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Gaza Brings Up Two Questions: When Are Journalists Legitimate Military Targets? – & Are Any Israel vs Nazi Comparisons Apt?

9:08 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

Leibovich-Regev

I. Israeli government spokesperson Mark Regev is one or the smoothest operators out there among world-class apparatchiks.  Like Israeli Defense Forces spokesperson for the press, Avital Leibovich, he is unperturbed when being asked vexing questions about the dubious morality of Israeli military policy.  Early in the weekend, Leibovich was questioned by RT TV about the bombing of a building in Gaza City which housed offices, equipment and reporters for several news agencies.  She claimed it was impossible to avoid hurting journalists, because Hamas was using them as “human shields.”

Now the Israelis have again attacked a building housing news gatherers:

After a second Israeli attack on a media building in two days, this time killing two journalists, the spokesman for the Israeli Prime Minister, Mark Regev explains to al-Jazeera English that because the journalists were Palestinian the Israel military considered them legitimate “targets.” Regev’s remarks were made just a few hours after the November 19, 2012 bombing of al-Shuruq Tower and another building used to house the offices of several media outlets, including both Palestinian and international networks.

Speaking to al-Jazeera, Regev said, “We took out the target that we wanted to take out.” When pressed by al-Jazeera over the injuries of eight journalists the previous day, where one lost his leg, Regev continued:

“Oh you’re talking about… oh first of all maybe we have a discussion about who is a journalist and if you’ll allow me I will elaborate on this. There is the al-Aqsa station, which is a station that is a Hamas command and control facility, just as in other totalitarian regimes; the media is used by the regime for command and control and also for security purposes. From our point of view that’s not a legitimate journalist.

Al-Jazeera’s correspondent then followed-up by asking, “So what are you saying? That a local Arab journalist life is any less than an internationalist journalist?”Apparently for Regev, yes, in Gaza there are no legitimate Palestinian journalists, only targets. [emphasis added]

I don’t think international law makes a distinction between journalists working for outlets within authoritarian regimes and others.  Nor do I think Mr. Regev or Ms. Leibovich care.  There may be Palestinian journalists working in Gaza who are not somehow connected to Hamas, but to get their credentials they have to apply to the local government – Hamas – to get them.

Kevin Gosztola covered the earlier attacks in a great article here early Sunday, titled Israel’s Targeting Media is a War Crime.  Here is his accounting of worldwide media reaction:
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The Levy Commission Report and the Eradication of Palestine

2:11 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

On Monday, the Israeli government announced that the commission, headed by retired Supreme Court Justice Edmond Levi, and charged with responding to the 2005 Sasson Report (on the government of Israel’s complicity in West Bank settlement expansion), had issued its findings.  Here’s Adam Horowitz writing about it on Monday:

Earlier this year Benjamin Netanyahu formed an Israeli government panel to judge on the legality of the settlements. The panel was headed by former Supreme Court justice Edmond Levy and was intended to respond to the 2005 Sasson Report on government complicity with the settlement project (and possibly head off an impending UN study into the settlements). Today, the “Levy Committee” issued its findings and among other things declared that Israel is not an occupying force in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

From Haaretz:

With regard to Israel’s legal status in the West Bank, the Levy Committee declared that Israel is not an occupying power. The panel arrived at that conclusion after considering two conflicting legal approaches on the question.

The first approach, presented by elements generally identified with the left, holds that Judea and Samaria are “occupied territories” under international law, ever since they were captured from the Jordanian kingdom in 1967.

According to this approach, as a military occupier, Israel is subject to international restrictions governing occupation, first and foremost the Hague Regulations with regard to the laws and customs of ground warfare, and the Fourth Geneva Convention with regard to protecting civilian populations in times of war.

Under these covenants, an occupier must manage the area and maintain order while taking care of its security needs and the needs of the civilian population until the occupation ends. There is a prohibition against damaging private property, and the occupier is also banned from moving any of its own population to settle in the occupied area.

The committee also heard conflicting legal opinions, submitted by elements identified with the right, such as the Regavim movement and the Binyamin Regional Council. They presented the position that because Judea and Samaria were never a legitimate part of any Arab state, including Jordan, Israel is not an occupying power.

As such, the conventions dealing with management of occupied territories and their populations are not relevant to Israel’s presence in Judea and Samaria.

With regard to the Geneva Convention and its Section 49, which forbids an occupier from transferring any of its population to settle in the occupied area, the right-wing groups argued that this section was formulated after World War II and was aimed at preventing the forced transfer of populations, a situation that isn’t relevant to Judea and Samaria.

Members of the panel accepted the legal opinion presented by the right. They explained that the generally accepted concept of occupation relates to short periods in which territory is captured from a sovereign state until the dispute between the two sides is resolved. But Judea and Samaria have been under Israeli control for decades, and it is impossible to foresee a time when Israel will relinquish these territories, if ever.

Late Tuesday, the Israeli government provided an English language translation of the eight-page report. It has been reprinted at this link.

The report does not contain the word “Palestine.”  It consistently refers to the Occupied West Bank as “Judea and Samaria.”  Nor does the report specifically mention Palestinian people.

Reactions to the report have been fairly predictable, even if its far-reaching conclusions were somewhat surprising.  The Netanyahu government, as of this writing, has not made an official response to the report’s validity.

Writing Monday in The Atlantic on-line, commentator and staunch Zionist Jeffrey Goldberg observed:

What this means, if implemented, is simple: The Israeli government would treat West Bank land as if it were land in Israel proper (pre-1967 Israel). Now, of course, if Israel were to treat the land of the West Bank as part of Israel, it would necessarily follow that it would have to treat the people who live on that land as Israeli citizens, extending them full voting rights, just as it extends citizenship to people who live in Israel proper, regardless of ethnicity. So: The natural consequence of this notion, if it is carried through to law, would be to extend voting rights to the Palestinians of the West Bank. This would spell the end of Israel as a Jewish-majority democracy, but the right-wing in Israel seems more enamored of land-ownership than it does of such antiquated notions as, you know, Zionism.

Of course, you don’t hear too many voices on the right in Israel clamoring to extend full Israeli citizenship to the Palestinians. The right-wing wants the land, but not the people. What the right doesn’t understand is that this arrangement would be a non-starter, for political and moral reasons. Then again, the right doesn’t understand very much, so why would it understand this?

He is right that the Israeli far right “doesn’t understand very much,” at least in terms of acknowledging the presence of 2.4 million Palestinians in “Judea and Samaria.”

Sampling far right reactions to the report in Israel and the US, here are a few of the comments from Israel National News (Arutz Shiva):

It is now time (if not past time) for the Israeli government to fully annex Judea and Samaria as well as to assert full control over ALL JERUSALEM particularly Har Habayit. The Arab anti Semites now in control (and destroying Jewish artifacts) MUST BE THROWN OUT with ALL necessary force (at least as much as they now use on Jews who even appear to be silently praying at Judaism’s holiest site).

and:

The tiny nation is only a small fraction of the size it will be some day soon. Almighty God has promised the Jews that Israel will stretch from the Nile River westward to the Euphrates River. Our God can NOT and will NOT ever break a promise!!!!!!!

and:

Didn’t the San Remo Resolution of 1920 make it not only legal to settle but say that the International community is obliged to help the settling?

Comments at the article on the Levy Commission report on the Christian Broadcasting Network site proclaim:

God said “I will punish them that divide up my land”, this includes the USA. The land of Israel is the only land in the world given to a people directly by God. That is why Satan and his demons are fighting so hard to get it. It goes all the way back to the Creation. It is all so perfectly tied. God is so awesome in His Wisdom.

and – appropriately in hard caps:

ISRAEL, IF GOD CONDEMNS YOU THEN YOU SHOULD WORRY. YOU SHOULD WORRY IF YOU ARE ACTING AGAINST HIS ETERNAL WORD. US CONDEMNING YOU, THERE IS NO REASON TO WORRY. 500 YEARS AGO, THERE WAS NO US. ONLY THE LORD YOUR GOD, HIS WORD AND ISRAEL, HIS PEOPLE. STAND FIRM ISRAEL. THE LORD IS RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR PROTECTION, NOT THE US. YOU’RE ANSWERABLE AND RESPONSIBLE FIRST TO YOUR LORD GOD, HIS WORD AND SECOND, YOUR PEOPLE. THE OTHERS, COME LAST. BLESSING.

Meanwhile, back in the reality-based world, reactions vary.  The Palestinian Authority views the report dimly:

Officials in Ramallah on Wednesday slammed the Netanyahu government’s plans to accept the conclusion of the Levy Commission report on Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria.

“We will not sign any peace agreement if there is a [single]settlement on Palestinian Land,” Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas’ spokesman Nabil Abu Rodier said.

The Levy report concluded Israel is not an occupying power in Judea and Samaria, and that Jewish communities in the region are therefore legal under international law.

“Israel has no right to be on Palestinian lands,”Rodier said, adding the PA rejected the Levy report in no uncertain terms.

The New York Times slammed the report in a Tuesday editorial:

[T]he commission’s recommendations are bad law, bad policy and bad politics. Most of the world views the West Bank, which was taken by Israel from Jordan in the 1967 war, as occupied territory and all Israeli construction there as a violation of international law. The world court ruled this way in 2004. The Fourth Geneva Convention bars occupying powers from settling their own populations in occupied lands. And United Nations Security Council resolution 242, a core of Middle East policy, calls for the “withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict.”

The Times editorial notes further:

If [the Levi Commission report's] conclusions are not firmly rejected by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, there is likely to be new international anger at Israel. That could divert attention from Iran just when the world is bearing down with sanctions and negotiations to curb Tehran’s nuclear program. It would also draw attention to a dispiriting anomaly: that a state founded as a democratic homeland for the Jewish people is determined to continue ruling 2.5 million Palestinians under an unequal system of laws and rights.

On Wednesday’s Democracy Now, Jonathan Tobin, Senior Online Editor of Commentary magazine, and Ali Abunimah, co-founder of The Electronic Intifada, had a spirited debate on what the report represents, and could bring in its wake:

The issuance of this report will not serve to diminish Palestinian efforts to gain UN recognition, in spite of the report’s content’s seeming eradication of Palestine itself.

It will not deter the new United Nations Human Rights Commission team from gaining information for their report on ongoing human rights violations by Israelis against Palestinians in the West Bank.

It will probably help gain allies for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign, now in its eighth year, and scoring major victories worldwide almost daily.

What Do You Think? – Is a Two-State Solution Achievable?

12:18 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

Happy West Bank Settlers

Harvard Professor of International Affairs, Stephen M. Walt, observed in an essay today at his Foreign Policy blog niche:

You might read Isabel Kershner’s New York Times piece on the eviction of an Israeli settler family from an illegal outpost in Hebron. The kicker, of course, is that the removal of one settler family was accompanied by an announcement that the Netanyahu government had authorized construction of 800 new homes in Har Homa and Givat Zeev, and intended “to seek the necessary permits to retroactively legalize three other West Bank settler outposts that went up without authorization.” And lest you be confused about the Netanyahu government’s intentions, here’s what Netanyahu himself had to say about it (my emphasis):

The principle that has guided me is to strengthen Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. Today, I instructed that the status of three communities — Bruchim, Sansana, and Rechalim — be provided for. I also asked Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to see to it that the Ulpana hill in Beit El not be evacuated. This is the principle that has guided us. We are strengthening Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria and we are strengthening the Jewish community in Hebron, the City of the Patriarchs. But there is one principle that we uphold. We do everything according to the law and we will continue to do so.”

So Netanyahu’s aim is clear: keeping control of the West Bank forever. And the reference to “doing everything according to the law” is revealing, because “law” here means the law of the occupation, which is the same law that has allowed a half a million Israelis to move onto the territories conquered in 1967 over the past forty years.

International law and international consensus on the Occupied Territories of the West Bank are clear on the subject (Wikipedia footnotes retained):

Since 1979 the United Nations Security Council,[68] the United Nations General Assembly,[69] the United States,[70] the EU,[71] the International Court of Justice,[72] and the International Committee of the Red Cross[73] refer to the West Bank as Palestinian territory occupied by Israel. General Assembly resolution 58/292 (17 May 2004) affirmed that the Palestinian people have the right to sovereignty over the area.[74]

Supporters of the Israeli right[who?] have argued that since the area has never in modern times been an independent state, there is no legitimate claimant to the area other than the present occupier, Israel. This argument however is not accepted by the international community and international lawmaking bodies, virtually all of whom regard Israel’s activities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as an occupation that denies the fundamental principle of self-determination found in the Article One of the United Nations Charter, and in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rightsand the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Further, UN Security Council Resolution 242 notes the “inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war” regardless of whether the war in which the territory was acquired was offensive or defensive. Prominent Israeli human rights organizations such as B’tselem also refer to the Israeli control of the West Bank and Gaza Strip as an occupation.[75] John Quigleyhas noted that “…a state that uses force in self-defense may not retain territory it takes while repelling an attack. If Israel had acted in self-defense, that would not justify its retention of the Gaza Strip and West Bank. Under the UN Charter there can lawfully be no territorial gains from war, even by a state acting in self-defense. The response of other states to Israel’s occupation shows a virtually unanimous opinion that even if Israel’s action were defensive, its retention of the West Bank and Gaza Strip was not.”[76]

International law (Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention) prohibits “transfers of the population of an occupying power to occupied territories”, incurring a responsibility on the part of Israel’s government to not settle Israeli citizens in the West Bank.[77]

Some countries, including Brazil,[78] El Salvador,[79] and Argentina,[80] recognize the State of Palestine and consider the West Bank to be territory of that state.

Clearly, the Israeli government intends to continue to support expansion of the illegal settlements.  At the same time, the Israeli military administration consistently pursues destruction and degradation of Palestinian farms, water resources, outlying communities and infrastructure in most parts of the West Bank.  When looked at overall, Israeli policies are solidly in the realm of the definition of apartheid:  ”any system or practice that separates people according to race, caste, etc.”

In the USA, AIPAC, J Street and even Norman Finkelstein stand by their belief in the viability of the so-called “two-state solution.”  When asked to define what that might represent in physical terms, J Street’s Jeremy Ben Ami, here at a firedoglake Book Salon, uttered the predictable definition or non-definition of what that might be:

The Palestinian people (in Gaza and the West Bank) need their freedom and independence – and the Israeli people within their borders need security. So we believe that Israel should immediately move toward a two-state solution that grants real freedom to the Palestinian people.

I have come to believe a two-state solution is unachievable.  Ever.  I am tired of hearing platitudes and dissimulation, when people attempt to describe what a potential rump Palestinian State, or collections of Bantustans surrounded by hedgehog Judean and Samarian hilltop clusters would be.

When I show up at events hosted by professional Zionists, Israeli consular officials or their like, if I ask to be shown the ultimate map, there is none.

What do you think?