SC resolutions relating to Israel with similar voting patterns.
Source: The American-Israel Cooperative Institute
Note on the Source: The source has been compiled by the AICI to show that the US is the most unwavering supporter of Israel in the world. What this list also shows is that Israel’s actions do not have the sanction of the vast majority of states and that Israel is only able to act in the way it does because it has the uncritical backing of the US .
According to the UN Israel has been condemned 321 times and has failed to comply to the UN on at least 30 separate occasions. Is this evidence of a cooperative international actor?
Even before the most recent shocking attacks against the UN schools in Gaza, Israel has on numerous occasions targeted UN security personnel, peace-keepers and installations always maintaining its innocence as it has this week. One of the most notorious incidents of Israeli disregard, in this case open hostility, for the UN occurred in 1948 when members of the Zionist terrorist organisation the Stern Gang assassinated UN mediator Count Folke Bernadotte and chief UN observer Colonel Andre Serot (a Jewish survivor of the Holocaust). The assassination was ordered by a three man leadership panel which included Yitzhak Shamir, who would become one of a number of terrorists to hold the post as Israeli Prime Minister, and some believe sanctioned by the every highest authorities of the Zionist state. So, from the very beginning the relationship that Israel had with the UN was stained with the blood of the representatives for peace from the international organization.
Israel continues to deny its nuclear weapons capabilities clearly contravening well-established international norms. Since that black day in September 2001 illegal WMD programs have been the basis for the invasion of Iraq and threats of miltiary action against Iran, yet Israel remains uncensored by the US, and other western powers, for its stock-pile of nuclear weapons. More infuriating is that Israel rejects any accusations that it has such a stock-pile. Since, the heroic Mordechai Vanunu blew the whistle on Israel’s ownership of 200 nuclear weapons, which cost him eighteen years in jail (a violation of human rights law as well according to Amnesty International), Israel’s nuclear weapons have been the world’s worst kept secret. Israel along with India and Pakistan are non-signatories of the Non-Proliferation Treaty which means that Israel is under no legal obligation to permit international monitors to inspect their facilities. However, there is still a moral obligation to work towards limiting and even eradicating nuclear weapons, but international morality has rarely prevented Israeli government actions. Israel’s “special” allowance, in terms of nuclear weapons, in some circles- especially within Israel and the US- is that unlike Iran (a signatory of the NPT and a state which does permit international monitoring) Israel is a rational actor which uses nuclear capabilities for defensive reasons. This is a questionable position to take with any state, let alone a state that provided nuclear weapon technology to the repressive racist regime of South Africa in the 1980s. There is now indisputable evidence that Israel was prepared to share its nuclear technologies with South Africa’s right wing Apartheid government in the 1980s until the South African government (only itself a signatory of the NPT in 1991) moved towards ending its international isolation in 1989 and abandoned a nuclear weapons program. Israel, in this case, was willing to trade nuclear technology for close relations with one of the most internationally repugnant and widely opposed regimes in the world. Israel is as rational, or irrational, as any other rogue state and should be required to accede to a similar international standard when it comes to nuclear weapons as other states. At the very least, Israel should be honest and admit its nuclear capabilities
1967 marks a major watershed in Israeli-UN relations. Every year since 1968 the UN General Assembly votes overwhelmingly that Israel must return to the 1967 borders, to no avail (in 2007, for example, the vote was 161 to 7 the states that voted against the resolution were Australia, Federated States of Micronesia, Israel, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, United States). United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 has been the basis of the General Assembly vote since 1967 and remains the basis of the two-state solution that the Arab states have promoted and which was accepted by the Palestinian leadership in its Declaration of Principles in 1993. Israel has not complied, and has shown no willingness to comply, with the wishes of the overwhelming majority of states and withdrawal to the 1967 borders, with has been accepted as the fundamental principle for achieving peace in the Middle East. The UN General Assembly has shown time and time again by adopting this resolution that the only way to promote peace in the region is for Israel to dismantle the settlements and remove its military occupying force from the territories it has illegally occupied since 1967.
(note: one of the most frustrating aspects of the recent coverage of the Israeli assault on Gaza is that the illegal occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem as well as the illegal blockade of Gaza has for some reason completely vanished from the reporting and the analysis of the conflict.)
According to Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949:
“The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”
B’ Tselem the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights has calculated that 380,000 Israeli’s live in 112 Jewish only illegal settlements on Palestinian land. Peace Now (another Israeli NGO) reports 121 such settlements exist throughout the West Bank and document numerous incidents whereby the Israeli military forcefully removes Palestinians from their land and seizes such land for new settlements, or access roads to facilitate the movement of settlers, or as military security posts to protect the settlements by militarily intimidating the Palestinian population. There is very little dispute in international opinion about the illegality of the settlements (even the official US position is that settlements if the West Bank are illegal) and yet they continue to expand with thousands of Palestinian homes in Jerusalem and the West Bank demolished and the inhabitants removed to refugee camps to promote further Israeli settlements. The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions states that “House demolitions have become the hallmark of the Occupation. Indeed, since 1967 Israel has demolished over 12,000 Palestinian homes, leaving some 70,000 without shelter and traumatized.” The Palestine Monitor reports that “In 2008, amidst the ‘settlement freeze’ agreed upon in the Annapolis framework, tenders for new settlement building increased by 550% from 2007. Actual settlement construction has increased by 30% since the launching of the new round of peace talks. Settlement building around Jerusalem has increased by a factor of 38.” These ongoing violations of international law and human rights are NOT the actions of a responsible member of the UN, and undermine any credibility that Israel has in regards to wanting peace with the Palestinians.
The recent military attacks on UN personnel and operations were represented in the international press and by Mark Regev as accidental and isolated incidents rather than a pattern of willful disregard for the UN and humanitarian agencies operating to assist refugees (mostly people who are refugees because of Israeli military and government actions) and protect civilians in times of conflict. Several examples might help to establish that such attacks fall within a pattern and are not isolated and accidental as Regev and other Israeli military and government spokespeople continually maintain.
Maybe the most infamous Israeli assault on the UN and the civilians it protects occurred in 1996 during Israel’s operation codenamed “Grapes of Wrath”. In the southern Lebanese coastal city of Qana Israeli shelling of a UN compound sheltering refugees resulted in the death of 106 civilians- over half were children- and injuring 116 others.
In the words of the US based organization US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, “In the aftermath of these attacks, Israel denied responsibility for the civilian death toll, blaming Hizbullah forces instead. In 1996, Israel claimed the shelling of the UN compound was a mistake, a regrettable “overshooting” of the military target. However, a UN investigation conducted in the immediate aftermath of the shelling found that “the pattern of impacts is inconsistent with a normal overshooting of the declared target by a few rounds.
The strongest evidence refuting Israel’s claim that shelling the compound was a mistake is video footage revealing a remotely piloted vehicle (RPV) hovering above the compound before, during, and after the shelling. The RPV provided real-time data link capability which enabled the Israeli forces to observe the UN compound as well, as the presence of approximately 800 civilians taking shelter there.
The full UN investigation report, as well as the evidence upon which it was based, was never made public due to intense political pressure from the United States and Israel.”
Other attacks on UN personnel include the killing on 9 January 2005 of Major Jean Louis Valet, a French military observer with the United Nations ) who was hit by a barrage of Israeli artillery fire while on patrol in south Lebanon.
Also, in July 2006 the Israeli Air Force destroyed a UN peace-keeping monitoring station, killing four peace-keepers, in southern Lebanon just before land forces were due to cross the border into southern Lebanon. UN Secretary-General responded by accusing Israel stating that, “This coordinated artillery and aerial attack on a long established and clearly marked U.N. post at Khiam occurred despite personal assurances given to me by (Israeli) Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that U.N. positions would be spared Israeli fire.” The official position taken by the Israeli government was that it was a tragic error, but Brigadier General Dan Halutz, the Israeli Chief of Staff illustrates the reality of Israeli policy, “Nothing is safe (in Lebanon), as simple as that,” including international peace-keepers it would seem!
Other human rights activists have also been killed. In 2003, the death of Rachel Corrie, a US citizen, 23 year old International Solidarity Movement activist in the Gaza strip caused the Israeli government a public relations headache, which it was able to extract itself from with the aid of the Bush administration and the US mainstream press. Corrie died when an Israeli army bulldozer ran over her while she was protesting Israeli demolitions of Palestinian homes. Later Israel declared the killing a “regrettable accident” and blamed it on overzealous Corrie and the other activists working as human shields. Another pattern is exposed by this incident. The Israeli government continually absolves the Israeli military for the death and destruction it causes by blaming the victims. Time and again the Israeli’s use their military force in a manner than it must know will result in the death of civilians (or UN and human rights activists) and when it does the government just explains away its actions by accusing the victims of being at fault. The idea that Palestinians, or Lebanese, die because they are convenient shields from Israeli attack is nonsensical mainly because such a strategy, if employed, has never yet stopped the Israeli armed forces from shooting, the examples given above should be enough to make this clear.
This entry began with a refutation of one myth promoted by the Israeli government and ends with another by questioning another about human shields as a Palestinian tactic. A report from B’ Tselem concluded ‘during the army’s operation in Nablus in late February, Israeli soldiers used two Palestinian children, a fifteen-year-old boy and a eleven-year-old girl, and a twenty-four-year old man as human shields.’ The idea that Palestinians and Lebanese use their own children and civilians as shields is a blatantly racist and offensive statement that has been accepted as a result of the way that Israel has been able to depict itself as a moral actor while its Arab adversaries are immoral. What the above example exposes is that Israeli’s are just as capable of immoral actions and the issues here are not racial, religious or cultural but rest on power and material interests. Israel military and government policy shows no interest for the civilians in the occupied territories and the people that inhabit neighbouring states.
Other organs of the Israeli state has no regard for the civilians it regularly targets as part of government policy to terrorize the Palestinians into submitting to the gradual destruction of their basic human rights within their own state or as equal partners in a non-sectarian, non-racist Israel. The one body with oversight power to ensure some justice towards the victims of the IDF and government is just as complicit with numerous examples of the Israeli judiciary absolving the repressive and discriminating Israeli system and incredible leniency towards Israeli’s who have committed gross violations of the human rights of the Palestinian and Lebanese people. Israel’s cynical attitude towards human rights law is apparent in the stance it has taken toward the International Criminal Court. Despite, the ICC being a realization of Jewish post World War 2 aspirations, Israel has not ratified the Treaty of Rome citing the internationalization of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as its main concern. If Israel’s actions were humane and just then what fear does it have from an international court based in Europe?
In writing this entry there are a number of omissions that time has prevented me from citing. Sabra and Shatila remains a terrible stain on the Israeli reputation and in time will no doubt be considered one of the most heinous crimes of the twentieth century. While the massacres in Sabra and Shatila were conducted by Lebanese Phalange militia, the IDF were at the very least complicit by permitting the killing that took place, and even possibly co-perpetrators by encouraging the murder ofover 2000 Palestinian refugees. The role of Ariel Sharon has been a matter of much debate with the House of Commons commenting on the matter in 2001 in these terms:
“… this House congratulates the BBC for Panorama’s recent in-depth analysis of the massacres in Sabra and Shatilla during the war in Lebanon in 1982; notes that following the massacres an internal Israeli commission of inquiry forced the resignation of the then Israeli Defence Minister, Ariel Sharon; believes there is sufficient prima facie evidence to indicate that Ariel Sharon, now the Israeli Prime Minister, should be tried for war crimes; and calls upon the international community to ensure that he is duly charged at the earliest possible opportunity.’
Another omission from this piece is the issue of the use of cluster bombs during the bombardment of Lebanon in 2006 which contravenes international law and was documented by Human Rights Watch in detail. Also, targeted assassinations of Palestinians, in use for some years now by the Israeli government, is also morally repugnant and illegal, and has caused hundreds of civilian deaths. The role of Israel in the Suez Crisis and the illegal occupation of the Canal is also omitted from this entry. A couple last points. Firstly, much of the information which details the Israeli actions comes from conscientious objectors and human rights activists in Israel ( Israel is not a monolith) and the strong opposition to the occupation of Palestine and the human rights abuses perpetrated by the Israeli government and military that emanates from within Israel must be strongly supported. For example after Israeli involvement in the Sabra and Shatila massacres were revealed over 400,000 Israeli’s showed their disgust by demonstrating against the government. Secondly, Palestinians and other regional opponents of Israeli occupation of Palestine have also contravened international laws and human rights.Where they have done so there is equal reason for condemnation of those acts. However, since states have greater rights in the international system they also should be held up to higher standards, and a state with the immense technological power and economic development that Israel controls should be held to a very high standard of moral and legal obligations.
The international media and the US government, and other uncritical allies of the US Empire, continue to maintain the cause of the instability in the region can be attributed to Hamas and Hezbollah and that Israel is the victim. However, as noted above, the UN has not had to seek assurances from Hamas and Hezbollah in regards to the security of UN personnel from violence but from the Israeli government.
The international system may be flawed but it serves an important role in ensuring that some order, if not justice, is maintained in international relations. Whether the way forward in terms of a peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians is through international mediation and if the UN can one day demand that all parties abide by international laws and UN resolutions is another question, albeit an urgent one. The reform of the UN would have to occur before any such progress could occur and until that happens, it seems that Israel will continue to defy international public opinion, ignore international human rights norms, transgress international law and still be able to portray itself as a state that cooperates with the UN with a reputable internatioanl reputation. Israel’s actions and the blantant disregard it has shown for the UN, peacemakers and international human rights norms is evidence that Israel is no beacon of light and bastion of civilization but an international rogue.