| Egypt Military Crackdown: What is an Egyptian human life worth?

Egypt Military Crackdown: What is an Egyptian human life worth? ~ Hanine Hassan, MEMO.

Egypt Protest

Hundreds, if not thousands, of Egyptians have been killed in recent days as the security services crackdown on the anti-coup protests

Prior to the 14 August clashes, the two main protest sites, al-Nahda and Rabaa al-Adawiya, were densely populated with women, children, and men who have been staging a 47 days-long peaceful sit-in to protest the removal of President Mohammed Morsy. Both sit-ins would at certain moments have a gathering of at least 115,000 people. On July 31, the Egyptian cabinet authorized the interior minister to “take all necessary measures to face these dangers and put an end to them within the framework of the constitution and the law.” More than 40 international and national human rights organizations have warned the Egyptian Authorities not to use abusive and excessive force in the dispersal of protesters as Egypt’s riot police have consistently responded with excessive and unlawful lethal force in dispersing demonstrations and have showed insufficient respect to protecting the right to life.

 

This warning resulted from previous massacres committed by the Egyptian Armed Forces and Security Forces against peaceful protesters just a few weeks before. On 8 July, 51 people were killed when lethal force was used on protesters gathered outside the Officer’s club, followed by another massacre on 27 July when 74 people were killed, many shot in the head and chest.

On July 19, the EuroMid Observer for Human Rights issued a statement, signed by 11 international human rights organizations, demanding the Egyptian Authorities to protect human lives , emphasizing that “Egyptian security forces and the army are responsible for protecting all protestors, including both supporters and opponents of the deposed president. However, instead, a serious escalation in human rights violations – such as extrajudicial killings; arbitrary arrests; excessive use of force; and deprivation of freedoms of association, speech and expression – has been documented, targeting those who oppose the military’s ouster of President Morsi. The Egyptian authorities have not only perpetrated such acts, but also turned a blind eye to their practice by others”1.

As the Egyptian cabinet was considering the pro-Morsi sit-ins a “threat to national security”, human rights organizations and governments around the world kept urging the Egyptian Armed Forces to show restraint, to seek for a peaceful dispersal of the sit-ins and to avoid the escalation of violence.

Yet Egypt has been ruled since its independence by the generals who have since then committed severe human rights violations, showing little respect to human rights and dignity and acting with blatant disregard for human life.

Violating the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association of the protestors

The violence started around 6.30 a.m. on Wednesday 14 August as Central Security Forces (riot police) backed by helicopters and snipers, surrounded both sit-ins and fired tear gas from three different entries while heavy semi-automatic bursts of gunfire were heard. Eyewitnesses’ reports and video footage showed the sounds of successive gun shots and men in the crowd falling to the ground right away, which means that security forces were using live gunfire as snipers were firing tear gas and live ammunition from rooftops and helicopters. EuroMid researcher counted 42 victims in the first hour. Security forces shredded through the labyrinthine networks of tents and tarpaulin shacks, setting them on fire, with women and children still inside of them, causing many casualties and injuries. An eyewitness told EuroMid “a mother and her baby were crushed to death inside the tent”, as severe chaos rose among the bloodshed.

The Egyptian Authorities have blatantly violated the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association of the protestors, which states that: “Everyone has the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association […] and these rights are essential components of democracy”.

Responses to demonstrations and sit-ins must comply with international standards, even when some participants err by resorting to violence, including the use of firearms. International standards forbid the excessive use of lethal force, and do not justify the intentional murder of protestors by police or military snipers. The use of force must not exceed what is required to prevent the use of violence. Firing live ammunition at crowds is intolerable and should be considered a criminal act.

Extrajudicial executions

The Egyptian Security Forces had announced one safe corridor from which protesters could exit the Rabaa sit-in parallel to Tayaran Street. Protestors and eyewitnesses stated that the security forces deliberately targeted protesters who were using the safe corridor, and attacked physically and verbally protestors as they were trying to escape. Men were executed on the spot while walking with their hands above their heads. The police unlawfully killed protesters who were clearly not engaged in any form of violence.

This was clearly not an attempt to break-up a peaceful sit-in, but a huge military operation against unarmed civilians. The use of deadly fire on such a scale and the killing of so many by the security forces prove that there was an intention to kill with no regard for people’s lives.

Within less than 3 hours, the Field Hospital itself and the adjacent halls were completely full with corpses and injured protesters. The injuries varied from birdshots to live bullets, burns and asphyxiation. Medical staff reported that the “majority of the bullet injuries were to the head, neck, and chest, as well that the angle of gunshot wounds indicated they were shot from above, as some of the deaths were judged to be targeted killings, as the position of the shots could only result in death”.

The Egyptian Security Forces are guilty of extrajudicial executions, which are acts outside the realm of rule of law and hence deprive the targeted individual(s) of their right to life, as well as the right to defend themselves against charges against them. The killing of a person by governmental authorities without the sanction of any judicial proceeding or legal process is an unlawful punishment that violates the Declaration of Human Rights.

But who will hold the Egyptian Forces accountable? They have not opened or announced any investigation into any of those cases, which is contrary to the provisions of Principles on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions, which state the need to investigate cases of unlawful killings and that the “purpose of the investigation shall be to determine the cause, manner and time of death, the person responsible, and any pattern or practice which may have brought about that death,” and that “the body of the deceased person shall not be disposed of until an adequate autopsy is conducted by a physician”.

But as death tolls rose, the Egyptian authorities attempted to cover up the numbers of the massacre. The police are refusing to register the cause of death as murder and push families to list the cause as accidents or suicide. The EuroMid researcher was shown official certificates of death were the cause of death was not mentioned.

Places designated for the sole protection of civilians, such as hospital zones, should not be the object of military operations

Additionally, the Egyptian Security Forces imposed a siege on the Rabaa Field Hospital, preventing ambulances from coming through from the very beginning of the violent crackdown. At least one ambulance medic was shot in the head. Snipers were targeting anyone coming in and out of the hospital. It is a criminal act to deliberately attack a hospital or other medical units, whether civilian or military. Medical personnel in general may not be attacked.

According to the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, when whenever the use of force and firearms is unavoidable, law enforcement officials shall ensure that assistance and medical aid are rendered to any injured or affected persons at the earliest possible moment. This obligation was violated by Egyptian Forces, specifically by imposing a siege on the Field Hospital, and blocking its entrance, and eventually setting it on fire.

Unlawful use of teargas

Rules under international customary law ban the use of certain weapons as an instrument to contain assemblies. Central Security Forces (riot police), backed by the Egyptian Army, fired teargas canisters and gas bombs directly at the densely populated sit-ins, causing severe cases of asphyxiation and injuries among women, children and elderly. Eyewitnesses reported that as a result of the excessive use of teargas, the stampede rushed forward, and some people were crushed to death. It appears that security forces firing tear gas at the stampeding protesters exacerbated the situation, as people could not see a safe passage and may have been the cause of some of the deaths.

No respect to Human Life Right and Dignity

The Egyptian authorities may decide, in accordance to national law, to disperse a demonstration, they are bound to comply with a series of obligations, namely, they should respect and protect the life and security of all personas. The Egyptian Security Forces have clearly failed in safeguarding Egyptian lives.

Considering the evidence in the case of Egypt, security agents used lethal force when it was not necessary to protect lives or prevent serious injury and hence clearly violated the international law and standards. They have used live ammunition at crowds; they have extrajudicially killed dozens; they have used excessive teargas, resulting in some people crushed to death and hundreds asphyxiated; they have targeted medical personnel, setting a hospital on fire, and they have not spared women and children. Men were executed on the spot while walking with their hands above their heads. More than 700 have been victims of arbitrary arrests and at least 1500 are missing until this moment.

While human rights organizations are overwhelmed with the magnitude of the Rabaa massacre, a new one followed just 3 days later. Hours after Egyptian army chief General Abdel Fattah El Sissi urged the Muslim Brotherhood to pursue dialogue instead of “terrorism,” 52 prisoners were killed while being transported to a prison outside Cairo. The Egyptian Security Forces are prohibiting human rights organizations and journalists from investigating this new incident. Egyptian security forces are guilty of a pattern of excessive and unwarranted lethal force, which have led to an unlawful mass massacre, unprecedented in modern Egyptian history.

On 15 August, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay stated that “the number of people killed or injured, even according to the government’s figures, point to an excessive, even extreme, use of force against demonstrators. There must be an independent, impartial, effective and credible investigation of the conduct of the security forces. Anyone found guilty of wrongdoing should be held to account” she said.

Since the deposal of President Morsy on July 3, at least 1500 people have been killed in Egypt as a result of the erupted violence. But who will investigate these violations of national and International laws? Interim Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi, on Egyptian TV, defended and justified the clearing as “necessary to restore the security of Egyptians” and praised the Ministry of Interior and police for showing “restraint to the maximum level”. While Egyptians rose in January 25 to put a halt to all these violations, it is clear, one massacre after the other, that the new military-installed regime does not appear to be interested in safeguarding Egyptian human rights. The path to democracy has vanished under the bloody boots of the army.

Hanine Hassan is a Researcher in Human Rights violations and doctoral student studying aspects of mental torture and humiliation under occupation. She tweets at @hanine09.

Notes

Egyptian authorities must protect human rights and hold violators to account

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| Top US rights groups question legality + secrecy of drone killings in Letter to Obama!

Rights Groups, in Letter to Obama, Question Legality and Secrecy of Drone Killings, NYT.

In a letter sent to President Obama this week, the nation’s leading human rights organizations questioned the legal basis for targeted killing and called for an end to the secrecy surrounding the use of drones.

The “statement of shared concern” said the administration should “publicly disclose key targeted killing standards and criteria; ensure that U.S. lethal force operations abroad comply with international law; enable meaningful Congressional oversight and judicial review; and ensure effective investigations, tracking and response to civilian harm.”

The nine-page letter, signed by the American Civil Liberties Union,Amnesty International, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Human Rights First, Human Rights Watch, the Open Society Foundations and several other groups, is the most significant critique to date by advocacy groups of what has become the centerpiece of the United States’ counterterrorism efforts.

While not directly calling the strikes illegal under international law, the letter lists what it calls troubling reports of the criteria used by the Central Intelligence Agency and the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command to select targets and assess results. The reported policies raise “serious questions about whether the U.S. is operating in accordance with international law,” the letter says. It is also signed by the Center for Civilians in Conflict and units of the New York University and Columbia Law Schools.

The letter comes as American strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, and the example the United States has set for the world, are drawing intense scrutiny. United Nations human rights investigators are reviewing the American record, and Congress has shown a new willingness to discuss the classified program in public, with a House subcommittee hearing on the constitutional and counterterrorism implications of targeted killing set for April 23. That hearing was postponed for a week in an effort to persuade the administration to send an official to testify, a committee aide said.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday.

By the count of the New America Foundation, a research group that tries to track targeted killing, the United States has carried out 422 strikes in Pakistan and Yemen, 373 of them since Mr. Obama took office in 2009, in addition to a handful in Somalia. The foundation estimates the number of deaths resulting from the strikes to be between 2,426 and 3,969, of which about 10 percent were of civilians and nearly as many of which were identified as “unknown.” An overwhelming majority of the strikes have been carried out by unmanned drone aircraft, though cruise missiles, fighter jets and helicopter gunships have also been used.

Agreeing to the degree of openness sought by the human rights groups would mean a sea change for the Obama administration. Though officials have given a series of careful speeches on the administration’s legal reasoning, the Justice Department’s classified legal opinions on the subject have been shared only recently, even with the Senate and House Intelligence Committees, and the government has asserted in battling Freedom of Information Act lawsuits that the Pakistan strikes are too politically delicate even to be officially acknowledged.

Gabor Rona, the international legal director of Human Rights First, said that the letter to Mr. Obama reflected increasing concern that government secrecy has hidden grave legal and practical problems with the strikes.

“The more the administration is rightly forced to disclose about who it is killing and why,” he said, “the more obvious it becomes that the practice is growing, is illegal in its scope, is causing large-scale civilian casualties and is a slow-moving train wreck with serious blowback consequences to U.S. national security.”

In pushing for greater candor, both the human rights groups and Congress are responding to Mr. Obama’s own stated goal. In his State of the Union address in January, the president said: “In our democracy, no one should just take my word that we’re doing things the right way. So, in the months ahead, I will continue to engage with Congress to ensure not only that our targeting, detention and prosecution of terrorists remains consistent with our laws and system of checks and balances, but that our efforts are even more transparent to the American people and to the world.”

No action has followed so far. In announcing his plans for a Judiciary Committee hearing, Senator Richard J. Durbin, the Senate’s second-ranking Democrat, noted that Mr. Obama “has made it clear he wants to work with Congress to establish ‘a legal architecture’ for drone strikes to prevent abuses.” Mr. Durbin said the hearing would “begin this important constitutional debate.”

The Obama administration has been asked to provide a witness to discuss its position on the drone strikes, but the administration has so far not agreed to provide one, according to the committee’s staff. Similarly, efforts on Thursday by Representative Jan Schakowsky, Democrat of Illinois, to get John O. Brennan, formerly the president’s counterterrorism adviser and now the C.I.A. director, to discuss strike policies during a hearing of the House Intelligence Committee went nowhere.

“I would say right now that I am at the helm of the C.I.A. and will carry out policy guidance as directed by the administration,” Mr. Brennan said. “And I will continue to focus our efforts on making sure that terrorists are not able to carry out murderous attacks against our citizens, whether it be overseas or domestically.”

Ms. Schakowsky was prompted to question Mr. Brennan in part by an article this week by McClatchy News Service reporting that it had obtained classified government documents showing that the drone strikes had killed hundreds of low-level suspected militants whose identities were not known. The article suggested that the documents undercut assertions by Mr. Obama and his aides that the strikes were aimed at terrorists plotting to attack the United States.

“There are a lot of things that are printed in the press that are inaccurate, in my mind, and misrepresent the facts,” Mr. Brennan said. When Ms. Schakowsky pressed the point, he said, “I’m not going to engage in any type of discussion on that here today, congresswoman.”

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STOP DRONE WARa Related articles

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| Criminal Israel: Still Committing Crimes without Punishment!

Israel Commits Crimes Without Punishment ~ Stephen Lendman.

Israel is a rogue state. It’s a serial abuser. It commits crimes without punishment. It tolerates no criticism.

 

Last May, it suspended contact with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). 

 

On April 30, Haaretz headlined “Israel joins UN list of states limiting human rights organizations,” saying:

 

Censure followed an earlier Ministerial Committee on Legislation approval to restrict foreign governments from funding NGOs. It should have been for crimes against humanity. Israel commits them daily.

 

It spurns fundamental rule of law principles. It rejects Fourth Geneva’s de jure applicability. It’s defied dozens of UN resolutions. It ignored the International Court of Justice’s 2004 condemnation of its Separation Wall.

 

It refused cooperation with the Goldstone Commission on Cast Lead. In 2012, it denied UN investigators entry to collect testimonies on its lawless settlements.

 

Since appointed UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Occupied Territories in March 2008, Israel prevented Richard Falk from entering Palestine. Rogue states operate that way. Israel is one of the worst.

 

January elections solidified fascist rule. Prime Minister Netanyahu is a world class thug. He heads Israel’s worst ever government. Bipartisan MKs are racist, hardline rogues. What little opposition exists is weak-kneed. 

 

Netanyahu exceeds the worst of Ariel Sharon and previous rogue leaders. He’s an embarrassment to democratic governance. He menaces Israelis and Palestinians alike. He threatens regional neighbors and humanity.

 

Official policies reflect state terror, apartheid, belligerence, violence, institutionalized racism, exploitation, occupation harshness, neoliberal rapaciousness, and war as an option of choice. 

 

Peace is a non-starter. Palestinians never had a legitimate partner and don’t now. Things go from bad to worse. Daily events explain. Israel terrorizes Palestinians with impunity.

 

Yesh Din defends Palestinian human rights. It exposes Israeli abuses. It champions long denied accountability.

 

On February 3, its report discussed Israeli unaccountability. It highlighted crimes without punishment. From 2009 – 2011, indictments followed 2.5% of IDF abuse investigations.

 

In 2012, Israel’s Military Police Criminal Investigation Division (MPCID) produced none. MPCID received 240 complaints. Seventy-eight investigations followed. Another 25 pertained to 2011 criminality.

 

Israel-style probes are whitewashes. Accountability virtually never follows. Palestinians are denied justice. They have no rights whatever. 

 

In the second half of January alone, Israeli security forces murdered six unarmed Palestinians. They did so with impunity.

 

Breaking the Silence (BTS) explains. Israeli combat veterans speak freely. They served since the start of the second Intifada. They refuse any longer to stay silent. 

 

They expose daily life in Occupied Palestine. Their testimonies bear witness to police state harshness. Daily crimes against humanity are committed with impunity.

 

BTS member Avner Gvaryahu spoke for others saying:

 

“I participated in dozens of operations, and after reading hundreds of eyewitness accounts that we have collected over the years at our organization, Breaking the Silence, the real, flexible rules of engagement have become apparent to me, allowing opening fire on unarmed civilians.” 

 

“More seriously, sometimes the fire is designed from the beginning to ‘create friction’ with the Palestinian population.”

 

“In effect, there is no distinction between a Palestinian who fires at us and a Palestinian who throws a rock at us, a stone thrower and a demonstrator or a demonstrator and someone who simply does not obey our orders or gets insolent.” 

 

“All of them are attempting to undermine our control and at the end of the day, everyone is an enemy.” 

 

“And if every Palestinian is an enemy, then every Palestinian is also a target.” 

 

“And there is nothing he can do to stop being a target in our view.”

 

“This assumption explains why over the past decade, orders have been given to open fire on civilians and rescue crews.” 

 

“There is no unit or area in the territories where such incidents have not occurred.”

 

“(T)he army systematically harms all the Palestinians and attempts to create a compliant society that can be easily controlled.” 

 

“When any Palestinian, without any connection to what he is doing, is the enemy who must be fought, then even a Palestinian demonstrating for equality and independence is as frightening as an armed Palestinian, if not more so.” 

 

“And that’s because unarmed resistance to the occupation poses a challenge to the security concept to which we have become accustomed.”

 

Director of Research, Lior Yavne, commented on Yesh Din’s findings, saying:

 

“The numerous defects in MPCID investigations of offenses against Palestinians, and in the Military Advocate General Corps’ supervision of the investigations, result in the closure of the vast majority of the files and a minimal number of indictments being served.” 

 

“This creates a feeling of lawlessness on the ground, which may be a central contributing factor in the rise in the number of killings over recent weeks.”

 

Unaccountability is official Israeli policy. Few Palestinian complaints are addressed. Probes conducted are whitewashed. Militarized occupation denies justice. Israeli rules of engagement assure it.

 

On January 24, Haaretz headlined “The real rules of engagement in the West Bank,” saying:

 

“Every soldier knows the protocol for opening fire, but the more powerful principle is that the enemy must be subdued.”

 

So-called enemies are Palestinians wanting to live free on their own land in their own country. Israel calls them terrorists. 

 

Occupied Palestine is a free-fire zone. No one’s sure from day to day who’ll live, die, be injured, arrested, or incarcerated in gulag hell.

 

Israeli soldiers are taught to be trigger-happy. Fire, ready, aim is policy. All Palestinians are suspects. 

 

Identifying “suspicious” figures involves yelling “Stop.”

 

Soldiers follow up in Hebrew and Arabic saying “Stop and identify yourself. Stop or I’ll shoot.” If they think Palestinians risk “human life,” they’re told to shoot to kill.

 

Protocol is policy. Soldiers do what they wish. It’s their word against victims and/or bystanders. Justice never prevails. The above BTS comments explain.

 

Israeli rules of engagement enforce occupation harshness. They reflect police state viciousness. Edward Said once described a “bloody impasse.”

 

Israel turned Palestine into an isolated prison. An entire population is subdued. It’s suffocating. It’s impoverished and brutalized. Victims are blamed for Israeli crimes. 

 

Every imaginable indignity and degradation afflicts them. A cycle of violence harms them. They’re terrorized for their faith, ethnicity and presence. Their redoubtable spirit is their only defense.

 

Oslo made things worse. Subsequent agreements hardened it. PA officials accepted what demanded rejection. Expect more concessions ahead.

 

Said deplored PA betrayal. He compared it to asking an “executioner if he wouldn’t mind sharpening his axe a little before having another go.”

 

Militarized occupation prevents peace, he said. It’s an “atrocity.” It’s a crime against humanity. It’s that and much more.

 

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.  His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.html

 

Visit his blog site at www.sjlendman.blogspot.com  and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour

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Silence AsilenceBSa ToleranceRacism2

| Analysis: Gaza Ceasefire: An Early Assessment!

Gaza Ceasefire: An Early Assessment ~ Richard FalkPalestine Chronicle.

The Gaza Ceasefire, unlike a similar ceasefire achieved after Operation Cast Lead four years ago, is an event that has a likely significance far beyond ending the violence after eight days of murderous attacks. It is just possible that it will be looked back upon as a turning point in the long struggle between Israel and Palestine. Many have talked about ‘the fog of war,’ but it pales besides the ‘the fog of truce making,’ and in our media-infected air, the outcomes along with conjectures about the future are already being spun in all possible directions. Supporters of every position give their own spin, and then proclaim ‘victory.’ But as with the violent phases of the conflict, it is clarifying to distinguish the more persuasive contentions and interpretations from those that are less persuasive. What follows is one such attempt at such clarification.

It remains too soon to tell whether the ceasefire will hold for very long, and if it does, whether its central provisions will be implemented in good faith. At this early moment, the prospects are not promising. Israel has already used excessive violence to disperse Palestinian civilians who gathered on the Gaza side of the border, with a few straying across into Israel, to celebrate what they thought was their new freedom now to venture close to the border. This so-called ‘no-go-area’ was decreed by Israel after its 2005 ‘disengagement’ has been a killing field where 213, including 17 children and 154 uninvolved, had lost their lives according to Israeli human rights organizations. Israeli security forces, after firing warning shots, killed one Palestinian civilian and wounded another 20 others with live ammunition. The Israeli explanation was that it had given warnings, and since there had been no agreement on new ground rules implementing the ceasefire, the old regime of control was still in place. It is notable that Hamas protested, but at this point has made no moves to cancel the ceasefire or to retaliate violently, but the situation remains tense, fragile, and subject to change.

Putting aside the precariousness of the current situation and the accompanying uncertainties, it remains useful to look at the process by which the ceasefire was brought about, how this sheds light on the changing dynamics of the conflict itself, as well as discloses some underlying shifts in the regional and global balances of forces.

First of all, the role and outlook of the Arab governments was far more pro-active than in past interludes of intensified Israel/Palestine violence. During attacks several leading foreign ministers from the region visited Gaza and were received by the Hamas governing authorities, thus undermining the Israeli policy of isolating Hamas and excluding it from participation in diplomacy affecting the Palestinian people. Egypt played the critical role in brokering the agreement, and despite the Muslim Brotherhood affiliation of its leaders. Mohammed Morsi, the Egyptian President, emerged as the key diplomatic figure in the process and widely praised by the West for his ‘pragmatism.’ This can be understood as recognition of Morsi’s capability as a statesman to address the concerns of both sides without intruding his own pro-Palestinian outlook. Indeed, the auspices of this brokered agreement inverted what Americans have brought to the table in past negotiations, a pretension of balance, a reality of partisanship.

Secondly, the text of the agreement implicitly acknowledged Hamas as the governing authority of Gaza, and thereby gives it, at least temporarily, a greatly enhanced status among Palestinians, regionally, and internationally. Its claim to be a (not the) legitimate representative of the Palestinian people has now become plausible, making Hamas a political actor that has for the moment been brought in from the terrorist cold. While Hamas is almost certain to remain formally ‘a terrorist organization’ in the eyes of Israel, the United States, and Europe, throughout this just concluded feverish effort to establish a ceasefire, Hamas was treated as if ‘a political actor’ with sovereign authority to speak on behalf of the people living in Gaza. Such a move represents a potential sea change, depending on whether there is an effort to build on the momentum achieved or a return to the futile and embittering Israeli/U.S. policy of excluding Hamas from diplomatic channels by insisting that no contact with a terrorist organization is permissible or politically acceptable. Correspondingly, the Palestinian Authority, and its leader, Mahmoud Abbas, have been for the moment awkwardly sidelined, overshadowed, and made to appear irrelevant in the midst of this latest terrible ordeal affecting the Palestinian people. It is puzzling why such an impression was fostered by the approach taken by all the diplomatic players.

Thirdly, Israel accepted as integral conditions of the ceasefire two sets of obligations toward the people of Gaza that it would never have agreed to before it launched its Pillar of Defense Operation: (1) agreeing not to engage in “incursions and targeting of individuals” and (2) agreeing to meet so as to arrange for the “opening the crossings and facilitating the movements of people and the transfer of goods, and refraining from restricting residents free movement, and targeting residents in border areas.” If implemented in good faith by Israel, this means the end of targeted assassinations and it requires the lifting of the blockade that has tormented Gaza for more than five years. These are major setbacks for the Israeli policy, although Hamas is obligated to stop sending rockets from its territory. The political acceptance by Tel Aviv of a prohibition on targeted assassinations, if respected, renounces a favorite tactic of Israeli governments for many years, which although generally regarded as illegal was still frequently relied upon by Israel with impunity. Indeed, the most dramatic precipitating event in the recent controversial unfolding crisis timeline was the killing of Ahmed al-Jabari on 14 November, a military/political leader of Hamas, who at the very time was negotiating a truce relating to cross-border violence. Unraveling the competing claims of acting defensively should at least acknowledge this complexity that makes polemical the contention that only one side is responsible. The Obama administration, with its usual deference to Tel Aviv, misleading told the story of the sustained violence as if only Israel was entitled to claim a defensive prerogative.

Fourthly, the role of the United States, while still significant, was considerably downsized by these other factors, especially by the need to allow Egypt to play the main role as arbiter. Such a need was partly, no doubt, a consequence of Washington’s dysfunctional insistence of continuing to avoid any direct contact with Hamas officials. This Egyptian prominence suggests a trend toward the regionalization of Middle East diplomacy that diminishes the importance and seriously erodes the legitimacy of extra-regional interference. This is bad news for the Israelis and for the United States. Turkey, a state with bad relations with Israel, also played a significant role in defusing the escalating crisis.

There exists a revealing gap between the U.S. insistence all along that Israel’s use of force was fully justified because every country has the right to defend itself and the ceasefire text that placed restrictions on future violence as being applicable to both sides. After the ceasefire, the United States needs to make a defining choice: either continue its role as Israel’s unconditional enabler or itself adopt a more ‘pragmatic’ approach to the conflict in the manner of Morsi. If the United States remains primarily an enabler, its diplomatic role is likely to diminish rapidly, but if it decides to adopt a balanced approach, even if quietly, it might still be able to take the lead in establishing a real peace process that is sensitive to the rights of both sides under international law. To make such a shift credible, President Obama would have to make a major speech to the American people at some point explaining why it is necessary to choose between partisanship and diplomacy in reshaping its future relationship to the conflict. However sensible such a shift would be both for American foreign policy and the stability of the Middle East, it is highly unlikely to happen. There is nothing in Obama’s resume that suggests a willingness to go to the people to circumvent the dysfunctional outlook of special interest groups that have dominated the way the U.S. Congress and the media present the conflict.

Fifthly, the United Nations was made to appear almost irrelevant, despite the presence of the Secretary General in the region during the diplomatic endgame. Ban Ki Moon did not help matters by seeming to echo the sentiments coming from Washington, calling attention almost exclusively to Israeli defensive rights. The UN could provide more neutral auspices for future negotiations if it were to disentangle itself from Western geopolitics. To do this would probably require withdrawing from participation in the Quartet, and pledging a commitment to a sustaining and just peace for both peoples. As with United States, it is highly unlikely that the UN will make such a move, at least not without prior authorization from Washington. As with Obama, there is nothing in the performance to date of Ban Ki Moon as Secretary General that suggests either the willingness or the capacity to act independently when the geopolitical stakes are high.

Sixthly, the immediate aftermath of the ceasefire was a call from the Gaza streets for Palestinian unity, symbolized by the presence of Palestinian Authority, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine flags all flying in harmonious co-existence. As the New York Times commented, “a rainbow not visible here in years.” If Palestinian unity holds, and becomes a practical reality by being implemented at governmental levels, it could alter the political landscape in a fundamental manner. To take hold it would require open and free elections throughout Occupied Palestine. If this narrative were to unfold, it might make the ceasefire to be perceived as much more than a temporary tense truce, but as a new beginning in the long march toward Palestinian justice.

All in all, the outcome of Operation Pillar of Defense was a resounding defeat for Israel in at least three respects: despite the incessant pounding of Gaza for eight days and the threat of a ground invasion, Hamas did not give in to Israeli demands for a unilateral ceasefire; the military capabilities of Gaza rockets exhibited a far greater capacity than in the past to inflict damage throughout the whole of Israel including Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, which suggests that in any future recurrence of major violence the military capabilities at the disposal of Gaza will become even greater; and the Israeli politics of promoting the Palestinian Authority as the only legitimate representative of the Palestinian people while refusing to deal with Hamas was dealt a heavy, possibly fatal, blow.

There is one chilling slant being given by Israeli officials to this attack on Gaza. It is brazenly being described as ‘a war game’ designed to rehearse for an impending attack on Iran. In the words of Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, “Israel was not confronting Gaza, but Iran.” Considering that at least 160 Gazans were killed, 1000 wounded, and many more traumatized, this is, or should be, a shocking admission of a declared intent to commit crimes against humanity. It should at least prompt the UN Human Rights Council to appoint a fact-finding mission to assess the allegations of criminal conduct during the military attack. In effect, the situation demands a Goldstone 2 report, but this time with the political will to follow through, assuming that incriminating findings are reported.If the HRC does not initiate such a process, as seems a near certainty at this point, the responsibility and the opportunity is a challenge to civil society organizations committed to peace and justice. Given the tactics and disproportionate levels of violence, it would be a fresh abuse of those who died and were injured, to fail to assess this behavior from the perspective of international criminal law.

These developments will themselves be affected by the pervasive uncertainties that make it likely that the ceasefire will be a short truce rather than a dramatic turn from violence to diplomacy. Will the parties respect the ceasefire? Israel has often in the past made international commitments that are later completely abandoned, as has been the case with dismantling the numerous ‘outposts’ (that is, ‘settlements’ unlawful even under Israeli law) or in relation to the commitment to settle the ‘final status’ issues associated with the Oslo Framework within five years. It is not encouraging that Israeli officials are already cynically whispering to the media that they agreed to nothing “beyond the immediate cessation of hostilities.” The undertakings of the text are thus being minimized as ‘talking points’ rather than agreed commitments that lack only specific mechanisms for their implementation. If Israel refuses to give effect to the agreed stoppage of targeted assassinations and does not move to end the blockade in good faith, it will not be surprising to see the rockets flying again.

The Palestinian Authority is poised to regain some of its lost ground by seeking recognition by the UN General Assembly of its status as ‘a non-member state’ on November 29, 2013, a move being fiercely resisted by Tel Aviv and Washington. It is probably too much to expect a softening of this diplomacy. Any claim of Palestinian statehood, even if only of symbolic significance, seems to threaten deeply Israel’s hypocritical posture of agreeing to the creation of a Palestinian state in the abstract while doing everything in its power to oppose any Palestinian efforts to claim statehood.

Such speculations must be conditioned by the realization that as the clock ticks the international consensus solution to the conflict, an independent sovereign Palestine, is fast slipping out of the realm of the feasible, if it has not already done so. The situation of prolonged occupation has altered the demography of Occupied Palestinian and raised the expectations of most Israelis. With as many 600,000 unlawful settlers in the West Bank and Jerusalem no foreseeable Israeli government would survive if it agreed to any conflict-resolving arrangement that required even a small percentage of those settlers to leave. In contrast, on the Palestinian side no arrangement would be sustainable without the substantial reversal of the settlement phenomenon. So long as this 1000 pound gorilla strides freely along the corridors of diplomacy, attaining a genuine peace based on the international consensus of two states for two peoples seems an exercise in wishful thinking.

At the same time, history has shown us over and over again that ‘the impossible’ happens, impossible in the sense that it is an outcome that informed observers rejected as ‘possible’ before it surprised them by happening. It happened when European colonialism was defeated, and again when the Soviet internal and external empire suddenly disintegrated, and then when the apartheid regime was voluntarily dissolved. Sadly, the Palestinian destiny continues to be entrapped in such a foreclosed imaginary, and yet as we have learned from history the struggles of oppressed peoples can on achieve the unforeseeable. It is just barely possible that this latest display of Palestinian sumud (steadfastness) in the face of Pillar of Defense, together with the post-2011 increased responsiveness of the governments of Israel’s neighbors to the wishes of its their own citizenry, will give rise to a sequence of events that alters the equations of regional and global power enough  finally to give peace a chance.

– Richard Falk is Albert G. Milbank Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University and Visiting Distinguished Professor in Global and International Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He has authored and edited numerous publications spanning a period of five decades, most recently editing the volume, International Law and the Third World: Reshaping Justice (Routledge, 2008). He is currently serving his third year of a six year term as a United Nations Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights.

Related posts:

  1. Israel Demonstrates Limits of Its Muscularity in Gaza
  2. And after the Ceasefire: More Rewards for Israel
  3. Reflections on the Hamas-Israel Ceasefire
  4. Calm Returns as Gaza-Israel Ceasefire Holds
  5. Gaza 2012!

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| War Crimes Alert: Libya Revisited as US-Backed Terrorists mass murder unarmed CIVILIANS in Syria!

US-Backed Terrorists Mass Murder Unarmed Civilians in Syria ~ Tony Cartalucci, Land Destroyer.

Washington Post claims “soldiers” were executed – terrorists in video clearly refer to victims as civilian “shabih.” Victims had no weapons, uniforms, or IDs indicating they were soldiers. 

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WARNING GRAPHIC CONTENT

8 prisoners, including wounded are kicked and abused before being shot.

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An egregious war crime was reported on by the Washington Post, but deceitfully and purposefully spun and shrugged off. In the Post’s article, “Syrian rebels execute unarmed government soldiers; dozens killed in fighting,” it is first reported:

Syrian rebels executed at least a half-dozen unarmed government soldiers Thursday after attacks on checkpoints near the town of Saraqeb in northwest Syria.

Then:

The execution of the soldiers, which was documented in a graphic video [GRAPHIC] posted online Thursday, is not the first time that rebel fighters appear to have committed war crimes. U.N. representatives and human rights organizations have repeatedly criticized the Syrian opposition in recent months for carrying out summary executions and for abusing detainees.

The video clearly shows unarmed men, none of whom are wearing uniforms or equipment typical of “government soldiers.” The Washington Post then links to another video while reporting:

second video posted online Thursday [GRAPHIC], which appears to have been filmed shortly after the execution, shows at least three other bodies spread out around the checkpoint. The man filming approaches two of the bodies and says, “The shabiha of Assad, the dogs.” 

Shabiha,” of course refers to alleged civilian militias organized locally to resist terrorists entering into and attempting to overrun neighborhoods. The term “shabiha” has been used by the Western media as a catch-all to spin any massacre committed against civilians by US-backed terrorists operating in Syria. That the murderers themselves, filming their own crime, refer to the victims as “shabiha” – indicates that civilians, not Syrian government forces, were murdered – contrary to what the Washington Post reported.

The term suspected “shabiha” has become analogous of the Western media’s use of the term “African mercenaries” in Libya during NATO destabilization and regime change operations there in 2011. These “African mercenaries” were lynched, beheaded, shot, burned, and hacked to pieces, just as terrorists are  now doing to suspected “shabiha” across Syria.



Photo: Images and reports eventually trickled out as NATO-backed genocide unfolded throughout Tripoli’s streets, indicating the destruction of infrastructure and the specific targeting of black Libyans written off by the corporate media as “suspected mercenaries.” Benghazi rebels have been long reported to harbor extremist ideologies and an intense ethnic and racial hatred. These very Libyan, Benghazi terrorists are now streaming into Syria to commit similar atrocities against the Syrian people


It would later turn out these black Africans were not mercenaries, but citizens who had lived in Libya for generations fighting desperately for their lives against sectarian extremists intolerant of their complexion and creed. Racially motivated attacks by NATO-backed terrorists in Libya would culminate in the extermination of the entire city of Tawarga where an estimated 10,000-35,000 inhabitants were either exterminated, imprisoned, or exiled to refugee camps and then beyond Libya’s borders.


Video: Wiped out. Tawarga, once home to 10,000 (this video claims up to 35,000) people, many part of Libya’s black community who had resided in the country for generations, had its inhabitants either exiled, imprisoned or exterminated. NATO-backed militants told the Telegraph in 2011, ” every single one of them has left, and we will never allow them to come back.” And just as the Western media initially covered up these atrocities by merely labeling all black victims of NATO terrorists as “African mercenaries,” a similar propaganda campaign is underway in Syria, labeling civilian victims of NATO-backed foreign terrorists as suspected “shibiha.” 

….


In Syria, suspected “shabiha” are in actuality Syrians unwilling or unable, because of their ethnicity or creed, to capitulate to roving bands of foreign-armed sectarian extremists. The Washington Post and others throughout the corporate-driven Western media are willfully covering up crimes against humanity through overtly deceitful reporting and semantics.

It should be remembered, that these terrorists who have video taped themselves committing a massacre of unarmed men, out of uniform, and referred to as civilian “shabiha,” not soldiers – are at the center of renewed US, NATO, Saudi and Qatari efforts to refocus Western support for the violent, armed overthrow of the Syrian government.

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