SHAIK: Israel apologists shoot messenger October 23, 2009

Australians for Palestine’s public advocate Michael Shaik responds to opinion piece by Professor Barry Rubin “UN vote ends hope of  Mid-East peace” in The Australian 20 October 2009

Eric Ringsby wintercount1948 series

Eric Ringsby “Winter Count 1948″ series, Rawhide 2003
Editor’s Note: During the Peel Commission of Inquiry in 1937 into the British Colonial offensive against the Palestinians who were revolting against British-supported Zionist colonisation, Prime Minister Winston Churchill justified the military action on the grounds of the racial superiority of the Jews to Arabs. That racism still drives the West’s policies in the Middle East, especially with regard to the Palestinians. If the US uses its veto to quash the Goldstone Report in the UN Security Council, then as Michael Shaik rightly says, the UN “would have to concede that its Universal Declaration of Human Rights does not apply to Palestinians.”

by Michael Shaik  -  The Australian -  23 October 2009

Once again Israel’s supporters are calling upon the United States to shield it from censure by exercising its veto in the United Nations Security Council.

Writing in The New Republic, Barry Rubin cited the UN Human Rights Commission’s resolution to refer the Goldstone Report to the Security Council as a “global turning point” and the final proof of both the impossibility of an Israeli withdrawal from the Occupied Territories and a conspiracy among “The Arab-speaking, Muslim-majority nations and left-wing governments that supported the resolution” to eliminate Israel through a process of demonisation and delegitimisation by accusing it “of massive war crimes on a remarkably flimsy basis.”

While Rubin’s arguments in defence of his claims are far from irresistible, the looming showdown in the Security Council certainly represents a crisis for both the Obama presidency and the United Nations.  In April the UNHRC appointed a fact-finding mission to investigate the conduct of all parties (Israel, Hamas and Fatah) during Israel’s assault on the Gaza Strip.  To avoid the allegations of anti-Israeli bias that dogged its predecessor, the UN Human Rights Commission,  appointed Judge Richard Goldstone to head the mission.

Despite Goldstone’s impeccable Zionist credentials, Israel obstructed the mission from the outset, to the point of denying it entry into Israel or the Occupied Territories.  In the face of these obstructions, the investigators managed to enter Gaza via Egypt, interview Israeli witnesses and experts in Geneva and conduct telephone interviews with West Bank Palestinians, who were denied exit visas by Israel.

In September, Goldstone released his report.  Both Israel and Fatah were found to have used excessive force in breaking up demonstrations in the West Bank, while Israel’s acceleration of house demolitions in East Jerusalem raised concerns that it was implementing a policy of “silent transfer” of Palestinians from the city.  Hamas was found to have killed three Israeli civilians and one soldier by firing rockets and mortar shells into Israel.

In Gaza, Israel was found to have killed between 1,387 and 1,417 Palestinians and targeted civilian infrastructure.  While noting that it was unable to uncover a single instance of Hamas forcing civilians to act as “human shields”, the mission reported on several instances in which Israeli soldiers had engaged in the practice, in effect revealing that the Israeli military had committed the very atrocity of which it accused Hamas.

Crucially, the mission concluded that the Operation “Cast Lead” was not an exercise in self-defence in response to rocket attacks but “directed at the people of Gaza as a whole, in furtherance of an overall and continuing policy aimed at punishing the Gaza population”.  Were the Goldstone report the only one of its kind, its findings would be easier to dismiss but its conclusions tend towards the conservative end of a broad consensus of reports by international, Israeli and Palestinian NGOs.  Amnesty International investigation found that Israeli soldiers not only forced individuals but entire families to serve as “human shields” when it turned their homes into sniper posts.  The Israeli human rights organisation, B’Tselem, reported that at least 74 per cent of Palestinians killed in the assault were non-combatants.

Instead of addressing the substance of these reports, Israel’s apologists have taken aim at the organisations themselves.  In the case of the UNHRC, they have cited its resolution, which condemns Israel’s atrocities without condemning Hamas rocket fire for having provoked the assault, as proof that the Council has been hijacked by Muslim and left-wing countries.

The current membership of the UNHRC consists of 47 countries, 10 of which are Muslim and 13 Western or European.  For more than four months last year, Hamas scrupulously observed the terms of a ceasefire with Israel, while its police were mostly successful at suppressing rocket fire by other factions in Gaza.

On November 4, Israel broke the ceasefire by sending its army into Gaza to destroy a tunnel and kill six Hamas members, calculating (correctly) that the international media would be too focussed on the US presidential elections to properly cover the attack.  The tit-for-tat cycle of retaliations that followed culminated in Israel’s 22 day assault that began with simultaneous airstrikes on police stations throughout the Gaza Strip.

Nine months since the end of the offensive, Gazans continue to live in plastic tents alongside the ruins off their homes because Israel refuses to allow building materials into Gaza.   The Israeli government reasons that, by inflicting such punishment on Gaza’s population, it will eventually overthrow Hamas, but it is unclear how doing so will enhance its security.

In August Hamas fought a pitched battle with the al-Qaeda affiliated Jund Ansar Allah, which has exploited the desperation of Gaza’s population and decimation of its police force to establish itself in Gaza’s refugee camps.

Should Obama exercise the US veto to bury the Goldstone report so soon after having accepted the Nobel Peace Prize for his “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples”, he would not only undermine his efforts to restore America’s stature as the leader of the free world but also seriously compromise the standing of the United Nations, which would have to concede that its Universal Declaration of Human Rights does not apply to Palestinians.

Michael Shaik is the public advocate for Australians for Palestine

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