Month: April 2019

Hunt asked to clarify ‘Hamas principally responsible for Gaza deaths’ remark

The Foreign Secretary has been asked for clarification of the statement made by UK Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Julian Braithwaite, that “Hamas bears principal responsibility'” for the killing of 187 Palestinians and the injuring of more than 23,000 during the protests at the Gaza fence last year.

In a letter the director of Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights Tareq Shourou says: “Bearing in mind the fact that Israeli forces carried out these killings and injuries, this seems like a mistaken gross misstatement.”

He points to the United Nations Commission of Inquiry report‘s finding that “all 189 fatalities at the protests in Gaza from 30 March 2018 to 31 December 2018 were caused by unlawful use of force – with the possible exception of two incidents – and that medical workers, journalists, some children and some people with visible disabilities were shot intentionally”.

The same was true of more than 6,000 who were shot directly with live bullets, including more than 4,000 shot in the legs. As Commission member Sara Hussein said: “Our investigations found that Israeli snipers used high-velocity bullets and long-range sniper rifles equipped with sophisticated optical aiming devices. They saw the target magnified in their sights and they knew the consequences of shooting, but still pulled the trigger, not once or twice but more than 6000 times.

“The snipers killed 32 children, three clearly marked paramedics, and two clearly marked journalists. They shot at unarmed protesters, children and disabled persons and at health workers and journalists performing their duties, knowing who they were.”

A joint statement by 11 UK charities – including Christian Aid, Medical Aid for Palestinians and War on Want –  said the UK’s abstention on a motion endorsing the UN report was “a regrettable dereliction of the UK’s responsibility to uphold respect for the rule of international law and human rights”.

It says the Government’s justification for this abstention – that the inquiry did not “call explicitly for an investigation into the actions of non-state actors such as Hamas” – is lacking genuine substance, because the inquiry was set up to investigate ‘all alleged violations and abuses of international humanitarian law and international human rights law’.

It did not explicitly say Hamas, but it did not explicitly say Israel either. It said “all alleged violations” and indeed Hamas was investigated and they did make critical findings. Hamas , they said, “encouraged or defended the use of incendiary kites and balloons; failed in due diligence obligations to prevent and stop the use of these incendiary devices; and is obliged to investigate these failures of international human rights law.”

The letter also criticised the Foreign Secretary’s threat to vote against any motion on Israel if the United Nations Human Rights Council continued its practice of listing complaints against Israel as a permanent item 7 on every agenda, but did not do the same for other countries such as Syria.

“A preferred approach,” the letter said, would be for the UK to “use its influence as a prominent member of the Human Rights Council to urge the inclusion of other prolonged and serious human rights crises, such as the situation in Syria, as permanent agenda items”.

Julian Braithwaite is also UK Permanent Representative to the World Trade Organisation in Geneva and there was an attempt by the leading Brexiteers in the European Research Group to draft him into the Brexit negotiating team, but it was ultimately blocked by Number Ten.

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/human-rights-council-40-item-2-uk-explanation-of-vote

UK abstention fuels continued killing of health workers at Gaza fence, says MP

Foreign Office Questions
Questions Tuesday April 2nd 11.30 am

Question 21 Lloyd Russell-Moyle (Brighton, Kemptown): What diplomatic steps he is taking to help protect health workers operating in Gaza.

The UK’s refusal to support a UN motion criticising Israel over live-fire deaths at the Gaza border grants an impunity to Israel that is fuelling the killing and maiming of unarmed protesters.

This was the accusation made by Lloyd Russell-Moyle (Brighton, Kemptown) (Lab/Co-op) (right), citing the recent death of volunteer medic Sajid Muzher, 17, shot by the Israeli army while wearing a reflective vest. Final terms and conditionsrussell-moyle

The Minister for Asia and the Pacific (Mark Field), standing in for the Middle East minister Alistair Burt who resigned over Brexit, said the UIK had abstained at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on the grounds that the motion was not “balanced” because it did not “explicitly call for an investigation into … Hamas”.

The Speaker also called Guto Bebb (Aberconwy) (Con)Bob Blackman (Harrow East) (Con) who are both members of Conservative Friends of Israel and Joan Ryan (Enfield North) (Ind) who is chair of Labour Friends of Israel.  All three focused their remarks on Hamas.

We face a choice: Do we stand by a crushed and marginalised people?

Battlelines are being drawn for a confrontation over Trump’s much-hyped, much-delayed “deal of the century” which is now promised soon after the end of Ramadan on June 4th – though the Palestinians are not expecting an Eid present from the American president.

Nothing has been revealed about the detailed contents of the package, but Trump’s strategy over the past two years has been to hit the Palestinians so hard that even just relenting a little can be made to seem like a generous offer.

He moved the US embassy to Jerusalem, undermining the international consensus that it should be a shared capital for both countries, and he recognised the Israeli seizure of the Golan Heights, opening the door to the annexation of the West Bank.

Since then he has tried to starve the Palestinians into submission by ending US aid to Palestine, cutting UN aid to Palestinian refugees and making no attempt to stop the Israelis withholding tax receipts that legally belong to the Palestinians, causing great hardship in both the West Bank and Gaza.

Now Netanyahu has won the latest election on April 9th by promising to annex illegal Israeli settlements that control more than 60% of the West Bank.  Asked on television whether he would annex the larger settlements near the Green Line or the isolated settlements deep inside the West Bank, he said: “I am going to extend sovereignty and I don’t distinguish between settlement blocs and the isolated settlements. I will not uproot any [settler] and I will not transfer sovereignty to the Palestinians.”

Anticipating the worst, the Palestinians have cut off all communication with the Trump administration, a decision confirmed this week by a new Palestinian government headed by Mohammed Shtayyeh. They believe the true purpose of Trump’s “deal of the century” is to elicit a Palestinian refusal which will provide the excuse for an Israeli annexation.
By his actions on Jerusalem and Golan Trump has not only deprived the Palestinians of what few bargaining chips they still had in a peace negotiation but also undermined the post-war consensus that led to the foundation of the United Nations –  that no country should be allowed to acquire territory by military conquest.

Former leaders or foreign ministers of 19 EU countries signed a letter calling for a united European front against what they fear the Trump plan will contain, warning that the US “has departed from longstanding US policy and distanced itself from established international legal norms [by] recognis[ing] only one side’s claims to Jerusalem and demonstrat[ing] a disturbing indifference to Israeli settlement expansion”.

“Over the last two years Trump’s strategy seems to be pursuing a policy systematically to weaken the Palestinian Authority while lifting restraints on Israeli annexation of land in the West Bank,” said one of the signatories, former foreign office minister Douglas alexanderAlexander (right).

“As Europeans we face a choice: Do we stand by a crushed and marginalised people?

“Are we going to be part of an apparatus of enablement for the permanent annexation of Palestinian land or alternatively are we going to continue to speak up for democracy, for human rights and for that two-state solution that’s been the goal for so many years?”

If the answer to that question is ‘no’, this will surely be the end for the Palestinian people’s dream of an independent state. It will probably also be the end for the United Nations and quite possibly for the European Union as a force in international relations.

Only the main western European states have the power to stop this.  There is little chance of the UK giving a lead.  The Middle East minister Alistair Burt told the  Commons earlier this month: “The world must not look away again and must do what it can. Until we do that, the increasing violence is likely to continue.”  But he has since resigned and his words are likely to remain what they are – just words.  President Macron is in a stronger position, with three years left in office and facing a White House that has no credibility on this matter. He said last October that he would issue his own peace plan in the absence of a credible American plan. The time has come for him to show some leadership.”Are we going to be part of an apparatus of enablement for the permanent annexation of Palestinian land or alternatively are we going to continue to speak up for democracy, for human rights and for that two-state solution that’s been the goal for so many years?”

If the answer to that question is ‘no’, this will surely be the end for the Palestinian people’s dream of an independent state. It will probably also be the end for the United Nations and quite possibly for the European Union as a force in international relations.

Only the main western European states have the power to stop this.  There is little chance of the UK giving a lead.  The Middle East minister Alistair Burt told the  Commons earlier this month: “The world must not look away again and must do what it can. Until we do that, the increasing violence is likely to continue.”  But he has since resigned and his words are likely to remain what they are – just words.  President Macron is in a stronger position, with three years left in office and facing a White House that has no credibility on this matter. He said last October that he would issue his own peace plan in the absence of a credible American plan. The time has come for him to show some leadership.

Netanyahu owes his victory to the settlers, Trump and the Kahanists

Although the Israeli election resulted in a dead heat between the two main parties, with 35 seats each for Bibi Netanyahu’s Likud and Bennie Gantz’s newly-formed Blue and White party, Netanyahu was the clear winner as his coalition of right-wing parties won 65 seats in the 120-seat Knesset.

The Labour Party, which once dominated Israeli politics, sank from 13 seats to six and the only remaining left-wing Jewish party, Meretz, scraped home with 3.3% of the vote, just above the 3.25% threshold.

The mainly Arab Joint List, which won 13 seats at the last election, split into two parties, one with six seats and the other with four, as a result of a sharp drop in turnout among Palestinian citizens of Israel.

There was widespread jubilation when two of the most extreme right-wing ministers, Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked, fell below the threshold, but they were replaced by a newly-formed Union of Right-wing Parties that is in some ways even more extreme.

The Union is a coalition of three smaller parties, one of which – Jewish Power – was created by the followers of Rabbi Meir Kahane, an extreme racist whose party was banned from the Knesset and banned as a terrorist organisation in the United States. He campaigned for the forcible expulsion of Arabs from Israel until his violent death in 1990.

It was the suggestion of Prime Minister Netanyahu that Jewish Power should join the Union of Right-wing Parties so that the votes of its small but dedicated band of followers were not “wasted”.

One of Kahane’s followers, Michael Ben Ari, was put in fifth place on the Union of Right-wing Parties list and would have been elected, but the Israeli Supreme Court barred him from standing.  Another Jewish Power candidate, who was in seventh place, could still take a seat in the Knesset, depending on ministerial appointments.

Supporters of Jewish Power are concentrated in the settlement of Kiryat Arba next to the Palestinian city of Hebron.  The settlement contains a “Kahane Park” with a memorial stone to Rabbi Kahane and it also contains the grave of Dr Baruch Goldstein, an American doctor who became Kahane’s election agent and a councillor for his party in Kiryat Arba.

In 1994 Dr Goldstein entered a mosque in Hebron, gunned down 29 Palestinians as they knelt down to pray and injured another 150, emptying four and a half magazines from his  army-issued assault rifle before it finally jammed.

The inscription on his grave (right) says he died as a martyr, havingoldstein graveg given his life for the people of Israel, for the Bible and for the land.  Supporters still gather at his grave on the anniversary of his death and sing songs in his honour.

Netanyahu will only have a majority in the 120-seat Knesset if he has the support of the five MPs from the Union of Right-wing Parties.  They in turn might not have been elected without the support of Jewish Power (they won 3.6% of the vote, just above the 3.25% threshold).  So Netanyahu will depend on their continued support.

Analysis of the election results shows that the Union of Right-wing Parties won 18.2% of the votes in the illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, but would have slipped below the threshold, winning no seats at all, on the basis of its vote inside Israel, so it is clear that Netanyahu owes his victory to the settlers.

In the last election in 2015 Netanyahu won the election with the help of a polling-day broadcast in which he made an openly racist appeal to the voters, warning that the “Arabs” were being bussed to the polling stations “in droves”.

In this election he appears to have won the election with the help of his television interview two days before the poll promising that he would “extend sovereignty” (a euphemism for annexation) to the settlements close to the Israeli border (the so-called “settlement blocs”) and also to the isolated settlements deep inside the West Bank.

Netanyahu was only able to make this promise as a result of his campaign visit to the White House 12 days earlier on March 25 when he was able to thank President Trump in person for signing proclamation recognising the  Golan Heights as Israeli — a priceless gift to an Israeli prime minister two weeks before an election.

Netanyahu showered the President with compliments, comparing him to Lord Balfour and King Cyrus the Great – as well he might, because of the hidden message in his proclamation that he would in due course recognise the West Bank as Israeli too.