Jun 042013
 

Russia Today

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (RIA Novosti / Mikhail Mokrushin)

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (RIA Novosti / Mikhail Mokrushin)

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stressed that “political games” prevented Russia from investigating the data on the use of toxic substances in Aleppo: the UN Secretariat couldn’t respond promptly to Moscow’s demand to look into the matter.

In March, the Syrian government invited the United Nations to investigate possible chemical weapons use in the Khan al-Assal area of rural Aleppo. Military experts and officials said a chemical agent, most likely sarin, was used in the attack which killed 26 people, including government forces.

A boy, affected in what the government said was a chemical weapons attack, is treated at a hospital in the Syrian city of Aleppo March 19, 2013. (Reuters / George Ourfalian)

A boy, affected in what the government said was a chemical weapons attack, is treated at a hospital in the Syrian city of Aleppo March 19, 2013. (Reuters / George Ourfalian)

Several countries, including Israel, the UK, France and the US – all vocal critics of Syrian President Bashar Assad – all claimed they had evidence that chemical weapons were used in Syria.

Damascus denied that a chemical attack was carried out by the Syrian army, blaming the rebels and Turkey for the incident: “The rocket came from a placed controlled by the terrorist and which is located close to the Turkish territory. One can assume that the weapon came from Turkey,” Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoabi alleged in an interview with Interfax news agency.

Lavrov spoke following the reports that Turkish security forces found a 2kg cylinder with sarin gas after searching the homes of Syrian militants from the Al-Qaeda linked Al-Nusra Front who were previously detained.

The sarin gas was found in the homes of alleged Syrian militants, who were reportedly planning a terrorist attack on the southern Turkish city of Adana.

Russia expressed concern over the incident, urging for a thorough investigation into the matter.

Almost a month ago, the Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Muqdad said that Damascus was ready to have the UN investigation team look into alleged chemical weapons use in Syria.

“We were ready and we are always ready, right now, to receive the delegation that was set up by [UN Secretary-General] Ban Ki-moon to investigate what happened in Khan al-Assal,” Muqdad said, referring to the March 19 incident near Aleppo.

Syrian rebels are accused of using a rocket with a chemical warhead, killing 25 people and injuring 86, according to SANA news agency.

Meanwhile, the US and Germany spoke to Russia on the perils of sending Assad any sort of support, arguing it would prolong the war and jeopardize efforts to bring the warring parties to the negotiating table.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, with his German counterpart Guide Westervelle, urged Russia not to supply Assad with its sophisticated S-300 air defense missile system – among other reasons, arguing that it would threaten Israel’s security. Westervelle called the decision “totally wrong”.

Kerry has been actively promoting the upcoming Geneva conference on Syria, having met with Lavrov earlier – although planning has been muddled by the opposition threatening to boycott the talks. Despite this, Western powers have repeatedly chosen to overlook the opposition’s actions as an obstacle.

Still, both Russia and the US remain committed to the talks, with Kerry insisting “If everybody is serious, and we are, and the Russians have said they are, the best chance to save Syria… is through a peaceful resolution that comes about in an organized way.”

Westervelle also pleaded with both sides “not to spoil the conference.”

The Syrian civil war has been raging for more than two years now, with more than 80,000 people killed, according to UN estimates.

In his latest statement on the matter, Lavrov noted the Russian government’s concern over the issue due to the chance of provocations around the situation.

Continue reading »

May 182013
 
There is clear evidence that he has broken the law on multiple occasions. And not even Republicans seem to care.

The Atlantic
Conor Friedersdorf

obama full full full.jpg

Reuters

Prompted by Peggy Noonan’s claim in The Wall Street Journal that “we are in the midst of the worst Washington scandal since Watergate,” Andrew Sullivan steps forward to defend Pres. Obama’s honor. “Can she actually believe this?,” he asks incredulously. “Has this president broken the law, lied under oath, or authorized war crimes? Has he traded arms for hostages with Iran? Has he knowingly sent his cabinet out to tell lies about his sex life? Has he sat by idly as an American city was destroyed by a hurricane? Has he started a war with no planning for an occupation? Has he started a war based on a lie, and destroyed the US’ credibility and moral standing while he was at it, leaving nothing but a smoldering and now rekindled civil sectarian war?”

An Obama critic, having overplayed her hand, gave Sullivan an opening to respond with what amounts to, “It isn’t as bad as Watergate, nor as bad as George W. Bush.” Let’s concede those points. I don’t much care what Obama’s Republican critics say about him. The scandals they’re presently touting, bad as two of them are, aren’t even the worst of Team Obama’s transgressions.

I have a stronger critique. Sullivan hasn’t internalized the worst of what Obama’s done, because his notion of scandal is implicitly constrained by whatever a president’s partisan opponents tout as scandalous. If they criticize Obama wrongly, he defends Obama proportionately.

To see what he’s forgotten as a result, let’s run once more through the first questions in Sullivan’s latest Obama apologia.

Has this president broken the law, lied under oath, or authorized war crimes?

Yes, President Obama has broken the law on multiple occasions. Despite clearly stating, in a 2008 questionnaire, that  the commander-in-chief is not lawfully empowered to ignore treaties duly ratified by the Senate, Obama has willfully failed to enforce the torture treaty, signed by Ronald Reagan and duly ratified by the Senate, that compels him to investigate and prosecute torture. As Sullivan put it earlier this year, “what Obama and Holder have done (or rather not done) is illegal.”

Obama also violated the War Powers Resolution, a law he has specifically proclaimed to be Constitutionally valid, when committing U.S. troops to Libya without Congressional approval.  Or as Sullivan put it in 2011, “I’m with Conor. The war in Libya becomes illegal from now on. And the imperial presidency grows even more powerful.”

On the subject of war crimes, Sullivan wrote that “Obama and attorney-general Eric Holder have decided to remain in breach of the Geneva Conventions and be complicit themselves in covering up the war crimes of their predecessors – which means, of course, that those of us who fought for Obama’s election precisely because we wanted a return to the rule of law were conned.” In a separate entry, he went so far as to say that Obama is “a clear and knowing accessory to war crimes, and should at some point face prosecution as well, if the Geneva Conventions mean anything any more.” That seems rather farther than Noonan went in her column.

Obama has not, as Sullivan points out, traded arms for hostages with Iran, or started a war with no planning for the inevitable occupation that would follow. But there are different questions that could be asked about Obama that would perhaps be more relevant to his behavior.

Has he ordered the assassination of any American citizens in secret without due process? Did he kill any of their teenage kids without ever explaining how or why that happened?

Has he refused to reveal even the legal reasoning he used to conclude his targeted killing program is lawful?

Has he waged an unprecedented war on whistleblowers?

Has he spied on millions of innocent Americans without a warrant or probable cause?

Does he automatically count dead military-aged males killed by U.S. drones as “militants”?

Did he “sign a bill that enshrines in law the previously merely alleged executive power of indefinite detention without trial of terror suspects”?

There is more, as Sullivan knows, and it all amounts to a scandalous presidency, even if it happens that few Republicans care about the most scandalous behavior, and have instead spent almost a year* now obsessing about Benghazi. The IRS scandal and Department of Justice leak-investigation excesses are worrisome, but the biggest scandals definitely go all the way to the top, and are still largely ignored even by commentators who have acknowledged that they’re happening. Sullivan has noted the stories as they broke, and seemed, for fleeting moments, to confront their gravity, noting the violation of very serious laws, and even once stating that Obama deserves to be prosecuted! Yet in response to Noonan, he writes, “So far as I can tell, this president has done nothing illegal, unethical or even wrong.” How inexplicably they forget.

And Sullivan is hardly alone. At the New York Times, Mother Jones, The New Yorker, and beyond, exceptional journalists take great care to document alarming abuses against the rule of law, the separation of powers, transparency, and human rights perpetrated by the Obama Administration. On a given subject, the coverage leaves me awed and proud to be part of the same profession. But when it comes time for synthesis, bad heuristics take over. Confronted with the opportunism and absurdity of the GOP, Obama’s sins are forgiven, as if he should be graded on a curve. His sins are forgotten, as if “this president has done nothing illegal, unethical or even wrong.”

Yes. He. Has. Continue reading »

May 072013
 

Global Research
Alex Lantier

UN

In a series of interviews, UN investigator Carla del Ponte said that sarin gas used in Syria was fired by the US-backed opposition, not the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

Her account explodes the lies on which Washington and its European allies have based their campaign for war with Syria, according to which the US and its allies are preparing to attack Syria to protect its people from Assad’s chemical weapons. In fact, available evidence of sarin use implicates the Islamist-dominated “rebels” who are armed by US-allied Middle Eastern countries, under CIA supervision.

Del Ponte’s statements coincide with the flagrantly illegal Israeli air strikes on Syria, which have been endorsed by President Obama. These acts of war mark a major escalation of the US-instigated and supported sectarian war for regime-change in Syria, itself a preparation for attacks on the Syrian regime’s main ally in the region, Iran.

Del Ponte is a former Swiss attorney general who served on Western-backed international courts on Yugoslavia and Rwanda. She currently sits on a UN commission of inquiry on Syria. In an interview with Italian-Swiss broadcaster RSI on Sunday, she said, “According to the testimonies we have gathered, the rebels have used chemical weapons, making use of sarin gas.”

She explained, “Our investigators have been in neighboring countries interviewing victims, doctors, and field hospitals, and, according to their report of last week which I have seen, there are strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof of the use of sarin gas, from the way the victims were treated. This was on the part of the opposition, the rebels, not by the government authorities.”

She added, “This is not surprising, since the opponents [i.e., the anti-Assad opposition] have been infiltrated by foreign fighters.”

In a video interview on the BBC yesterday, del Ponte said, “We collected some witness testimony that made it appear that some chemical weapons were used, in particular, nerve gas. What appeared to our investigation was that was used by the opponents, by the rebels. We have no, no indication at all that the government, the authorities of the Syrian government, had used chemical weapons.”

These statements expose the US campaign over chemical weapons in Syria as a series of lies, concocted to justify another war of aggression in the Middle East. The campaign began in late March, as the US military was announcing plans for stepped-up intervention in Syria, when the Assad regime charged that the opposition had fired a rocket with a chemical warhead at Khan al-Asal, near Aleppo. It killed 26 people, including 16 Syrian soldiers, according to opposition sources.

The opposition responded by alleging that it was the Assad regime that had fired the chemical rockets. This was highly implausible, as the rocket was aimed at pro-Assad forces.

Nonetheless, the US political and media establishment took opposition allegations as good coin, demanding stepped-up intervention in Syria based on Obama’s remarks in August of 2012 that use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government would be a “red line” prompting a US attack.

On April 26, the White House endorsed this campaign in a letter to Congress, declaring: “The US intelligence community assesses with some degree of varying confidence that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria.”

This statement had no basis in fact and was evidently fabricated by ignoring witness testimony gathered by the UN. Even after Del Ponte’s interviews, US officials continued to make inflammatory statements implying that Assad is using chemical weapons. An Obama administration advisor told the New York Times yesterday, “It’s become pretty clear to everyone that Assad is calculating whether those weapons might save him.”

The use of sarin by the US-backed Sunni Islamist opposition, which is tied to Al Qaeda and routinely carries out terror attacks inside Syria, also raises the question of how it obtained the poison gas. The US Council on Foreign Relations describes sarin as “very complex and dangerous to make,” though it can be made “by a trained chemist with publicly available chemicals.”

Whether the Islamists received sarin from their foreign backers, synthesized it themselves possibly under outside supervision, or stole it from Syrian stockpiles, its use makes clear the reckless and criminal character of US backing for the Islamist opposition.

Throughout the Syrian war, the American state and media have operated on the assumption that the public could be manipulated and fed the most outrageous lies. Whether these lies were even vaguely plausible did not matter, because the media could be relied upon to spin them to justify deepening the attack on Syria.

Time and again—in the Houla massacre of May 2012 and the murder of journalist Gilles Jacquier in January 2012—the media blamed atrocities perpetrated by the opposition on the Assad regime, then dropped the issue when it emerged that the opposition was responsible. Even the US government’s announcement last December that Al Qaeda-linked opposition forces had carried out hundreds of terror bombings in Syria did not dim media support for the war.

Now the US media are burying news of del Ponte’s interview, as Washington moves towards direct intervention in Syria. Her interview was not mentioned in any of the three major network evening news programs yesterday.

Instead, after the Israeli air strikes against Syrian targets on Thursday and Sunday, US officials and media pundits boasted that US forces could attack Syrian air defenses with few casualties. (See: “The Israeli strikes on Syria”).

Reprising the lies about weapons of mass destruction (WMD) used to justify the war against Iraq, the US ruling elite is placing chemical weapons at the center of its war propaganda on Syria. Yesterday, the Washington Post wrote: “Israeli strikes—following reports in recent weeks that Assad’s forces probably deployed chemical weapons in unknown quantities—appeared to bolster the case of those who have long favored direct US support for the rebels.”

The New York Times noted that Obama might use chemical weapons as pretext for war if he attacked without UN Security Council authorization. It wrote: “Russia would almost certainly veto any effort to obtain UN Security Council authorization to take military action. So far, Mr. Obama has avoided seeking such authorization, and that is one reason that past or future use of chemical weapons could serve as a legal argument for conducting strikes.”

The newspaper did not remark that, in such a case, Obama’s war against Syria would be just as illegal from the standpoint of international law as Bush’s invasion of Iraq ten years ago. That war, which cost over a million Iraqi lives and tens of thousands of US casualties, as well as trillions of dollars, is deeply hated in the American and international working class.

The American ruling elite’s need to downplay the war in Iraq as it prepares to launch a similar bloodbath in Syria underlay the New York Times column penned yesterday by the Times ’ former executive editor, Bill Keller, entitled “Syria Is Not Iraq.” Lamenting that the experience of the Iraq war—which he and the Times had promoted with false reports of Iraqi WMD—had left him “gun-shy,” Keller bluntly asserted, “getting Syria right starts with getting over Iraq.”

By “getting over Iraq,” Keller meant overcoming concerns about using military action and mass killing to crush opposition to US policy. He wrote that “in Syria, I fear prudence has become fatalism… our reluctance to arm the rebels or defend the civilians being slaughtered in their homes has convinced the Assad regime (and the world) that we are not serious.”

Claiming that Washington is preparing military plans “in the event that Assad’s use of chemical weapons forces our hand,” he pushed for rapid intervention, writing, “Why wait for the next atrocity?”

Keller’s warmongering column is a particularly clear example of how the media’s promotion of US imperialist policy is divorced from reality. The fact that there is no evidence that Assad has used chemical weapons, or that the next atrocity in Syria will likely be carried out by US-backed forces, is irrelevant to the Times. Its concern is to package the next US war, the facts be damned.

The collective intellectual and moral bankruptcy of the media and the ruling elite accounts for the fact that del Ponte’s explosive revelations can be buried without comment. Drunk on its own lying propaganda, desperate to erase the conclusions the population has drawn from Washington’s last bloody debacle, the American ruling class is tobogganing towards a new catastrophe. Continue reading »

May 072013
 
Richard FalkRedress Online
Lawrence Davidson
Shortly after the 15 April 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, Richard Falk, Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University and United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories, published an analysis of the episode entitled “A Commentary on the marathon murders.

Richard Falk tells the truth

In this analysis Falk pointed out that there are “serious deficiencies in how the US sees itself in the world. We should be worried by the taboo… imposed on any type of self-scrutiny [of US foreign policy] by either the political leadership or the mainstream media.” This taboo essentially blinds us to the reality of our situation. Falk continues: “The American global domination project is bound to generate all kinds of resistance in the post-colonial world…. Especially if there is no disposition to rethink US relations with others… starting with the Middle East.”

It seems obvious that if Washington wants to prevent future attacks, it is not enough to pursue alleged terrorists and beef up “homeland security”. It seems logical that one needs to also perform a foreign policy review, preferably in a public manner, to determine if any American policies or behaviors are unnecessarily provoking animosity. For instance, will continued unqualified US support of Israeli oppression of Palestinians increase or decrease future violent anti-American episodes at home or abroad?

As long as Tel Aviv has the compliant ear of the American political establishment those who wish for peace and justice in the world should not rest easy. (Richard Falk)

 

Yet, this critical aspect of any response to terrorism has apparently never been performed. As regards the administration of George W. Bush, this comes as no surprise. Bush and his neoconservative supporters were (and still are) ideologically driven and so are incapable of the objectivity necessary for such a self-critical review. That is why Bush came up with a range of cockamamy reasons, including the famous “they hate our values”, for the 9/11 attacks. President Barack Obama, on the other hand, seemed, at least at first, capable of corrective insight.

Back in 2009 Obama went to Cairo and made a speech which suggested that a rethinking of American relations with the Muslim world and the Middle East in particular was in order. Yet the theory represented in the speech was never turned into practice. Why not? Continue reading »

Apr 112013
 

Editor’s Note:  Will they truly address the issues of climate change or will they push the IPCC’s agenda?

The Atlantic
Emily Richmond

The Next Generation Science Standards also recommend that students be taught evolution. But will policy-makers listen?

mathclassban.jpg

Jeff Tuttle/Reuters

Proposed national standards for science education were unveiled Tuesday, and include recommendations for teaching evolution, as well as the first-ever expectations for students to learn about climate change.

Known as the Next Generation Science Standards, the recommendations come from a coalition of educators and policymakers. So far 26 states have pledged to consider using the new standards, which, according to the coalition’s website, contend that science education “should reflect the interconnected nature of science as it is practiced and experienced in the real world.” Students will be expected to know how to apply scientific principles, weigh evidence, solve problems and explain their reasoning, and tackle increasingly complex subject matter as they progress from grade to grade. The new science standards are aligned to the separate Common Core State Standards that have been adopted by 46 states.

“This is a huge deal,” David L. Evans, the executive director of the National Science Teachers Association, told the New York Times. “We depend on science in so many aspects of our lives. There’s a strong feeling that we need to help people understand the nature of science itself, as an intellectual pursuit.”Under the new science standards, students would begin learning about climate change in middle school. As the New York Times story points out, some conservative and religious groups are challenging that inclusion, along with the teaching of evolution.

Science educators contend the standards have long needed an overhaul. The nonprofit science education advocacy group Change the Equation, released a study last year that highlighted the vast gaps in expectations among states for student science knowledge. I had the opportunity to talk with Linda Rosen, the group’s CEO about that report, and here’s how she described the problem with how students are typically being taught science:

“We spend time giving kids a picture of a cell and asking them to fill in the blanks to name parts of the cell. What we should be doing is giving them a picture of a cell and asking them to describe what is the function and purpose of each part. That’s a fundamentally different task, both for the learner and for the teacher to convey. When we have Next Generation Science Standards and hopefully high-quality, well-aligned assessments, I think it will be much clearer what we value, what’s important for a young person to master.”

But of course revising the standards is only part of the battle. There also need to be qualified, effective science teachers in the classroom actually helping students make those higher-level connections. That’s part of the push behind the Carnegie Corporation’s campaign to add 100,000 high-quality STEM teachers to public schools in the next 10 years. (You can read my previous post on this issue here.)

Just about a year ago, science educators gathered in Washington, D.C. for the release of the latest results from the National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP), often referred to as “the Nation’s Report Card.” While there were some positive trends for some subgroups of students, less than a third of the nation’s eighth graders demonstrated proficiency in science. At that time I asked Shirley Malcom, the head of the education and human resources directorate for the American Association for the Advancement of Science what policy changes she thought would position the nation’s students to improve their performance on the next national exam.

“The best case scenario is we will get acceptance of the new [science] standards, a ramp-up in terms of teacher professional development, and a real commitment to improving the way science is taught so that we incorporate inquiry, technology and focus on populations that have not been served well,” Malcom said. “If we can do those things, then maybe we’ll being to see movement [in the NAEP scores] that is meaningful. That would mean a real improvement in terms of conceptual understanding by all students.”


This post also appears at The Educated Reporter, an Atlantic partner site. Continue reading »

Feb 082013
 

PressTV

US Vice President Joe Biden (file photo)

 

The US claim that it is ready to hold direct talks with Iran is utterly preposterous as America’s deep-rooted policy of anti-Iran pressures contradict the very tenets of reciprocal interaction, political analysts tell Press TV.

At the 49th annual Munich Security Conference in Germany on February 2, the US Vice President Joe Biden said Washington was ready to hold direct talks with Iran over the country’s nuclear energy program.

However, he noted that “there will be continued pressure and isolation,” insisting that if Iran abandons “the illicit nuclear program and your support for terrorism, there will be meaningful incentives.”

In a strong response, the Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei lashed out at the idea of any talks with the United States under pressure and threats.

“I am not a diplomat. I am a revolutionary and speak frankly, honestly, and firmly. An offer of talks makes sense only when the side [that makes the offer] shows its goodwill,” Ayatollah Khamenei said in a Thursday meeting with the officials and commanders of Iran’s Navy.

“You (the Americans) point the gun at Iran and say either negotiate or we pull the trigger! You should know that pressure and negotiations don’t go together, and that the [Iranian] nation will not be intimidated by such things,” the Leader added.

Analysts believe that Biden’s repeated allegations of Iran’s “illicit nuclear program” come while the Islamic Republic has categorically rejected such allegations. On the other hand, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has never found any evidence during its inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilities to support the US and Israel’s claims that Tehran is pursuing non-civilian objectives in its nuclear energy program.

Moreover, as a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty and a member of the IAEA, Iran is entitled to develop and acquire nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

Political analysts also argue that Biden has adopted a diversionary tactic by portraying Iran’s support for Lebanon’s Hezbollah, the Palestinian resistance groups and the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, as Tehran’s “support for terrorism.”

They say by resorting to an ambiguous concept such as “terrorism,” Biden seeks to compel Iran to salvage the US from the quagmire it is facing in Syria, Afghanistan, Gaza, etc.

“We, of course, understand their (the Americans’) need for negotiations, because the Middle East policy of the Americans has failed, and in order to compensate for this failure, they need to play a trump card,” Ayatollah Khamenei said in his Thursday speech.

The Leader noted that taking Iran to the negotiating table is the trump card that the US needs, adding that Washington seeks to tell the world it has good will. “However, no one sees any goodwill.”

Biden has also claimed that, even according to Iranian officials, the sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council have been “the most robust sanctions in history.” This is while political observers have repeatedly noted that the most “barbaric” and “inhuman” pressures and sanctions against a nation have been actually imposed on Iran not by the UN, but by the US and the European Union.

“We’ve also made clear that Iran’s leaders need not sentence their people to economic deprivation and international isolation,” Biden added.

Following the West’s sanctions on Iran’s banking sector, the import of more than 50 types of medicines required for people who suffer from certain diseases such as cancer, children’s cancer, thalassemia, multiple sclerosis (MS), as well as respiratory and heart diseases, has drastically declined.

Prominent international lawyers such as Francis Boyle contend that Iran is entitled to file a lawsuit with the International Court of Justice against the US, France, the UK and their allies, on behalf of all Iranian citizens being harmed by illegal and political economic sanctions.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Biden noted that the US policy with regard to Iran’s nuclear energy program “is not containment,” but is aimed at preventing “Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.”

He made the comments while, according to UN figures, the US — which is the only country that has ever used atomic bombs against human beings — has conducted 1,032 nuclear tests since 1945.

The United States also plans to treat its 5,113-strong arsenal of nuclear warheads to the costliest modernization process ever, with a projected expenditure estimated to stand at USD352 billion.

The stockpile houses seven types of weapons while upgrading only the B61 thermonuclear bombs is likely to cost USD10 billion over five years, while Washington would have to lavish USD110 billion to build 12 replacements for the aging Ohio-class submarines.

At the Munich conference, the US vice president also stated that “There is still space for diplomacy, backed by pressure, to succeed. The ball is in the government of Iran’s court.”

Ayatollah Khamenei, however, refuted Biden’s remarks, and noted, “The ball is in your court, because you should answer the question of whether speaking of negotiations at the same time as continuing pressure and threats makes any sense at all.”

Continue reading »

Feb 022013
 

France 24

UN calls on Israel to remove over 500,000 settlers
© AFP

The United Nations’ first report on Israel’s settlements policy concluded Thursday that the government’s practice of “creeping annexation” clearly violates the human rights of Palestinians and called for the withdrawal of 500,000 settlers.

By News Wires (text)

U.N. human rights investigators called on Israel on Thursday to halt settlement expansion and withdraw all half a million Jewish settlers from the occupied West Bank, saying that its practices could be subject to prosecution as possible war crimes.

A three-member U.N. panel said private companies should stop working in the settlements if their work adversely affected the human rights of Palestinians, and urged member states to ensure companies respected human rights.

“Israel must cease settlement activities and provide adequate, prompt and effective remedy to the victims of violations of human rights,” Christine Chanet, a French judge who led the U.N. inquiry, told a news conference.

The settlements contravened the Fourth Geneva Convention forbidding the transfer of civilian populations into occupied territory and could amount to war crimes that fall under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC), the United Nations report said.

“To transfer its own population into an occupied territory is prohibited because it is an obstacle to the exercise of the right to self-determination,” Chanet said.

In December, the Palestinians accused Israel in a letter to the United Nations of planning to commit what it said were further war crimes by expanding Jewish settlements after the Palestinians won de facto U.N. recognition of statehood, and said Israel must be held accountable.

Israel has not cooperated with the probe set up by the Human Rights Council last March to examine the impact of settlements in the territory, including East Jerusalem. Israel says the forum has an inherent bias against it and defends its settlement policy by citing historical and Biblical links to the West Bank.

Israel’s foreign ministry swiftly rejected the report as “counterproductive and unfortunate”. The Palestine Liberation Organisation welcomed its “principled and candid” findings.

“The only way to resolve all pending issues between Israel and the Palestinians, including the settlements issue, is through direct negotiations without pre-conditions. Counterproductive measures – such as the report before us, will only hamper efforts to find a sustainable solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict,” Israel’s Yigal Palmor said.

“The Human Rights Council has sadly distinguished itself by its systematically one-sided and biased approach towards Israel. This latest report is yet another unfortunate reminder of that.”

But Hanan Ashrawi, a top PLO official told Reuters: “This is incredible. We are extremely heartened by this principled and candid assessment of Israeli violations…This report clearly states the Israel is not just violating the 4th Geneva Convention, but places Israel in liability to the Rome Statute under the jurisdiction of the ICC.”

Continue reading »

Jan 272013
 

Global Research
Francis A. Boyle

israelus

In direct reaction to Israel provoking the Al Aqsa Intifada, on October 19, 2000, the then United Nations Human Rights Commission (now Council) condemned Israel for inflicting “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity” upon the Palestinian people, some of whom are Christians, but most of whom are Muslims.[i]

This Special Session of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights adopted the Resolution set forth in U.N. Document E/CN.4/S-5/L.2/Rev. 1, “Condemning the provocative visit to Al-Haram Al-Shariff on 28 September 2000 by Ariel Sharon, the Likud party leader, which triggered the tragic events that followed in occupied East Jerusalem and the other occupied Palestinian territories, resulting in a high number of deaths and injuries among Palestinian civilians.” The U.N. Human Rights Commission said it was “[g]ravely concerned” about several different types of atrocities inflicted by Israel upon the Palestinian people, which it denominated “war crimes, flagrant violations of international humanitarian law and crimes against humanity.”

In operative paragraph 1 of its 19 October 2000 Resolution, the U.N. Human Rights Commission then:

“Strongly condemns the disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force in violation of international humanitarian law by the Israeli occupying Power against innocent and unarmed Palestinian civilians…including many children, in the occupied territories, which constitutes a war crime and a crime against humanity;…”

And in paragraph 5 of its 19 October 2000 Resolution, the U.N. Human Rights Commission:

“Also affirms that the deliberate and systematic killing of civilians and children by the Israeli occupying authorities constitutes a flagrant and grave violation of the right to life and also constitutes a crime against humanity;…”

Article 68 of the United Nations Charter had expressly required the U.N.’s Economic and Social Council to “set up” this U.N. Commission (now Council) “for the promotion of human rights.” This was its U.N.-Charter-mandated job.

The reader has a general idea of what a war crime is, so I am not going to elaborate upon that term here. But there are different degrees of heinousness for war crimes. In particular are the more serious war crimes denominated “grave breaches” of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Since the outbreak of the first Intifada in 1987, the world has seen those heinous war crimes inflicted every day by Israel against the Palestinian people living in occupied Palestine: e.g., willful killing of Palestinian civilians by the Israeli army and by Israel’s criminal paramilitary terrorist settlers. These Israeli “grave breaches” of the Fourth Geneva Convention mandate universal prosecution for the perpetrators and their commanders, whether military or civilian, including and especially Israel’s political leaders.

Let us address for a moment Israel’s “crimes against humanity” against the Palestinian people—as determined by the U.N. Human Rights Commission itself, set up pursuant to the requirements of the United Nations Charter. What are “crimes against humanity”? This concept goes all the way back to the Nuremberg Charter of 1945 for the trial of the major Nazi war criminals in Europe. In the Nuremberg Charter of 1945, drafted by the United States Government, there was created and inserted a new type of international crime specifically intended to deal with the Nazi persecution of the Jewish people:

Crimes against humanity: namely, murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, and other inhumane acts committed against any civilian population, before or during the war, or persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds in execution of or in connection with any crime within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal, whether or not in violation of the domestic law of the country where perpetrated.

The paradigmatic example of “crimes against humanity” is what Hitler and the Nazis did to the Jewish people. This is where the concept of “crimes against humanity” originally came from. And this is what the U.N. Human Rights Commission (now Council) determined that Israel is currently doing to the Palestinian people: crimes against humanity.

Expressed in legal terms, this is just like what Hitler and the Nazis did to the Jews. That is the significance of the formal determination by the U.N. Human Rights Commission that Israel has inflicted “crimes against humanity” upon the Palestinian people. The Commission chose this well-known and long-standing legal term of art quite carefully and deliberately based upon the evidence it had compiled.

Furthermore, the Nuremberg “crimes against humanity” are the historical and legal precursor to the international crime of genocide as defined by the 1948 Genocide Convention. The theory here was that what Hitler and the Nazis did to the Jewish people was so horrific that it required a special international treaty that would codify and universalize the Nuremberg concept of “crimes against humanity.” And that treaty ultimately became the 1948 Genocide Convention.

Article II of the Genocide Convention defines the international crime of genocide in relevant part as follows:

In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;

(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;

As documented by Israeli historian Ilan Pappe in his seminal book The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (2006), Israel’s genocidal policy against the Palestinians has been unremitting, extending from before the very foundation of the State of Israel in 1948, and is ongoing and even intensifying against the 1.6 million Palestinians living in Gaza as this book goes to press. Continue reading »