‘Many protests against police brutality not big enough’
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– October 23, 2014
By Ramzy Baroud
The text of the letter was short and precise, leaving no room for any misinterpretation in the promise made by Britains Foreign Secretary, Arthur James Balfour to a powerful representative of the Jewish community in Britain, Lord Rothschild on a fateful day of 2 November 1917.
I have much pleasure in conveying to you, on behalf of His Majesty’s Government, the following declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations which has been submitted to, and approved by, the Cabinet: His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.
The spirit of that declaration altered the very destiny of the Palestinian people until this day. Thirty years after Balfour gave away Palestine – which was neither his to give, nor has it fallen under the control of the British Empire as of yet – a United Nations Partition Plan, as articulated in Resolution 181, divided Mandatory Palestine between Zionist Jews and Palestinian Arabs. Soon, Israel became a state, and the Palestinian people were denied every claim on their own land. In 1967, Israel moved in to occupy the rest of historic Palestine. The British promise, became an unending Palestinian nightmare.
This is precisely why there can be no discussing of the recent British House of Commons vote of Monday, 13 October, on a Palestinian state without digging deeper into history. Regardless of the meaning of the non-binding motion, the parliamentary action cannot be brushed off as just another would-be country to recognise Palestine, as was the Swedish government decision on 3 October, for example.
Unlike Sweden, and most of the 130 plus countries to effectively recognise Palestine, Britain is a party in the Middle Easts most protracted conflict. If it were not for Britain, there would be no conflict, or even Israel, of which to speak.
The historic vote passed after a fascinating debate which signals a shift in the way Israel is perceived, not just by the British public a decided shift has already been registered on that front for years but also within the British ruling political classes. True, nearly half of the MPs were absent or abstained, but the outcome was undeniably clear. Only 12 MPs voted against, and 272 in favour. After intense pressure and endless lobbying, this is all the support Israel could muster among one of its strongest allies.
Non-binding, of course, but still the vote matters. It matters because the British government remains a member of the ever-shrinking club of Israels staunch supporters. Because the Israeli arsenal is rife with British armaments. Because the British government, despite strong protestation of its people, still behaves towards Israel as if the latter is a law-abiding state with a flawless human rights record. It matters despite the dubious language of the motion, linking the recognition of Palestine alongside Israel, to securing a negotiated two-state solution.
But there can be no two states in a land that is already inhabited by two nations, who, despite the grossness of the occupation, are, in fact, interconnected geographically, demographically and in other ways as well. Israel has created irreversible realities in Palestine, and the respected MPs of the British parliament should know this.
The MPs votes were motivated by different rationale and reasons. Some voted yes because they have been long-time supporters of Palestinians; others are simply fed up with Israels behaviour. But if the vote largely reflected an attempt to breathe more life in the obsolete two-state solution to a conflict created by the British themselves, then, the terrible British legacy will continue unabated.
Moreover, what is the use of a statehood that seems to grow symbolically with no change in the reality on the ground whatever to ensure its materialization? The list of symbolic Palestinian victories continues to grow almost at the same rapid speed in which the Palestinian landscape continues to shrivel.
And what is a state with no rights, neither for those who live within what is supposedly designated as future territories of that state, or the millions who live in what was once Palestine, now Israel’ proper. As for the millions of Palestinian refugees, who continue to suffer the dire consequences of the Nakba (catastrophe of 1948), and every regional crisis since then, neither the British vote, nor all the other recognitions seem to remedy their terrible fate in any way.
Needless to say, Britains moral responsibility towards the Palestinians can hardly be addressed in so inapt a gesture, especially as it arrived nearly one hundred years after the original meddling of Balfour and His Majestys Government.
It is inexplicable that one century after the British involvement in Palestine, the current British foreign policy is not far removed from the language and policies executed by the British Empire when Balfour gave Palestine away. In one of his letters at the time, Balfour so conceitedly wrote:
For in Palestine we do not propose even to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the country The four great powers are committed to Zionism, and Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-long tradition, in present needs, in future hopes of far profounder import than the desire and prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land. In my opinion that is right.
Sure, British diplomacy is presently much more savvy to use such abhorrent language, but has the policies been fundamentally altered reflect a measurable shift?
Encouraged by the overwhelming recent vote in favour of Palestine at the parliament one can hardly deny the signs that both the British public and many in the countrys political establishment are simply disenchanted by Israels continued war and occupation which are the main reason behind the destabilisation of the region long before the Syria civil war and other upheavals began. Many British MPs are furious over Israels violent, expansionist and anti-peace conduct, including those who were once strong allies of Israel. That must not be denied.
But it is hardly enough. When the British government insists on maintaining its pro-Israeli policies, and when the general attitude of those who truly hold the reins of power in London remain committed to a farce vision of two-states, defending Israel and disempowering Palestinians at every turn, the Balfour vision of old will remain the real guidelines for British policy regarding Palestine.
66 years after ending its mandate in Palestine, Britain remains a party in a bloody conflict where Israel is still carrying out the same policies of colonial expansion, using western – including British – funds, arms and political support. Only when Britain fully and completely ends its support of Israel and financing of its occupation, and works diligently and actively towards correcting the injustice it had imposed on the Palestinians a century ago, one could consider that a real change in British policies is finally taking hold.
View the original article at dissidentvoice.org
– October 23, 2014
A gunman attacked Canada’s parliament near a room where PM Stephen Harper was speaking on Wednesday while a soldier was fatally wounded at a nearby war memorial in a second shooting incident.
With reports emerging that Canadian police are investigating Michael Zehaf-Bibeau as a suspect and US officials telling Reuters that the suspect was a Canadian convert to Islam, Annie Machon says it is too early to jump to conclusions and blame the violence on Muslim extremism or domestic radicalization before a proper investigation is conducted.
RT: It’s fairly unusual to get such reports from Canada. So you think theres a reason behind the surge in violence?
Annie Machon: I think this is interesting but it is too early to speculate about where it is coming from. I’m sure that the political classes in Canada will make political hay out of this by saying that it must be Muslim extremism, domestic radicalization, that sort of thing. But I think, as horrific as this crime is, my sympathies go out to the families. Horrific as this crime is, we need to take a step back and there needs to be a proper crime scene investigation. We need to look at the forensics, we need to identify the perpetrators. We need to look at who they are linked with, and where they are coming from and what their motivation might have been rather than jumping to conclusions for political ends.
RT: From the reports there were up to 30 shots fired inside the parliament building itself. Fortunately none of the MPs or the Prime Minister were hurt. Was it a lucky coincidence or did the attackers have other goals?
AM: Well if they are aiming at a government building then they of course have some sort of political motivation behind them, but I think it is too early at this stage to try to speculate what that may be.
Lets not forget for example the attack and the bombing in Oklahoma in America in 1995 and all the initial media reports were that Al-Qaeda, is it Islamic extremists that carried that out? And in fact it turned out that the domestic extremist Timothy McVeigh that carried that out. And similarly with the downing of MH17 with the Malaysian flight over Ukraine, immediately everyone jumped into assumption that it must be Russian separatists armed by Russia who carried out the attack.
And of course the only way to establish what really happens is for a thorough forensic investigation and evidential case-building study after the attack when people can work out what happened, hopefully gather evidence and put people on trial in front of a jury of their peers. That would be the sane, logical and actually mature response within a mature democracy.
So I hope the Canadians will do that rather than using this as yet another pretext for stripping away the civil liberties and increasing surveillance and policing of the Canadian people.
RT: So, based on your experience with British intelligence, what steps do you think Canadian intelligence officials are going through right now?
AM: It will be a linkage between the police and also the intelligence agencies. They will be trying to secure the crime scenes, trying to arrest any further perpetrators that might be out there, and gathering the forensic information. But once they have identified the perpetrators, they need to work out who they are, what their potential affiliation might be, who their networks potentially might be, and what their motivation is.
So it is very much an evidential gathering process, hopefully not a hysterical over response politically, which certainly says we’ve got to spy on everybody and this is a justification for drag net surveillance.
We saw something similar last year in the UK with the gruesome murder and beheading of Lee Rigby in the UK. And that was definitely a political statement. But the British government at that point did say we are not going to have a knee jerk reaction, we are not going to push for more snooping and surveillance powers until we know what is really going on here. And all credit to them for that.
RT: The genie of terror seems to be out of the bottle in the UK, do you think the same thing could be the case in Canada?
AM: It might possibly be evolving. As I have said, it is too early to know. The genie of terrorism has been out of the bottle in the UK for decades though. People tend to forget since 9/11, that the UK has been suffering from terrorism for decades, because of the civil war in Northern Ireland. The provisional IRA in the 1970′s, 80′s and 90′s could put bombs down at will on UK streets for political advancement, and they did. And they had many, many big PR hits and they’ve caused many thousands of deaths. And yet even through those three decades of terrorism that we’ve experienced in the UK on a fairly regular basis, we did not throw away our civil liberties and our basic freedoms in a way that since 9/11 we have done across the world. And I would council all governments to try and avoid that and to gather the evidence and take measured steps before we throw away our hard earned freedoms across the Western world.
View the original article at rt.com
– October 23, 2014
– October 22, 2014
By Robert Barsocchini
He explicitly details not only that US government lying (ie propaganda) in favor of US/Israeli terrorism is near unanimous and in opposition to US public opinion, but that the lies are incredibly transparent and cannot withstand the slightest scrutiny…
Israels seven weeks of attacks this summer on heavily populated civilian neighborhoods in Gaza has led to unprecedented concern among Americans who, while still broadly supportive of Israel, found the attacks to be disproportionate and unnecessary.
Close to 1,500 Palestinian civilians in Gaza were killed in the Israeli attacks more of 500 of whom were children and 18,000 homes were destroyed, leaving over 100,000 people homeless. Despite this devastating civilian toll, leading Democrats in Washington have joined Republicans in claiming that Israels actions were legitimate acts of self-defense against military targets, dismissing reports by reputable Israeli and international human rights groups saying otherwise.
In July and August, the two houses of Congress passed four resolutions and forwarded a series of letters providing unqualified backing for the massive Israeli air and ground assault, echoing the Israeli governments justifications for the war and directly contradicting findings by United Nations officials on the ground, as well as investigations by both Israeli and international human rights groups.
What is particularly shocking is not just the vehemence with which the vast majority of congresspersons so enthusiastically supported a military operation condemned by most of the international community, but that they went on record making demonstrably false accusations despite being repeatedly confronted with evidence directly contradicting their claims.
The resolutions and letters seem to assume that while Hamas was guilty of terrorism in the deaths of the five civilians killed by Hamas rockets inside Israel, the Israeli government bore absolutely no responsibility for the deaths of nearly 1,500 Palestinian civilians killed by Israeli ordnance inside the Gaza Strip. Indeed, members of Congress have repeatedly asserted that the Palestinian side was somehow responsible for the deaths of its own people at Israels hands.
On July 25, Amnesty International reported that Israeli forces have carried out attacks that have killed hundreds of civilians, using precision weaponry such as drone-fired missiles, as well as munitions such as artillery, which cannot be precisely targeted, on very densely populated residential areas. Israeli forces directly attacked thousands of homes, including high-rise apartment blocks, killing whole families. Observing that civilians in the Gaza Strip had nowhere to escape military operations by Israeli forces, Amnesty provided ample evidence that Israeli forces were engaging in indiscriminate attacks on urban areas using artillery and bombs. In a particularly serious breach of international law, Amnesty further reported that ambulances and medical personnel on their way to collect the wounded appear to have been deliberately targeted on several occasions, and hospitals have been destroyed by shelling from tanks and missiles.
The congressional reaction to reports like Amnesty Internationals was swift.
On July 29, the U.S. House of Representatives, with more than 100 co-sponsors from both parties, passed a resolution by unanimous consent insisting that the Israeli attacks were exclusively focused on terrorist targets and that Israel goes to extraordinary lengths to target only terrorist actors. Co-sponsors included such prominent Democrats as Alan Grayson (FL), Jared Polis (CO), Eric Swalwell (CA), Richard Neal (MA), Joseph Kennedy (MA), Tulsi Gabbard (HI), Jan Schakowsky (IL), Brad Sherman (CA), Elliot Engel (NY), and Debbie Wasserman-Schulz (FL). Two days later, Senate majority leader Harry Reid introduced a resolution, also pushed through by unanimous consent, claiming that the Government of Israel has taken significant steps to protect civilians in Gaza and that Israels attacks have focused on terrorist targets.
These were just two in a series of similar bipartisan resolutions and public letters that went through Capitol Hill as part of a concerted campaign to discredit human rights groups, journalists, medical workers, UN officials, and any other eyewitness who discredited the Israeli governments talking points.
Amnesty International certainly wasnt alone in implicating Israeli forces in war crimes. Human Rights Watch cited evidence of Israel blatantly violating the laws of war designed to spare civilians, including by attacking heavily populated neighborhoods, bombing UN-run schools, and shooting at fleeing civilians. The Israeli human rights organization BTselem challenged its governments claims that it had no intention of harming civilians, noting that after more than three weeks of lethal bombardments by Israel in the Gaza Strip which have killed hundreds of civilians and wiped out dozens of families, this claim has become meaningless. UN officials also charged Israeli forces with engaging in serious violations of international law following a series of attacks against UN schools where Palestinians were seeking refuge, prompting a bipartisan letter signed by 149 House members to the UN secretary general insisting that Israel practices the greatest caution trying to prevent civilian casualties.
These human rights groups and UN officials also strongly denounced Palestinian militants for firing rockets into civilian areas in Israel and for keeping armaments and soldiers in close proximity to civilian areas in Gaza, as well as for their refusal to accept several ceasefire proposals that could have ended the carnage earlier. Congress had no problem with that. By contrast, since Israel is considered an important strategic ally of the United States and a lucrative market for U.S. arms manufacturers, both major political parties made it a priority to lie and cover up for Israels war crimes, effectively insisting that Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, BTselem, and the United Nations were simply wrong and that they from the comfort of their air-conditioned offices in Washington, DC somehow knew better.
The Human Shields Myth
The Israeli government has repeatedly claimed that the large number of civilians killed by its forces were a result of Hamas using human shields, defined under international law as Utilizing the presence of a civilian or other protected person to render certain points, areas, or military forces immune from military operation.
No eyewitnesses in the Gaza Strip during the war found any evidence of this, however. For example, in late July, New York Times reporters in Gaza noted, There is no evidence that Hamas and other militants force civilians to stay in areas that are under attack. Likewise, Jeremy Bowen of the BBC that he saw no evidence for Israels accusation that Hamas uses Palestinians as human shields. According to reporters from The Independent and The Guardian, it was a myth that Hamas forced civilians to stay in their neighborhoods during Israeli attacks. Contrary to accusations by members of Congress, the Gazans who failed to heed Israeli warnings to evacuate did so because areas Israel had declared safe were being attacked as well.
Similarly, on July 25, Amnesty International noted that it had no evidence that Palestinian civilians have been intentionally used by Hamas or Palestinian armed groups during the current hostilities to shield specific locations or military personnel or equipment from Israeli attacks. Preliminary investigations by the United Nations, Human Rights Watch, and other groups while noting that Hamas had illegally engaged in hostilities in close proximity to populated areas and had stored weaponry in unoccupied homes and schools found no evidence that Hamas had actually engaged in actions that met the widely accepted legal definition of using human shields.
Again, the response in Congress was swift: In less than a week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) pushed through a Senate resolution claiming that Hamas intentionally uses civilians as human shields and condemning the United Nations Human Rights Council for not saying so. Similarly, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) who serves, ironically, as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee focusing on human rights drafted a letter to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, signed by 34 of her colleagues, insisting that Hamas is using Palestinian men, women, and children as human shields to deter Israeli attacks. When I contacted them, neither senators office was able to provide any evidence backing their claims, nor did they explain how they were able to somehow locate information that journalists, UN officials, and human rights monitors in Gaza were unable to find.
A House resolution went one step further, claiming that Hamas had encouraged Palestinians to gather on the roofs of their homes to act as human shields. Without any regard for the evidence, the resolution also adopted by unanimous consent put the House on record calling on the international community to recognize and condemn Hamas breaches of international law through the use of human shields. A letter signed by 149 members even insisted, in reference to rockets targeting Israel (and without any supporting evidence), that Hamas publicly declares it the duty of every Palestinian to put his or her life on the line to protect them.
Protocol I of the Fourth Geneva Convention makes it clear that even if one party to a conflict is in fact shielding itself behind civilians, such a violation shall not release the [other] Parties to the conflict from their legal obligations with respect to the civilian population and civilians. In other words, even if Hamas actually had used civilians as shields, it would still have been a war crime for Israel to kill them. To use a domestic example: if bank robbers were holding tellers and customers hostage while shooting at the police, the police could not get away with killing the hostages along with the criminals. Indeed, the implications of such broad bipartisan support in Congress for such a concept are chilling, given that this rationale could be replicated by law enforcement officials here in the United States particularly given the militarization of local police forces in the name of fighting terrorism.
There is little question that these broadly supported bipartisan efforts were designed not just to defend Israels war on Gaza, but to discredit empirical investigations by human rights organizations overall. For example, one of the House resolutions passed this summer in addition to making unsubstantiated claims about Hamas also claimed that throughout the summer of 2006 conflict between the State of Israel and the terrorist organization Hezbollah, Hezbollah forces utilized human shields in violation of international humanitarian law.
In reality, empirical investigations during and following the conflict by several reputable investigative bodies found absolutely no evidence supporting this charge. A detailed study by Human Rights Watch published at the end of the fighting in Lebanon found no cases in which Hezbollah deliberately used civilians as shields to protect them from retaliatory IDF attack. Similarly, Amnesty International, in a well-documented report of its own, observed that While the presence of Hizbullahs fighters and short-range weapons within civilian areas is not contested, this in itself is not conclusive evidence of intent to use civilians as human shields, any more than the presence of Israeli soldiers in a kibbutz is in itself evidence of the same war crime. In addition, Amnesty reported that while Hezbollah did store weapons and fire from civilian areas, it was only long after most of the civilian population had been evacuated. Subsequent reports for the U.S. Army War College and elsewhere also failed to find any evidence for the charge, which was nonetheless repeated by the House resolution years later.
In apparent anticipation of the U.S. bombing in Syria and Iraq, which would commence soon thereafter, the bipartisan House majority also went on record saying that Islamic State forces typically use innocent civilians as human shields. Following the logic from this and other resolutions supporting Israels attacks on Palestinian civilians in Gaza, this appears to have been a preemptive effort to exempt U.S. forces from any moral or legal culpability for the deaths of Syrian and Iraqi civilians caused by the imminent bombing of urban areas in those countries as well.
Attacks on the United Nations
Attacking the United Nations used to be the reserve of right-wing Republicans. Under the current congressional leadership, however, it has become a bipartisan affair, at least when concerns are raised about war crimes by a right-wing ally of the United States.
A particular target of the bipartisan attacks was UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who on July 20 condemned Israels devastating bombing and shelling of the Shijaiyah neighborhood in Gaza which resulted in scores of civilian casualties, including journalists and health care workers as atrocious. In response, Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) drafted a strongly worded letter, signed by a bipartisan group of colleagues, insisting that the Shijaiyah massacre was a measured response of a nation-state trying to defend its citizens and that Israel was actually undertaking extraordinary efforts to avoid civilian casualties while Hamas cynically uses other Palestinians as human shields. The letter went on to claim that Bans expression of concern about civilian deaths undercuts the legitimate right of nation-states to defend their citizens.
Another UN official targeted by Capitol Hill was Navi Pillay, the highly regarded UN High Commissioner for Human Rights who criticized Israeli forces for their disregard for international humanitarian law and for the right to life. Senator Boxer and her allies accused Pillay and the United Nations of having a clearly political and biased agenda, despite the fact that Pillay had made similar accusations against Hamas for failing to distinguish between civilian and military targets. During her tenure at the United Nations, Pillay had also roundly condemned war crimes and other human rights abuses by North Korea, Syria, Sudan, Sri Lanka, and other countries, raising no objections from Congress. According to 35 senators, however, the objections raised by Pillay and other UN officials were not due to evidence that Israel had also committed war crimes, but to the UNs supposed opposition to The fact that Israel has effective defenses against the rockets aimed at its citizens.
Another target of congressional wrath has been the United Nations Refugee and Works Agency (UNRWA), the relief and development agency that provides education, health care, social services, and other assistance for Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip and elsewhere in the Middle East. UNRWA Commissioner General Pierre Krahenbuhl has repeatedly condemned Hamas for a number of illegal activities, including storing weapons in two unoccupied UN schools, and called for an end to the indiscriminate rocket fire from Gaza aimed at Israel. But when Krahenbuhl also noted that Israeli forces were acting contrary to international humanitarian law in attacking UN schools housing refugees, Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) co-authored a bipartisan letter to Secretary of State John Kerry calling for an investigation into the allegedly one-sided statements from UNRWA leadership that unjustly condemn Israel. The six Israeli attacks on UNRWA schools which killed 46 civilians, including 10 UN staff members took place after UNRWA officials notified the Israelis of their exact locations and the absence of any Hamas military equipment or activity.
The primary target of Congress was the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), which had been praised by many in Congress only months earlier for its efforts to expose war crimes by the Assad regime in Syria. The UNHRC found itself the target of bipartisan wrath when it voted to establish a commission of inquiry looking into all violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law in the hostilities in Gaza. The United States was the only one of the UNHRCs 47 members to vote against establishing the commission.
While unfortunately only mentioning Israel by name in establishing the commission, the language of the resolution condemned all violence against civilians wherever it occurred, explicitly including the killing of Israeli civilians as a result of Hamas rocket fire. Commission chair William Schabas, a respected Canadian human rights lawyer, noted that the mandate is clear that violations of international humanitarian law by all participants in the conflict would be covered. Similarly, Pillay noted that resolution’S-21/1 of the Human Rights Council mandates the independent, international commission of inquiry to investigate all violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law. She added that there was increasing evidence of incidents that may constitute war crimes on both sides.
In response to the establishment of the commission, nearly 150 members of the House signed a July 25 letter to Pillay protesting the UNHRCs decision to unjustly probe alleged war crimes by a nation simply defending its citizens from rocket attacks and terror tunnels while failing to condemn Hamas fictitious continuing use of human shields. Similarly, the July 31 Senate letter to Ban denounced the UNHRC for investigating possible Israeli war crimes, insisting that Israel has worked assiduously to minimize civilian casualties and claiming that the UN had allegedly turned a blind eye to Hamas brazen and depraved use of civilians as human shields.
The full chambers of both the House and Senate went on record condemning the UN investigation as well, with Democratic leader Reid, on the Senate floor, declaring he was disgusted that the UNHRC would adopt a resolution accusing Israel of human rights violations in the ongoing Gaza conflict, calling such accusations anti-Israel. The desperation with which both political parties in Congress have rushed to block a UN inquiry exemplifies their determination to minimize the availability of data that would expose how their previous resolutions and letters were essentially efforts to hide the truth.
Terror Tunnels and Other Lies
Other mistruths abound.
For example, Senate Resolution 526 justified Israels war in part on the alleged necessity to destroy the matrix of tunnels Hamas uses to smuggle weapons and Hamas fighters into Israel to carry out terrorist attacks.
However, most reports seem to indicate that while the tunnels which were primarily used to smuggle civilian goods into the besieged enclave have at times been used to attack Israeli soldiers, no Israeli civilians have been subjected to attacks through the tunnels. [It is perfectly legal to attack soldiers of an occupying army.] For example, an Israeli magazines investigation concluded that in all six Hamas attacks launched through the tunnels, Hamas targets were IDF soldiers, not the communities. Leading Israeli military correspondent Alon Ben-David explicitly said that there is no doubt their goal is to hurt and capture soldiers not civilians. Similarly, a senior military source told Israels Army Radio that all tunnels were aimed towards military targets and not Gaza-perimeter communities.
None of the resolution cosponsors I contacted could cite any terrorist attacks carried out from those tunnels, yet none of these senators who supported the resolution have thus far distanced themselves from this claim.
Another misleading statement came in Senate Resolution 498, co-sponsored by 79 out of 100 members of the Senate, which accused Hamas secular Fatah rivals of sharing responsibility for attacks on Israel, despite the consensus that the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority desperately wanted to prevent another Gaza war. Working on the absurd assumption that the rival parties in the newly formed Palestinian coalition government were somehow responsible for each others actions, the resolution insisted that the unity governing agreement implies Fatahs and the Palestinian Authoritys support for Hamas belligerent actions against Israel and called on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to dissolve the unity governing arrangement with Hamas.
In reality, the cabinet of the technocratic unity government does not have a single Hamas member, and the Palestinian Authority has maintained its commitment to past agreements, including non-belligerence and full recognition of Israel. As the New York Times observed, those who oppose a two-state solution understand that a unified Palestinian leadership is a prerequisite for any lasting peace and would thus seek to undermine it. (Ironically, Congress has been willing to spend billions of dollars propping up the disparate coalition government of Iraq, which has included in its ruling coalition members affiliated with the radical Islamist Mahdi Army, notorious for acts of terrorism and attacks on U.S. personnel.)
Additional misleading information has concerned the alleged role of outside actors in supporting the Hamas attacks. For example, one of the House resolutions contains the bizarre claim that the Syrian government was providing material support and training to Hamas in its rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza. Not only is there no evidence for this charge, but Hamas and the Syrian regime are now bitter rivals; Hamas has not even had a diplomatic office in the Syrian capital of Damascus since 2011. Indeed, the Palestinian Islamist group has denounced the Assad regime and thrown its support to armed rebel groups seeking its overthrow. Hamas is on much friendlier terms with other Middle Eastern governments such as Turkey and Qatar that are considered U.S. allies. Again, requests to congressional offices to back up this claim were unanswered.
The Broad Agenda
When it comes to Israel, both parties allow ideology to trump the facts. A majority of both Democrats and Republicans are determined to attack the United Nations and discredit human rights groups if they dare document war crimes by the right-wing Israeli government.
This is nothing new, however. Back in the 1980s, members of Congress (primarily Republicans, but some Democrats as well) also tried to undermine the credibility of the UN and human rights organizations when they provided evidence of war crimes by U.S. allies in the Central America. In recent decades, leaders in both parties have also covered for atrocities committed by allied governments in Indonesia, Turkey, Colombia, Rwanda, and beyond.
Whats different today is that liberal and progressive groups that used to expose Death Squad Democrats along with Republicans who defended such governments are now giving unconditional support to Democratic defenders of Israels war crimes.
Barbara Boxer, perhaps the most outspoken Democratic supporter of Israels actions in the Senate, has been named a progressive hero by such groups as MoveOn and Democracy for America. Peace Action has endorsed Oregon Democrat Jeff Merkley, whom despite his co-sponsorship of Senate Resolution 498 they label as a peace leader. Backers of these and other resolutions covering up for Israeli war crimes including Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) and Sens. Brian Schatz (D-HI), Al Franken (D-MN), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) have been labeled bold progressives by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which is raising money for their re-election. Meanwhile, MoveOn has endorsed Sens. Mark Udall (D-CO), Kay Hagan (D-NC), and other unconditional supporters of Israels actions.
While most Americans are still broadly supportive of Israel, only a minority agree that Hamas was mostly responsible for this summers violence. Even in the early weeks of the conflict, when sympathy for Israel was strongest, only 29 percent of Democrats surveyed agreed Hamas was mostly at fault, a demonstration that the vast majority of Democrats in Congress who have gone on record insisting that Hamas was solely responsible are at odds with their constituents. This gap is particularly apparent among the core Democratic constituencies, such as liberals, minorities, women, and young people, whose enthusiasm is needed to get the vote out in November. Already, there are signs that the strident support by most congressional Democrats in defense of Israeli war crimes has alienated some of the partys base particularly among young people, who tend to trust human rights groups over politicians.
Still, its important to note that not everyone in Congress supported these right-wing initiatives. Scores of House and Senate members, particularly progressive Democrats and libertarian-leaning Republicans, refused to do so. Though four of these resolutions were adopted by a parliamentary procedure known as unanimous consent, it does not mean they had unanimous support. While technically anyone present could block it by demanding a roll call vote, such resolutions are often pushed through without advance warning when hardly anyone is on the floor. Indeed, the very fact that the party leadership went to some lengths to avoid virtually any roll call votes on the war may have stemmed from an awareness that a growing number of members from both sides of the aisle are reluctant to go on record supporting war crimes.
The bottom line, though, is that there is currently a large majority of both parties willing to undermine and discredit UN agencies and reputable human rights groups in their investigations of war crimes and suppress the reporting and enforcement of international humanitarian law.
The bipartisan implication that, in the name of fighting terrorism, a government can legitimately engage in the massive bombardment of urban areas where 70 percent of the casualties are civilians goes well beyond Israel and Palestine. Unfortunately, the willingness of supposedly progressive activist groups to provide unconditional support for the re-election campaigns of those pushing this kind of agenda shows these politicians that they have little to lose when they do.
This essay was originally published by Foreign Policy in Focus.
Robert Barsocchini is a researcher focusing on global force dynamics. He also writes professionally for the film industry. Here is his blog. Also see his free’e-book, Whatever it Takes Hillary Clintons Record of Support for War and other Depravities. Click here to follow Robert and his UK-based colleague, Dean Robinson, on Twitter.
View the original article at Washingtons Blog
– October 22, 2014