Palestine seeks to charge Israel with ‘apartheid’ and war crimes at the Hague

Published by Mondoweiss

Palestinian leaders seek to charge Israel at the International Criminal Court in The Hague with the crime of “Apartheid” and 22 other criminal counts, including seven war crimes. A thick set of documents containing evidence and arguments was ceremoniously handed over to the ICC today at its headquarters, according to Shawan Jabarin, the director of the Palestinian human rights group Al Haq.

Jabarin said he had seen the documents in Ramallah and that the case file covers three areas of Israeli violations under international law: the summer war in Gaza in 2014, settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and issues relating to Palestinian prisoners. Most of the pages are of “legal analysis and legal arguments” he said, in which Palestinians gave technical explanations to the court for how Israel broke specific regulations. 

The dossier is organized into sections, one for each of the 23 counts against Israel. Aside from asserting that Israel has violated the United Nations definition of “Apartheid,” Jabarin said the report also names specific crimes such as the “targeting of civilians” in Gaza, and violations of rights to due process for Palestinian detainees held in Israeli prisons who are then prosecuted under Israeli military code. 

Military courts boast a 99.9% conviction rate and trials last an average of five minutes. Palestinians rights groups say these courts violate their fundamental rights to a fair trial. Additionally, Israel transfers Palestinians from the occupied territory to a number of prisons inside Israel in what the Palestinian brief argues is a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.  

The evidence used to support each of the Palestinian claims is sourced from field investigations by the Palestinian government, and reports published by the human rights groups Al Haq, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. Surprisingly Jabarin indicated the United Nations Human Rights Council’s (UNHRC) report published Sunday outlining “possible war crimes” committed by Israel and Hamas was not included, despite Palestinian leaders stating repeatedly over the past few months that they would courier a copy to the ICC. Even so, the court has the ability to solicit their own research materials including ordering the UN report. 

For the moment Palestinian officials are keeping quiet on the details. Jabarin’s account represents the most substantial clues as to what charges Palestine will seek against Israel. And while he was confident about what he had seen in the file, he noted that he had not read the entire file, and it may contain further charges.

“It’s not for public view,” Ashraf Khatib, a spokesperson for the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and an advisor to the negotiations team, told me. “We wanted to have an exclusive report made for the ICC.” Another source close to the Palestinian government indicated a directive had gone out to not disclose the contents of the brief. 

“Who is charged, it’s up to the court,” said Khatib. “The idea is to make sure Israel and Israeli decision makers will not commit more crimes like the ones that took place in Gaza last year.”

Last winter after Palestine joined the ICC, its leaders sought to compel the ICC to look into war crimes committed by Israel. However, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was barred at that time from calling for a criminal investigation. His hands were tied by a four-month waiting period for new members to the court.

All the same, Palestinian officials exploited a loophole in the ICC rules to initiate a “preliminary inquiry” against Israel within their first months of joining the ICC. Now that freeze against filing charges against Israel has elapsed, Palestinian officials hope that their documents turned over to the court today will upgrade the inquiry into a full investigation, giving the court the power to summons Israeli officials for a trial. 

Yet there is no guarantee that the court will charge Israel, and Israel can still take actions that would immobilize The Hague. 

The ICC can only move to charge Israel once its internal war crimes investigations closes. The ICC does not prosecute countries or leaders who are sanctioned by their own legal systems. Right now, Israel still has a handful of cases open that could lead to indictments. 

On the other hand, prosecution in the ICC could be nearing for Hamas for the alleged war crimes it committed during the war, including the targeting of civilians by rocket fire and the killings of so-called collaborators. The UN Human Rights Council report revealed the Islamic movement that rules Gaza does not have any system of internal review, which is the only mechanism that could outright block the ICC from opening charges. As a result, Hamas is currently more exposed to the long arm of the ICC than Israel.

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UK actors, directors and writers demand immediate sanctions on Israel

Published by the Palestine News Network

Actors, authors, academics and architects have today called on the UK government to push for immediate sanctions on Israel until it abides by international law and ends its occupation of Palestinian land. 

They join other big names from the world of film and rock music, as well as 20,000 members of the public, who have signed a petition which will be delivered at the Houses of Parliament today.

The film directors, Ken Loach and Peter Kosminsky, actors Maxine Peake, Samuel West and Miriam Margolyes, musician Brian Eno, poet Benjamin Zephaniah and the writers and academics, Tariq Ali and Karma Nabulsi, are among those* who have put their name to the call.

Will Alsop OBE, the RIBA award winning architect, another signatory, said: “‘I have signed the petition as I object to the people in the Gaza Strip being forced to live in a prison camp.”

Miriam Margolyes OBE, who played Professor Sprout in the Harry Potter films, said: “To my immense sadness, I feel bound to sign the petition calling for sanctions against Israel.

“Netanyahu is clearly committed to the continuation of the occupation, the settlements and the blatant flouting of UN resolutions. Only international sanctions can perhaps percolate the Israeli sensibility and persuade them to halt the wickedness they perpetrate.”

Explaining his reasons for adding his name to the petition, the film director Ken Loach said: “We should no longer accept Israel’s brazen flouting of international law, theft of Palestinian land and oppression of the Palestinian people. When political leaders tolerate such brutality, civil society must take action. That means an international campaign of boycotts, disinvestments and sanctions to show the Israeli government that it cannot act in this manner with impunity.”

The petition has been organised by Palestine Solidarity Campaign, an organisation dedicated to campaigning for human rights and justice, in response to the hardline attitude of Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and his Cabinet, whose members have been vocal in voicing their opposition to a Palestinian state.*

Hugh Lanning, Chair of Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said: “One day before he was re-elected in March, Netanyahu stood in an illegal Israeli settlement and gave a televised interview in which he made it clear there would never be a Palestinian state on his watch.

“Since the election, members of his Cabinet have stated explicitly that they will not give up an inch of land to the Palestinians, and new settlement building has been announced in East Jerusalem.

“It is clear that this Israeli government, like others before it, has no commitment to international law or any kind of ‘peace process’. It is now imperative that our government pushes the EU to impose immediate sanctions on Israel, including a full two-way arms embargo.

“The Palestinians deserve a future free from occupation, apartheid and, in Gaza, crippling siege. The imposition of sanctions by our government and the EU will go a long way to achieving this.”

Lanning will join Richard Burden MP, Chair of the Britain-Palestine All Party Group, Haya Al-Farra from the Palestinian Mission in the UK, and Sarah Colborne, Director of Palestine Solidarity Campaign, to deliver the petition to the office of the Prime Minister.

The hand-in will take place at 2.15pm on 23rd June, during PSC’s National Lobby of Parliament for Palestine, during which up to 168 MPs will be lobbied by constituents on the subject of Palestine.

*Signatories to the petition include: Tariq Ali (writer, journalist, filmmaker), Will Alsop (architect), Jonathan Chadwick (theatre director, writer), Selma Dabbagh (writer),Brian Eno (musician),Peter Kosminsky (writer, director, producer), Paul Laverty (lawyer, scriptwriter),Ken Loach (director), Miriam Margolyes (actor), Karma Nabulsi (writer, academic), Maxine Peake (actor), Alexei Sayle (comedian, writer, presenter), Ahdaf Soueif (writer, commentator), Samuel West (actor), Benjamin Zephaniah (poet, writer, musician).

The bigger picture of the Negev’s Um al-Hiran

By Nadim Nashif and Dalal Hilou, published by the Huffington Post

For the past 60 years, Arab Palestinian Bedouin populations in the Negev desert in southern Israel have struggled to simply stay on their land in the face of discrimination and the threat of displacement. For residents of Umm al-Hiran in the southern Naqab — the Arabic term for the Negev — time is running out on a 12-year legal battle against demolition.

The fate of Umm al-Hiran matters to us at Baladna-Association of Arab Youth, just as it matters for the rest of the Palestinian citizens of Israel. We account for 20 percent of Israel’s population, yet our ability to build and live on our land is just one of the many rights being violated by successive Israeli governments, as documented by many human rights organizations, such as Adalah — The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel.

The inhabitants of present-day Umm al-Hiran were moved there by the Israeli military in 1956, eight years after the Nakba (catastrophe) of 1948, during which 700,000 Palestinians were driven from their lands. Towards the end of the 1960s, Israel adopted a policy of relocating Bedouins into seven towns established by the Israeli government, and 11 recognized villages, in order to clear the way for the development of Jewish-only communities and the infrastructure to support them. Several Bedouin communities, like Umm al-Hiran, refused to accept Israeli offers of land in the established townships designed for them. Umm al-Hiran’s government-issued lease to the land formed a basis for legal contestation against eviction and demolition orders issued in 2003 and 2004. The only move the villagers are willing to make is back to their ancestral lands to live next to the kibbutz since established there.

Umm al-Hiran is not alone in its struggle. Dozens of the Bedouin villages in the Negev are unrecognized by the state of Israel. For decades, these unrecognized villages have struggled on a day-to-day basis as well as within the court system for basic entitlements like electricity, water, enrollment at nearby schools, and for the construction of amenities such as playgrounds, parks and cemeteries. Arab Bedouin villages are collectively the poorest communities in Israel. There are few elementary schools and no high schools in the villages, access to health services is very difficult, and most villages are not accessible by paved roads. Even one of the largest villages, Wadi al-Na’am, does not have public transport, emergency services, or a high school despite its more than 10,000 inhabitants.

On May 5, 2015, Umm al-Hiran reached the end of the appeals process when the Israeli court system condemned the village to destruction. A Jewish-Israeli settlement named Hiran will be built in its place, and national-religious families wishing to live there will be provided with government subsidies.

Nearby Al-Araqib village has engaged in another form of non-violent resistance by rebuilding after demolition. Umm al-Hiran has a unique legal status among Bedouin villages in the Negev, but for villages like Al-Araqib, rebuilding is the only means they have to remain on their land: Al-Araqib villagers have faced intentional destruction of meager infrastructure and their entire community of homes around 83 times in five years. Yet they have rebuilt each time. Then in early May, the Israeli State sued Al-Araqib for $500,000 to cover Israel’s demolition costs. The persecution is relentless.

What is happening in Umm al-Hiran and Al-Araqib is also happening in Jerusalem, the West Bank, and in Arab towns in Israel, such as Dahmash and Kafr Kana. In a striking parallel, the West Bank village of Khirbet Susiya in Area C could be destroyed at any time, rendering its inhabitants homeless and making way for a Jewish settlement. Like many other unrecognized villages in Area C of the West Bank, its structures have already been demolished several times.

The State of Israel’s systematic policies have for decades perpetuated a pattern of displacement and discrimination that squeezes the Palestinian population into smaller and smaller confines of land. In other words, the ethnic cleansing of the Nakba lives on to this day.

The resettlement strategy for the Negev met a setback in 2013 when the infamous Prawer Plan was shelved, due in part to widespread protests and international criticism. The proposed bill aimed to forcibly evict tens of thousands of Bedouins and demolish dozens of villages. Young people organized demonstrations across the Palestinian territories and human rights groups coordinated international solidarity actions to put a stop to the plan. Yet, although it was put aside, the intentions of the Plan are still being carried out on a smaller and more discreet scale through home demolitions.

Although legal avenues of resistance have been exhausted by Umm al-Hiran, protest marches have already begun. If these are to succeed, their demands must be echoed in the world’s capitals, by governments and the international solidarity movement. Home demolitions, forcible displacement and dispossession are forms of ongoing ethnic cleansing. They continue to be among the most pressing Palestinian issues today and must be stopped.

Nadim Nashif is a Policy Member of Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network and Director of Baladna: The Association for Arab Youth. Dalal Hillou is a Palestinian-American with a passion for law and social justice, and is currently interning at Baladna: The Association for Arab Youth

Knesset extends bill preventing Palestinian family reunification for another year

Published by Palestinian News Network

The Israeli Knesset last night has extended the “family reunification prevention” bill for Palestinian families for another year. 57 MKs have voted in favor of the extension, 20 voted against and 5 abstained.

The bill prevents family reunification between Palestinians living in Israel and their spouses from the West Bank or Gaza. It also prevents them from living in Israel, unless the husband is over 36, and the wife is over 26.

The bid was first presented during the Ariel Sharon cabinet in 2002, in hopes to “protect the Jewishness of the state” and prevent the return of Palestinian refugees from the back door, using a security pretext which divides Palestinians, and Judaizes the capital of Jerusalem. Israeli authorities have regulated the law starting 2003 as a temporary law for a year. However, it has been extended yearly on a regular basis now upon recommendations by Israeli security forces.

The Supreme Court has denied numerous appeals presented by human rights organizations to cancel this bid which prevents thousands of Palestinian families from living together under the same roof, tearing families apart for years.

Where now for Palestine: Abdelwahab Elmessiri’s thoughts on Zionism

This year Middle East Monitor’s annual Abdelwahab Elmessiri lecture was given by Ronnie Kasrils on 19 May 2015.

20150519_Abdelwahab-Elmessiri-Memorial-Lecture-Ronnie-Kasrils-cover

In his lecture, Ronnie Kasrils considered some of the remarkable similarities between apartheid South Africa and Zionist Israel. These coincide even as far as milestone dates are concerned. The characterisation firmly places both within the category of colonial settler states.

A prominent anti-apartheid activist, Kasrils was Minister for Intelligence Services from 27 April 2004 to 25 September 2008.

Download the lecture: Abdelwahab-Elmessiri-Memorial-Lecture-Ronnie-Kasrils