Saturday, October 31, 2009

Israel: War Crimes Then, "Peace Crimes" Now

Israel remains firmly in denial about its barbaric treatment of the people of Gaza, and Washington, busy with its own empire-building in Afghanistan, remains dutifully in support. If the people of Gaza were accepted as, well, “people,” the crack in the war party’s shield might bring down the whole U.S.-Israeli anti-Islamic house of cards, so that party’s experiments in the Gaza Laboratory continue.

Meanwhile, the U.N. has courageously shined a spotlight on Israeli war crimes, and one wonders if discussions about Fallujah or U.S. failure to tackle Afghan heroin production might be next.

UN General Secretary Ban commented:

Jerusalem must be the capital of two States – Israel and Palestine – living side-by-side in peace and security, with arrangements for the holy sites acceptable to all, if peace in the Middle East is to be achieved, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned today....

He cited as obstacles to peace continued Israeli evictions and house demolitions in East Jerusalem, the latest occurring yesterday, closure of Palestinian institutions there, and the expansion of settlements contrary to international law and the Roadmap peace plan espoused by the Quartet – UN, the European Union, Russia and the United States – that seeks a two-State solution to the conflict….

He also called on Israel to re-open its borders with Gaza to allow in reconstruction material 10 months after the end of its three-week assault on Hamas there, noting that a donors’ conference in Egypt raised $4.5 billion in financial aid for the purpose.

“Little if any of that money has been delivered,” he said. “Families have not been able to rebuild their homes. Clinics and schools are still in ruins. I urge Israel to accept the UN reconstruction proposals as set forth, recognizing that the only true guarantee of peace is people’s well-being and security.”

He called on both Israel and the Palestinians to carry out “full, independent and credible investigations” in accordance with the recommendations of a UN commission led by Justice Richard Goldstone, a former prosecutor at the UN war crimes tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, which found evidence that both sides committed serious war crimes in the Gaza war.

Ban’s comments come amid controversy over the Goldstone report, which, according to Goldstone, found:

The Mission found that the attack on the only remaining flour producing factory, the destruction of a large part of the Gaza egg production, the bulldozing of huge tracts of agricultural land, and the bombing of some two hundred industrial facilities, could not on any basis be justified on military grounds. Those attacks had nothing whatever to do with the firing of rockets and mortars at Israel…. These attacks amounted to reprisals and collective punishment and constitute war crimes.

Goldstone’s report on Israel’s December 2008 attack on Gaza is a landmark effort by the global community to stand up to oppression, but Ban’s comments carry this even further, officially stating the obvious: even in victory, Israel has done little if anything to “clean up its act.” If what Israel did during the overt military phase of its suppression of Gaza constituted “war crimes,” then what is the proper term for its continued collective punishment of a now quiescent population – “peace crimes?"

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