Monthly Archives: February 2010

The Second Battle of Gaza: Israel’s Undermining of International Law

By Jeff Halper. Jeff Halper is the head of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD).  He can be reached at <jeff@icahd.org>. H/t to MR Zine for this article.

The Israeli attack on Gaza in December 2008/January 2009 was not merely a military assault on a primarily civilian population, impoverished and the victim of occupation and besiegement these past 42 years.  It was also part of an ongoing assault on international humanitarian law by a highly coordinated team of Israeli lawyers, military officers, PR people, and politicians, led by (no less) a philosopher of ethics.  It is an effort coordinated as well with other governments whose political and military leaders are looking for ways to pursue “asymmetrical warfare” against peoples resisting domination and the plundering of their resources and labor without the encumbrances of human rights and current international law.  It is a campaign that is making progress and had better be taken seriously by us all.

Since Ariel Sharon was indicted by a Belgian court in 2001 over his involvement in the Sabra and Chatila massacres and Israel faced accusations of war crimes in the wake of its 2002 invasion of the cities of the West Bank, with its high toll in civilian casualties (some 500 people killed, 1,500 wounded, more than 4,000 arrested), hundreds of homes demolished and the urban infrastructure utterly destroyed, Israel has adopted a bold and aggressive strategy: alter international law so that non-state actors caught in a conflict with states and deemed by the states as “non-legitimate actors” (“terrorists,” “insurgents” and “non-state actors,” as well as the civilian population that supports them) can no longer claim protection from invading armies.  The urgency of this campaign has been underscored by a series of notable setbacks Israel subsequently incurred at the hands of the UN.  In 2004, at the request of the General Assembly, the International Court of Justice in The Hague ruled that Israel’s construction of wall inside Palestinian territory is “contrary to international law” and must be dismantled — a ruling adopted almost unanimously by the General Assembly, with only Israel, the US, Australia, and a few Pacific atolls dissenting.  In 2006 the UN Commission of Inquiry concluded that “asignificant pattern of excessive, indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force by the IDF against Lebanese civilians and civilian objects, failing to distinguish civilians from combatants and civilian objects from military targets.”  The harsh criticism of the UN’s Goldstone report on Gaza accusing the Israeli government and military again of targeting Palestinian civilians and causing disproportionate destruction has made this campaign even more urgent.

Fortunately, it is an uphill battle.  The thrust of just war theory, from which international humanitarian law (IHL) draws, Read the rest of this entry

Apartheid in East Jerusalem

Daphna Thier describes a brewing struggle to defend Palestinian residents in a neighborhood of the city where she grew up. From Socialist Worker.

Protesters stand in the back yard of a house now occupied by Israeli settlers in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood

Protesters stand in the back yard of a house now occupied by Israeli settlers in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhoodProtesters stand in the back yard of a house now occupied by Israeli settlers in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood

OVER WINTER break, I traveled home for two weeks. My friends had been sending me updates of their activities in Sheikh Jarrah, a neighborhood in East Jerusalem, the city I grew up in. Many had been beaten and arrested at protests there, part of a solidarity movement to stop evictions of Palestinians from their homes.

In August 2009, a court order was issued to evict two Palestinian families from their homes. Since then, a total of five families living in 28 houses have been evicted. In the wake of the evictions, Israeli settlers moved in and are now constructing a new settlement right in the heart of this Palestinian neighborhood–“legally” no less.

Maged Hanun, aged 51, tells me he was born in the house he and his family were evicted from–the home that belonged to them for the past 60 years. “So how can they just take me out of my home?” he asks me.

Prior to 1948, these families owned homes in the western parts of Jerusalem, Jaffa, Haifa and other parts of what is now northern Israel. Now, their homes are in Sheikh Jarrah. All of these families are of modest means, and their options are limited. In other words, this is not a fight about ideology or religion. It is a fight that these families are compelled to wage as a matter of survival. It is a fight out of necessity. Read the rest of this entry

Land Disputes Continue Despite Olympics: Okanagan Indigenous Community Blocks Access to Logging Company

By Andrew Crosby writing for the Vancouver Media Co-Op

Land disputes between indigenous communities, resource-based companies, and the Canadian state are numerous and on-going. There is no Olympic time-out in this historical struggle.

On Saturday, February 20, the Okanagan Indian Band held an emergency meeting and passed a motion to establish checkpoints throughout the community as a reaction to the Tolko Industries logging company’s plans to cut trees in the Browns Creek Watershed, near Vernon.

While a B.C. court ruled that Tolko could begin logging in the area, the Band insists that the company lacks jurisdiction to harvest trees where land claims remain unresolved.

The court ruling was contingent on an archaeological consultation, one that Grand Chief Stewart Phillip and Chief Fabian Alexis contend was less than genuine and ultimately flawed.

Read the rest of this entry