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U.S.: Congress Out of Step with Public on Intl Law?
By Eli Clifton | IPS
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a non-binding resolution Tuesday condemning the Goldstone Report on Israeli and Hamas actions taking during the Gaza War as "irredeemably biased" against Israel and calling on U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to oppose any consideration of the report in multilateral fora, such as the United Nations.
But a poll released just the day before found that a large majority of U.S. citizens believe the U.S. should abide by international laws and view the international legal system favourably.
House Resolution (HR) 867 called on the White House and State Department to oppose any future examinations of the report, which members of Congress felt focused disproportionally on alleged Israeli war crimes while paying little attention to violations committed by Hamas during the Gaza War from Dec. 27, 2008 to Jan. 18, 2009.
"The 344 supporters have apparently not read the report," wrote Human Rights Watch senior researcher Fred Abrahams. "The 575-page document records violations of the laws of war by Israel, Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups, and concludes that all sides committed war crimes and possible crimes against humanity."
"Both Israelis and Palestinians need to carry out investigations that meet international standards or face international prosecution," he said. Read more.
Just in case you missed the despicable, outrageous signs, see them at around 7:00 mins into this video:
Washington D.C. (November 3, 2009) –Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) today made the following statement on the House Floor about H. Res 867, which condemns the ‘Goldstone Report’ or the Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict:
“Today we journey from Operation Cast Lead to Operation Cast Doubt. Almost as serious as committing war crimes is covering up war crimes, pretending that war crimes were never committed and did not exist.
“Because behind every such deception is the nullification of humanity, the destruction of human dignity, the annihilation of the human spirit, the triumph of Orwellian thinking, the eternal prison of the dark heart of the totalitarian.
“The resolution before us today, which would reject all attempts of the Goldstone Report to fix responsibility of all parties to war crimes, including both Hamas and Israel, may as well be called the “Down is Up, Night is Day, Wrong is Right” resolution.
“Because if this Congress votes to condemn a report it has not read, concerning events it has totally ignored, about violations of law of which it is unaware, it will have brought shame to this great institution.
On Nov. 3, 2009, on Capitol Hill, activists from the “Coalition for Free Gaza March,” personally confronted Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA,) just outside his office over the Goldstone Report. The Congressman then quickly rushed towards his private elevator. Afterwards, six activists strolled into Room 2221, Rep. Berman’s office, in the Rayburn Building, around 10 AM. There, they began reading the 575-paged UN Report of Judge Richard Goldstone. The Goldstone-authored document is highly critical of Israel’s recent military conduct in Gaza, labeling some of its action as “War Crimes.” Rep. Berman, who is Chair of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, has introduced HR 867 in the House. Its purpose is to reject the report of the distinguished jurist, without giving Judge Goldstone a chance to personally testify before the Congress on his findings. HR 867 is due for a vote in the House later today.
See a list of links by clicking through to the youtube description.
Congressman Brian Baird Challenges Congressional Leadership’s Blind Protection of Israeli Actions in Gaza
Congressman Brian Baird Challenges Congressional Leadership’s Blind Protection of Israeli Actions in Gaza
By Ann Wright
The massive, disproportionate force used on the people of Gaza by the Israeli military was done with the full knowledge that the United States government -- the President, Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense and the Congress -- would protect its actions from international investigation and criminal prosecution, as U.S. governments have done for the past 60 years, since the founding of the state of Israel.
Today, November 3, 2009, the U.S. House of Representatives will vote on House Resolution 867 which condemns the report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict , also known as the Goldstone Report, named for Judge Goldstone who headed the mission.
The report investigates the 22 day Israeli attack on Gaza that killed 1,440 Palestinians in Gaza, wounded 5,000 and left 50,000 homeless. During the 22 day Israeli military operation, 13 Israelis were killed, 3 civilians and 10 military, 5 of whom were killed by their own Israeli military forces. The Israelis said they were defending Israel from thousands of unguided rockets fired from Gaza by militant groups that have killed 19 Israelis. For the past three years, Israel also has blockaded the 1.5 million people who live in Gaza into what is now an “open-air prison.”
By Michael Ratner, www.CommonDreams.org
On Tuesday, November 3, Congress is poised to vote on H.Res.867, which calls on the “President and the Secretary of State to oppose unequivocally any endorsement or further consideration of the `Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict' in multilateral fora.’ ”
The Resolution instructs the Obama Administration to prevent further consideration of the Goldstone Report (as it is informally known) in any international body. For Congress to do so, without a hearing where Judge Goldstone can testify and based upon a Resolution rife with factual errors, makes a mockery of assertions by the United States that fundamental protections of human rights laws law apply equally to all. It leaves the United States, and especially Congress, without a thread of moral authority.
By GREGORY KATZ, The Associated Press
LONDON -- British lawyers looking for ways to hold Israel accountable for its deadly advance into Gaza last year have expanded their legal campaign by seeking the arrest of Israeli military officers entering Britain.
The attorneys plan to go to British courts to obtain arrest warrants against individuals linked to suspected war crimes so they would be taken into custody if they entered Britain, Daniel Machover, a lawyer coordinating the legal team, said Tuesday.
"We've been collecting evidence for some time," said Machover of the Hickman & Rose firm. "If one of the suspects is coming to the country, we are ready to go to the police and the courts with evidence."
There was no immediate response to the plan from Britain's Ministry of Justice. Israel brushed off the move as part of a harassment campaign by anti-Israeli groups.
By MARILYN H. KARFELD, Cleveland Jewish News
Nine soldiers from the Ohio Army National Guard have joined 1,000 U.S. troops and the Israeli Defense Forces in joint military exercises in the Mediterranean Sea that include preparation for an Iranian missile attack on Israel.
The major air defense drill, called Juniper Cobra 10, includes a simulated missile attack against Tel Aviv, reported Ohio National Guard Public Affairs.
In the two-week maneuvers, which began Oct. 21, the American units will strengthen Israel’s missile defense system by meshing ground-and-ship-based missile interceptors with
Israel’s ballistic shield, Ha’aretz newspaper reported.
The Honorable Howard Berman
Chairman, House Committee on Foreign Affairs
The Honorable Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
Ranking Member, House Committee on Foreign Affairs
October 29, 2009
Dear Chairman Berman and Ranking Member Ros-Lehtinen,
It has come to my attention that a resolution has been introduced in the Unites States House of
Representatives regarding the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, which I
led earlier this year.
I fully respect the right of the US Congress to examine and judge my mission and the resulting
report, as well as to make its recommendations to the US Executive branch of government.
However, I have strong reservations about the text of the resolution in question – text that
includes serious factual inaccuracies and instances where information and statements are taken
grossly out of context.
I undertook this fact-finding mission in good faith, just as I undertook my responsibilities vis à
Prosecution of Israelis likely, says solicitor • Lawyers working on use of universal jurisdiction
By Ian Black, The Guardian/UK
Ehud Olmert, Israel's prime minister during the Gaza war, would probably face arrest on war crimes charges if he visited Britain, according to a UK lawyer who is working to expand the application of "universal jurisdiction" for offences involving serious human rights abuses committed anywhere in the world.
Neither Olmert nor Tzipi Livni, the foreign minister during the Cast Lead offensive, and a member of Israel's war cabinet, would enjoy immunity from prosecution for alleged breaches of the Geneva conventions, predicted Daniel Machover, who is involved in intensifying legal work after the controversial Goldstone report on the three-week conflict. Neither are ministers any longer.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seems to be morphing into George W. Bush. Faced with findings of a respected former war crimes prosecutor that Israel may have committed war crimes in its Gaza offensive, the prime minister instructed his government to seek changes to the international laws of war to retroactively justify any actions taken in Gaza.
The prime minister’s office announced that “the prime minister instructed the relevant government bodies to examine a worldwide campaign to amend the international laws of war to adapt them to the spread of global terrorism.”
Netanyahu justified the post hoc move in truly Bushian terms: “We are struggling to delegitimise the ongoing attempts to delegitimise Israel.” Read more.
It is spell-binding to see how the U.S. establishment can inflate the threat of a target, no matter how tiny, remote, and (most often) non-existent that threat may be, and pretend that the real threat posed by its own behavior and policies is somehow defensive and related to that wondrously elastic thing called "national security."
We should recall that this establishment got quite hysterical over the completely non-existent threat from Guatemala in the years 1950-1954, a very small and very poor country, essentially disarmed, helped by a U.S. and "allied" arms boycott, quickly overthrown in June 1954 by a minuscule U.S.-organized proxy force invading from our ally Somoza's Nicaragua.
But a telegram drafted in the name of Eisenhower's Secretary of State John Foster Dulles shortly before the 1954 regime change in Guatemala warned that this country had become a "challenge to Hemisphere security and peace" and was "increasingly [an] instrument of Soviet aggression in this hemisphere" and a "menace to [the] stability of strategic Central America and Caribbean area," so that U.S. policy was "determined [to] prevent further substantial arms shipments from reaching Guatemala."1
And the New York Times featured this terrible threat repeatedly (one favorite, the lying headline of Sidney Gruson's "How Communists Won Control of Guatemala," March 1, 1953), a propaganda campaign dating back to 1950 that extended throughout the media, even reaching The Nation magazine (Ellis Ogle, "Communism in the Caribbean?" March 18, 1950).
Nicaragua under the Sandinistas, even tinier Grenada, the nutmeg capital of the world, and of course Saddam Hussein's "weapons of mass destruction," all posed dire threats that caused the U.S. Free Press to leap into active propaganda service.
So the present intense focus on Iran's supposed nuclear weapons threat is in a great tradition. But it never ceases to amaze the extent to which the media journalists and editors, reliably following the official party line, are able to apply a truly laughable double standard as well as to make another victim into an aggressor and dire threat. It's déjà vu all over again, for the umpteenth time! Read more.
On Wednesday we members of the Combatants for Peace movement, women of Mahsom [Hebrew: checkpoint or barrier] Watch, members of the Forum of Bereaved Families for Peace and writer David Grossman attended a hearing at the High Court of Justice on the matter of the closing, due to lack of evidence, of the investigatory file on the killing of ten-year-old Abir Aramin about three years ago.
The hearing, which had been scheduled for eleven o'clock and then for nine o'clock and then for ten o'clock and then for one o'clock, began at two. Journalists ran to and fro in the corridor (Who died? A little girl? Really? Excuse me, sir, did your daughter die? Yes. Then you are Bassam Aramin? No, I am Rami Elhanan. Oh, sorry. So where's that Aramin? And who are you? We are from Mahsom Watch. From what checkpoint? What are you doing here? And who are you? I am a friend. Of those Palestinians? Yes. How come? How can it be? Can I interview you? Did you too have a daughter who died? Really? When? How? What was her name? And after all that you are on their side?) But at the end of the day no Israeli reported on what happened.
Salwa and Bassam Aramin are not Jews and they are not Israelis. They live under a cruel occupation and they have experienced all it has to offer: exile, imprisonment and the killing of their small daughter Abir by a rubber (coated metal) bullet that was allegedly fired from the rifle of a Border Guard soldier who was sitting in an armoured jeep and thrust the barrel of his rifle through the opening that was allegedly designed for that purpose and allegedly aimed and fired at the head of the girl who was standing beside her sister at a kiosk, allegedly buying candy during the break between the first class and the second.
Olmert, author of assault on Gaza, shunned in Chicago
Posted by Helena Cobban | Just World News
The Harris School for Public Policy at the University of Chicago presumably thought it was quite "normal" and appropriate-- perhaps, even a boon for fundraising!-- to invite former Israeli p.m. Ehud Olmert to give a lecture.
Olmert, however, is not just any old former prime minister. He was also the prime author of the decision to launch two extremely inhumane wars of choice: against Lebanon in 2006 and against Gaza last winter.
Israel's conduct of the latter war-- as well as a lot of other Olmert-era policies like the prolonged and lethal siege of Gaza and the continued attacks on the Palestinian community in Jerusalem-- rightly came under severe criticism from the UN's Goldstone Commission.
Judge Richard Goldstone, an experienced international prosecutor and investigator (and also Jewish and a self-proclaimed Zionist) determined that many of Israel's actions against Gaza constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity.
So why would the University of Chicago or any other university in the democratic world consider it appropriate or "normal" to give a podium to an accused war criminal like this?
Today, Ali Abunimah and numerous other supporters of the simple proposition that the rights of Palestinians should be protected just as much as anyone else's rights were, as it happened, there in the lecture hall too. Read more.
This Friday, the American Enterprise Institute
will hosted an event addressing the question “Should Israel attack Iran?” The event includes, among others, Iran uberhawk Michael Rubin and infamous “torture lawyer” John Yoo, but the real star is likely to be John Bolton, the former U.N. ambassador whose right-of-Attila views left him an outcast even within the second Bush administration. (Bolton was eventually forced out when it became clear that he would be unable to win Senate confirmation for the U.N. post.)
If Bolton’s recent rhetoric is any indication, his AEI appearance may accomplish the formidable feat of making Michael Rubin sound like a dove. Discussing Iran during a Tuesday speech at the University of Chicago, Bolton appeared to call for nothing less than an Israeli nuclear first strike against the Islamic Republic. (The speech, sponsored by the University Young Republicans and Chicago Friends of Israel, was titled, apparently without a trace of irony, “Ensuring Peace.”) Read more.
United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict | PRESS RELEASE | 15 September 2009
UN Fact Finding Mission finds strong evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the Gaza conflict; calls for end to impunity
NEW YORK / GENEVA - The UN Fact-Finding Mission led by Justice Richard Goldstone on Tuesday released its long-awaited report on the Gaza conflict, in which it concluded there is evidence indicating serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law were committed by Israel during the Gaza conflict, and that Israel committed actions amounting to war crimes, and possibly crimes against humanity.
The report also concludes there is also evidence that Palestinian armed groups committed war crimes, as well as possibly crimes against humanity, in their repeated launching of rockets and mortars into Southern Israel.
Beneath the hype Pt.5: Ray McGovern and Greg Thielmann on the potential causes of armed conflict in Iran.
Mondoweiss today gives us a Youtube clip of Tony Blair dodging a tough question from a University of Buffalo student about the Goldstone report.
The student, Nick Kabat, asked Blair why the US and Israel should be allowed to get away with blocking the Goldstone Report, how (as the "Quartet"'s peace envoy) he could explain that proceeding with Goldstone's recommendations might harm the peace process, and whether he didn't think that the blocade on Gaza also harmed the peace process.
You could see Blair ducking and weaving. (The questions had all been pre-screened by the university; but Kabat submitted a bland dummy question then asked this one instead.)
Blair said he'd been to Gaza "twice-- in the recent period" and that the situation there is difficult... But you also "have to understand" that Israel has received a lot of rockets from there since it withdrew in 2005 and still has its young soldier Gilad Shalit held there as a prisoner...
No mention from Blair that there have been almost no rockets coming out of Gaza since Hamas announced the currently-operant ceasefire there on January 18-- but despite that lack of rocketings, the Israeli siege is harsher even than it was prior to last winter's war.
No mention of the roughly 11,000 Palestinian political prisoners and detainees being held in Israeli jails. Read more.
And you thought "don't ask, don't tell" was a U.S. law on gays in the military that Barack Obama has promised to change. As it turns out, the same phrase plays quite a different role in the Middle East, where Obama seems to have no intention of changing it at all. Successive administrations have adhered to a "don't ask, don't tell" policy when it comes to Israel's sizeable arsenal of nuclear weapons. That country has never acknowledged their existence, adhering instead to another arcane formula: "We will not introduce nuclear weapons into the Middle East." Jonathan Schell has described this strange situation: "Evidently, in some abstruse way, possessing [nuclear weapons] is not introducing them. You'd have to do something more to introduce them. You'd have to brandish one or make a threat with one, or maybe just acknowledge that you had them. As long as they keep them in the basement and don't make any introductions, then it's alright."
In May, the Obama administration evidently agreed not to break step with the fictions of previous administrations by acknowledging, or attempting to force Israel to publicly acknowledge, its estimated 100-200 nuclear weapons, including city-busters and cruise missiles adapted to be nuclear-armed and put on subs in the Mediterranean. His administration seems also to have agreed not to pressure the Israelis to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) under which nuclear arms are theoretically managed on our planet.
This, of course, leads to bizarre Middle Eastern policy anomalies rarely acknowledged in this country. In the midst of all the screaming headlines about an Iranian bomb which does not yet (and may never) exist, none of the acts the administration is demanding of the Iranians (and around which it is threatening to impose even stronger sanctions), including allowing International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors into its nuclear sites and providing greater transparency about the state of its nuclear program, have been put into practice by Israel, despite its perfectly real -- in fact, staggeringly large -- program. And no penalties have been imposed.
When Israel was in Iran's present situation back in the 1950s and early 1960s, and secretly developing a nuclear weapons program, U.S. administrations simply looked the other way. Ever since, presidents have preferred not to look at all, not publicly anyway. According to Eli Lake of the Washington Times, despite President Obama's stated policy of wanting to strengthen the NPT and lead the world toward nuclear disarmament, he recently "reaffirmed" to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "a 4-decade-old secret understanding that has allowed Israel to keep a nuclear arsenal without opening it to international inspections."
One irony of the Obama push for an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, even while working to bring Iran to heel, has been this: despite all efforts in Israel and here, the Israeli nuclear arsenal has begun creeping towards the light of day. Soon enough, to everyone's surprise, it may become part of the conversation even in the United States. So here's a final irony: it's just possible that "don't ask, don't tell" will lose its meaning in the Middle East before it does in the U.S. military. In the meantime, as TomDispatch regular Ira Chernus points out, the Obama administration's focus on Iran continually creates unexpected problems elsewhere. Tom
Obama Trapped Behind Wall of Mideast Containment
It's the Iranians, Stupid
By Ira Chernus
Damn the Iranians and full speed ahead. That was the U.S. policy in the Middle East. But the waters have proved treacherous, with torpedoes everywhere. Despite an initial hopeful sit-down with Iranian negotiators, this won't be the October the White House wanted on the foreign policy front. By now, Barack Obama was supposed to have announced -- with ruffles and flourishes -- the beginning of Middle East peace talks, leading to a final status agreement by 2012. But something didn't happen.
Israel didn't heed Obama's demand to stop all settlement expansion in the West Bank. So Obama didn't stick to that demand, settling instead for a temporary freeze after a spate of new building. The Palestinians, buoyed by Obama's initial strong stance on the settlements, refused to negotiate until Israel stopped all construction. Other Arab nations didn't offer Israel nearly as many concessions as the U.S. administration was demanding. Undermined by all that didn't happen, the president had nothing of substance to announce.
What went wrong? The heart of the problem was not Israel's supposed power over U.S. policy. The U.S. still has plenty of leverage over the Israelis and everyone else in the region. Israeli columnist Nahum Barnea is right: "Everyone depends on America, its money, its military aid, and its moves vis-à-vis Iran."
But it is precisely those U.S. moves, meant to contain the power of Iran, that are the main stumbling block on the path to a U.S.-brokered two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Middle East is a textbook example of the perils of containment.
The Ghost Of Cold War Past Read more.
But, then, Brigadier Eli Avraham, an Israeli representative, played a videotape showing a meeting between Abbas and Ehud Barak, the Israeli defence minister during the Gaza war, in which Tzipi Livni, Israel's former foreign minister, was also present, the report said.
The tape showed Abbas trying to convince Barak to continue the offensive, according to the Shahab report.
Avraham also played an audiotape of a telephone call between Dov Weissglass, a senior Israeli official, and al-Tayyib Abdul Rahim, secretary-general of the Palestinian president's office, the report said.
In the conversation, Abdul Rahim noted that circumstances were suitable for entry of the Israeli army into Jabalya and al-Shatea refugee camps, and said that the fall of these two camps would end Hamas's rule in Gaza Strip, Shahab said in its report.
Weissglass then told Abdul Rahim that such an army operation would lead to the deaths of thousands of civilians, but, according to Shahab, Abdul Rahim said: "They have all elected Hamas, so they are the ones who have chosen their fate, not us."
Members of the UN Security Council will meet to discuss Libya's request for an emergency session on a report that claimed war crimes were committed by Israel during last year's offensive on Gaza.
Le Luong Minh, Vietnam's ambassador who holds the council presidency this month, said he had scheduled closed-door talks for Wednesday after receiving a request from Libya, the only Arab member on the 15-nation council.
Libya circulated a letter on Tuesday on behalf of the UN Arab group urgently seeking "an emergency meeting" of the council to consider the Goldstone report, Ibrahim Dabbashi, Libya's deputy ambassador, said.
The UN Human Rights Council, based in Geneva, Switzerland, postponed a vote last Friday on a resolution that would have condemned Israel's failure to co-operate with its investigation into the December-January war. Read more.
The Gaza War's Effect on Women
By Stephen Lendman
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights' (PCHR) new report, titled "Through Women's Eyes," highlights "the Gender-Specific Impact and Consequences of Operation Cast Lead" and the ongoing siege, including 12 case study examples "through the victims' words." Several are discussed below.
In patriarchal Palestinian society, women traditionally are caregivers while men typically head households and are the main breadwinners. As a result, when widows are thrust into this role, they're often victimized by cultural, social and economic discrimination and marginalization. In Gaza today, it's hard for women to get by alone, so widows must either live with family members or remarry. The alternative is a hard struggle alone, something most Palestinian women try to avoid, but post-conflict many have no choice.
President Obama has reaffirmed a 4-decade-old secret understanding that has allowed Israel to keep a nuclear arsenal without opening it to international inspections, three officials familiar with the understanding said.
The officials, who spoke on the condition that they not be named because they were discussing private conversations, said Mr. Obama pledged to maintain the agreement when he first hosted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House in May.
Under the understanding, the U.S. has not pressured Israel to disclose its nuclear weapons or to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which could require Israel to give up its estimated several hundred nuclear bombs. Read more.
The prospect for peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians is “dead as a doornail,” said Francis Boyle in an interview with the Canadian Charger on September 25.
That is “because Obama sided with Binyamin Netanyahu,” at the UN meeting of the General Assembly.
Boyle is a professor of international law at the University of Illinois and was legal advisor to the Palestinian delegation at the peace negotiations that culminated in the Oslo agreement.
According to Boyle, former senator George Mitchell “is running a dog and pony show” in his scampering around the Middle East.
“Because of his accomplishments in Northern Ireland, I had given him the benefit of the doubt, but not with what happened at the UN. Now it is clear that Mitchell’s mission is just a public relations exercise to delude the Arab and Muslim world into believing that the Obama administration is going to do something while in fact they are pushing their agenda against Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan.”
“At the UN,” he said, “the entire world saw Obama personally get steamrollered by Netanyahu. Obama was humiliated in front of the entire world which saw him as a pusillanimous and feckless leader.”
The US continues to fund Israel to the tune of $4 billion a year but will not insist on peace measures such as a halt to settlement construction.
Boyle believes that the current situation will inevitably lead to a third intifada, which will “sweep aside the geriatric leadership of Fatah.”
As for Gaza, “most of their leaders have been killed by Israel.” And as for Israel, it “never wanted peace. It always wanted more land, a greater Israel.” Read more.
In a surprise deal announced Wednesday, Hamas will give Israel a videotape providing a first glimpse of a captured Israeli soldier to prove he is alive in return for the release of 20 Palestinian women held in Israeli prisons.
It marked the first tangible sign of progress in more than three years of talks aimed at a larger prisoner exchange, and it could lead to an end to a crippling blockade of the impoverished, war-torn Gaza Strip, which is ruled by militant Islamic Hamas.
Israel said the video-for-prisoners exchange would take place Friday.
Up to now, the only signs of life from the soldier, Gilad Schalit, were several letters and an apparently carefully scripted audio tape, released just months after he was captured in June 2006. Hamas-linked militants tunneled under the Gaza-Israel border, attacked an Israeli army base from the rear, killed two soldiers and hauled a bleeding Schalit off into captivity. Read more.
Israel's Ofra Settlement on Unauthorized Palestinian Land
By Stephen Lendman
Israel's 130 West Bank settlements are illegal under international law, including Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention that states:
"Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive."
In addition, various UN resolutions (including 446, 452 and 465) condemned Israel's settlement building by declaring they have "no legal validity" to exist. Yet they do and continue expanding in reckless disregard of the law.
Even so, after its forces occupied the West Bank in 1967, Israel in principle agreed to respect binding local Jordanian law and its own subsequent military order. It didn't then and doesn't now.
B'Tselem's report titled "The Ofra Settlement - An Unauthorized Outpost" shows that Israel reneged on its agreement because Ofra is illegal under local and international law.
Called a flagship settlement, it was established in 1975 by the fundamentalist Gush Emunim (Bloc of the Faithful) movement that began seizing West Bank land for itself - modestly at first in abandoned Jordanian Ein Yabrud army camp houses. Then later, more aggressively after the Rabin government recognized it as a community even though 58% of its area lies on land registered to Palestinians in Israel's Land Registry. Settlement construction there is forbidden. Yet in 1977 under Menachem Begin, recognition became official.
Ofra set a precedent. As the first northern West Bank settlement, it broke "the barrier that blocked settlement attempts in the heart of the Palestinian population" and established events on the ground for dozens more to follow - illegal settlements and outposts "in opposition to the stated official position of the government," on paper only to be defiled and ignored.
Some Background on Gush Emunim
Under the slogan, "The Land of Israel, for the people of Israel, according to the Torah of Israel," Gush Emunim (GE) emerged in the aftermath of the 1973 Yom Kippur war, but Israel's 1967 Six-Day war victory inspired its adherents to believe that all biblical Israel for Jews alone was now in reach.
Today, GE is an influential, extremist pressure group - fundamentalist, radical, messianic, militant, terrorist, and undemocratic, yet supported by all Israeli governments. Ofra gave it a footprint, a toehold, an entry for Israel to establish 130 West Bank settlements and other outposts, now home to half a million Jews on confiscated Palestinian land.