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IOS Minaret Vol-1, No.1 (March 2007)
Vol. 9    Issue 08   01-15 September 2014

Israel and the Looming Spectre of Delegitimisation

Israel may have won the brutal war – which it started of its own accord – against Gaza and the Palestinians, but it has already lost the moral war. This is testified by the wave of massive protests around of the world against the Gaza onslaught and the hegemonic and racist policies of the Israeli government, in which substantial numbers of Jews also participated, and Israel’s growing international isolation.

The outlaw state of Israel

Richard Falk and Akbar Ganji

Since 1948 Israel has drawn a long list of military aggression, human rights violations and war crimes.

Israel has become an outlaw state. In his book, The Law of Peoples, John Rawls defines an outlaw state as one that systematically violates the universal principles of human rights, and commits aggression against other nations. Israel is guilty of repeated such violations as well as several massive acts of aggression, making it reasonable and responsible to identify it as an outlaw state. Israel's military aggressions against other countries.

Israel was born in 1948. Resolution 181 of the United Nations General Assembly is widely regarded as the most convincing legal basis for founding the State of Israel. At that time Palestinians were awarded 45 percent of historic Palestine, while 54 percent was allocated to Israel, and 1 percent was set aside as a special zone to be used for the internationalised city of Jerusalem.

After the 1948 War with the neighbouring Arab nations, Israel's territorial gains reduced the Palestinian share to only 22 percent. In the 1967 War, Israel occupied the remaining Palestinian territory, which had been administered since 1948 by Jordan and Egypt, and since that time has encroached on occupied Palestine in major unlawful ways, rendering impossible the project of a Palestinian state. Additionally, Israel has launched a series of brutal aggressive attacks against Gaza (2008-09, 2012, 2014) violating international law, the UN Charter, and the laws of war.

Further aggravating Israel's reputation are numerous acts of aggression against several other sovereign states: Military attacks on Iraq in June 1981 that destroyed Osirak nuclear reactor that was under construction to disrupt Iraq's nuclear programme and to perpetuate Israel's regional monopoly over nuclear weaponry. Invasions of Lebanon in 1978 and 1982, coupled with the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon until 2000. In September 1982 Israel was complicit in the Sabra and Shatila massacre carried out by Maronite Phalangist militia units in which between 1500 and 3000 Palestinian women, children, and disabled persons were murdered in cold blood. Military attack on the PLO Headquarters in Hamman, Tunisia in October 1985, killing 60, which was condemned by the UN Security Council. Invasion of southern Lebanon in 2006 that resulted in the 33 days warfare directed at Hezbollah, the destruction of residential sections in the southern Beirut, applying the "Dahiya Doctrine" - the rationalisation given for unlawful Israeli reliance on disproportionate military power used against the Palestinian people.

Attacks on October 2, 2007 on Syria destroyed its nuclear reactor in Deir ez-Zor region.

The attack in May 2010 in international waters on the Turkish passenger ship Mavi Marmara that was part of the Freedom Flotilla bringing humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza in defiance of the international blockade, killing nine Turkish nonviolent peace activists. Three unlawful military attacks on Syria in 2013 and 2014. Repeated military attacks in Sudan in 2009, 2011, and 2012, supposedly to disrupt the supply of weapons to Hamas in Gaza, causing many deaths. In addition, Israel has occupied Syria's Golan Heights since 1967, built unlawful settlements, and established a permanent presence. Israel has refused to withdraw from the West Bank and East Jerusalem, as called for by unanimous Security Council Resolution 242.

Israel secretly and illegitimately acquired an arsenal of an estimated 300 nuclear warheads, becoming the only nuclear power in the Middle East, and the only country in the world that refuses to acknowledge its possession of nuclear weapons. Systematic violations of human rights and the apartheid regime.

Former US President Jimmy Carter declared in his book Palestine: Peace not Apartheid that Israel's occupation regime in the West Bank possesses the systematic discriminatory features of an apartheid regime. As well, the Palestinian minority resident in Israel is subject to fifty discriminatory laws that restrict their individual and collective rights. The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court treats apartheid as a crime against humanity. Palestinians in the West Bank have been living without the protection of law or the possession of rights since 1967, being subject to military administration and the oppressive practices of the Palestinian Authority, while the unlawful settler population enjoys the full protection of Israel's rule of law.

As Gideon Levy, the progressive Israeli journalist writes, Israel is "only a democracy for its Jewish citizens who are quick to fall in line with the mainstream every time Israeli tanks roll across the border." Jewish citizens of Israel who dare oppose their country's aggressions are often attacked and threatened. Palestinian Israelis are treated worse, harshly restricted and subject to acute suspicion whenever a security issue arises.

Israel removed its military forces and settlers from the Gaza Strip in its "disengagement" initiative in 2005, but in actuality kept effective control of Gaza, and remained bound by the obligations as an occupying power contained in international humanitarian law.

In effect, Israel transformed the conditions of life in Gaza from direct military administration to life imprisonment of the population in the largest open-air jail on earth. Israel retained its total control of Gaza's entrances and exits, of its airspace and offshore waters, disrupting life within the prison walls by lethal periodic violent incursions. Most Palestinian people living in Gaza have effectively been locked in ever since 1967, unconditionally since 2007. During this period, Israel has periodically launched massive military operations against Gaza; imposed and maintained an illegal blockade; committed frequent acts of cross-border violence; and committed numerous grave war crimes: Israel attacked Gaza in 2008-2009, killing more than 1400 Palestinians, injuring 5300, creating 51,000 internal refugees, destroying 4000 homes, inflicting $4bn economic damage, and disallowing the delivery of materials needed for reconstruction efforts. Israel's attacks on Gaza in 2012 killed 173 and injured 1,221, provoked by the Israeli targeted assassination of the Hamas military leader, Ahmed Jabari, as he was delivering a signed truce document.

Israel's 2014 aggression against Gaza launched on July 8 has so far killed more than 2,000 Palestinians, injured nearly 10,181, with 75-80 percent of the casualties being civilians. This massive Israeli military operation has caused more than 660,000 Gazans to be internally displaced, highlighting the denial of any right of Palestinians to leave the combat area throughout the military onslaught that has terrorised the entire population of Gaza. It is estimated that 459 Palestinian children were killed and as many as 3,000 injured.

In contrast, Israel's losses in this attack have led to 68 Israeli deaths, of whom 65 were soldiers. The casualty disparity and the ratio of military to civilian deaths are significant indicators of how to apportion moral responsibility of the carnage caused.

The US as Israel's servant

The United States has supported Israel without reservations since its founding in 1948. According to an agreement between the two countries, that has become a law in the US, the US has committed itself to preserve Israel's strategic and military superiority in relation to other countries in the Middle East. From 1949 till today, the US has provided Israel with nearly $122bn in aid, calculated by reference to fixed dollars.

Counting the aid to Israel in 2003 dollars, from 1949 - 2003 the US has provided Israel with $140bn worth of military assistance, which has been increasing since 2003. The basic annual commitment to Israel is $3.1bn, which is far more than military aid that has been given to any other country in the world, and this figure is an understatement, hiding a variety of supplemental appropriations and other benefits accorded uniquely to Israel. In effect, the US has been subsidising Israel's aggressions, and ignoring military assistance legislation that seeks to withhold such aid to countries that are not acting defensively and in accordance with international law. The Obama administration has even increased the aid to Israel through its reliance on various special appropriations. Most recently Congress appropriated an additional $225m for further development of the Iron Dome derence system.

The US Senate has even approved a resolution according to which if Israel attacks Iran's nuclear sites in the future defying international law, the US is obligated to help Israel. It reads in part, "If the Government of Israel is compelled to take military action in legitimate self-defense against Iran's nuclear weapons program, the United States Government should stand with Israel and provide, in accordance with United States law and the constitutional responsibility of Congress to authorize the use of military force, diplomatic, military, and economic support to the Government of Israel in its defense of its territory, people, and existence." Of course, the language as written of "legitimate self-defence" is understood to mean any action taken by Israel that is alleged to be "defensive", whether or not in conformity to international law, which limits such claims to situations of response to prior armed attacks.

Among the many UNSC resolutions that seek to criticise or condemn Israel for its actions against the Palestinians, almost all have been vetoed by the US. In fact, the US government opposes virtually every resolution approved by any UN organ, including UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), if it is deemed to be critical of Israel, and this includes even initiatives to establish fact-finding commissions of inquiry to determine whether charges of war crimes are well-founded.

When Israel attacks the defenceless and completely vulnerable Palestinian people, the US justifies such high-intensity and disproportionate violence as "self-defence", obstructs the issuance of a UN call for an immediate ceasefire, and gives diplomatic and material aid and comfort to Israeli aggression from start to finish.

After the fact-finding "Goldstone Report" on Israel war crimes in Gaza in 2008-2009 was approved by UNHRC, the US and Israel successfully intervened with the Secretary General to prompt him to urge the non-implementation of the report in relation to Israeli accountability for war crimes. The US government also used its leverage to prevent even the discussion of this important report in the UNSC. When recently, the UNHRC approved a resolution to investigate Israel's war crimes in Gaza, the US cast the only negative vote.

Amnesty International has reported that the evidence of systematic attacks by Israel's military forces on schools and hospitals in Gaza during the current warfare is overwhelming. It includes targeting civilians who have sought shelter from Israeli attacks in United Nations schools and other buildings marked with the UN logo.

Human Rights Watch has reported on evidence of intentional shooting of Palestinians who were fleeing their homes, even after they had been ordered to do so by Israel's military, and has declared such behaviour to be a war crime. We can only comprehend this partisan pattern of US policy toward Israel by taking account of the leverage exerted on the government by the formidable lobby working on behalf of Israel known. Former President Jimmy Carter and the former President of Ireland and former Head of the UNHRC Mary Robinson have condemned this one-sidedness of US policy toward Israel and Hamas, insisting that as a first step Israel immediately ends without conditions the blockade of Gaza, allowing the people of Gaza to have finally some semblance of a normal life.


The US policy toward Israel has had dire consequences: It has completely discredited the US government's claim to act as an impartial arbitrator between Israel and the Palestinians. Hatred and resentment toward the US has been increasing throughout the region, not only because of its blind support of Israel, but also because of its military onslaughts against Iraq, Libya, and Afghanistan, and drone attacks in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and elsewhere.

According to a poll conducted right before the current war, 85 percent of Egyptians and Jordanians, 73 percent of Turks, and 66 percent of Palestinians view the US unfavourably, while 84 percent of Israelis have a positive view of the US. What Israel has done in the region with the support of the US has contributed greatly to the growth of extremism and discord throughout the Middle East. If such policies are not reversed even more chaos, extremist violence, bloodshed, and devastation are likely to emerge in the future. The Middle East and North Africa have been unstable for decades, and the consequences of the intensifying instability are spreading to other regions and endangering world peace.

These policies of unconditional support for Israel are going against the US national interests. The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is the mother of all problems in the Middle East. Israel has undermined all efforts to find a peaceful solution by way of diplomacy. It has rejected both the Arab Initiative of 2002 and the roadmap proposed by the Quartet - the US, Russia, the European Union, and the UN - which require Israel to withdraw to its pre-1967 borders with the expectation that a sovereign and independent Palestinian state would emerge.

What is required of Israel as a precondition for peace - set forth in Security Council Resolution 242 and reaffirmed since its unanimous adoption in 1967 - enjoys support worldwide. It should be understood that ending the occupation of the Palestinian territories is not by itself sufficient to achieve a sustainable peace. Of paramount importance is also some arrangement that acknowledges the rights of several million Palestinian refugees who were forcibly expelled over the course of many years from Israel, most dramatically in the 1948 Nakba, the Palestinian national catastrophe.

There are also serious questions at this time as to whether the two-state solution is a viable and desirable goal, if it ever was. The question of Palestinian self-determination as the proper foundation for a sustained just peace is more open to debate and reflection in 2014 than ever before. Israel's expansionism has put the international two-state consensus under question, and the international community, along with representatives of the Palestinian people must now consider new ways to achieve a just peace for both peoples, which cannot be realised without upholding Palestinian rights.

We believe that a crucial step in this direction is the widespread acknowledgement that Israel has become an outlaw state, and that appropriate adjustments to this reality must be made.

Richard Falk is Albert G Milbank Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University and Research Fellow, Orfalea Center of Global Studies. He is also Former UN Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights.

Akbar Ganji is one of Iran's leading political dissidents and has received over a dozen human rights awards for his efforts. Imprisoned in Iran until 2006, he is the author of The Road to Democracy in Iran, which lays out a strategy for a non-violent transition to democracy in Iran.

(Source: Al Jazeera, August 20-21, 2014)

Moderate or zealot on Israel: No real difference

Moderate and extreme supporters of Israel wrap the same moral attitude in different public narratives.

Stuart Rees

Distinguished Israeli novelist David Grossman writes that at the centre of Israeli citizens' being there is a void of consciousness "in which an efficient suspension of moral judgment prevails, a failure to notice the injustice at the root of the entire situation".

Given the attitude of Israel's supporters around the world, it looks as though their moral judgment has also been suspended, not only in regard to Israel's latest slaughter in Gaza, but also in their decades-long oppression of the Palestinian people.

Attitudes regarding the onslaught in Gaza can be gauged along a continuum. A first group are moderate often silent supporters. In the middle sit the "double standards" commentators. At the far end are the "racist zealots" who don't appear to regard Palestinians as human beings.

Moderate often silent

Moderate supporters include those who seldom question the human rights abuses of the Israeli government. They fear being called anti-Semitic, or if they happen to be Jewish, a self-hating Jew. Mainstream media outlets appear to be frightened to be even-handed in their commentaries about the Israeli occupation and the current Gaza slaughter. Staff at the Australian broadcaster (the ABC) admit that to be balanced about Israel's policies is to invite a barrage of hate mail accusing the organisation of being anti-Semitic.

The New York Times has been judged, by Patrick Connors in Mondoweiss, to have shown, "a seemingly unembarrassed willingness to promote Israeli perspectives no matter how obviously outrageous they might be". That's not surprising. Writing in The Huffington Post, Professor Stephen Walt explained that of course the influence of the American Jewish Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) demands that Washington march in lockstep with Tel Aviv.

The not so silent supporters include those whose strategy is to deflect attention from human rights abuses. Israel, they say, is a civilised, democratic state, far more civilised than its critics: Israeli doctors treat injured Palestinians, Palestinian citizens are told when they will be bombed, Israeli scientists have invented products valued around the world. The strategy is to hide Israeli government abuses with claims about Israeli virtues and Arab vices.

Academics might see themselves as libertarians yet cooperate with Israeli universities which facilitate the Gaza slaughter. The Tel Aviv University is giving students who have served in the attack one year of free tuition. The Hebrew University organised a collection of goods - including food and medical supplies "for the soldiers at the front".

Double standards operatives

The double standards operatives condemn Hamas but make little mention of Israeli aggression. They talk about peace yet turn a blind eye to the manic extension of Israeli settlements on Palestinian lands.

This group includes leaders of the Australian and Canadian governments whose statements defending Israel ride roughshod over international law and include the pretence - in the case of an Australian attorney general and foreign minister - that they are unaware of any international law which prohibits stealing other people's land in order to build settlements.

The behaviour of Australian and Canadian politicians is more than emulated by members of the US Congress who cannot speak to Hamas and continue to supply arms to the Israeli government. They dare not do otherwise. Professor Walt wrote that US politicians have continued to support Israel unreservedly even though every US President since Lyndon Johnson has opposed Israel's settlement project. But, he concluded, US politicians "understand that even the slightest display of independent thinking on these issues would leave them vulnerable to a well-funded opponent the next time they are up for re-election".

Christian fundamentalists' support for Israel's aggression is the reverse of what might be considered Christianity. At a recent conference of Christian supporters in the US, the Israeli ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer, said that Israeli soldiers were dying so that innocent Palestinians could live. He also claimed, "The Israeli defence forces should be given the Nobel Peace Prize for fighting with unimaginable restraint." This seems to be an echo of an editorial in The Australian newspaper, just before the land invasion of Gaza began, "In some respects Israel is doing remarkably less than it should."

Racist zealots

Racist zealots mock the idea of civility. Ayelet Shaked of the Jewish Home Party called for the slaughter of Palestinian mothers who give birth to "little snakes": "They have to die and their houses should be demolished." Dr Mordechai Kedar, an Israeli scholar of Arabic literature at Bar-Ilan University has declared that raping the wives and mothers of Palestinian combatants would deter attacks from Hamas.

A Mr Ron Danko, (that may not be his real name) who regularly sends me hate mail, writes: "We will build more houses and communities on OUR LAND (the best revenge), and name it after these (Israeli soldiers) killed by terrorists and via proxy by you."

In the Wall Street Journal, New York University Senior Fellow in the School of Law Thane Rosenbaum wrote that Palestinians in Gaza "forfeit [their] right to be called civilians when [they] freely elect members of a terrorist organization as statesmen, invite them to dinner with blood on their hands and allow them set up shop in [their]living room as their base for operations." This, he said, justified the Israeli attacks on any people in Gaza.

Their common ground

Despite variations in degrees of indifference towards Palestinians, or in the explicitness of pleasure in the revenge exacted on them, there is common ground in the attitudes of supporters of Israel's military actions.

The Israeli right or wrong lobbies have supported Israel's claims that by attacking Hamas for their rocket attacks on Israeli cities, they were defending Israel. Yet numerous commentators agree that Israel's motive for the attack on Gaza was to smash the Fatah/Hamas unity government. Israel supporters agree with the claim that Hamas uses civilians as human shields even when there is no place to hide and the killings include children in schools and on beaches, in UN compounds, disabled people in institutions and complete extended families who had nothing to do with Hamas.

These supporters avoid reference to the human rights of Palestinians, to their right to defend themselves. Neither do they consider the consequences of the prolonged siege of Gaza and the endless occupation. The supporters don't disagree with claims about the IDF's humanity, as in killing people for their own good.

In an article about Israeli police dumping a sick Palestinian to die on a roadside, David Grossman concluded that the Israeli nation "has dumped a whole other nation on the side of the road and has backed the process to the hilt over 45 years". Israel had engaged, he wrote, "in a brilliant genius-like denial of its own responsibility for the situation." So it is with the moderates, the double standards operatives and the racist zealots. Cosy in their living rooms or in their secure employment, the moderates would no doubt protest at being lumped together with the zealots but in terms of the outcome for the people of Gaza, they are no different.

In their common ground lies guilt by association via cooperation with collective punishment - collusion with the latest slaughter.

Stuart Rees is Professor Emeritus of the University of Sydney.

(Source: Al Jazeera, August 19, 2014)

Righteous in Holland and Gaza

HENK ZANOLI (pictured) is a 91-year-old retired Dutch lawyer whose personal history encapsulates the reasons why the Netherlands and Israel have had such friendly relations since the foundation of the Jewish state in the wake of the second world war. Mr Zanoli's family was, as the Dutch put it, "right in the war"—i.e. members of the resistance. In 1943 Mr Zanoli escorted an 11-year-old Jewish boy from Amsterdam, Elchanan Pinto, back to the family home in the village of Eemnes, where he and his mother Johanna hid him for the rest of the war. (His father, Henk Senior, had already been sent to a concentration camp for his resistance activities; he would die at Mauthausen.) Mr Pinto subsequently emigrated to Israel. Three years ago, the Israeli Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem awarded its "Righteous Among the Nations" medal, given to non-Jews who rescued Jews from the Nazis, to Mr Zanoli and (posthumously) his mother.

On August 11th Haaretz's Amira Hass reports, Mr Zanoli sent Yad Vashem its medal back. Mr Zanoli's great-niece, Angelique Eijpe, is a Dutch diplomat, deputy head of the country's mission in Oman, and her husband, Ismail Zi'adah, is a Palestinian economist who was born in Gaza's al-Bureij refugee camp. On July 20th the Zi'adah family house in al-Bureij was hit by an Israeli bomb, killing six members of the extended family, including the family matriarch, three of her sons, and a 12-year-old grandson. In an elegant and sorrowful letter to Israel's ambassador in The Hague, Mr Zanoli explained that he could not in good conscience keep the Israeli medal.

I understand that in your professional role, in which I am addressing you here, you may not be able to express understanding for my decision. However, I am convinced that at both a personal and human level you will have a profound understanding of the fact that for me to hold on to the honour granted by the State of Israel, under these circumstances, will be both an insult to the memory of my courageous mother who risked her life and that of her children fighting against suppression and for the preservation of human life as well as an insult to those in my family, four generations on, who lost no less than six of their relatives in Gaza at the hands of the State of Israel.

It is the style of Mr Zanoli's letter, as much as its content, that is most striking. His graceful acknowledgement of the professional limitations that govern his correspondence with the ambassador seems to come from a different era, the years when the modest, correctly dressed, multilingual members of the Dutch educated class threw themselves into an effort to build a peaceful postwar order. The phrase that animated Jews and Zionists in those years was "never again"; the corresponding Dutch postwar phrase, dat nooit meer, has a more prosaic ring, a sense of simple horror and exhaustion. The dignity and generosity of those postwar generations of Dutch won the country worldwide respect, and encountering them remains such a pleasure that it erases the less wholesome impression some of the Netherlands' more recent politicians have created. Mr Zanoli's voice seems to come straight out of those postwar years, which were also the period when the equally impressive first generation of Israeli leaders were winning Europe and America's support to establish their country as part of the new international order.

This makes it all the more striking to read of the evolution of Mr Zanoli's views on the Israel-Palestine question.

After the horror of the holocaust my family strongly supported the Jewish people also with regard to their aspirations to build a national home. Over more than six decades I have however slowly come to realize that the Zionist project had from its beginning a racist element in it in aspiring to build a state exclusively for Jews. As a consequence, ethnic cleansing took place at the time of the establishment of your state and your state continues to suppress the Palestinian people on the West Bank and in Gaza who live under Israeli occupation since 1967. The actions of your state in Gaza these days have already resulted in serious accusations of war crimes and crimes against humanity...The only way out of the quagmire the Jewish people of Israel have gotten themselves into is by granting all living under the control of the State of Israel the same political rights and social and economic rights and opportunities.

This is a call for a one-state solution to the Palestine-Israel question, rather than the two-state one still supported by most Europeans. The longer Israel fails to close a deal on a two-state solution, and the more suffering and death its occupation of the West Bank and periodic wars in Gaza inflict on Palestinians, the more it risks convincing Europeans that the very idea of a separate Jewish state is by nature racist and oppressive. This is the prospect of "delegitimisation" about which we wrote earlier this month. The practical consequences for Israel of provoking such European enmity are serious, but the moral consequences are more serious still. Israel has always been a state whose legitimacy is founded on a moral narrative, that of the escape from anti-Semitic persecution, of "never again".

In Nathan Englander's short story "What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank," a secular Jewish couple in Florida and an ultra-orthodox one from Jerusalem find themselves playing a drinking game they call "Who Will Hide Me?" The game, which soon turns bitterly serious, is to run through one's acquaintances and decide: if the Holocaust were to happen again, who would hide you, and who would turn you in? With Mr Zanoli, you don't need to ask. You know he would hide you because he did. He was 20 years old when he took Elchanan Pinto on the train back from Amsterdam, where Anne Frank was still hiding in her attic. The political cost to Israel of its bombardment of Gaza and its occupation of the West Bank is that it may be delegitimised among Europeans who once supported it. The moral cost, though, is that it loses the sympathy of those rare people whose ethical compasses run so true that they will defy social consensus even at risk of death, the people Yad Vashem correctly calls the righteous.

(Source: The Economist, August 15, 2014)

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