Thursday, 14 August 2014

Israel's Collective Punishment is a War Crime

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On August 12th, USLAW released this statement on the crisis in Gaza.  It is available for download in PDF format from A companion fact sheet can be downloaded at
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Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Netanyahu's manipulations

  Netanyahu's Ugly Game in Gaza

By Stephen Zunes
The murder by unknown assailants of three Israeli teens who were members of an Israeli settlement in the occupied West Back would normally have been treated by both sides as simply another senseless loss of innocent young life experienced too often by Israelis and Palestinians alike. But the right-wing Israeli government took advantage of the tragedy to whip up ultra-nationalist sentiments, engage in a new wave of repression in the occupied West Bank, launch heavy mortar attacks and air strikes against civilian targets in the besieged Gaza Strip, and now to threaten all-out war.
This latest round of violence came on the heels of failed peace negotiations in which the Palestine Authority agreed to unprecedented concessions, including accepting a settlement in which their state would be demilitarized and would encompass just 22 percent of historic Palestine, militias would be dismantled, Israeli and international forces could guard all borders, Jerusalem would be shared as both nations’ co-capital, 80 percent of Israeli colonists would be allowed to stay in their illegal settlements, and the Palestinians would renounce the right of return of refugees expelled from their homes during Israel’s 1947-49 war of independence.
By contrast, the Israelis—according to both U.S. and Israeli sources--essentially refused to make any concessions from their longstanding insistence that the Palestinians only be allowed control of a series of tiny non-contiguous cantons surrounded by Israel.  Rather than acknowledging Israel’s culpability in the failure to achieve a peace agreement, the Obama administration blamed “both sides” and insisted that the Palestinians not just recognize Israel, as they had done more than twenty years ago, but explicitly recognize Israel as a “Jewish state.” Never in history has a country been required to recognize the ethnic or religious identity of another as a requirement for peace.
With Israel’s intransigence in the face of Palestinian moderation, which raised global disapproval to unprecedented levels and prompted questions even among many Israelis, Prime Minister Netanyahu apparently felt a need to change the focus, taking advantage of the kidnapping and murder to his advantage. First he insisted, without making public any evidence, that the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas was responsible and, by extension—given their recent unity agreement to join the Fatah-led Palestinian government—the Palestine Authority itself. This came despite vehement denunciation of the kidnapping and murders by Palestinian officials and aggressive actions by Palestinian security services, first to find the missing teens and then to find the perpetrators.
Israel then began air strikes on the Gaza Strip, prompting Palestinian militants—who may actually have been affiliated with groups even more extremist than Hamas—to lob home-made rockets which, unlike the Israeli attacks, have not yet resulted in any casualties, but have reinforced the Israeli determination to escalate its assault on Gaza and prepare for a possible large-scale military offensive.
President Obama, to his credit, in an article written for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, declared that "all parties must protect the innocent and act with reasonableness and restraint, not vengeance and retribution” and, while praising President Abbas for his willingness to work for peace, refrained from doing the same for Netanyahu. However, Obama failed to join Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and various governments in condemning Israeli violations of international humanitarian law, including collective punishment and attacks on noncombatants.
Since the beginning of 2014, nearly thirty Palestinian civilians, including nearly a dozen children and adolescents, have been killed by Israeli security forces. Nearly 1,300 have been injured, and as many as 650 have been forcibly displaced, raising concerns among many Palestinians about the disproportionate focus placed upon the three Israeli teenagers.
Imagine the reaction by the Obama administration if the Palestine Authority had reacted to the deaths of their youth as had Israel: bombing Israeli cities, breaking into and ransacking Israeli homes, and detaining hundreds of Israelis without charge.
Obama’s call for Israelis and Palestinians to exercise restraint and peacefully settle their differences is not enough. Whatever terrible acts may be committed by one side or the other, this is not an ethnic conflict. It is an illegal military occupation of one nation by another. The United States continues to block the United Nations from enforcing resolutions demanding Israel live up to its obligations under international law, while increasing military aid even as Israeli human rights abuses have also increased. This has pushed prospects for a peaceful resolution further out of reach, and made it harder for the Palestine Authority to prevent desperate elements within its population from targeting Israelis, including innocent civilians.
The United States must  use its considerable leverage on Israel not only to prevent a full-scale assault on Gaza, but to end the occupation.

Stephen Zunes is a professor of politics and coordinator of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of San Francisco

Israel and West Destroying Gaza

by richardjacksonterrorismblog
The problem with Gaza is that when we see its suffering, we know that our commitment to human rights stops at the Israeli border; it hurries past the apartheid wall. We do not, it seems, believe in universal human rights after all.
The problem with Gaza is that when see its dead, dust-covered children, we know that our belief in the rule of law and accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity is nothing more than fancy talk designed to seduce and distract from the ethical vacuum at the heart of our legal ethics.
The problem with Gaza is that when we see the crushed wheelchairs of the disabled, too slow to get out with a one minute warning, we know that we consider some lives to be value-less, expendable, ungrievable. The Gazan dead are collateral damage, the responsibility of the terrorists, unfortunate accidents, deserving of their deaths because of their government; there are a million reasons to discount lives, to dismiss suffering.
The problem with Gaza is that when we see its hospitals crowded with the weeping wounded, waiting for vital medicines to be allowed in by Israeli border officials, we realise that we do not consider that all people have the right to live in freedom and dignity. We have learned to accept the imprisonment of an entire people behind walls; we accept that some can enjoy the freedoms we possess while others must possess subjugation, injustice, humiliation.
The problem with Gaza is that when we see family homes, hospitals, mosques and cultural centres reduced to rubble, we know that our commitment to international law and justice is little more than political expediency, a rhetorical flourish concealing a cynical calculus.
The problem with Gaza is that when we see people running about helplessly behind the walls, desperate to escape the screaming, searching bombs, we know that we accept an international order in which the powerful terrify and debase the weak, the oppressed are denied the right to resist, and in which military might trumps morality and reason.
The problem with Gaza is that it is a mirror to the moral vacuum that is 'civilised, Western values'. It taunts us, mocking our deeply-held beliefs, our delusional self-confessed identity as civilised, democratic, advanced. We think our politicians, our institutions and our societies really do cherish human rights, democracy, rule of law and a compassionate, humane international order. We believe our media tell the truth. But when we look at what Israel does to Gaza, to the Palestinians across the colonised territories, day after day and year after year, we know that none of this is really true. Suddenly, brutally, we know that we are hypocrites, our leaders are hypocrites, our purported values are nothing but vapours; they vanish with the first breeze of a US-made Israeli attack helicopter.
The problem with Gaza is that it reminds us that our governments send arms to Israel, accept its nuclear arsenal without protest, maintain full diplomatic relations with it, allow its representatives to speak unchallenged in our media, make excuses for its illegal, immoral behaviour, and block UN resolutions which criticise its walls, its blockades, its annexation of land, its excessive violence. It reminds us that we continue to vote for politicians and political parties who refuse to speak or act on behalf of the oppressed, despite their fine rhetoric about freedom and human rights.It reminds us that we allow Israel to act with impunity by our silence, our cooperation, our normalised relations. It reminds us that we have chosen a side, and it's not the side of justice and freedom.
The problem with Gaza is that it reminds us that we are all complicit in its suffering if we do nothing.
richardjacksonterrorismblog | July 14, 2014 at 10:30 pm | Tags: Gaza, Israel, Palestine, western values | Categories: Israel/Palestine | URL:

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

US Hands Off Iraq!

In 2001, immediately following 9-11 Barbara Lee stood alone in opposing an open-ended war authorisation that remains in force today.
Below she responds to President Obama's recent speech on Iraq amid a new clamour from many quarters for US military intervention in Iraq today.

Congresswoman Lee Responds to President Obama's Remarks on Iraq

For Immediate Release:
Friday, June 13, 2014
Contact: Katherine Jolly, (510)-763-0370
Washington, DC - Today, Following President Obama's remarks concerning the crisis in Iraq, Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) issued the following statement:
"After more than a decade of war, thousands of America lives and billions of dollars, the American people are looking to Congress to promote security and diplomacy," said Congresswoman Lee. "The ongoing crisis in Iraq is the tragic product of President George W. Bush's unnecessary and unjust 2003 invasion. The response must not be more military action, but a political process led by the Iraqis and representative of all Iraqis.
"Earlier this week, during the Appropriations Committee committee consideration of the Fiscal year 2015 Department of Defense funding bill, Congresswoman Lee offered an amendment, based on her bipartisan legislation (HR 3852),  to repeal the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) in Iraq.

"As  the House considers next week's defense bill, I will again work to repeal the 2002 Iraq war authorization, as well as the 2001 AUMF which has led to a perpetual state of endless war. I welcome the support of my colleagues who believe Congress should debate any and all use of military force.

"In May, President Obama used his speech at West Point to remind the American people that not all problems have military solutions. The political crisis in Iraq is one such problem.

"As the President has so eloquently stated, our military cannot solve all crises. The future of Iraq is in the hands of the Iraqi people," added Congresswoman Lee. "The U.S. must continue to pursue international and regional engagement, recognition of human rights and political reforms in order to promote the long term national stability and the  reconciliation necessary to address this complex problem."
Follow Barbara Lee on Facebook and Twitter at @RepBarbaraLee. To learn more, visit
Congresswoman Lee is a member of the Appropriations and Budget Committees, the Steering and Policy Committee, is a Senior Democratic Whip, as well as the Whip of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), where she serves as the Co-Chair of the CPC Peace and Security Task Force.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

America's legacy in Iraq

Below is an insight into the current crisis in Iraq:

By Stephen Zunes

The dramatic rise of the extremist Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)—which even al-Qaeda deemed too extreme to remain part of its network—is a tragedy by any measure. It would also be tragic if we allowed the very forces that created this mess to explain it away.

Despite claims by the Bush administration and its supporters to the contrary, outside of a few dozen fighters in a remote valley of the Kurdish autonomous region, there was no Al-Qaeda or related Salafi extremist presence in Iraq under the Saddam Hussein regime. But now, thanks to the U.S. invasion and occupation, the extremists control most of the northern and western parts of the country, including Iraq’s second largest city.

Under U.S. occupation, Iraq’s two major bastions of secular nationalism—the armed forces and the civil service—were effectively abolished, only to be replaced by partisans of sectarian Shiite parties and factions, some of which were closely allied to Iran. Sunni extremists, believing Iraqi Shias had betrayed their country to Persians and Westerners, began targeting Shia civilian neighborhoods with terrorist attacks. The Iraqi regime and allied militia then began systematically kidnapping and murdering thousands of Sunni men. The so-called “sectarian” conflict, then, has been a direct consequence of U.S. policy.

Despite this, recognizing al-Qaeda related extremists among them were a bigger threat, Sunni tribesmen and other leaders in northern and western Iraq agreed in 2007 to ally with the government in return for better incorporating Sunnis into the government and armed forces. This led to a temporary lull in the fighting, which Republicans and various pundits have falsely attributed to the U.S. troop surge that followed.

However, the Maliki regime did not come through with its end of the agreement. Indeed, discrimination and repression increased. Nonviolent protesters were gunned down. Dissident journalists were targeted for imprisonment and assassination. There was widespread torture. Thousands of Iraqis were detained for years without trial. Sunnis and their communities faced rampant discrimination and the Maliki regime became recognized by Transparency International as one of the most corrupt governments in the world.

As a result, when ISIS emerged as the latest manifestation of al-Qaeda-style extremists, the Sunni population—despite their relatively secular outlook and strong opposition to such ideologies and tactics—found them to be the lesser evil, and various militia have joined with their former rivals in expelling government forces.

Their advance was made easier by the failure of the Iraqi army to fight. As the U.S. learned in South Vietnam, no matter how well you train a foreign army and how many arms you provide them, they will only be successful if they believe their regime is worth fighting and dying for.
The good news is that, thanks to an influx of Shiite militia and Iranian Revolutionary Guard fighting alongside the army, the ISIS advance appears to have stalled. The bad news is that it will reinforce the sense among the Sunni population that their country is controlled by Iranian-backed Shiite sectarians, which will only strengthen the power of religious chauvinists within their own community. Should there be attacks by the regime and its allies on the ISIS-occupied cities, the inevitable civilian death toll that would result would only increase the country’s divisions further.

It is ironic that many of the very U.S. politicians and pundits who supported the invasion and occupation of Iraq are now being paraded through the mainstream media giving advice on how the Obama administration should respond, ignoring how the rise of ISIS and the underlying “sectarian” conflict is a direct consequence of Bush administration policies.

It is particularly bizarre that some of the very people who supported the illegal and unnecessary invasion of Iraq are now trying to somehow blame Obama for the unfolding fiasco. Obama opposed the war in part because he recognized that a U.S. invasion and occupation would "only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaida."

Ironically, in that same 2002 speech, Obama called on the Bush administration to “make sure our so-called allies…stop oppressing their own people, and suppressing dissent, and tolerating corruption and inequality, and mismanaging their economies so that their youth grow up without education, without prospects, without hope, the ready recruits of terrorist cells.” Unfortunately, as president, Obama has spent more than $25 billion in taxpayer money arming, training, and propping up the corrupt, oppressive, and discriminatory Maliki regime in Baghdad whose policies have directly resulted in the rise of the ISIS extremists.

There do not seem to be any good options for the United States to pursue now. Since the ISIS takeover is in many respects part of a larger popular rebellion, it cannot be reversed simply through air strikes and drone attacks. Conditioning aid on the Maliki regime becoming more democratic, inclusive, and transparent would seem like a sensible first step, but instigating such reforms would be difficult in the midst of such a major crisis. Ultimately, as difficult as it may seem for many Americans to accept, the Iraqis may just need to work things out themselves. Almost everything else the United States has done to that country in recent decades has only made things worse.

Stephen Zunes is a professor of Politics and coordinator of the Middle Eastern Studies program at the University of San Francisco.
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Anglo-Saxonism and the World Cup

Just as I was glowingly acknowledging to an American friend how far multiculturalism had come, while watching the racially and ethnically mixed football teams of Europe and South America compete in Brazil, I was reminded of how deeply embedded remain racial and cultural stereotypes in the field of sports. Though I do tend to see the world in political-historical terms, even while enjoying a beer and a good game of football, so bear with me....

Monday 16 June's New York Times published a very interesting article that jolted me back from Planet Football to Anglo-American history.

It is said that the British Empire was built on the playing fields of Eton. The sporting spirit is inextricably linked with spreading civilisation. The very term - "it's not cricket" - captures the essence of the notion of playing by the spirit and the letter of the rules of the game, the civilised way, like the British do (but please don't mention the 'bodyline' tour of Australia in the 1930s when short-pitched leg-side bowling aimed at the body tactics, then considered 'not quite cricket', were used by England to try and thwart the batting skills of the legendary Don Bradman and causing severe head and other injuries to several batsmen).

And by the rules and spirit of the game is how the Americans currently, it is lamented, play football. The NYT article is headlined "Where Dishonesty Is Best Policy, U.S. Falls Short". And it's all about how Brazilians and continental Europeans dive and 'simulate' i.e., cheat, in order to win free kicks and penalties in order to win games. But, "the American nature is to try and make everything fair... That's just how Americans are."

And so are the English, America's Anglo-Saxon cousins. They also, to their detriment, tend to stay on their feet, "traditionally stayed upright", unlike their "Continental European" counterparts. Though Michael Owen, David Beckham and Ashley Young provide examples to the contrary.

At stake, however, in the debate about whether American players should emulate continentals and other lesser breeds, is nothing less than the "moral high ground" of the American ethos.

Of course, football is just a game, in the end, and too much should not be made of this. But, the echoes of British imperial era claims to moral superiority against the barbarians in need of civilisation are clearly visible.

And just as Britannia ruled the waves by waiving the rules, America's moral outrage over cheating in football should be seen not just in the context of football, perhaps, but also in its role in the world since 1945 - when America has made and enforced the rules of the global order, with their English cousins at their side.

What's going on today in Libya, Afghanistan and Iraq certainly isn't cricket.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

60 years since Vietnamese Victory at Dienbienphu

7 May 2014 marked the 60th anniversary of the French surrender at Dienbienphu to the forces of the Vietminh after a spectacular historic military defeat at the hands of a largely ill-equipped but determined and cohesive national liberation movement. Despite millions of dollars of American military aid and equipment, French forces were overwhelmed by Vietminh forces that had built roads and caves to transport and store arms and ammunition over 500 miles through dense jungle territory. Led by General Vo Nguyen Giap, the Vietnamese forces showed that the people of that country would fight for and win their freedom from eighty years of colonial rule, cruelty and famine.

Professor Marilyn Young, the New York University historian, has recorded the stirring conclusions of General Giap in her excellent book, The Vietnam Wars 1945-1990. Giap wrote, five years after Dienbienphu that, "a colonized and weak people once it has risen up and is united in the struggle and determined to fight for its independence and peace, has the full power to defeat the strong aggressive army of an imperialist country."

Giap's victory over the French was an important inspiration to anti-colonial campaigners around the world, particularly in French colonies, and most particularly in North Africa, not least because many of the troops fighting on the French side in Indochina were from North Africa. The victory at Ðiện Biên Phủ marked the beginning of a new era in the military struggles against colonialism for national liberation and independence movements in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and other colonised countries. After 1954 the name of Võ Nguyên Giáp was closely identified throughout Africa and Latin America with the defeat of colonialism.

General Giap passed away in October 2013 aged 102 years and was given a state funeral.

Ominously, the Americans disagreed that Vietnam could or should be 'lost' to the Vietnamese. Despite Ho Chi Minh's declaration of Vietnamese independence being phrased almost precisely in the words of the American declaration of 1776, the US dismissed him and his movement in favour of French colonialism.

An aide to John F Kennedy, upon reading General Giap's account of Dienbienphu, concluded that "in Southeast Asia... there is no pervasive national spirit as we know it".
That was a spectacular failure to acknowledge one of the most basic of facts about the world at that time; and the price of that piece of obtuse reasoning, failure of imagination and inability to see the world as it was, was enormous.

It was primarily the Vietnamese people who paid the price to the tune of millions of lives against the full fire power of the American military but still emerged victorious after another massive military operation in 1968 - the Tet offensive.