Tag Archives: #GreatReturnMarch

Cognitive dissonance at the United Nations

Cognitive dissonance — “the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioural decisions and attitude change.”

Cognitive dissonance refers to a situation involving conflicting attitudes, beliefs or behaviors. … For example, when people smoke (behavior) and they know that smoking causes cancer (cognition), they are in a state of cognitive dissonance.

I may have a couple of examples of cognitive dissonance from today’s (3/18/2019) UN Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva.

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Legal experts and delegates from around the world all said in unison “Israel must be held accountable for its gross human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territory” (behavior) but they know that Israel has never been held accountable in the past 51 years of occupation (cognition) despite annual demands for accountability. Furthermore, there are no discernible plans to hold Israel accountable at the international level.

Another example might be the Israeli supporters and cheerleaders demonstrating outside of the United Nations.

They condemned the United Nations Human Rights Council  for its criticism and “bias” against Israel while holding the State of Israel up as the paragon of virtue (behavior) although they must know that Israeli military sharpshooters have killed nearly 200 Palestinian protesters since the #GreatReturnMarch began in March 2018, and there’s a humanitarian crisis in Gaza that threatens the lives of 2,000,000 Palestinians (cognition).

Maybe the UN Human Rights Council really believes that the State of Israel can be held accountable, although there’s no objective evidence to support that belief.

Osmar_Schindler_David_und_Goliath

Osmar Schindler (1869-1927)

And maybe Israeli supporters really believe that Israel is a victim unfairly targeted by the rest of the world and the Palestinians threaten their existence — a true David and Goliath story — but there’s no objective evidence to support that belief either.

Israel is the occupier with a first-world military.  Palestinians have some rockets that might sputter over Tel Aviv until the Iron Dome intercepts them.

Israel has a first-rate economy, a technology giant, and is not hurting for job growth. Palestinians in Gaza are experiencing the highest unemployment in the world (54%) and high food insecurity (68%) due to Israel’s 12 year blockade.  The report released today by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry is a fact-filled compilation of the tragic events surrounding the #GreatReturnMarch protests, not speculation or conjecture.

Who is David and who is Goliath?

I suspect each side will continue this charade for years to come. Israel isn’t motivated to change the status quo (end the occupation) because it believes the benefits of the occupation accrue to Israel.

I’ll hazard a guess that the occupation will end when there’s a magical convergence of three elements:

The United Nations regains its credibility and steps in forcibly to take action to end the occupation (legal, economic, or maybe something else).

The Palestinians manage to change the dominant narrative that exists today (which is that Israel is a victim and the Palestinians are terrorists wanting to destroy Israel).

Advocates and activists on both sides are willing to sit down and listen to each other.

Selfie at the park

It happened to me tonight when a 24-year old man from Brussels came up to me at the hostel in Geneva and wanted to talk about the UN Watch protest he attended today in solidarity with Israel. He asked sincere questions because he overheard me talking about Gaza, and listened deeply to my responses. We didn’t see eye-to-eye on everything but we shared a common concern about climate change, and he now knows the environmental engineering students in Gaza are also concerned about climate change.

Dr. Tarek Loubani (a Canadian physician) spoke at the UN Human Rights Council’s 40th session today. Here’s what he said:

Thank you, Madam Vice President,

I am here with Dr. Mahmoud Matar on behalf of our colleagues from the hospitals of Gaza. I am an emergency physician in Canada and Gaza and associate professor of Medicine at Western University in Canada.tarek.loubani

On 14 May 2018, I was at the protests delivering trauma care on the field. I saw only peaceful protesters, and none posed any threat to the soldiers. When protestors were shot, me and my team of medics would treat and evacuate them. Due to the blockade I did not have the materials or medics to care for my patients.

I was one of the 19 medics shot that day. I wish I could tell you I was in the midst of some chaos when it happened. I was not. The skies were clear, with no gas and no burning tires. I was standing among a group of medical professionals away from the main protest area wearing full hospital green uniform.

We were not close to protesters and there was no Israeli gunfire at the time. I heard a loud bang, felt an incredible pain and found myself on the ground.

I was treated, stabilized and discharged within an hour. I sewed my own legs because of the number of wounded. Like hundreds of others that day, I did not receive the care I needed. Still, I was lucky.

When I was shot, paramedic Musa Abuhassanin treated me. He was my rescuer. About an hour after, he was shot in the chest during a rescue. Musa died. Medical teams are not political actors, but humanitarians. We simply want to ensure that if people get into trouble, we’re there to help them.

Some 600 health workers have now been wounded at the protests and three killed. Thirty-nine were killed between 2008 and 2014. We are still under fire. Four paramedics were wounded last week. International law is clear on the duty to protect health workers, and to facilitate our life-saving work.

When I return to my work in Gaza, I should not worry that next year I will have to speak to you again about what I saw. I should not worry that my name will be added to the list of dead health workers doing their jobs. When you here do not act meaningfully, it is more likely that injuries and deaths to medics occur – more likely that I will be injured or killed. Madam Vice President, I ask you and members of the council to do all you can to ensure we are protected in line with international law.

 

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Demonstrators Shot in Violation of their Right to Life

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On 7 January 2018, Ahmed Abu Artema, a 34-year-old Palestinian poet and journalist, posted on Facebook the idea of a non-violent march at the separation fence, to draw attention to General Assembly resolution 194 and to the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza. In the post, ending #GreatMarchofReturn, he wrote, “what if 200,000 demonstrators marched peacefully and broke through the fence east of Gaza and entered a few kilometres into the lands that are ours, holding the flags of Palestine and the keys to return, accompanied by international media, and then set up tents inside and established a city there.”  The idea evolved into a movement of Palestinians. Within weeks, Abu Artema, civil society activists and other stakeholders drew up a charter of 12 principles, envisaging a national march by Palestinians of all ages, genders, political and social groups. (para. 22 and 23)

I’ve been following the #GreatReturnMarch since the beginning, watching its preparations, and studying it from the perspective of my international human rights law course that was occurring at the same time.

23472746_1518214138214284_7274524142973981851_nAn Israeli woman shared her thoughts about the protests. The New York Times adopted the Israeli framing of the protests.  The protests continued.  With grim predictability, the killing of unarmed protesters continued too.

Ms Fatou Bensouda

Ms Fatou Bensouda – Prosecutor

Throughout the summer and fall of 2018 I followed the protests and took heart when the Prosecutor for the International Criminal Court warned Israel that it might be subject to prosecution for its crimes committed against the protestors.

The United Nations appointed an independent international commission of inquiry to investigate.  Predictably, Israel refused to cooperate in the investigation, and Egypt wouldn’t let the commission enter Gaza because of security concerns in the Sinai. However, in this small and interconnected world we live in, with Skype and other technology, the commission interviewed many participants in the protests, as well as families of the victims, the medical personnel in Gaza, as well as viewed much of the video documentation from the protests. COI_Commissioners_HP

The three member commission released its report and findings on February 28, 2019. The Israeli government immediately condemned it, saying that the commission was blinded by hatred,  but everyone else I’ve read has received it favorably.

It’s a short (22 pages) read and I recommend it to everyone.

Some excerpts that added to my understanding of the #GreatReturnMarch —

Israel was prepared. The protesters were not trying to take anyone by surprise.

Prior to the first demonstration, Israeli forces reinforced their positions at the fence with additional troops, including more than 100 sharpshooters. They dropped leaflets in Gaza and contacted Palestinian bus companies to warn against participation. At the demonstration sites, they strengthened the separation fence and its underground barrier (to prevent and detect cross-border tunnels), installed kilometres of barbed wire coils on the Gazan side as additional barriers, cleared vegetation on both sides, dug deep trenches on the Israeli side and erected a battery of earth mounds or berms onto which snipers were positioned for better visibility and shooting accuracy.

When the rules of engagement were challenged, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled in favor of Israel.

Israeli and Palestinian non-governmental human rights organizations challenged the application of lethal force by Israeli forces at the fence in the Israel Supreme Court, contending that the rules of engagement violated international law because they were too permissive or were being applied permissively. The Court disagreed and approved the rules of engagement, holding that “the use of potentially lethal force for the sake of dispersing a mass riot – from which an actual and imminent danger is posed to life or bodily integrity – is, in principle, permitted, subject to proving necessity and proportionality.” The Court declined to examine how the rules were applied on the ground, deferring to the internal investigations of Israeli security forces.

Ten pages of this report describe the deaths and injuries during three specific days of protest (Sections V and VI — p. 7-16)

Was Israel testing new weapons on the civilian population?

According to an international doctor working at a Gaza hospital, interviewed by the commission, “It was striking the number of extremely similar injuries; massive open wounds in the legs, with skin and muscles ‘blown out’, bones smashed to pieces, and damage to blood vessels leading to vascular injury, putting the entire limb at risk.”

COGAT holds the power of life and death – no surprise here!

In early April, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories denied exit permits for wounded demonstrators, primarily on the basis of the policy of the Minister of Defense to deny passage to any person injured during the demonstrations.  Although the Supreme Court of Israel subsequently rejected the above-mentioned blanket policy, those injured in the demonstrations continued to face significant challenges in obtaining medical treatment outside Gaza, as illustrated by the case below:

 Zakaria Bishbish (14)
On 30 May, Israeli security forces shot Zakaria, from the Maghazi refugee camp, in the back at the demonstration site in El Bureij, while he was at least 100 m from the separation fence. The gunshot perforated Zakaria’s stomach and colon, splintered his vertebrae and damaged his kidney. His family sought a two-week exit permit to seek life-saving treatment at Saint Joseph Hospital in East Jerusalem, which had arranged a medical appointment for 4 June. The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, however, denied the request, giving no reasons. His family then attempted to secure appointments for him in Egypt and the West Bank; the Coordinator did not respond to their requests. On 18 June, Zakaria died
of sepsis.

Will the State of Israel and/or any individuals involved in these killings be held accountable?

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“It’s complicated!”

The two magical words — “It’s complicated!”

They diminish any inquiry or argument; they absolve the need for an explanation; they give a convenient pass for the rest of us to remain ignorant; and they obfuscate rather than enlighten.

The next time you hear — “It’s complicated!” — be offended and push hard for the explanation.  

You might hear that climate change is complicated, leading to feelings of despair and disempowerment.

I most frequently hear — “It’s complicated!” — with the topic of the Middle East and Gaza.

Why is Israel confining 2 million Palestinians in the largest open air prison in the world, preventing them from traveling, and enforcing a 12 year economic siege against them that has resulted in de-development of the Gaza Strip?  “It’s complicated!”

Why are Palestinians of every age and background spontaneously rising up and participating in the #GreatReturnMarch every Friday, risking death and dismemberment?  “It’s complicated!”

Why are Israeli sharpshooters stationed at the Gaza fence killing unarmed protesters, medics, journalists and children every Friday like clockwork?  “It’s complicated!”

Why are the parents of these young children allowing them to join the #GreatReturnMarch?  “It’s complicated!”

NONE OF IT IS COMPLICATED.  It’s actually very simple.

Israel removed its Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip in 2005 and created the open-air prison for the Palestinian refugees there because it’s easier to dehumanize, control and kill the “other” when they are physically separated from us.  We have experience with that methodology from the Warsaw Ghetto. “It’s simple!”

In 2012, the United Nations predicted that Gaza would be unlivable by 2020.  Since then, Israel has launched two military operations against Gaza in 2012 and 2014, killing thousands, maiming tens of thousands, and destroying the infrastructure and key economic sectors in the Gaza Strip. Gaza is unlivable today (2018). That’s why Palestinians of every age and background are spontaneously rising up and participating in the #GreatReturnMarch every Friday, risking death and dismemberment. “It’s simple!”

Israeli sharpshooters are killing Palestinians demonstrating at the Gaza fence every Friday because they have received orders to shoot to kill, in clear violation of international law. There have been no reprecussions. No one has been held accountable.  “It’s simple!”

Why are parents allowing their children to join the #GreatReturnMarch? Rather than blame the victims, the question needs to be clearly recentered — why are Israeli sharpshooters killing children? Let’s not obfuscate the facts and absolve the perpetrators of this gross inhumanity.

We need leaders with moral clarity who will speak the simple truth as Representative Betty McCollum is doing with her bill to protect the human rights of Palestinian children held in military detention by Israel.  (H.R. 4391)

We need soldiers in every battlefield telling us the simple truth.

And we need to keep our hearts and minds open to be able to hear the truth.  It’s not complicated!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Stop talking about the “border”

We have a right to defend ourselves” just as any other sovereign nation, proclaims Israel’s leaders as they give the order to use lethal force against peaceful protesters on the other side of the fence with Gaza.

Whether Israel is correct depends on two things:

(1) Does international human rights law apply to these facts or international humanitarian law (rules of war)? The question has been presented to Israel’s High Court of Justice.

Michael Lynk, the special rapporteur on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory, said the killings on Monday reflected a “blatant excessive use of force by Israel” and likened them to “an eye for an eyelash.”

Mr. Lynk said that protesters appeared to pose no credible threat to Israeli military forces on the Israeli side. Under humanitarian law, he said, the killing of unarmed demonstrators could amount to a war crime, and he added that “impunity for these actions is not an option.”

(2) Is the fence between Gaza and Israel an international border or a fence separating two groups of people who each claim sovereignty over their territory?

You would be excused if you erroneously thought the fence was an international border because much of the mainstream media has adopted Israel’s framing of the issue.  Israel wants us to believe it has a border with Gaza; that since its withdrawal in 2005 the Gaza Strip is no longer occupied territory; and the fence represents an inviolable demarcation between Israel and “those people we prefer to call Arabs, not Palestinians.”

If Israel’s argument was correct, then the right to defend that border might have some merit, leaving aside the important issues of “Right of Return” and method of defense.

However, we succumb to Israel’s narrative at the expense of jettisoning the law of belligerent occupation, international humanitarian law and the facts that led to the establishment of Israel 70 years ago.

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The current borders of the State of Israel are a result of war and of diplomatic agreements. The borders with Jordan and Egypt have been confirmed by peace treaties. The border with Lebanon resulted from the 1949 Armistice Agreement.  The borders with Syria and the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza have never been settled. In fact, Israeli Legislators have been passing laws to unilaterally extend Israel’s sovereignty into the West Bank, and they claim they no longer occupy the Gaza Strip. The U.N. and the international community have not recognized Israel’s unilateral pronouncements.

It’s time the mainstream media got the facts straight. Words matter.

Since the State of Israel does not have an internationally recognized border with the Palestinians in Gaza, the actions of both the Israeli military and the Palestinian protesters take on a significantly different cast.

The Palestinians are not trying to cross an inviolable border but rather exercising their Right of Return enshrined in Resolution 194 adopted by the United Nations on December 11, 1948.

The Israeli military is not protecting its sovereign border but rather killing unarmed protesters that have been caged in the world’s largest open air prison.

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The State of Israel may have superior military weapons, thanks in large measure to American taxpayers, but we should not capitulate to Israel’s false narrative.

There is no internationally recognized border between Israel and Gaza. It’s just a fence; actually two fences.  The New York Times is beginning to set the record straight. (May 16, 2018)

 

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Building a case for the ICC

The Prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (Fatou Bensouda) warned Israel in early April that it might be subject to prosecution for the crimes committed against the protesters at the #GreatReturnMarch.

Ms Fatou Bensouda

Ms Fatou Bensouda – Prosecutor

I remind all parties that the situation in Palestine is under preliminary examination by my Office. While a preliminary examination is not an investigation, any new alleged crime committed in the context of the situation in Palestine may be subjected to my Office’s scrutiny. This applies to the events of the past weeks and to any future incident.

I am aware that the demonstrations in the Gaza Strip are planned to continue further. My Office will continue to closely watch the situation and will record any instance of incitement or resort to unlawful force. I urge all those concerned to refrain from further escalating this tragic situation.

Any person who incites or engages in acts of violence including by ordering, requesting, encouraging or contributing in any other manner to the commission of crimes within ICC’s jurisdiction is liable to prosecution before the Court, with full respect for the principle of complementarity. The resort to violence must stop.

Israel clearly and boldly says it will not investigate the deaths attributed to its sharpshooters who are picking off Palestinians (young, old, men and women, and journalists) inside the Gaza Strip.

Israel’s decision not to investigate is important to note because of the principle of complementarity.

‘Complementarity’ is a fundamental principle on which the functioning of the International Criminal Court is based. Under the Rome Statute, which established the Court, the ICC can only exercise its jurisdiction where the State Party of which the accused is a national, is unable or unwilling to prosecute.

Israel, it appears, is inviting the ICC to assume jurisdiction in this case. Alhamdulillah!

Now, the ICC Prosecutor must do more than merely threaten, she must follow through with an independent investigation of the actions on both sides of the fence. The killings by IDF sharpshooters (40 dead, 5,511 wounded as of April 25) have been documented on video and there are numerous eyewitnesses whose testimony must be preserved.

I’ve been searching online for evidence of violence from the Palestinian side of the fence and haven’t found anything beyond burning tires and rocks. The protesters have been peaceful and have not posed any threat to the well-armed IDF sharpshooters.  The ICC Prosecutor’s investigation must be thorough and independent. I hope Israel will cooperate and turn over any evidence it might have regarding the protesters.

Palestinian youth are documenting what’s going on from the Gaza side of the fence, such as this piece from We Are Not Numbers.

While Israel and some Western media label Gaza Palestinians’ ongoing, six-week protest a “riot,” what visitors and participants see on the ground is completely different. The tire and (Israeli) flag burning that may seem “riotous” to some are actually carefully planned by a coordinating committee to obscure the vision of Israeli snipers (the former) and serve as a peaceful outlet for frustration and anger (the latter). And while those activities are occurring on the front lines of the border protest, the “Great Return March” (so-named because of the desire of the refugees in Gaza to return to the homes they were forced to evacuate in 1948), also is hosting many family-oriented cultural celebrations. On any given day, you may encounter women cooking Bedouin bread, young men dancing dabka and children flying kites.

“By including cultural activities in the Great Return March, we send a reminder message to the world that we will never forget our heritage and customs, which remind us of home,” says organizer Ahmed Abu Ertima. “At the same time, these cultural demonstrations show we are peaceful in the demand for our rights.”

Thousands of Gaza families take their children and head off to the border to participate in the Great Return March every day, raising the Palestinian flag and chanting the event’s motto, “We have the right to return to our ancestral land.” They sit on the ground, in sight of stolen lands just a few hundred meters away, while listening to their elders’ tales about their ancestral villages and towns.

Justice and the rule of law require that the ICC Prosecutor follow through with her investigation and prosecution.

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Fact or fiction? #GreatReturnMarch

Yaser Murtaja

Yaser Murtaja – Palestinian journalist (killed April 6, 2018)

As the #GreatReturnMarch enters into its ninth day (of an expected 6 weeks of protest at the Gaza border), the Israeli propaganda (aka hasbara) is flying fast and furiously around the globe, almost as effectively as the Israeli military’s bullets are flying from the sharpshooters laying on their bellies on an earthen berm overlooking the protesters in Gaza.

A gullible American told me today that the “so-called peaceful protests” in Gaza are actually very violent — including balloons filled with acid and kites flying with razor blades — and Israelis have every right to defend their borders. (Sadly, I kid you not.)

While the New York Times isn’t this gullible, it’s still spouting the Israeli line that Hamas is effectively controlling the protests.  The organizers and civil society in Gaza have tried to set the record straight but with limited success given the entrenchment of the Israeli narrative.

The truth — there are burning tires, but no balloons filled with acid.

The truth — there are flags and kites, but no razor blades attached.

The truth — there are boys throwing rocks, but no guns or military weapons are present on the Gaza side of the border.

The truth — there are Israeli sharpshooters targeting and killing Palestinians in the back as they run away from the border.

The truth — there are Israeli sharpshooters targeting and killing professional journalists clearly identified as media by the vests they are wearing.

The truth — there are Palestinian families (old, young, and even a wedding party) participating in the #GreatReturnMarch on the Gaza side of the border.

The truth — there are Israeli civilians picnicking on the hill overlooking Gaza, celebrating Passover (the celebration of freedom) and watching the Palestinians demonstrating for their freedom.

Remember Yaser Murtaja, the Palestinian murdered by Israeli sharpshooters on April 6, 2018. He was trying to bring us the truth. It cost him his life.

 

 

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Leahy Law requires vetting of Israel’s gross violations of human rights

Many human rights lawyers and NGOs (here, here and here for example) believe that Israel committed gross human rights violations on Good Friday, March 30, when IDF sharpshooters killed 17 Palestinians and wounded hundreds more during the beginning of the #GreatReturnMarch.

Amnesty International called on Israel to immediately end its “heavy handed, and often lethal, suppression of Palestinian demonstrations.” Peace Now said that the casualties are “an intolerable result of a trigger-happy policy.” Shlomo Brom, a retired brigadier general at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies, told The Times that while the military probably decided to use lethal force as a deterrent, “In my opinion they should have planned from the beginning to use minimal force and to prevent casualties.”

The United Nations and others have called for a credible investigation but Israel says it won’t investigate.

Even the Editorial Board of the New York Times (Israel Courts Catastrophe in Gaza Protests” – April 2, 2018) has called for an independent and transparent investigation. (I say “even” because I’ve found the NY Times editors to be highly deferential to Israel’s point of view in the past.)

Americans should be calling for an investigation too, especially given the enormous military support the U.S. provides to Israel.

US military aid to Israel

Thanks to the “Leahy amendments“, both the Department of State and Department of Defense are required to discontinue military assistance to units of foreign security forces that have engaged in “a gross violation” of human rights.

“No assistance shall be furnished under this Act or the Arms Export Control Act to any unit of the security forces of a foreign country if the Secretary of State has credible information that such unit has committed a gross violation of human rights.” See 28 USC 2378d

“Of the amounts made available to the Department of Defense, none may be used for any training, equipment, or other assistance for a unit of a foreign security force if the Secretary of Defense has credible information that the unit has committed a gross violation of human rights.” See 10 USC 2249e

Amnesty International notes that the Leahy Law is a powerful, yet often overlooked tool to help prevent the U.S. government from directly arming human rights violators in the ranks of foreign security forces and to help the U.S. avoid complicity in the commission of human rights violations.  But it’s not a panacea!

In 2014, the Congressional Research Service published the “Leahy Law” Human Rights Provisions and Security Assistance: Issue Overview in 2014 available online here:

Implementation of Leahy vetting involves a complex process in the State Department and U.S. embassies overseas that determines which foreign security individuals and units are eligible to receive U.S. assistance or training.

Under the Leahy amendments, the US has reportedly cut off military assistance from security and military units in Bangladesh, Bolivia, Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, Nigeria, Turkey, Indonesia, Lebanon, and Saint Lucia.

The Congressional Research Office continues:

The State Department and U.S. embassies worldwide have developed a system that seeks to ensure that no applicable State Department assistance or DOD-funded training is provided to units or individuals in foreign security forces who have committed any gross violations of human rights. This procedure, designed to comply with the Leahy laws, is known as “vetting” or “Leahy vetting.” Primarily a State Department responsibility with input from other agencies, Leahy vetting is a multi-step process that involves staff at U.S. embassies abroad; the State Department Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL) in Washington, DC, which is the lead State Department bureau for vetting; State Department regional bureaus; and other government agencies as required. The State Department policy provides for two separate processes, one for training and one for equipment and other non-training assistance.

Now, it’s time for Americans to raise our voices in support of human rights.

  1. Write and/or call your two senators and your member of Congress with two specific requests, and ask for follow-up on each one:

a) they should join Senator Bernie Sanders to comment publicly on recent events in Gaza;

b) they must inquire of the State Department and the Defense Department if the department’s vetting procedures have cleared or implicated Israeli military unit in the deaths and wounding of hundreds of Palestinians in Gaza in the last few days.

2. Since the Leahy vetting process typically begins at the U.S. Embassy in the country where the alleged violations occurred, write the U.S. Embassy in Israel and request that they initiate a credible investigation into the shooting and killing of unarmed, peaceful Palestinian protesters on March 30, 2018 pursuant to the Leahy Law.

Ambassador David Melech Friedman

U.S. Embassy Israel

71 HaYarkon Street

Tel Aviv 6343229, Israel

Email: JerusalemACS@state.gov

3.  David M. Satterfield, Acting Assistant Secretary , Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, using this contact form for the U.S. State Department.  https://register.state.gov/contactus/contactusform

My message to Secretary Satterfield:

I’m writing as an American citizen concerned about the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) shooting and killing unarmed Palestinian protesters in the Gaza Strip on Friday, March 30.

As you know, the Leahy Law says: “No assistance shall be furnished under this Act or the Arms Export Control Act to any unit of the security forces of a foreign country if the Secretary of State has credible information that such unit has committed a gross violation of human rights.” See 28 USC 2378d

Israel has rejected calls by the United Nations and others to conduct an independent and transparent investigation. I urge you to initiate the vetting process required by the Leahy Law, to determine if the IDF has committed gross violations of human rights.

Sincerely,

Lora A. Lucero

 

 

 

 

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Final exam #GreatReturnMarch

The final exam in my International Human Rights Law course included an essay on the issue of extraterritorial human rights. I’ve copied my answer below.

#10 — Consistent with the development agenda that accompanied the establishment of the post-war Bretton Woods order, article 28 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights referred to the need to move towards an international order that enables countries’ efforts to implement economic, social and cultural rights at home, stating that “Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized”. Is the emergence of extraterritorial human rights obligations, which have been increasingly recognized in recent years, sufficient to ensure that this promise is fulfilled?

“Sufficient” is the operative term in this question, and the answer must be NO.

The Maastricht Principles on Extraterritorial Obligations of States in the area of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (adopted in 2011) are a very important milestone in building the “international order” envisioned in article 28, but as current events clearly demonstrate, the nations of the world have not effectively acknowledged or fulfilled their extraterritorial human rights obligations.

The Great Return March initiated by the Palestinian civil society in Gaza on March 30, 2018 illustrates the failure of Israel and other nations to respect, protect, and fulfill the human rights guaranteed to everyone, including Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip.

Despite the fact that the State of Israel doesn’t acknowledge that it is a belligerent occupying force maintaining effective control over the Palestinians in Gaza (for the purposes of this discussion, I’m limiting the focus to Gaza and not the West Bank), the facts clearly demonstrate the contrary. The State of Israel strictly controls:

1) the movement of people and goods in and out of Gaza,

2) the territorial air space, waters and land borders,

3) the electromagnetic sphere,

4) the population registry, and

5) life and death.

The Maastricht Principles (#18) spell out that a “State in belligerent occupation or that otherwise exercises effective control over territory outside its national territory must respect, protect and fulfill the economic, social and cultural rights of persons within that territory. A State exercising effective control over persons outside its national territory must respect, protect and fulfill economic, social and cultural rights of those persons.”

For more than 10 years, the State of Israel has imposed an economic, social and cultural blockade on the Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip. As a result of the blockade, and three military operations which have directly targeted the civilian population and infrastructure in Gaza (2008-09, 2012 and 2014), the United Nations has reported that the Gaza Strip is expected to be unlivable by 2020. (Some would argue that the Gaza Strip is unlivable today.)

Few objective observers would argue that the Palestinians’ human rights are not being violated on a daily basis, but no one has been able to hold the State of Israel accountable under international law. No one has found any effective remedies for the Palestinians. In fact, when the United Nations General Assembly speaks with a nearly unified voice condemning Israel’s violations of international norms and laws, the United States steps in to condemn the United Nations.

In light of this history and current events, what does the principle that “All States have obligations to respect, protect and fulfill human rights, including civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights, both within their territories and extraterritorially” mean in practice?

What are Israel’s obligations? What obligations does the United States have as a primary financial sponsor (providing more than $3 billion to Israel every year) and supporter of Israel’s blockade and military operations? What obligations do other nations have to step in and take affirmative action to protect and fulfill the Palestinians’ human rights? Each of the three entails extraterritorial obligations. Perhaps, the answer is different for each.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Maastricht Principles, human rights treaties and international common law provide important and laudable goals but they can’t function in a vacuum. They represent the collective desires of the human community, and reflect U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone’s famous quote: “We all do better when we all do better.”

Human rights treaties are promises that States have made regarding the interests of individuals, as opposed to interests of the States themselves, and therefore holding States accountable for fulfilling those promises is challenging. Even more challenging is holding states accountable for protecting the human rights of people outside of their borders.

When and how can States intervene within the borders of another sovereign State to protect the human rights of individuals? Refraining from acts that may cause harm to individuals (#13 of the Maastricht Principles) in another country may be easier than taking affirmative actions, but there are serious hurdles nevertheless. For example, in the case of the U.S.’s responsibility to protect the human rights of the Palestinians in Gaza, withholding political support for Israel at the United Nations and reducing military aid to Israel might be actions that the U.S. could take unilaterally without infringing on Israel’s sovereignty, but domestic politics in the U.S. render those ideas very unlikely.

Ultimately, extraterritorial human rights obligations will gain traction when the actions of the human community leads or shames their States to do the right thing. The people must lead and the governments will follow. In the case of the Palestinians in Gaza:

1) Education – There are complex reasons for the human rights violations perpetrated by the State of Israel against the Palestinians, but it may stem from a fear that one side gains human rights at the expense of the other. Us vs. Them. Israeli society must learn that human rights are not a zero-sum game. In fact, their security is greatly enhanced when every man, woman and child within Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories have secured their basic human rights. Maintaining the belligerent occupation is not only contrary to international law but impedes the security and fulfillment of many human rights that Israelis seek for themselves.

2) Communication with decision-makers – Americans have a responsibility to communicate with our leaders about the long-standing human rights violations occurring in Gaza with our government’s complicity. International human rights are strongest when they are understood viscerally at the local level. The link between the Palestinians in Gaza, the Black Lives Matter Movement, the Standing Rock Water Protectors, the climate justice movement, and others, must be made clear to all because everyone’s actions to enforce human rights norms reinforces the human rights of others.

3) Changing the narrative – Israel’s hasbara has controlled public opinion in Israel and around the world for many years. Although it’s increasingly being met with skepticism, especially among the younger generation, Israel’s power and influence in controlling the narrative of the human rights violations in Gaza can even be traced back to the New York Times which refuses to denote Gaza as “occupied” since Israel removed its settlers and military from the Gaza Strip in 2005.  Palestinian voices must be given greater attention by the mainstream media if the world is going to understand the human rights issues involved in the occupation. Until the mainstream media fulfills that role, social media activists and others must elevate the Palestinian voices.

4) Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions – Palestinian civil society launched the BDS movement about 10 years ago, very similar to the BDS movement which toppled Apartheid South Africa. There’s little doubt that the BDS movement has gained traction in the past few years, and has had a significant impact. Israeli leaders recently passed a law to prevent BDS activists from traveling to Israel and Palestine. In December 2017, Israel’s government approved a plan setting aside $72 million to fighting the campaign to boycott Israel. Tying human rights to the State’s treasury and bottom line is helping move Israel towards recognizing and fulfilling Palestinian human rights by ending the occupation.

5) Freedom Flotillas and the Great Return March – Some people believe physical action is necessary to force States to recognize and fulfill their basic human rights. People from many different countries have joined together in several Freedom Flotillas to try to break Israel’s maritime siege, costing a number of them to lose their lives when the Israeli military boarded their boat and fired on them. On March 30, 2018, thousands of Palestinians in Gaza launched a peaceful march towards the border with Israel to highlight their determination to obtain their right to return to their homes and lands from which they were expelled in 1947-48 when the State of Israel was created. On the first day of the Great Return March, 16 or 17 Palestinians were killed by Israeli sharpshooters at the border.

Physical actions such as these, when combined with all of the actions described above, move world opinion and action closer to fulfilling the human rights obligations set forth in the UDHR, treaties and other formal legal mechanisms.  States will move in the right direction when individuals create the parade for them to lead.

 

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Filed under Gaza, Israel, Occupation, Politics, Uncategorized, United Nations

#PassoverMassacre #GreatReturnMarch

map of protests

credit – Haaretz

Image may contain: text

A Palestinian in Gaza screamed silently through social media:

Yesterday 15 unarmed Palestinian protesters were shot dead by Israeli soldiers in Gaza. The deafening silence of world “leaders” reminds us that their problem is not the way Palestinians fight back. It’s the fact that we fight back to begin with.

BDS? Alienating! Anti-Semitic!

Armed resistance? Violence! Terrorism!

Peaceful march? Riots! Infiltrators!

A Palestinian-American in the U.S. unmasked the media’s bias in favor of Israel’s narrative:

Just die silently, and even then they’ll blame you for it.

Not a single Israeli has been so much as touched by a Palestinian protester in the past couple of days, much less harmed. Not a single hurled rock has reached anywhere near a soldier, while Israeli snipers murdered 17 and wounded 1400. Yet western media insists these are “clashes.”

Earlier this month, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Palestine identified the excessive force used against children at the border between Gaza and Israel in his report to the Human Rights Council:

Excessive use of force against Palestinians by Israeli forces is a concern in the area along the border fence, and often has an impact on children. In mid-February 2018, two Palestinian teenagers aged 14 and 16 were killed, and two others injured by Israeli forces who fired what was reportedly artillery shells and live fire towards the boys as they approached the fence, although they were reportedly between 30 to 50 meters away when shot.

This incident raises concerns about the decision to use lethal force against young, unarmed boys, as according to the Basic Principles of the Use of Force, lethal force should be used only if other means are ineffective, and should be used with restraint and in proportion to the seriousness of the offense and the legitimate objective to be achieved. Not only in Gaza, but in the West Bank as well, use of force by Israeli forces has consistently been flagged as an issue of concern by the Special Rapporteur, the High Commissioner, and the Secretary-General. This concern is necessarily heightened when children are the victims.

Lora’s observations:

#1 – Israel admits its use of force is deliberate and precise. This information will be key to future deliberations by the U.N. Human Rights Council, the U.N. General Assembly, and the International Court of Justice.

#2 – Palestinians in Gaza have unmasked Israel’s Achilles Heel. Israeli leaders have no desire or intention of meeting peace initiatives with peace. They don’t know how to do Gandhi, and don’t have any shame in playing the role of Goliath to the Palestinians’ David.

#3 – The western mainstream media is unable to cover the #greatreturnmarch impartially, nor examine all sides of the unfolding events objectively. The dominant narrative will prevail until alternative voices can break through the static.

Rest In Peace

(1) Naji Abu Hijir

(2) Mohammad Kamel Najjar (shot in the stomach near Jabaliya)

(3) Wahid Nasrallah Abu Samour

(4) Amin Mahmoud Abu Muammar (38 Rafah)

(5) Mohammed Naeem Abu Amr (Mohammed Abu Omar, 22 Rafah)

(6) Ahmed Ibrahim Ashour Odeh (19)

(7) Jihad Ahmed Fraina (33)

(8) Mahmoud Saadi Rahmi (33)

(9) Abd al-Fattah Bahjat Abd al-Nabi (18) reportedly shot in the back while running away from the border.

(10) Ibrahim Salah Abu Shaar (20)

(11) Abd al-Qader Marhi al-Hawajri

(12) Sari Walid Abu Odeh

(13) Hamdan Isma’il Abu Amsha

(14) Jihad Zuhair Abu Jamous

(15) Bader Fayek al-Sabbagh

(16) Omar Samour (31) — the farmer who was killed around dawn 

 

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Filed under Gaza, Hamas, IDF, Israel Defense Forces, Media, Nakba, nonviolent resistance, People, Uncategorized, United Nations

A pilgrim joins the march

I’m joining hundreds, perhaps thousands, of pilgrims walking to el Sanctuario de Chimayo in northern New Mexico today, Good Friday. It’s a tradition that many have followed every year for generations, but this is my first time walking to Chimayo.

Chimayo

Granddaughter and I visited Chimayo in 2014

On the side of the church is a little room with a dirt floor. We must bend low to enter the room, it accommodates only a dozen or so people at a time.

On the floor is an open pit of earth just over a foot wide. It is said to be healing earth, tierra bendita. Pilgrims touch it reverently to their heads and limbs, perhaps gathering a bit of it in a plastic bag, before moving on to make room for a few more of the thousands who wait their turn. The walls of the room just outside this chapel are covered with the canes and crutches of those who have been healed here at Chimayó. Tacked up among them are notes of thanksgiving, testimonials, and little paintings called milagros, “miracles,” depicting some particular story of grace and healing. “It is the faith, not the earth, that heals,” says the priest at Chimayó.

I’m carrying 4 small glass vials with me to collect some of this healing dirt —- one for each of my sons and one for me.  glass vials

This pilgrimage means different things to different people. For me, it’s a time to reflect on my family, my friends and my gratitude for everything that is good in my life.

I’m also thinking of my friends in Gaza who are marching to the border with Israel today. It’s the beginning of the #GreatReturnMarch with actions spanning 46 days. They’re pressing the international community and the State of Israel to acknowledge and comply with their right to return to the homes, businesses, villages and towns they were forcibly expelled from when Israel was created in 1947-48.  They’ve been waiting for decades for their right of return to be fulfilled. Many still have keys to the houses they left behind in present-day Israel.

Both of our journeys today (in northern New Mexico and Gaza) are journeys of faith . . . faith in the restorative power of community, and faith in the healing power of justice. I pray there is a milagro – miracle in Gaza today.

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Filed under Gaza, nonviolent resistance, Peaceful, Spiritual - Religion, Uncategorized