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US, Israel rant as Ireland, Spain, Norway recognise Palestinian statehood

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 23/05/2024 - 7:50am in

Netanyahu and Biden governments in meltdown again as three countries bypass US veto and declare Palestine a state

Norwegian, Irish and Spanish governments declared Palestine’s statehood

The US and Israeli governments have reacted with fury to announcements by three European governments, at the same time, that they are recognising Palestinian statehood. Ireland, Norway and Spain have all now formally declared Palestine to be a state.

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu – probably soon to be declared by the International Criminal Court (ICC) to be wanted for war crimes – raged that the three nations were giving ‘Khamas’ a ‘reward for terrorism’. A Biden government spokesman claimed that the US condemned the recognition because it had been granted ‘unilaterally’ rather than through negotiation – ironic and deeply hypocritical considering that the US vetoed a recent application by Palestine to the UN Security Council motion for full membership of the UN. Several leading pro-Israel politicians called for the ICC to be ‘punished’, with a couple admitting that if Israel is held to account for its war crimes, ‘you know they’ll come for us next’.

Well done Ireland, Norway, Spain and, especially, the people of Palestine. Shamefully, there is no prospect of the UK following suit with either the Tories or what now passes for the Labour party in power after the newly-declared general election.

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Q and A with Sumi Madhok on Vernacular Rights Cultures

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 18/04/2024 - 7:49pm in

In this interview with Anna D’Alton (LSE Review of Books), Sumi Madhok speaks about her latest book, Vernacular Rights Cultures which subverts prevailing frameworks around human rights by exploring how subaltern groups mobilise for justice through particular political imaginaries, conceptual vocabularies and gendered political struggles.

Read a review of the book for LSE Review of Books here.

Vernacular Rights Cultures: The Politics of Origins, Human Rights and Gendered Struggles for Justice. Sumi Madhok. Cambridge University Press. 2024 (paperback); 2021 (hardback).

book cover of Vernacular Rights Cultures by Sumi MadhokQ: In Vernacular Rights Cultures, you critique the Eurocentred discourse around rights and identify the “politics of origins” as an important aspect of this. What is the “politics of origins” and why do you push against it?

The politics of origins is the key framework around which global human rights is organised. It is a racialised and binary global human rights discourse, which stipulates that human rights originate in, belong to, travel from and operate for the West. This politics of origins is a shared discourse; shared by not only celebrants and detractors of human rights but also by critical and progressive scholarship on human rights. Significantly, it organises the global human rights discourse into a series of binary distinctions, the key ones being between West/non-West, universalism vs cultural particularism and “Asian values” vs “Western political and civil human rights”. An important way in which these binaries constantly appear is by asking the question, are rights are Western? This question is relentlessly rehearsed, by both celebrants and detractors of human rights, ie, both by those who claim human rights are given to the rest of the world by the “West”, as well as by those who use the originary argument to refuse it, saying that human rights have no cultural or political traction in contexts outside the “West” because they are not part of ”non-western” cultural values.

One of the things the book does is to sidestep the politics of origins and the binary formulations that foreground rights conversations across scholarly, practitioner and policymaking contexts.

One of the things the book does is to sidestep the politics of origins and the binary formulations that foreground rights conversations across scholarly, practitioner and policymaking contexts. Two things to note here: firstly, the politics of origins is not without consequences. In the hands of the detractors, and particularly authoritarian nation states, it places a handy argument to delegitimise democratic protest, politics and questioning of excessive state power on the basis that human rights are illegitimate, alien and foreign and therefore with little cultural traction and legitimacy. In critical/progressive scholarship on human rights, on the other hand, this originary story shores up the “West” as the sole epistemic subject of human rights, although this time via critique and through displaying wilful ignorance and historical unknowing of rights struggles in most of the world. Therefore, for instance, you could be the most radical theorist of human rights and yet, you wouldn’t be under any obligation to display any knowledge, let alone theorise, about rights politics outside the Euro-North Atlantic world.

Secondly, participants in rights politics in “most of the world” don’t think of their worldmaking projects and rights struggles as universalist or not universalist or particularist. One of the things they’re asking for is for their struggles and worldmaking projects to be considered part of the universal and for these to be heard and to matter epistemically – that’s a big part of the struggle. However, this aspiration is often thwarted by the refusal to think outside of the politics of origins, resulting in an almost unmoveable impasse in global human rights. A key intervention of the book is to shift this stasis and move rights thinking out of this impasse.

Conceptual diversity is part of my broader project on anti-imperial epistemic justice.

Q: Why do you emphasise conceptual diversity as a “key intellectual project of vernacular rights cultures” (177)?

Conceptual diversity is part of my broader project on anti-imperial epistemic justice. The book is a key constituent of this project. Conceptual diversity is important in order to theorise and conceptually capture the stakes and struggles of rights politics in most of the world. We urgently need conceptual scholarship from most of the world, one that illuminates the critical conceptual vocabularies and the political imaginaries of rights politics taking place in different parts of the world. This is crucial because when people do think about rights struggles in most of the world, that work is mostly embedded in Eurocentric frameworks and tends to be either not only overly descriptive but also converts “the other and elsewhere” into “case studies” of global human rights, as though these have no epistemic authority of their own.

Q: Why do you foreground haq, a transregional vernacular of rights prevalent in South Asia, over a universalist idea of human rights?

Haq is a fantastically cosmopolitan concept. The word is first sighted in classical Hebrew and in Semitic languages like Aramaic and Mandaean. It then comes into pre-Islamic poetry and into the Quran. Over the centuries, it travels extensively to become the principal. word for a right across East Africa, North Africa, the Middle East, Iran, Turkey, South Asia. It comes into South Asia though Persian, which was a state language of undivided India and Pakistan before partition by the British Empire. The word has been used by people across two continents, and in my own tracking, in at least eight different languages to speak about their entitlements and rights. This begs the question: what is the conceptual nature of haq? What kinds of things is it being used to articulate and demand as a rights claim, and what is (or isn’t) it able to accommodate? Who are the subjects of haq? What sorts of rights politics does it animate? In what ways does rights politics for haq expand existing human rights politics, scholarship and theoretical frameworks? For instance, paying attention to conceptual languages of haq shows that it not only sutures the politics of rights to the politics of justice but also grounds rights in alternative justificatory premises and conceptual meanings. In other words, the rights politics in most of the world, appears as the politics of structural justice. It is therefore, not the civilisational, racialised, minimalist, depoliticised, humanitarian politics of moralism and despair. Rather, it is one that is located within political struggles for freedom, rights and justice, and underpinned by a conception of justice as non-exploitational and structural.

The word [haq] has been used by people across two continents, and in my own tracking, in at least eight different languages to speak about their entitlements and rights.

Q: Establishing a “feminist historical ontology” underpins your methodology. What does this involve and what is gained from taking this theoretical perspective?

The book refuses methodological nationalism and statism and the “great men” stories that it champions, not least, because more than ever, there is a need for scholarly accounts of rights and human rights to move outside of methodological nationalism in order to document and theorise rights politics that can form solidaristic coalitions for rights and justice across the globe, while also being able to hold nation states to account. At the same time, the book is also invested in giving an epistemic account of the critical conceptual vocabularies of rights politics that are used in contemporary subaltern movements. However, the question that arises is how does one do this? In order to give an epistemic accounting of this politics of rights, I’ve had to both devise a theoretical framework for their study, which I call vernacular rights cultures, as well as a methodological device, which I call a feminist historical ontology. Rather than looking at human rights or rights politics in different nation states or privileging state actors in global fora, I tracked the way the word haq appears in subaltern movements across different geographical areas, focusing on South Asia, specifically central eastern Pakistan, and north-western India. Vernacular rights cultures are not authentic or pure hermetically sealed sites in the Global South. These rights cultures are co-produced through and invoked within multiple, diverse and conflictual encounters with developmentalism, extractivism, dispossession, militarism, statism, legal constitutionalism, and activism; therefore, it is at the intersection of these and not as some freestanding “authentic” abstraction, that haq as a contemporary idea operates.

Rights cultures are co-produced through and invoked within multiple, diverse and conflictual encounters with developmentalism, extractivism, dispossession, militarism, statism, legal constitutionalism, and activism

Feminist historical ontology has two constitutive parts:  it brings together historical ontologies with a feminist critical reflexive politics of location. The first borrows from the philosopher Ian Hacking and his work on historical ontology, which tracks how concepts come into being and acquire traction at particular historical points. Concepts enable us to describe and visualise the world, and result in what Hacking calls “making up people”. In my ethnographies of rights mobilisations, I tracked the work that haq was doing in “making up people”. Haq not only signifies political subjectivities and worldmaking imaginaries but also brings into being a particular relation to the self. It’s important to note that critical conceptual vocabularies of rights are not simply formalistic or technical literal terms, but that they produce political imaginaries and set in motion processes of subjectification, which have very particular consequences on the ground.

Haq, too, is a gendered concept; it brings into being gendered subjects of rights and puts in place a gendered set of political possibilities, futurities and actions.

Like all phenomena, concepts are gendered. Haq, too, is a gendered concept; it brings into being gendered subjects of rights and puts in place a gendered set of political possibilities, futurities and actions. In order to be able to foreground the gendered nature of concepts, historical ontology, therefore, requires a supplementation with a critical reflexive feminist politics of location that draws on feminist anti-imperial, postcolonial, anti-colonial, decolonial and critical race scholarship in order to reflect existing hierarchically and oppressively arranged site-specific gendered power relations on the one hand, and Eurocentred knowledge production on the other. Accordingly, feminist historical ontologies (of rights in this case) are methodological devices that produce an orientation towards generating conceptual accounts of rights encounters in the world that are responsive to a critical reflexive politics of location, to gendered power relations and struggles, to political imaginaries of subaltern struggle and worldmaking, and to the coming into being of gendered subjects of rights.

Note: This interview gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics and Political Science.

 

Cognitive Dissonance: Perplexed US Foreign Policy is Prolonging Gaza Genocide

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 22/03/2024 - 2:50am in

When the foreign policy of a country as large and significant as the United States is governed by a case of cognitive dissonance, terrible things happen.

These terrible things are, in fact, already taking place in the Gaza Strip, where well over 100,000 people have been killed, wounded or are missing, and an outright famine is currently ravaging the displaced population.

From the start of the war on October 7, the U.S. mishandled the situation, although recent reports indicate that Biden, despite his old age, has read the overall meaning of the October 7 events correctly.

According to the Axios news website, Biden had argued in a meeting with special counsel Robert Hur on October 8 that the ‘Israel thing’ – the Hamas attack and the Israeli war on Gaza – “has changed it all.”

By ‘change it all,’ he meant that the outcome of these events combined would “determine what the next six, seven decades look like.”

Biden is not wrong. Indeed, everything that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government and war council have done in Gaza points to a similar Israeli reading of the significance of the ‘world-altering’ events.

Netanyahu has proven his willingness to carry out genocide and starve millions of Palestinians because he still feels that the superior firepower of the Israeli army is able to turn back the clock and restore Israel’s military standing, geopolitical influence and global position.

He is wrong, and over five months of war and senseless killing continue to demonstrate this claim.

However, the American political gamble in the Middle East and the global repercussions of Washington’s self-defeating foreign policy make far less sense.

Considering Washington’s historic support for Israel, the U.S. behavior in the early days of the war was hardly a surprise.

The U.S. quickly mobilized behind Netanyahu’s war cabinet and sent aircraft carriers to the eastern Mediterranean, indicating the U.S. was ready for a major regional conflict.

Media reports began speaking of U.S. military involvement, specifically through the Delta Force, although the Pentagon claimed that the 2,000 U.S. soldiers were not deployed to fight in Gaza itself.

If it was not obvious that the U.S. was a direct partner in the war, U.S. mainstream media reports ended any doubt. On March 6, The Washington Post reported that “the United States has quietly approved and delivered more than 100 separate foreign military sales to Israel since the Gaza war began”.

With time, however, U.S. foreign policy regarding Gaza became even more perplexing.

Though in the early weeks of the war-turned-genocide, Biden questioned the death toll estimates produced by the Gaza Ministry of Health, the casualties count was no longer in doubt later on.

Asked on February 29 about the number of women and children killed by Israel during the war, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin answered without hesitation: “It’s over 25,000”.

Yet, the numbers are in constant growth, as well as U.S. shipments of weapons to Israel. “We continue to support Israel with their self-defense needs. That’s not going to change,” John Kirby, U.S. National Security Advisor, told ABC News on March 14.

This particular statement is worth a pause since it came after many media leaks regarding Biden’s frustration, in fact, outright anger in the way that Netanyahu is handling the war.

ABC News reported in early February that Biden has been “venting his frustration” over his administration’s “inability to persuade Israel to change its military tactics in Gaza.” Netanyahu, the outlet quoted Biden as saying, is “giving him hell”.

This is consistent with other recent reports, including one by Politico, claiming that Biden has privately “called the Israeli prime minister a ‘bad f*cking guy,’” also over his Gaza war stance.

Yet Netanyahu remains emboldened, to the extent that he appeared in a Fox News interview on March 11, openly speaking about ‘disagreements’ not only between Biden and Netanyahu’s governments but also between the U.S. President “and the entire Israeli people.”

It is glaringly obvious that, without continued U.S. military and other forms of support, Israel would not have been able to sustain its war on the Palestinians for more than a few weeks, thus sparing the lives of thousands of people.

Moreover, the U.S. has served as Israel’s vanguard against the vast majority of world governments who, daily, demand an immediate and unconditional ceasefire in the Strip. If it had not been for repeated U.S. vetoes at the UN Security Council, a resolution demanding a ceasefire would have surely been passed.

Despite this unconditional support, the U.S. is struggling to stave off a wider regional conflict, which is already threatening its political standing in the Middle East.

Therefore, Biden wants to regain the initiative by renewing discussions—though without commitment to real action—about a two-state solution and Gaza’s future.

Netanyahu is disinterested in these matters since his single greatest political achievement, from the viewpoint of his rightwing constituency, is that he has completely frozen any discussions on a political horizon in Palestine. For Netanyahu, losing the war means the unceremonious return to the old American political framework of the so-called “peace process.”

The embattled Israeli Prime Minister also knows that ending the war would constitute an end to his own government coalition, mostly sustained by far-right extremists like Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich. To achieve these self-serving goals, the Israeli leader is willing to sustain a clearly losing war.

Though Biden has completely “lost faith in Netanyahu,” according to the Associated Press, he continues to support Israel without openly questioning the disastrous outcomes of the war, not just on the Palestinian people, but also on the region and the world, including his own country.

Americans, especially those in Biden’s Democratic Party, must continue to increase their pressure on their administration so that it resolves its cognitive dissonance in Palestine. Biden must not be allowed to play this deadly balancing act, privately demanding for the war to stop while openly funding the Israeli war machine.

Though the majority of Americans already feel that way, Biden and his government have yet to receive the message. How many more Palestinians would have to die for Biden to hear the chants of the people, ‘Ceasefire now’?

Feature photo | March 2, 2024, Embassy of Israel, Washington, DC, USA. Thousands gathered in front of the Israeli Embassy calling for a ceasefire and demands for hands off Rafah. Robyn Stevens Brody | Sipa via AP

Dr. Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of six books. His latest book, co-edited with Ilan Pappé, is ‘Our Vision for Liberation: Engaged Palestinian Leaders and Intellectuals Speak Out’. His other books include ‘My Father was a Freedom Fighter’ and ‘The Last Earth’.

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Western media concocts ‘evidence’ UN report on Oct 7 sex crimes failed to deliver

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 07/03/2024 - 6:59pm in

Western media promoted a UN report as proof Hamas sexually assaulted Israelis. Yet the report’s authors admitted they couldn’t locate a single victim, suggested Israeli officials staged a rape scene, and denounced “inaccurate forensic interpretations.” On March 4, the United Nations released a report into sexual violence which has supposedly taken place amid the Israeli war on Gaza. The report was immediately celebrated in mainstream media outlets as proof of what scores of Israel lobbyists and journalists under their sway […]

The post Western media concocts ‘evidence’ UN report on Oct 7 sex crimes failed to deliver first appeared on The Grayzone.

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State Dept downplays reports of Israeli soldiers sexually abusing, slaughtering Palestinian women

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 24/02/2024 - 9:17am in

While falsely claiming to have received “independent confirmation” of since-debunked assertions of mass rape by Hamas, the State Department’s spokesman said he “cannot independently verify” allegations by UN human rights experts that Israeli soldiers have sexually abused and systematically slaughtered Palestinian women and girls in the besieged Gaza Strip. The US State Department has downplayed the findings of UN human rights experts who received “credible allegations” that Israeli soldiers have raped, tortured, and executed Palestinian women and girls amid their […]

The post State Dept downplays reports of Israeli soldiers sexually abusing, slaughtering Palestinian women first appeared on The Grayzone.

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UN human rights office ‘appalled’ at rape and execution of women and girls in Gaza

‘Credible’ reports of war crimes against Palestinian women by Israeli soldiers detailed in UN OHCHR statement – yet ignored by western ‘msm’

The horrific treatment of women and girls by Israeli soldiers – including rape and execution – has been condemned by the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights in a damning statement today from the ‘Special Procedures’ group of human rights experts, saying that the actions of the IDF are likely to amount to prosecutable war crimes.

The statement says that the group:

expressed alarm over credible allegations of egregious human rights violations to which Palestinian women and girls continue to be subjected in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

Palestinian women and girls have reportedly been arbitrarily executed in Gaza, often together with family members, including their children, according to information received.

“We are shocked by reports of the deliberate targeting and extrajudicial killing of Palestinian women and children in places where they sought refuge, or while fleeing. Some of them were reportedly holding white pieces of cloth when they were killed by the Israeli army or affiliated forces,” the experts said.

The experts expressed serious concern about the arbitrary detention of hundreds of Palestinian women and girls, including human rights defenders, journalists and humanitarian workers, in Gaza and the West Bank since 7 October. Many have reportedly been subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment, denied menstruation pads, food and medicine, and severely beaten. On at least one occasion, Palestinian women detained in Gaza were allegedly kept in a cage in the rain and cold, without food.

“We are particularly distressed by reports that Palestinian women and girls in detention have also been subjected to multiple forms of sexual assault, such as being stripped naked and searched by male Israeli army officers. At least two female Palestinian detainees were reportedly raped while others were reportedly threatened with rape and sexual violence,” the experts said. They also noted that photos of female detainees in degrading circumstances were also reportedly taken by the Israeli army and uploaded online.

The experts expressed concern that an unknown number of Palestinian women and children, including girls, have reportedly gone missing after contact with the Israeli army in Gaza. “There are disturbing reports of at least one female infant forcibly transferred by the Israeli army into Israel, and of children being separated from their parents, whose whereabouts remain unknown,” they said.

“We remind the Government of Israel of its obligation to uphold the right to life, safety, health, and dignity of Palestinian women and girls and to ensure that no one is subjected to violence, torture, ill-treatment or degrading treatment, including sexual violence,” the experts said.

They called for an independent, impartial, prompt, thorough and effective investigation into the allegations and for Israel to cooperate with such investigations.

“Taken together, these alleged acts may constitute grave violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, and amount to serious crimes under international criminal law that could be prosecuted under the Rome Statute,” the experts said. “Those responsible for these apparent crimes must be held accountable and victims and their families are entitled to full redress and justice,

While Israel’s atrocity propaganda claiming ‘systematic’ use of rape as a weapon of war have been characterised by an absence of evidence and a demand to be believed regardless how lurid and unfeasible the claims have been, and have quickly collapsed under scrutiny – yet have been propagated by western media and governments anyway – the UN experts’ sober claims carry weight and a call for serious investigation, but has been entirely ignored so far by the UK and US ‘mainstream’ media:

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The International Court of Justice on Gaza: ‘Good, but Not Good Enough’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 30/01/2024 - 12:27am in

The ruling of the International Court of Justice against Israel is undoubtedly momentous. By overwhelming majorities, the Court has instructed the state to abide by each of the main provisions of the Genocide Convention, and to report back within a month on the measures it has taken to comply.

On any reading, for a major Western ally – whose war had been unconditionally supported by the USA, EU and UK for over three months – to be on the receiving end of such measures is a stunning rebuke to all involved. For this to happen to the Jewish state, which rightly reminds us that Jewish victimisation was a prime reason for the Convention’s creation, and barely three months after its own people suffered genocidal atrocities at the hands of Hamas, is a remarkable turnaround.

Yet the Court’s findings and the measures it imposed were thoroughly deserved. Genocidal elements were immediately evident in Israel’s response after 7 October, as I pointed out to Byline Times readers only six days later. If its threats towards the Gazan population were carried out, I wrote, it would be "deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction", at least "in part", as the Genocide Convention puts it.

Unfortunately, they were – and more – as tens of thousands were killed, two million repeatedly displaced, and starvation and disease encouraged to spread. It gave me no pleasure to hear this clause and others from the Convention read back to Israel in the Court’s measures.

Anyone listening to the Court’s president, the US judge Joan E. Donoghue, reading its ruling should have been impressed by the gravity of the situation that they perceived in Gaza and the authority with which they laid out the case that Israel has to address. Indeed, as she repeatedly quoted from United Nations officials on the ground as well as its secretary-general, António Guterres, it was as though authority was restored in front of our eyes not only to the Court itself but to the whole UN system too.

The outcome was also a resounding vindication of South Africa, which had become a champion of justice for Gaza’s Palestinians and, in the eyes of many, of a whole Global South that regularly suffers from Western hypocrisy.

Compromise and Incoherence

Yet despite these (all too rare) glimpses of properly functioning global institutions, the Court did not go as far as it should have for the people who, it clearly suggested, are facing genocide in Gaza. South Africa had asked that the Court instruct Israel to “immediately suspend its military operations in and against Gaza” and “take no steps in furtherance” of them.

These requests were not vindictive, still less a denial of Israel’s right to defend its population. The state evidently retained the right and the capacity to protect its citizens, even though it had failed to exercise it effectively on 7 October. What these measures demanded was that Israel cease its aggressive military campaign which, the Court evidently agreed, was directed as much against the civilian population as against Hamas.

The reason that the requested wording was essential was that Israel itself claimed, and continues to even after the verdict, that it is fighting only Hamas and other armed groups –  if civilians are suffering, it is because the enemy hides behind the civilian population.

This is nonsense because Israel permits its forces outrageously loose and disproportionate targeting, which makes it legitimate in its eyes to kill scores of civilians along with each Hamas fighter, and there are now also many cases of them directly inflicting harm with no possible military purpose. It is deceitful because Israel undoubtedly knew before it started that this type of campaign would cause the total destruction of Gaza and the massive suffering that would involve, and therefore fully intended these outcomes.

It may be obvious to many observers that Israel’s justifications are nonsensical and deceitful, but these justifications matter. By phrasing its measures in the terminology of the Convention rather than in the military language that Israel itself adopts, the Court allows Israel to claim that since of course it upholds the Convention and has not been asked to cease its military operations, it is not obliged to do so.

Getting off this hook is even “a big win” for Israel, one of its propagandists has claimed. Keeping alive the possibility that there could still be legitimate Israeli military action in Gaza is therefore of great political significance. First, it fuels both elite and popular support inside Israel for continuing the violence. Second, it sustains the increasingly flimsy denials that Western politicians have parroted as they have backed Israel throughout months of genocidal war.

It should not have been difficult for the ICJ to insist, as Indian judge Dalveer Bhandari put it in an individual opinion, that “all fighting and hostilities come to an immediate halt”, making that an instruction in the case of Israel (it did not have direct jurisdiction over Hamas, since the organization is not a state, but Hamas had indicated that it would join a ceasefire).

In fudging this issue, the Court has not even gone as far as it did in 2022, when it requested the cessation of military operations by Russia after its invasion of Ukraine. Of course, it is said that Russia ignored that measure, as though that makes it justifiable for the Court not to issue it in the Gaza case. However, the situations are very different. Russia is a great power and has the implicit backing of China and much of the South, including (in its own version of hypocrisy) South Africa.

Israel is a small and regionally isolated state, opposed by the South and reliant almost entirely on the West, where public support is draining by the minute. Israel’s serious defence of the case in the ICJ showed how much is at stake for it. A Court ruling that directly challenged its ‘military’ rationale would clearly have made it more difficult for it to continue its destruction.

This failure of the Court reveals a serious incoherence in its position. The ruling, replete with extensive quotations from Israeli leaders showing genocidal intent and from UN officials about the harm already caused, made it perfectly clear that Israel’s actions could be regarded as genocidal. In this context, it made no sense at all to provide it with the slightest excuse for keeping any forces in Gaza. Is it really possible to believe that a state and army that have committed such huge atrocities can be trusted to pivot overnight towards fully legitimate, proportionate warfare, scrupulously respecting civilian rights? That would certainly be a world first.

The gravity of the failure appears even starker since the Court rightly insisted (although again eschewing more specific requests by South Africa) that Israel “take immediate and effective measures to enable the provision of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance to address the adverse conditions of life faced by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip”. Is it really possible to believe that a state that has deliberately obstructed humanitarian efforts to the point of causing mass starvation will suddenly facilitate them? It is obvious that, for the best possible humanitarian operation to be mounted, Israeli forces must completely leave Gaza.

Looked at in this light, the Court’s ‘strong’ words look flawed. The opaqueness of the judgement will make the tasks of holding Israel to account and protecting the surviving civilians significantly more difficult than they would have been if there had been explicit instructions to cease military action and withdraw.

We do not know how the judges came to their large majority decisions, but political considerations will have figured. The Western judges came from states that have strongly supported Israel and the Russian and Chinese judges from authoritarian states which may fear receipt of further instructions against themselves, over their own genocidal actions. The judgement probably represented a compromise that enabled a large majority to agree, its limits representing political rather than legal constraints.

The Ongoing Genocide Must Now be Stopped

Despite this, the demand that Israel returns to the Court within a month to show how it has complied (South Africa had asked for a week), is a crucial redeeming feature. This threatens to put Israel in the position, unless it significantly changes its policies, of directly flouting the Court, and gives an opportunity to South Africa and other states to produce evidence in case Israel fails to comply. It could conceivably lead the Court to issue blunter, more unequivocal and specific instructions, which might even include South Africa’s original requests.

Moreover, there is quite enough substance in the ruling for supporters of Gaza’s civilians to mount challenges in other arenas. There will be new pressure on Karim Khan KC, prosecutor in the International Criminal Court, to investigate the crimes of both Israeli and Hamas leaders. Algeria has already requested an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council, where pro-Palestinian states will demand action and there will be new demands for the West to back away from Israel. With elections looming in the USA, UK and the EU, the domestic pressures on their mostly slavishly pro-Israeli governments will ratchet up too.

Indeed, there was already growing friction for Israel’s war even before the Court’s hearing. It was increasingly recognised that its aim of eliminating Hamas was delusional, and some in Israel were calling on it to bank the degradation of the organisation’s capacity that it has achieved – even to call it a victory. It was clear that the hostages would not come home without a permanent ceasefire, and their families were putting increasing pressure on the government. Egypt had also refused to allow Israel to expel Gazans across its border, and this appeared to be where Joe Biden might finally have drawn a line.

The Court’s decision could therefore mark a turning point, at which Israel’s direct violence against Gaza’s civilians slows. However, for them, the situation remains catastrophic and is rapidly worsening. The cumulative effects of depriving people of food, water, shelter and medical care for over almost four months would cause many more to die even if Israel withdrew tomorrow. They will only become worse still as long as Israel retains any ability to interpose its troops between humanitarian workers and the population.

Israel’s success, even since the ruling, in persuading Western countries including the UK to withdraw funding from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which is critical to supplying Gaza (on the grounds that twelve, most of whom have been dismissed, out of its 13,000 staff had worked for Hamas), shows that its intention to block aid remains strong.

Indeed, Israel has already largely achieved what was probably its primary genocidal intention: to fundamentally cripple Gazan society and reduce its already vulnerable population to penury. On any honest reading of the Genocide Convention, it has already committed the crime, and when the International Court of Justice finally judges the case (probably in several years’ time), it will be astonishingly perverse if it does not confirm this.

Yet that is little comfort to the Palestinians who are dying and suffering in Gaza today. Supportive states and global civil society must now turn the Court’s present ruling into definitive pressure for Israel not only to cease its military operations in Gaza, but to withdraw completely from the territory, and for a massive international effort to be mounted to save its people.

Exclusive: bank locks customer’s account after donation to UNRWA

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 29/01/2024 - 10:52am in

Woman grilled minutes after payment to UN body defunded by US and UK after Israeli smears

A UK bank locked its customer’s account – and subjected her to a security grilling – minutes after she made a donation to UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency that provides a lifeline to suffering Palestinians in Gaza.

The Sunak and Biden governments have stopped providing funds to the vital agency after Israel made what appear to be unevidenced claims that some of its employees took part in the 7 October raid. Israel’s record of lies about events in Gaza – and its now-clear slaughter of many, perhaps most, of the Israeli victims on the day of the raid – means that any allegations should be treated with extreme suspicion unless thoroughly proven. Israel has also murdered dozens of UN employees as well as well over a hundred journalists.

The woman, who has asked not to be named, said:

I’ve been with my bank for at least twenty years. Today, two minutes after donating a fiver to UNRWA, I received a security call and they had blocked my card.

Skwawkbox understands that the account was later unblocked, but if this incident is not a one-off, UK banks may be helping the government enforce its decision to cut off UNRWA and the desperate Palestinians who depend on it – a move that many analysts believe is a measure to accelerate the slaughter in Gaza before Israel has to report back to the International Court of Justice on its compliance, or gaping lack of compliance, with the court’s orders to stop and prevent genocide of the Palestinians.

Update – this appears not to be an isolated incident:

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Leading UN Figure Gives Scathing Verdict on UK Government’s Climate Campaign Clampdown and “Chilling” Effect on Protest Rights

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 24/01/2024 - 12:53am in

A leading United Nations investigator has issued a stark warning to Britain over the UK Government's clampdown on protest rights, as increasing numbers of peaceful campaigners are put behind bars.

Michel Forst, the first UN Special Rapporteur on Environmental Defenders and the Aarhus Convention - a global agreement to ensure citizens’ participation in environmental issues - issued a rare condemnation of the UK Government over its approach to climate protests today (Tuesday 23).

His statement, following a visit to the UK earlier this month, paints a bleak picture of the state’s response to environmental activism in the country. During his visit, the UN official met with government officials, NGOs, climate activists, and lawyers to gather insights into the state of environmental defence in the UK.

Now in a report following his fact-finding mission, Forst - the former Secretary General of the French government’s human rights body - expresses deep concern about the increasingly severe crackdowns on environmental defenders in the UK, particularly regarding the right to peaceful protest.

He emphasises the importance of peaceful protest in a healthy democracy,  noting that protests are inherently disruptive - but also a fundamental human right, writing that he received “extremely worrying information” during his visit on the “increasingly severe crackdowns on environmental defenders” in the UK. 

Forst’s report particularly sounds the alarm over the use of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 and the Public Order Act 2023 in the UK to prosecute peaceful protesters, potentially leading to imprisonment for up to 10 years for those participating in non-violent direct action. 

He pointed to instances where UK judges have restricted environmental protesters from even discussing their motivations or mentioning climate change during trials - raising questions about the fairness and transparency of these proceedings.

The statement also highlights the severe bail conditions imposed on environmental defenders, including prohibitions on further participation in protests, and requirements for electronic monitoring, which climate groups say is impacting their personal lives and mental health before they are even found guilty of a crime. 

And Forst criticises the use of ‘civil injunctions’ - often last minute court orders - to ban protests in a particularly area or against a specific firm. He expressed concern about environmental defenders facing both criminal and civil proceedings for the same actions.

Strikingly, the report draws attention to the way environmental defenders are often derided in mainstream UK media and political discourse - leading to increased threats, abuse, and state justification for severe measures against them, and a “chilling effect” on free speech.

He writes: “By deriding environmental defenders, the media and political figures put them at risk of threats, abuse and even physical attacks from unscrupulous persons who rely on the toxic discourse to justify their own aggression. The toxic discourse may also be used by the State as justification for adopting increasingly severe and draconian measures against environmental defenders.”

Despite these threats, ‘environmental defenders’ from Extinction Rebellion to Just Stop Oil and others have expressed their determination to continue protesting for urgent climate action, recognising the grave threat posed by climate change, the UN rapporteur added. 

Forst's statement also makes clear the world faces a “triple planetary crisis” of climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution, calling for the protection of climate campaigners rather than their incarceration. 

He is now calling for a “constructive dialogue” with the UK Government to ensure that those seeking to protect the environment are not unfairly targeted or persecuted. 

Robin Wells, director of Fossil Free London, met with the UN Special Rapporteur when he visited the UK alongside other representatives from climate campaign groups engaged in civil disobedience earlier this month. 

Well said: “Our government has made its anti protest, pro fossil fuel politics clear with laws against protesting alongside a weak windfall tax and field approvals like the massive Norwegian oil field in our North Sea - Rosebank.

“Our current path means runaway climate change which is the collapse of everything we love. Protest and direct action are our only hope to force change. The undermining of these rights undermines our rights to survival itself.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The right to protest is a fundamental part of our democracy but we must also protect the law-abiding majority’s right to go about their daily lives.

"While decisions on custodial sentences are a matter for the independent judiciary, the Public Order Act brings in new criminal offences and proper penalties for selfish, guerrilla protest tactics."

UN Special Rapporteur’s Statement - Extract

"As the UN Human Rights Committee has made clear, States have a duty to facilitate the right to protest, and private entities and broader society may be expected to accept some level of disruption as a result of the exercise of this right. During my visit, however, I learned that, in the UK, peaceful protesters are being prosecuted and convicted under the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022, for the criminal offence of “public nuisance”, which is punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment. 

"I was also informed that the Public Order Act 2023 is being used to further criminalize peaceful protest. In December 2023, a peaceful climate protester who took part for approximately 30 minutes in a slow march on a public road was sentenced to six months imprisonment under the 2023 law. 

"That case is currently on appeal, but it is important to highlight that, prior to these legislative developments, it had been almost unheard of since the 1930s for members of the public to be imprisoned for peaceful protest in the UK. I am therefore seriously concerned by these regressive new laws. 

"I was also alarmed to learn that, in some recent cases, presiding judges have forbidden environmental defenders from explaining to the jury their motivation for participating in a given protest or from mentioning climate change at all. It is very difficult to understand what could justify denying the jury the opportunity to hear the reason for the defendant’s action, and how a jury could reach a properly informed decision without hearing it, in particular at the time of environmental defenders’ peaceful but ever more urgent calls for the government to take pressing action for the climate. 

"I also received highly concerning information regarding the harsh bail conditions being imposed on peaceful environmental defenders while awaiting their criminal trial. These have included prohibitions on engaging in any protest, from having contact with others involved in their environmental movement or from going to particular areas. Some environmental defenders have also been required to wear electronic ankle tags, some including a 10pm-7am curfew, and others, GPS tracking. 

"Under the current timeframes of the criminal justice system, environmental defenders may be on bail for up to 2 years from the date of arrest to their eventual criminal trial. Such severe bail conditions have significant impacts on the environmental defenders’ personal lives and mental health and I seriously question the necessity and proportionality of such conditions for persons engaging in peaceful protest. 

"In addition to the new criminal offences, I am deeply troubled at the use of civil injunctions to ban protest in certain areas, including on public roadways. Anyone who breaches these injunctions is liable for up to 2 years imprisonment and an unlimited fine. Even persons who have been named on one of these injunctions without first being informed about it – which, to date, has largely been the case – can be held liable for the legal costs incurred to obtain the injunction and face an unlimited fine and imprisonment for breaching it. 

"The fact that a significant number of environmental defenders are currently facing both a criminal trial and civil injunction proceedings for their involvement in a climate protest on a UK public road or motorway, and hence are being punished twice for the same action, is also a matter of grave concern to me. I am also distressed to see how environmental defenders are derided by some of the mainstream UK media and in the political sphere. 

"By deriding environmental defenders, the media and political figures put them at risk of threats, abuse and even physical attacks from unscrupulous persons who rely on the toxic discourse to justify their own aggression. The toxic discourse may also be used by the State as justification for adopting increasingly severe and draconian measures against environmental defenders. 

"In the course of my visit, I witnessed firsthand that this is precisely what is taking place in the UK right now. This has a significant chilling effect on civil society and the exercise of fundamental freedoms. As a final note, during my visit, UK environmental defenders told me that, despite the personal risks they face, they will continue to protest for urgent and effective action to address climate change. For them, the threat of climate change and its devastating impacts are far too serious and significant not to continue raising their voice, even when faced with imprisonment. 

"We are in the midst of a triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution. Environmental defenders are acting for the benefit of us all. It is therefore imperative that we ensure that they are protected. While the gravity of the information I received during my visit leads me to issue the present statement to express my concerns without delay, I will continue to look more deeply into each of the issues raised during my visit and in the formal complaints submitted to my mandate. 

"In this regard, I also look forward to engaging in a constructive dialogue with the Government of the United Kingdom in order to ensure that members of the public in the UK seeking to protect the environment are not subject to persecution, penalization or harassment for doing so." 

Read the full statement here.

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Police charge Palestine Solidarity activist for backing legal right to resist occupation

Mick Napier charged with ‘support for proscribed organization’ under Terrorism Act as Establishment attempt to suppress solidarity with Palestine continues

Palestine Solidarity Activist Mick Napier, a founder of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, has been charged under anti-terror legislation after giving a speech in Glasgow in which he said:

I agree with the Palestinian right to resist by means that they choose.

Napier has been charged under the Terrorism Act with supporting a ‘proscribed organisation’. He also thanked Hamas for ‘breaking out of the Gaza concentration camp’. He was arrested at the demo, shortly afterward. According to Electronic Intifada, police officers told Napier that he was being arrested for ‘religiously aggravated’ offences.

Hamas was made a proscribed organisation by the UK government on the basis of its rocket attacks on Israel – but is not listed as a terror group by the United Nations and the UN defeated an attempted 2020 US resolution condemning the group for its rocket attacks. It is widely recognised that the right to resist occupation is protected under international law as part of the human right of self-determination, including the use of force consistent with the UN charter. It appears the UK Establishment is applying the Terrorism Act in a way inconsistent with international law.

Napier is not the only human rights advocate targeted by police. As Skwawkbox exclusively reported, Brighton-based Tony Greenstein was arrested earlier this week and suffered the confiscation of his electronics, for a single tweet, after what is believed to have been a complaint from a right-wing pro-Israel group. He was released without charge on police bail, but under a series of draconian bail conditions that attack his freedom of speech as well as his privacy.

Mick Napier was released on bail under similarly draconian conditions banning him from attending any protest in Scotland and from entering the centre of Glasgow. He pleaded not guilty to all five charges and is due to appear in court 9 January. PSC Scotland – a separate organisation from the English PSC – has said it will give him full support.

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