Gaza

Conservatives Pushing to Criminalize Israeli Boycott

From People’s Voice

The Harper government is signalling its intent to crack down against the movement for Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel. But it remains to be seen whether criminal penalties will be imposed against BDS activists before the October 19 federal election.

This controversy has been building up for several years, as the Conservatives make Canada the most vocal international supporter for Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands. PM Harper and his cabinet ministers have become increasingly shrill in their backing for the policies of the Netanyahu government. Meanwhile, the rest of the world is moving in the opposite direction, in support of full Palestinian statehood, and recognizing that Israel’s racist policies resemble the apartheid system created by the minority white South African regime which held power until 1993. Last month, 16 European foreign ministers denounced the “expansion of Israeli illegal settlements in the Occupied Territories,” demanding that any imported goods originating in the settlements be distinctly labelled.

Here in Canada, there is rising support for the Palestinian cause, particularly in the wake of Israel’s bloody military assaults against Gaza, the growth of settler communities on expropriated Palestinian areas, and the “apartheid wall” which slices the shrinking Palestinian areas of the West Bank into ever tinier, unsustainable chunks.

The Harper Tories have condemned public opposition to these racist policies as “hate speech.” The Conservatives and their allies (and many leading Liberals and NDPers) have spoken out strongly against campus events to mark the annual Anti-Israeli Apartheid week, and in particular against the BDS campaign which was begun in 2006 at the request of Palestinian non-governmental organizations.

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Rachel Corrie’s Family Denied Justice From Israel’s Highest Court

From Common Dreams

The family of Rachel Corrie—the 23-year-old U.S. activist crushed to death by an Israeli military bulldozer while nonviolently protesting a home demolition in Palestine 12 years ago—was denied justice by Israel’s top court on Thursday.

The rejection is the latest stage in the family’s decade-long legal battle to hold Israel liable for Corrie’s death, on charges that the military either killed her deliberately or was negligent.

Corrie, who hailed from Olympia, Washington, had been volunteering with the International Solidarity Movement for two months in Gaza when she was run over and killed by Israeli forces near the Rafah crossing in 2003. Her death sparked international outrage at Israeli human rights abuses, as well as accolades for Corrie’s life and legacy.

Since her killing, Corrie’s parents—Cindy and Craig—have continued their daughter’s work for global justice.

However, they have so far not seen justice in Israel’s courts.

Corrie’s family first filed a wrongful death civil suit in 2005. In 2012, Judge Oded Gershon of the Haifa district court sided with the military and charged that Corrie was responsible for her own death. “She did not move away as any reasonable person would have done,” ruled Gershon. “But she chose to endanger herself.”

This dismissal garnered widespread condemnation, including from U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro, who slammed the probe into the killing of Corrie as unsatisfactory.

On Thursday, Israel’s supreme court rejected the Corrie family’s appeal of the 2012 ruling.

“Our family is disappointed but not surprised,” the Corrie family said in a statement released on Thursday. “Nevertheless, it is clear that this decision, affirming the August 2012 lower court finding, amounts to judicial sanction of immunity for Israeli military forces when they commit injustices and human rights violations.”

“Rachel’s case provides yet another example of how the Israeli justice system is failing to provide accountability,” the statement continues. “We urge the international community, and not least the U.S. government, to stand with victims of human rights violations and against impunity, and to uphold fundamental tenets of international justice.”

The court has determined, however, that a separate case filed by Corrie’s family, which charges that her remains and autopsy were mishandled, may proceed through a lower court.

Israeli Home Strikes Claimed More Than 800 Palestinian Lives

From Common Dreams

At least 844 Palestinians were killed as a result of airstrikes on homes during Israel’s summer attack on Gaza, an Associated Press exclusive analysis has revealed.

The review published Friday found that 508 of the dead—just over 60 percent—were children, women, and older men, all presumed to be civilians. “Hamas says it did not use women as fighters in the war, and an Israel-based research group tracking militants among the dead said it has no evidence women participated in combat,” AP notes.

Among the additional findings:

– Children younger than 16 made up one-third of the total: 280 killed, including 19 babies and 108 preschoolers between the ages of 1 and 5.
– In 83 strikes, three or more members of one family died.
– Among those killed were 96 confirmed or suspected militants—or just over 11 percent of the total—though the actual number could be higher since armed groups have not released detailed casualty lists.
– The remainder of the 240 dead were males between the ages of 16 and 59 whose names did not appear in connection with militant groups on searches of websites or on street posters honoring fighters.

“Either they have the worst army in the world that constantly misses targets and hits civilians, or they are deliberately killing civilians,” Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestinian spokeswoman, told the AP. If most of those killed are civilians, “you cannot call them collateral damage,” she said.

The results of the AP count, which looked at 247 airstrikes on homes, come on the heels of similar findings released at the end of January by Israeli human rights group B’Tselem. That report pointed to three factors behind the high numbers of Palestinian civilian casualties in the more than 70 incidents they investigated: Israeli forces’ overly broad definitions of legitimate military targets, their repeated violations of the “principle of proportionality,” and a lack of or ineffective warnings to civilians that the homes would be targeted.

The organization sent the report to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his response. In a letter, B’Tselem Executive Director Hagai El-Ad wrote: “Senior officials, with you at the helm, backed the strikes, reiterating the argument that the attacks conform to international humanitarian law and eschewing any responsibility for harm to civilians.”

The United Nations reports that in all, 2,205 Palestinians died during Israel’s Operation Protective Edge, including at least 1,483 civilians of which more than 500 were children. The 2014 conflict also resulted in the deaths of 67 Israeli soldiers and 5 Israeli citizens.

ICC to probe possible war crimes in Palestine

From Al-Jazeera

Prosecutors at the Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) will open a preliminary inquiry into possible war crimes in the Palestinian territories, the first formal step that could lead to charges against officials there and in Israel, the court has said.

They will determine whether preliminary findings merit a full investigation into alleged atrocities, which could result in charges against individuals on either the Israeli or Palestinian side.

“A preliminary examination is not an investigation but a process of examining the information available in order to reach a fully informed determination on whether there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation pursuant to the criteria established by the Rome Statute,” the court’s statement said on Friday.

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Palestinians Join International Criminal Courts, Prompting Israeli Threats

From Antiwar.com

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas today signed the Palestinian Authority up for membership at the International Criminal Court (ICC), in response to the failed bid for recognition as a state at the UN Security Council, which the US vetoed.

The move sets the stage for Palestinians to complain about the Israeli military’s commission of war crimes, and sparked a threat of retaliation by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who insisted that ISIS carries out war crimes, and Hamas is like ISIS, and Abbas had ties with Hamas, so Abbas could face similar charges.

The US also opposed Abbas’ move, as indeed it opposes anything that might upset Israel, with the State Department saying they were “deeply troubled” by the prospect of Palestine being an ICC member.

Both the US and Israel are signatories to the ICC charter, though both have also indicated that they never intend to ratify the agreement and bring themselves into compliance.

Israel Issues Demolition Orders for Palestinian Homes in East Jerusalem

From CPI

On Monday, December 22, Israeli authorities issued five demolition orders for Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem. One of the recipients of such an order, Akram al-Shurafa, told the Ma’an news agency that his home in al-Tur, built in 1938 and inherited from his grandparents, has been slated for demolition, despite the fact that the property has all the required legal documents and is registered in his mother’s name.

The other most recent recipients of demolition orders include Talal al-Sayyad and Basil al-Sayyad, even though neither of them owns any properties. Another man, Abdullah al-Hadera, received a demolition order for his al-Tur home, which was built over 50 years ago. Nadia al-Moghrabi, who was recently detained by Israeli authorities together with her daughter, similarly received a demolition order for her home in al-Tur.

Just last Wednesday, December 17, Israel’s Jerusalem municipality issued demolition orders for 11 other homes, all located in the Silwan neighborhood just south of the Old City, some built as long as 30 years ago; the offense – “building without a permit.” Yet Israel, as part of its ongoing, diversified, and relentless policy of displacing Palestinians in the areas under its control, rarely grants construction permits to Arab residents of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and regularly demolishes any structure built without a permit. According to the ICAHD – the Israeli Committee against House Demolitions – so far, in 2014 alone, Israeli bulldozers and other heavy equipment (see photograph, above) have demolished at least 359 Palestinian structures in the West Bank.

Partners in Apartheid: Boycott Indigo Books and Music

Branches of Indigo Books and Music and its subsidiaries Chapters, Coles, SmithBooks, and IndigoSpirit are a familiar site to Canadians from coast to coast, thanks to the company’s monopoly control of retail-bookstore sales in Canada. But behind the inviting facade of each store there lies a terrible reality – the murder of Palestinians.

Heather Reisman, the founder and CEO of Indigo Books and Music, and her husband, Gerry Schwartz, the co-founder of Onex Corporation, are among the most rabidly pro-Zionist capitalists in Canada. With a combined net worth between $1.5 billion and $2.5 billion they donate millions of dollars to support Israeli soldiers in their occupation of Palestine through the Heseg Foundation, an organization they founded that provides scholarships and other support to foreign-born soldiers that serve in the Israeli military and participate in the oppression of the Palestinian people. The Heseg organization handed out over a hundred thousands dollars worth of rewards to Israeli soldiers that participated in the 2008-2009 assault on Gaza.

28 December: Palestinians gather in the crater left by an Israeli missile strike on a building used by Hamas in Gaza City - Photograph: Khalil Hamra/AP - The Guardian

28 December: Palestinians gather in the crater left by an Israeli missile strike in Gaza City – Photograph: Khalil Hamra/AP – The Guardian

The assault, which had nothing to do with ending rocket fire, an act of resistance legal under international law when a nation is occupied, but to murder Palestinians and to weaken the democratically elected Hamas into submission, killed 200 Palestinians in a single day, and killed more than 1, 400 Palestinians, including 400 children, in total. Reisman and Schwartz are close to several powerful Israeli military leaders and war criminals. “On the Heseg board are army and air force chiefs of staff, the head of Israeli intelligence (Mossad), and Maj General Doren Almog who has been charged with war crimes by Britain for his role in bombing civilians.”

During Israel’s genocidal war on the people of Lebanon in 2006, a war that killed thousands of Lebanese civilians and destroyed much of the country’s infrastructure, Reisman and her husband, in a highly publicized spectacle, switched from supporting the Liberals to supporting the Harper neo-conservatives due to Harper’s support for Israel. Kate Gilmore, speaking for Amnesty International, dismissed claims that Israel tried to avoid civilian casualties: “Many of the violations identified in our report are war crimes, including indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks. The evidence strongly suggests that the extensive destruction of power and water plants, as well as the transport infrastructure vital for food and other humanitarian relief, was deliberate and an integral part of a military strategy,” she told the press.

Destruction in Beirut, Lebanon, August 2006. Marco Di Lauro/http://www.marcodilauro.com/

Destruction in Beirut, Lebanon, August 2006. Marco Di Lauro/http://www.marcodilauro.com/

The level of destruction in Lebanon invalidates Israeli claims of ‘collateral damage’ and indicates that the war was about much more than ‘self-defense’. The Lebanese government estimated that 30, 000 houses, 900 businesses, 120 bridges, 94 roads, and 31 other vital points were destroyed in the 7, 000 Israeli airstrikes and 2, 000 naval shells launched against targets in Lebanon. The firing of over a million cluster bombs has left large swathes of southern Lebanon uninhabitable, and the extensive use of cluster bombs near the end of the war “looked suspiciously as if Israel had taken the brief opportunity before the war’s end to make south Lebanon – the heartland of both the country’s Shi’ite population and its militia, Hezbollah – uninhabitable, and to prevent the return of hundreds of thousands of Shi’ites who had fled Israel’s earlier bombing campaigns.” The use of white phosphorus shells, a chemical weapon that “causes skin to melt away from the bone and can break down”, a clear war crime committed by Israel. In total an estimated 700, 000 Lebanese were displaced and around 1, 100 murdered by Israel forces in the 34 day campaign against the people of Lebanon.

All peace loving people should support the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid’s boycott of Indigo Books and Music.