08/05/2014 05:13 PM
Gaza Crisis: 'The Real Danger to Israel Comes from Within'
Interview Conducted by Julia Amalia Heyer
Israel pulled out of the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, but left behind death and destruction. Israeli sociologist Eva Illouz tells SPIEGEL that her country is gripped by fear and is becoming increasingly suspicious of democracy.
SPIEGEL: There was widespread support in Israel for the operation in the Gaza Strip, despite the huge numbers of civilian casualties and the deaths of hundreds of children. Why is that?
Illouz: Where you see human beings, Israelis see enemies. In front of enemies, you close ranks, you unite in fear for your life, and you do not ponder about the fragility of the other. Israel has a split, schizophrenic self-awareness: It cultivates its strength and yet cannot stop seeing itself as weak and threatened. Moreover, both the fact that Hamas holds a radical Islamist and anti-Semitic ideology and the fact that there is rabid anti-Arab racism in Israel explain why Israelis see Gaza as a bastion of potential or real terrorists. It is difficult to have compassion for a population seen as as threatening the heart of your society.
SPIEGEL: Is that also a function of the fact that Israeli society has become increasingly militaristic?
Illouz: Israel is a colonial military power, a militarized society and a democracy all folded into one. The army, for example, controls the Palestinians through a wide network of colonial tools, such as checkpoints, military courts (governed by a legal system different from the Israeli system), the arbitrary granting of work permits, house demolitions and economic sanctions. It is a militarized civil society because almost every family has a father, son or brother in the army and because the military plays an enormous role in the ordinary mentality of ordinary Israelis and is crucial in both political decisions and in the public sphere. In fact, I would say that "security" is the paramount concept guiding Israeli society and politics. But it is also a democracy, which grants rights to gays and makes it possible for a citizen to sue the state.
SPIEGEL: Still, many would say that Israel has gone too far in this war with Hamas.
Illouz: I think Israelis have lost what we can call a "humanitarian sensibility," the capacity to identify with the suffering of a distant other. In Israel, there has been a change in perception of the "Palestinian other." The Palestinian has become a true enemy in the perception of Israelis, in the sense that "they are there" and "we are here." They ceased having a face and even a name.
SPIEGEL: Do you have an explanation for the shift?
Illouz: Israelis and Palestinians used to be mixed. They worked as construction workers and as cheap, underpaid labor. Then the wall was built. Then the road blocks came, which hampered the Palestinians' freedom of movement. The massive reduction in work permits followed. And in a few years Palestinians disappeared from Israeli society. The Second Intifada put the nail in that coffin, so to speak. The nature of Israeli leadership has also changed. The messianic right has progressively gained power in Israel. It used to be marginal and illegitimate; it is now increasingly mainstream. This radical right sits in Parliament, controls budgets and has changed the nature of discourse. Many Israelis do not understand the radical nature of the right in Israel. It successfully disguises itself as "patriotic" or "Jewish."
SPIEGEL: Why is the right so strong at the moment even though there are far fewer terror attacks in Israel than there used to be?
Illouz: Entire generations have been raised with the territories, with Israel being a colonial power. They do not know anything else. You have the settlements which are highly ideological. They expanded and entered Israeli mainstream political life. Settlements were strengthened by systematic government policies: They got tax breaks; they had soldiers to protect them; they built roads and infrastructure which are much better than those inside the country. There are entire segments of the population that have never met a secular person and have been educated religiously. Some of these religious segments are also very nationalist. The reality we are faced with in Israel is that we must choose between liberalism and Jewishness, and if we choose Jewishness, we are condemned to become a religious Sparta which will not be sustainable. Whereas in the 1960s, you could be both socialist and Zionist, today it is not possible because of the policies and identity of Israel. Then you have the role which Jews who live outside Israel play in Israel. Many of these Jews have very right-wing views and contribute money to newspapers, think tanks and religious institutions inside Israel. Let's face it: the right has been more systematic and more mobilized, both inside and outside Israel.
SPIEGEL: Do Jews in the Diaspora see Israel differently than do Jews in Israel?
Illouz: Diaspora Jews have been shaped by the memory of the Shoah. They often live in societies in which their own democratic rights are guaranteed. Sometimes they are under the assault of anti-Semitism and thus feel an urge to reinforce Jewish identity. They do not understand the distress of Israelis who see democracy progressively eaten away by dark forces. Today, Diaspora Jews and Jews in Israel do not have the same interests anymore.
SPIEGEL: What will happen if democratic principles continue to erode?
Illouz: One or two years ago, the newspaper Haaretz conducted a poll which found that 40 percent of the people said they were considering leaving Israel. I don't know the actual numbers, but I have never heard as much alienation from Israel as during this period. The people who live in secular Tel Aviv have much less in common with their religious counterparts in Jerusalem than they do with people living in Berlin.
SPIEGEL: You describe a fearful, anxious country.
Illouz: Fear is deeply engrained in Israeli society. Fear of the Shoah, fear of anti-Semitism, fear of Islam, fear of Europeans, fear of terror, fear of extermination. You name it. And fear generates a very particular type of thinking, which I would call "catastrophalist." You always think about the worst case scenario, not about a normal course of events. In catastrophalist scenarios, you become allowed to breach many more moral norms than if you imagined a normal course of events.
SPIEGEL: This differing perception of threats and conflict is problematic. Whereas Israel sees itself as the victim, the rest of the world is increasingly seeing the country as a violent occupying power.
Illouz: Imagine that you were a girl raised by a very brutal father. You would develop a "healthy" suspicion of men and would become very cautious. If you were to live for a time in an environment of good and nurturing men, your suspicions would relax. But if you lived in an environment in which some men were very brutal and some were not, your healthy suspicion would turn into an obsessive incapacity to differentiate between different types of men, the brutal and the caring. That is the historical trauma of the consciousness that Jews live with. The Israeli psyche has become incapable of making these distinctions.
SPIEGEL: Does this fear justify the kind of brutal violence that has been visited upon the civilian population in the Gaza Strip?
Illouz: Of course it doesn't. I'm only saying that fear is central to the Israeli psyche. These fears are cynically used by leaders like Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He makes Israelis believe that they all want to destroy us. Hamas wants to destroy us, the UN wants to destroy us, al-Qaida and Iran want to destroy us. ISIS wants to destroy us. The European anti-Semites want to destroy us. This is basically the filter through which a conflict with Hamas is interpreted by the ordinary Israeli. Another dimension of this prism is that "they" are not human beings. Palestinians are dehumanized because they put their soldiers amongst civilians, send their children to fight, spend and waste their money on building deadly tunnels rather than on building up their own society. Along with the dehumanization of the other, Israelis have a strong sense of their own moral superiority. "We ask people to get out of their houses; we call them on the phone to make sure civilians are evacuated. We behave humanly," the Israeli thinks. An army with good manners.
SPIEGEL: And nevertheless, civilians have been the primary victims, with schools, housing complexes and hospitals being bombed.
Illouz: Yes, despite this, many Israelis still hold on the view they are morally superior. They judge by the intention, whereas the world judges by the consequences.
SPIEGEL: Still, an enormous wave of hatred has become visible in Israel in recent weeks. And it's not only directed at the Palestinians, but also at segments of Israeli society.
Illouz: Some basic norms of speech have been breached by some rabbis and Knesset members, who feel no qualms expressing hatred for Arabs in ways that provide legitimation to hatred. This is very worrisome. It happened because entire generations have been raised believing in religious and ultra-nationalist views. I don't think that there is more hatred in Israel than in some racist pockets of German or French society. But when some Palestinians recently sang in the streets of Paris "Death to the Jews," the reaction of the government of Prime Minister Manuel Valls was swift and clear. The authorities sent a strong message that there are forms of speech and forms of belief that are inadmissible. What is lacking in Israeli society is that kind of very strong moral normative claim coming from its leaders.
SPIEGEL: How do you explain this paradox -- the hate on the one hand and Israel's emphasis on its liberal values on the other?
Illouz: Israel started as a modern nation. It derived its legitimacy from the fact that it had democratic institutions. But it was also building highly anti-modern institutions in wanting to create a Jewish democracy by giving power to rabbis, in creating deep ethnic inequalities between different ethnic groups such Jews of Arab countries vs. Jews of European descent; Arabs vs. Jews; Jews vs. non-Jews. It thus blocked universalist thinking.
SPIEGEL: Would you say that the Jewish character of the country has subsumed the democratic character?
Illouz: Yes, definitely. We are at the point where it has become clear that Jewishness has hijacked democracy and its contents. It happened increasingly when the school curriculum started getting changed and emphasizing more Jewish content and less universal content; when the Ministry of the Interior expelled foreign workers because Shas party members were afraid non-Jews would inter-marry with Jews; when human rights are thought of as being left-wing only because human rights presuppose that Jews and non-Jews are equal.
SPIEGEL: That doesn't sound particularly encouraging.
Illouz: The only response is to create a vast camp of people who defend democracy. The right-left divide is no longer important. There is something more urgent right now: the defense of democracy. The voice of the extreme right is much louder and clearer than it was before. That's what's new: a racist right that is not ashamed of itself, that persecutes dissenters and even people who dare express compassion for the other side. The real danger to Israel and its sustainability comes from within. The fascist and racist elements are no less a security threat than the outside enemies.
SPIEGEL: Israeli enemies have also accused the country of no longer being democratic. Does that bother you?
Illouz: With all my critique and occasional disgust at Israeli arrogance, I am also puzzled that Israel is indeed singled out. Look at what happens in Syria or in Nigeria or Iraq. Why isn't the world demonstrating in the streets in the same way it is doing for Israel? America has also a shocking record outside its own borders. Where are the intellectuals who are going to boycott America? Where are they?
SPIEGEL: Do you support the military operation in the Gaza Strip?
Illouz: No, I don't. I'm not a pacifist in the sense that I do not think that military operations are always wrong. But I'm not in favor of this operation because there was no political process beforehand. Netanyahu gave such obvious sings that he was not interested in a political process. Instead, Netanyahu constantly undermined Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. I refuse categorically the idea that our only relationship with the Palestinians is a military one. We are in a march of folly. There is an increasingly large group of people who really think that they can subdue the Palestinian population and sustain a regime where Israel keeps dominating them.
SPIEGEL: Is that not the consequence of 47 years of occupation, this feeling of not having to make any more concessions?
Illouz: Israelis pay a price, but we are not really aware of it. We don't know how it feels to live in a peaceful society, devoted exclusively to culture, education and improving the living conditions of everyone. People don't make a connection between the bad living conditions they have and the amount of resources invested in the settlements and in the army. In psychology, they call it dissociation. Israeli society has become very insensitive. Not only to the suffering of others, but also to its own suffering.
Are the past life symbols in his chart connected to the Roman Empire and persecution of certain groups like pagans or gnostics?
God Bless, Rad
The Washington Times
Netanyahu asks U.S. to help Israel avoid war crime charge at ICC
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reached out to the United States for help with the public relations battle that’s accompanying the trade of rocket fire with Hamas, and asked lawmakers to counter claims that the Jewish nation is committing war crimes when bombing Gaza.
Mr. Netanyahu said his military has gone to “extraordinary measures” to try and avoid killing civilians in the monthlong trade of fire with the terrorist group Hamas, the New York Post reported. But Hamas and supporters of the terror organization have similarly gone to great lengths to showcase to the world the innocent civilians, including women and children, who have been killed by Israeli fire.
Israeli authorities, meanwhile, and Western intelligence both claim that Hamas is purposely firing rockets from civilian sectors and storing weapons in the likes of schools and medical facilities in order to put civilians in the line of fire — and win the sympathy of the world.
Mr. Netanyahu met with a delegation of U.S. lawmakers, including Rep. Steve Israel, to discuss some of the recent combat operations and to ask for assistance in staying out of the International Criminal Court, the New York Post reported. His request came as several Palestinian leaders met with ICC officials to speak about joining the international body.
“The prime minister asked us to work together to ensure that this strategy of going to the ICC does not succeed,” Mr. Israel said in a telephone interview with the New York Post from Tel Aviv. “Netanyahu wants the U.S. to use all the tools that we have at our disposal to, number one, make sure the world knows that war crimes were not committed by Israel — they were committed by Hamas. And that Israel should not be held to a double standard.”
Mr. Israel added, the New York Post reported: “It’s Hamas that embedded its rockets in hospitals and in homes. And now there are some in the international community who want to investigate the Israelis for the war crime of simply defending themselves.”
« Last Edit: Aug 08, 2014, 05:19 AM by Rad »
The international criminal court can investigate potential crimes in Gaza
The United Nations general assembly's decision to grant Palestine observer-state status means the ICC has jurisdiction to investigate allegations of crimes
Kirsty Brimelow QC
theguardian.com, Friday 8 August 2014 23.17 BST
In his opinion piece dated 7 August 2014, Joshua Rozenberg criticised the Bar Human Rights Committee's letter to the ICC prosecutor, which urged her to investigate evidence of serious crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court committed in Gaza, as "naive" and "misleading".
He accuses BHRC of failing to present opposing views to its own position that a 2009 declaration submitted by the Government of Palestine, accepting the jurisdiction of the court, provides the prosecutor with the jurisdictional basis to initiate an investigation. In particular, BHRC is criticised for not highlighting that "one international lawyer disagreed" with our position, arguing that a 2012 decision of the prosecutor "formally rejected" the 2009 declaration.
Neither Rozenberg's opinion piece nor academic he relies upon, Kevin Heller, cite the text of the 2012 decision in support of their positions. This is hardly surprising given that the decision does not in fact "formally reject" the 2009 declaration.
Instead, the 2012 decision asserts that the prosecutor does not have the authority to determine whether Palestine is a "state" for the purposes of submitting a declaration to the ICC, it being "for the relevant bodies at the United Nations or the [ICC] assembly of states parties to make th[at] legal determination."
The 2012 decision underscores that the Prosecutor "could in the future consider allegations of crimes committed in Palestine, should competence organs of the Untied Nations or eventually the assembly of states parties resolve the legal issue relevant to an assessment of article 12".
As BHRC highlights in our letter, insofar as any doubts may have previously existed regarding Palestine's status, those have since been resolved by the United Nations general assembly when it granted Palestine observer-state status. Contrary to Rozenberg's representation of the UN General Assembly decision, the UN did not determine that Palestine was not a State prior to that date. And indeed, as Kevin Heller has himself made clear, "the ICC did not have to wait for the UNGA to upgrade Palestine's status; it could – and should – have recognized Palestine long before now."
In those circumstances, as BHRC and numerous other lawyers have argued , the 2009 declaration provides a jurisdictional basis for the prosecutor to "consider allegations of crimes committed in Palestine", in the absence of Palestinian ratification of the Rome Statute: there is no legal requirement for a further declaration in order for an investigation to be initiated.
Given the text of the 2012 decision, the prosecutor's short announcement on 5 August 2014 imposing yet another procedural obstacle to the investigation of such serious crimes is deeply disappointing. BHRC and the legal community look forward to reading a reasoned legal explanation of her position.
In the meantime, BHRC continues strongly to encourage Palestine's ratification of the Rome Statute as the most straightforward basis for ICC jurisdiction over crimes committed on its territory. The news on this front is cautiously encouraging. However, the political pressure being placed on Palestine – including by the British and American governments – and the threats of serious political consequences if it does ratify or submit another declaration undermine Rozenberg's assertion that this action is "an easy answer". Naivety would be to place faith in the politics and not to advance a distinct urgent legal solution for victims of Gaza.
Kirsty Brimelow QC is chair of the Bar Human Rights Committee, which is the international human rights arm of the Bar of England and Wales as distinct to being part of the Bar Council. It was founded in 1991.
The movement that dare not speak its name in Israel
By Giles Fraser, The Guardian
Wednesday, August 6, 2014 21:31 EDT
Vocal opposition to the Gaza war faces overwhelming public support and almost universal scorn for attempts to make peace
Gideon Levy doesn’t want to meet in a coffee bar in Tel Aviv. He is fed up with being hassled in public and spat at, with people not willing to share the table next to him in restaurants. And now he is fed up with the constant presence of his bodyguards, not least because they too have started giving him a hard time about his political views. So he doesn’t go out much any more and we sit in the calm of his living room, a few hundred yards from the Yitzhak Rabin Centre. Rabin’s assassination by a rightwing Orthodox Jew in 1995 is itself a sobering reminder of the personal cost of peacemaking in Israel.
In his column in Haaretz, Levy has long since banged the drum for greater Israeli empathy towards the suffering of the Palestinians. He is a well known commentator on the left, and one of the few prepared to stick his head above the parapet. Consequently, he is no stranger to opposition from the right. But this time it is different. Yariv Levin, coalition chairman of the Likud-Beytenu faction in the Knesset, recently called for him to be put on trial for treason – a crime which, during wartime, is punishable by death.
“It is time we stop regarding despicable phenomena like this with tolerance,” Levin said of Levy. Soon after that interview Eldad Yaniv, a former political adviser to ex-prime minister Ehud Barack, wrote on his Facebook page: “The late Gideon Levy. Get used to it.”
Levy’s unpardonable crime is vocal opposition to the war and to the bombing of Gaza. According to recent polls support for the military operation in Gaza among the Jewish Israeli public stands somewhere between 87% (Channel 10 News) and 95% (Israel Democracy Institute). Even those who are secretly against the war are cautious about voicing their opinion openly.
Thus public opinion went ballistic when Levy attacked those who were bombing Gaza by inverting the well known Hebrew phrase “Hatovim La tayyis” – which means: the best ones go to the air force – by writing “Haraim La tayyis“: the worst ones go to the air force. Even in a time of peace this would be seen as a provocative statement, a heresy against what Levy sees as Israel’s real religion: military security. But in its current mood, this is not the sort of thing that you can easily say out loud.
Even Peace Now, the backbone of the Israeli peace movement, has been remarkably guarded, carefully avoiding official participation in public demonstrations. Peace Now was founded in 1978 by former members of the military who came out strongly in favour of peace with Egypt. It helped mobilise 10% of the Israeli public – some 400,000 people – to turn out against the 1982 war in Lebanon. But this time it is a shadow of its former self.
“What is different this time is the anti-democratic spirit. Zero tolerance of any kind of criticism, opposition to any kind of sympathy with the Palestinians,” says Levy. “You shouldn’t be surprised that the 95% [are in favour of the war], you should be surprised at the 5%. This is almost a miracle. The media has an enormous role. Given the decades of demonisation of the Palestinians, the incitement and hatred, don’t be surprised the Israeli people are where they are.”
“So what’s the point of a peace movement if it refuses to condemn a war like this?” I ask Mossi Raz, former general secretary of Peace Now. Some people have demonstrated, he assures me; 6,000 came out on the streets the Saturday before last (and were taunted as “dirty Israelis” by the rightwing counter demonstration). And in the circumstances, 6,000 feels like quite an achievement. But he admits that the mainstream protest movements and parties of the left all fall pretty silent when the sirens start to wail.
“People tend to demonstrate only after the war is over,” Raz explains. And he expects the same to happen again this time. During the early part of the 1982 war, before the large turnouts, polls gave military action 86% support. But during a time of war, opposition is seen as disloyalty, as siding with the enemy. People will protest at the government but not the military. I raise an eyebrow about the idea of only protesting against a war when it is over. He nods with a certain exasperation and asks me, as a joke: “So, shall we go out now and protest the Falklands war?”
Amos Oz, Israel’s great literary conscience, explains to me that the peace movement was dealt a harsh blow eight years ago when Ariel Sharon pulled the army and the settlers out of Gaza only for the situation to get worse. “Since then there have been 10,000 rockets fired from the Gaza strip.” Middle-of-the-road Israelis have lost faith in the idea that you could swap land for peace. For him, the current military operation is “excessive but justified” and he is scornful of the high-minded European reaction. “That’s the problem with Europeans. They launch a petition and then go and sleep and feel good about themselves,” something he explains with reference to European history. I feel he is having a go at me. And I know he is laid up in bed with a bad knee. So I don’t rise to the bait.
He continues: “The history of warfare in the 20th century has made Europeans see things in black and white, like a Hollywood movie, with good guys and bad guys. But it’s more complicated than that.” Yes, he condemns the Netanyahu government and the catalogue of inaction and missed opportunities. Yes, the operation in Gaza has been disproportionate. “From one perspective it looks like a David and Goliath story, with Israel being the ruthless Goliath and the Palestinians being the poor little David. But if you see the conflict as between Israel and the whole of the rest of the Arab world, who then is David and who is Goliath?”
I attempt to shift Oz off this well-trodden ground by talking about Israeli poetry, trying to come at things sideways. I tell him I have always loved that Yehuda Amichai poem “From the place where we are right, flowers will not grow in the spring.” He agrees. It’s a wonderful poem. “All married couples should have that poem above their bed,” he says. And then he says something that feels to me like a real shift in his position. Previously he has described the Israeli/Palestinian conflict as a Sophoclean tragedy over land in which both sides have a claim to right on their side; as a battle, as he put it of “right versus right”. But now, he says, this is a battle of “wrong versus wrong”. No one is in the right any more. It is a very statesmanlike form of opposition. But it is hardly emphatic.
“Amos Oz is not yet in a position to admit entire Israeli guilt,” Levy explains. “He is a real man of peace but he grew up in a different generation, the generation before me. He grew up in this weak state, struggling to survive, created out of nothing. This is his background.”
This sort of self-critical vigilance is rare but understandable given the sort of reporting that goes on in themainstream media in Israel. Most newspapers and TV channels are simply cheerleaders for the government line, offering a constant diet of fear and fallen heroes, with little evidence of any of the atrocities going on in Gaza. The problem is, ordinary Israelis have little idea what has been going on. I know so much more about what is happening in Gaza when I’m sitting in London than I do in Tel Aviv. Under this level of information manipulation, how can ordinary Israelis be expected to be critical?
Later I gather for a drink at a friend’s flat in Tel Aviv with a group of late 20s/early 30s, broadly leftwing activists, NGO types that I was expecting would share my exasperation. And I make a mistake, assuming too much common ground. I ask whether their fear of rockets is properly calibrated to reality, given that people are so much more likely to die in a car accident in Israel than at the hands of Hamas. And there is an awkward reaction. The question was insensitive. They have loved ones in uniform in Gaza. And I really do understand that. But suddenly I feel like an outsider. I haven’t appreciated that this threat is existential, they say. “People leave their liberalism at the green line [the 1967 border],” Levy had warned me earlier. “The young people are the worst. More ignorant. More brainwashed. They have never met a Palestinian in their lives”.
That is emphatically not true of this group. But even here, the mood for social justice does not seem to connect poverty in Israel with the vast financial cost of occupation, let alone allowing empathy with the Palestinian predicament. If I’m not with them I’m against them. I am made to feel a little like an apologist for Hamas. A thought dawns in my head: perhaps I too ought to shut up and keep the evening sweet. Of all the things seen on my trip, this was the most depressing conversation of them all.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2014
A Boy at Play in Gaza, a Renewal of Warfare, a Family in Mourning
By JODI RUDOREN and FARES AKRAM
AUG. 8, 2014
GAZA CITY — Sabah Dawawsa was in the kitchen Friday morning, frying the chicken livers her 10-year-old son, Ibrahim, had requested for the after-prayer meal. With Palestinian rockets having resumed at the 8 a.m. expiration of a 72-hour cease-fire, followed by Israeli airstrikes, Ms. Dawawsa said she had told Ibrahim to stay inside, in their house in Gaza City’s Sheikh Radwan neighborhood.
Around 11 a.m., right as she realized that he had nonetheless gone to play at the mosque under construction down the street, Ms. Dawawsa heard the drone drop the missile.
It killed Ibrahim, leaving a pool of blood from his skull next to a crushed SuperCola can and an abandoned flip-flop. Two other boys were wounded.
“What shall I say? It was only a few minutes after he went out,” Ms. Dawawsa, 37, wailed as she clutched a picture of her son at 5 years old in a camouflage outfit. “It was only minutes, only minutes.”
Hundreds of mourners gathered at another nearby mosque to pray over the body of the first casualty in the latest chapter of the monthlong battle that has claimed the lives of nearly 1,900 Palestinians, including more than 300 children, and, on the Israeli side, 64 soldiers and three civilians. The renewed violence came as an Israeli delegation left Cairo, where talks toward a more durable truce had made dubious progress.
Leaders of Hamas, the Islamist faction that dominates Gaza, had warned on Thursday that they would resume the battle if their demands to open border crossings, remove Israeli restrictions on trade and, especially, build their own seaport on the Mediterranean were not met. Israel had promised to return fire with fire. Both kept their word.
Gaza militants launched a rocket toward southern Israel exactly at 8 a.m. — it was intercepted over Ashkelon — and followed with about 40 others by midday, according to the Israeli military. Israel, in turn, fired artillery shells at Gaza’s already destroyed northern towns of Beit Lahiya and Beit Hanoun, dropped at least one bomb from an F-16, and struck a home in Gaza City belonging to a Hamas leader, Mahmoud al-Zahar, and hit other targets in Gaza City, Jabaliya, Rafah and Khan Younis, killing four people in addition to Ibrahim before 8 p.m., Palestinian health officials and witnesses said.
“I was happy for the last three days — today I felt sick because the cease-fire ended,” said Amal al-Masri, 45, who bought a small bag of green grapes at the Jabaliya refugee camp to share among 30 relatives whose home in Beit Hanoun had been flattened. “We lost everything. If an earthquake happened here, it would be better.
“I don’t want the war to resume,” she added, “but who’s going to bring back our rights? This is the only way.”
The Toll in Gaza and Israel, Day by Day
As news spread that the cease-fire was over, many shops remained open, and cars and people were on the streets of Gaza City. Groups of teenagers roamed and men sat smoking on the sidewalks. In the Jabaliya camp, a man exercised seven camels on a leash, and young boys toted cartons of supplies on their heads back to the school where their families have been sheltering for weeks.
Heading north, it grew quieter. In Beit Hanoun, a ghost town of felled concrete buildings, Anas Kaferna, 25, and his sister and brother were tying thin mattresses and blankets atop a fading silver sedan. “I don’t want to be the last one in the town,” he said.
Since the first attack on Beit Hanoun weeks ago, Mr. Kaferna said they had been staying at the maternity hospital where he worked as a security guard, though it was also pocked by shelling. Now they were bound for Gaza City, though uncertain where they would stay. “It seems the situation will get harder,” he said. “Maybe yes and maybe no. I don’t understand politics.”
Back at the Jabaliya market, Amir el-Fassis, 17, and Muhammad Bahtini, 21, said they were awoken by a drone strike the Israelis refer to as a “knock on the door,” warning of a larger bombing to follow. It hit a six-story apartment building under construction next to their home, they said. They evacuated, but waited in a growing crowd nearby to see what would happen next.
“They are peaceful people, they sell tomatoes in the market,” Mr. Bahtini said of the Sherafi family, who own the apartment building and live on its ground floor. “When it is down, we will say, ‘May God get us revenge.’
“We have suffered, but we can endure for the sake of having a rest forever after that,” he added, invoking an Egyptian proverb, heard frequently around Gaza this week, that means, “Either we live in happiness or all of us die.”
Zuheir Dawawsa, 19, one of Ibrahim’s brothers, said he, too, was awoken by the too-familiar sound of a drone. He ran to the construction site where, three months ago, work began on a 13,000-square-foot mosque, called Al Nour, to replace the one destroyed by an Israeli strike during Operation Cast Lead in 2008-9.
Neighborhood children told him that his brother had been among the boys playing there when it was hit. Then a youth approached with Ibrahim in his arms.
Cross-border strikes between Israel and militants from Gaza resumed after a three-day cease-fire expired.
Video Credit By Christian Roman on Publish Date August 8, 2014. Image CreditHatem Moussa/Associated Press
“His skull was open,” said Mr. Dawawsa, who was wearing a T-shirt that said, “Nothing Is Impossible,” and could hardly speak. “He was already dead.”
Family members and neighbors said Ibrahim was an energetic boy, nicknamed Barhoum, who loved his PlayStation and soccer, like so many others. He was the second-youngest of eight children from his father’s two wives, and slept on a mattress in the spacious second-floor salon where his mother sat mourning on Friday. “He was a good heart,” said a sister, Raghda, cradling her own 7-month-old daughter. “He was always giving what was in his hand to others.”
Photographs of President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority and his predecessor, Yasir Arafat, hung above the women’s heads. In the next room was a map of British Mandate Palestine, with cities and villages labeled in Arabic. Outside, the house’s stone wall bore a painted mural of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem’s Old City.
At the construction site, men and boys pointed up at the place where the missile had shaved off a concrete pylon and sundered the wooden scaffold before, apparently, hitting Ibrahim in the head. They had found several pieces of jagged-edge metal shrapnel.
The neighborhood leader, Nasser Abu Raid al-Ghoul, 60, said he was among about 30 men in the temporary mosque next to the site, reading the Quran in preparation for the midday prayer, when the missile hit. They first saw the two wounded boys, and 10 minutes later found Ibrahim’s bloodied body under the debris.
“What, the boy was shelling Israel with this wood?” said a scowling neighbor, Mahmoud el-Amoudi, 31, pointing to two-by-fours from the scaffold. “I’m sure Israel will say he killed himself.
“Where is Barack Obama? Where is Human Rights Watch? Where is the free world, just crying on TV?”
Gaza crisis: a closer look at Israeli strikes on UNRWA schools
Raya Jalabi, Tom McCarthy and Nadja Popovich
Friday 8 August 2014 19.31 BST
As the conflict in Gaza deepened, tens of thousands – and then hundreds of thousands – of Palestinians were forced out of their homes and into shelters operated by the United Nations. Dozens of UN-operated schools were converted for the purpose. Eventually, almost 270,000 internally displaced people were crowded into 90 shelters in Gaza.
In the last two weeks of the fighting before this week’s ceasefire, UN schools began to come under fire. Six schools in all were hit. Hundreds of Palestinians at the schools were wounded and at least 47 were killed. A disproportionate number of those hurt were children or women. Of the 485,000 internally displaced, many had sought shelter in the schools after being warned by the Israeli military to leave their homes.
Drawing on on-the-ground reports and statements by the United Nations and Israel Defense Forces, the Guardian has compiled a list of the UN school strikes and descriptions of the circumstances of each strike. The numbers of dead and wounded were gathered from Guardian reports, the United Nations, the Gaza Ministry of Health, the New York Times and the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights.
Reports from the scenes and other evidence indicate that the source of the fire in each case was Israeli, although in at least one case the Israeli military initially suggested that errant Hamas rocket fire was responsible. In multiple cases, the Israeli army said it was returning fire that had come from the vicinity of the schools. UNRWA, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees, said it had informed the Israeli military of the locations of the schools repeatedly, in one case 33 times.
The repeated strikes on the schools drew increasingly shocked responses from the United Nations and governments around the world. The UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, called the last school strike, in Rafah on 3 August, a “moral outrage” and a “criminal act”. The White House said it was “extremely concerned that thousands of internally displaced Palestinians who have been called on by the Israeli military to evacuate their homes are not safe in UN-designated shelters in Gaza”.
“I can assure you unequivocally that the IDF does not target civilians,” the IDF spokesman Lt Col Peter Lerner said in an email to the Guardian. “Hamas chooses where these battles are conducted and, despite Israel’s best efforts to prevent civilian casualties, Hamas is ultimately responsible for the tragic loss of civilian life. Specifically in the case of UN facilities, it is important to note the repeated abuse of UN facilities by Hamas, namely with at least three cases of munitions storage within such facilities.
“All of these incidents are under review, as part of the thorough internal investigation the IDF is conducting.”
Gaza schools interactive Graphic: Nadja Popovich/Guardian
The UN secretary general on Wednesday called for a “swift investigation” into the attacks on UN facilities in Gaza. As fighting resumed on Friday, residents are returning to UN shelters. UNRWA says more than 220,000 people have registered in 89 shelters since the ceasefire ended.
We will update this article as further information comes to light.
For more more detail on the chart above, we have broken out each incident below, with added information and comments from the IDF, UN and US leaders on individual strikes.
Maghazi Prep School A & B
Date: 21 July 2014
Dead: 0 reported casualties
Wounded: 1 child
Sheltering: Approximately 1,000 internally displaced people prior to the first attack
What happened: At approximately 4.55pm, the school was struck by explosive ordnance “believed to have been fired by Israeli forces.” – UNRWA statement
Comment: “UNRWA condemns in the strongest possible terms the shelling of one of its schools in the central area of Gaza.” – UNRWA statement
IDF comment: “We are carefully reviewing all of these incidents.”
Maghazi Prep School A & B
Date: 22 July 2014
Sheltering: Approximately 1,000 internally displaced people prior to the first attack
What happened: At about 10.30am, as UNRWA officials at the school investigated the 21 July incident, “there was further shelling of the school, seriously endangering the lives of UN humanitarian workers and displaced civilians.” – UNRWA statement
Comment: “This is a serious violation of United Nations’ premises that could have had far-reaching human consequences.” – Pierre Krähenbühl, commissioner-general of UNRWA
IDF comment: “We are carefully reviewing all of these incidents.”
Deir al-Balah Preparatory Girls School C
Date: 23 July 2014
Sheltering: Approximately 1,500 internally displaced people
What happened: the school was reportedly struck at 7.45am
Comment: “This is the second time in three days that an UNRWA school has taken a direct hit from Israeli shelling and we again condemn this in the strongest possible terms.” – UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness
IDF comment: “We are carefully reviewing all of these incidents.”
Beit Hanoun Elementary Co-ed School A & D
Date: 24 July 2014
Wounded: 200, mostly women and children
Sheltering: Approximately 1,500 internally displaced people
What happened: According to survivors, at about 2.50pm, as the playground was crowded with families waiting to be ferried to safety, one shell landed in the schoolyard, followed by several more rounds that hit the upper storeys of the building.
Comment: “Today’s attack underscores the imperative for the killing to stop and to stop now.” – UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon
IDF comment: The Israeli military first claimed, in a text sent to journalists, that the school could have been hit by Hamas missiles that fell short, reported the Guardian’s Peter Beaumont.
IDF spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner later said in an email to the Guardian: “In the matter of the Beit Hanoun school, the IDF encountered heavy fire in vicinity of the school, including anti-tank missile. We later determined that an errant mortar did indeed land in the empty courtyard of the school, backing this up with video evidence.”
Additional: The Guardian’s Peter Beaumont reported from the scene: “There was no visible evidence of debris from broken Palestinian rockets in the school. The injuries and the number of fatalities were consistent with a powerful explosion that sent shrapnel tearing through the air, in some cases causing traumatic amputations. The surrounding neighbourhood bore evidence of multiple Israeli attacks, including smoke from numerous artillery rounds and air strikes. One building was entirely engulfed by flames.”
* We chose to use the number from the Guardian report, as the numbers of reported dead varied between 11 and 15.
Zaitoun Preparatory Girls School B
Date: 29 July 2014
Sheltering: Approximately 2,200 internally displaced people
What happened: the school was reportedly struck
IDF comment: “We are carefully reviewing all of these incidents.”
UNRWA Jabaliya school attack UNRWA Jabaliya Girls Elementary School after 30 July attack by Israeli strike. Photograph: Shareef Sarhan/UNRWA
Jabaliya Elementary Girls School A & B
Date: 30 July 2014
Wounded: more than 100, including women and children
Sheltering: Approximately 3,200 internally displaced people
What happened: School in Jabaliya refugee camp was hit by five shells during a night of relentless bombardment across Gaza.
“Nothing is more shameful than attacking sleeping children. I condemn this attack in the strongest possible terms.” – UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon
“The shelling of a UN facility, that is housing innocent civilians who are fleeing violence, is totally unacceptable and totally indefensible.” – White House spokesman Josh Earnest
“The world stands disgraced” – Pierre Krähenbühl, commissioner-general of UNRWA
IDF Comment: “Regarding the UNRWA facility in Jabaliya, we have determined that an exchange of fire, including mortar fire, did indeed take place in the vicinity of the school.”
“All available evidence points to Israeli artillery as the cause – Ban Ki-moon
Damage “likely to have come from heavy artillery not designed for precision use … [the IDF] provided no evidence of [militant] activity and no explanation for the strike beyond saying that Palestinian militants were firing about 200 yards away.” – New York Times investigation.
**This New York Times investigation published several days after the strike occurred found the number of dead to be greater than that previously reported. We elected to use this number.
Rafah Boys Preparatory School A
Date: 3 August 2014
Dead: 11, “five were children between 3 and 15 years old”
Sheltering almost 3,000 internally displaced people
What happened: A projectile struck the ground 8-10 metres from open school gates at about 10.50am. Witnesses at the scene less than an hour after the explosion claimed it had been fired from one of the many unmanned Israeli drones. UN officials in Gaza described a “shelling incident” or an air strike.
“The attack is yet another gross violation of international humanitarian law, which clearly requires protection by both parties of Palestinian civilians, UN staff and UN premises, among other civilian facilities. United Nations shelters must be safe zones not combat zones. The Israel Defence Forces have been repeatedly informed of the location of these sites. This attack, along with other breaches of international law, must be swiftly investigated and those responsible held accountable. It is a moral outrage and a criminal act.” – UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon
IDF comment: “In the Rafah School incident, the IDF targeted three Palestinian Islamic Jihad militants on a motorbike outside of the school. The targeted strike did indeed neutralise the militants on the targeted motorbike.”
Irish senator blasts Israel as ‘right-wing regime’ committing ‘criminal’ acts in epic rant
By David Ferguson
Saturday, August 9, 2014 11:17 EDT
In the video embedded below, openly gay Irish senator and international human rights activist David Norris spoke frankly about the ongoing conflict in Gaza. In his speech, Norris abandoned the normal Pro-Israel vs. Pro-Palestine dichotomy and attempted to address the changes in direction of Israel’s rulers.
Norris said that over time, Israel has fundamentally shifted its social and political orientation.
“I am not anti-Israeli, I am not anti-Semitic. I supported the state of Israel. In the forty years I have known the state of Israel and sometimes had a home there I’ve seen it completely changed,” he said.
“It changed from a left-wing socially directed country, to an extreme right-wing regime, that is behaving in the most criminal fashion and defying the world. Using — unscrupulously using — the Holocaust to justify what they are doing and it is time that rag was torn away from them,” Norris continued.
He ended his speech by saying, “I am with human rights whether they are, Israeli, gay, women, black, whatever they are. I am not changing my position. I am not anti-Israel I am not anti-Semitic but I am pro human rights for every human.”
Watch the video, embedded below via YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=keS-LDl_ewA
Israel furious as UN Human Rights Council unveils Gaza probe team
By Agence France-Presse
Tuesday, August 12, 2014 12:20 EDT
Israel lashed out on Tuesday after the UN Human Rights Council named the man who will be running an inquiry into its Gaza offensive.
Canadian international lawyer William Schabas, who will head the commission, is widely regarded in Israel as being hostile to the Jewish state over reported calls to bring Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before the International Criminal Court.
“This commission’s anti-Israeli conclusions have already been written, all it needs is a signature,” railed foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor.
“For this commission the important thing is not human rights but the rights of terrorist organisations like Hamas,” he told AFP.
But in a series of interviews with the Israeli media, Schabas defended himself against allegations of bias against the Jewish state.
“I’ve frequently lectured in Israel, at universities in Israel, I’m a member of the editorial board of the Israel law review, I wouldn’t do those things if I was anti-Israel,” he told public radio.
He challenged Palmor’s assertion that the commission’s findings were a foregone conclusion.
“As far as I’m concerned they’re not written at all, that’s the whole point of an investigation,” he told the radio.
“Many of the questions we have to examine will deal with very precise matters on which the generalities about the conflict don’t provide any insight.
“When we look at specific incidents in which… civilians were killed during the conflict, there are issues about targeting, about proportionality, each one of these has to be examined specifically.”
In a second interview with Israel’s army radio, he said that he would also be looking into the actions of Palestinian militants.
“The mandate that the commission has been given doesn’t specify this and I think a reasonable interpretation would be that mandate requires you to look at both sides,” he said.
He said the commission’s findings are to be published in March 2015.
Israel has long had stormy relations with the UNHRC.
In January 2012, it became the first country to refuse to attend a periodic review of its human rights record.
And two months later, it cut all ties with the Geneva-based council after it announced an inquiry into how West Bank settlements may be infringing on Palestinians rights.
Israel has accused the UNHRC of routinely singling it out at its annual meetings, as well as passing a number of anti-Israel resolutions.
HOLY CRAP...Obama halts hellfire missiles to Israel
This reporting, which appeared last night, by Adam Montous at the WSJ is breathtaking. This article is such a blockbuster in that it has about a billion things that expose the utter disfunctionality of the US-Israel relationship and the utter contempt Obama, Netanyahu, and their respective administration have towards each other. The utter and complete entitlement of Netanyahu is jaw-dropping.
The relevant parts below, but you should really read the whole article cause its so shocking:
U.S. officials said Mr. Obama had a particularly combative phone call on Wednesday with Mr. Netanyahu, who they say has pushed the administration aside but wants it to provide Israel with security assurances in exchange for signing onto a long-term deal.
Today, many administration officials say the Gaza conflict—the third between Israel and Hamas in under six years—has persuaded them that Mr. Netanyahu and his national security team are both reckless and untrustworthy
A senior Obama administration official said the White House didn't intend to get into a "tit for tat" with the Israelis when the war broke out in Gaza. "We have many, many friends around the world. The United States is their strongest friend," the official said. "The notion that they are playing the United States, or that they're manipulating us publicly, completely miscalculates their place in the world."
A senior Obama administration official said the weapons transfers shouldn't have been a routine "check-the-box approval" process, given the context. The official said the decision to scrutinize future transfers at the highest levels amounted to "the United States saying 'The buck stops here. Wait a second…It's not OK anymore.' "
The last straw for many U.S. diplomats came on Aug. 2 when they say Israeli officials leaked to the media that Mr. Netanyahu had told the U.S. ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, that the Obama administration was "not to ever second-guess me again" about how to deal with Hamas.
The White House and State Department have sought to regain greater control over U.S.-Israeli policy. They decided to require White House and State Department approval for even routine munitions requests by Israel, officials say.
Instead of being handled as a military-to-military matter, each case is now subject to review—slowing the approval process and signaling to Israel that military assistance once taken for granted is now under closer scrutiny.http://online.wsj.com/
So here's what we know:
-Israel goes around the WH to DOD for military equipment, which infuriates the WH and made them halt a new batch of hellfire missiles and make every other request go through the WH.
-WH is no longer worrying about airing dirty laundry cause they're mainly responsible for the leaks in that article, and they must be pissed. The SRA saying that Israel needs to know its place in the world is correct but should be said on the record.
-Netanyahu took a draft proposal from Kerry that was meant for him to look and relay back to Kerry what he disagreed with and brought it directly to a vote to his cabinet. They all voted it down and bad mouthed Kerry in press. This was a tipping point for the WH.
-This all culminated in a combative phone call between Obama and Netanyahu last night.
-Lastly, and unfortunately, the WH is still not willing to bring these breaches of trust directly out into the open. So long as Israel is not challenged in the court of public opinion, they'll continue to use congress to squeeze the WH.
-Lastly, the contrast between this episode and Hillary's Atlantic interview is amazing. Its no wonder the Israeli official quoted in the article says all they have to do is wait out Obama for 2 years.
Rad, I have been posting some articles I find relevant to Netanyahu. Let me know if it is ok or not or if you want to be in charge of this. I don't want to interrupt any flow you have with this or any of the other threads.
Israel Braces for War Crimes Inquiries on Gaza
By ISABEL KERSHNER
AUG. 14, 2014
JERUSALEM — The fighting is barely over in the latest Gaza war, with a five-day cease-fire taking hold on Thursday, but attention has already shifted to the legal battlefield as Israel gears up to defend itself against international allegations of possible war crimes in the monthlong conflict.
Israel has excoriated the United Nations Human Rights Council over the appointment of Prof. William Schabas, a Canadian expert in international law, to head the council’s commission of inquiry for Israel’s military operations in the Gaza Strip.
The broader struggle will be over what some experts describe as Israel’s “creative” interpretation of international law for dealing with asymmetric warfare in an urban environment. More than 1,900 Palestinians were killed in the recent fighting, a majority of them believed to be civilians, while on the Israeli side 64 soldiers and three civilians were killed.
Israeli leaders view the Human Rights Council as hopelessly biased against Israel and say statements made in the past by Professor Schabas rule him out as a fair adjudicator. In one prime example, Professor Schabas was filmed in New York almost two years ago saying Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was his “favorite” to be in the dock at the International Criminal Court.
The damage to Gaza’s infrastructure from the current conflict is already more severe than the destruction caused by either of the last two Gaza wars.
OPEN Interactive Map
“The report of this committee has already been written,” Mr. Netanyahu said this week. “They have nothing to look for here. They should visit Damascus, Baghdad and Tripoli.”
Mr. Netanyahu has repeatedly accused Hamas of a “double war crime” for targeting Israeli civilians with its rockets and, he says, using Gaza’s civilians as a human shield for its activities.
Yuval Steinitz, Israel’s minister for strategic affairs, said that paradoxically, the only way Professor Schabas could prove he was worthy of the job would be by resigning from it.
Responding to the accusations by telephone from London, Professor Schabas said Thursday: “Everybody in the world has opinions about Israel and Palestine. I certainly do.”
He added: “I was recruited for my expertise. I leave my own personal views at the door, as a judge does.”
Rejecting assertions that he is “anti-Israeli,” he said he had lectured in Israel often and was on the board of the Israel Law Review. “I don’t think everyone in Israel agrees,” he said. “I would fit in well there.”
A similar Human Rights Council inquiry into the 2008-9 war in Gaza led to the Goldstone Report. Named for Richard Goldstone, the South African jurist who led that inquiry, the report said it found evidence of potential war crimes committed by both Israel and Hamas. It accused Israel of intentionally targeting civilians in Gaza as a matter of policy, a blow that Mr. Netanyahu once described as a strategic challenge.
Mr. Goldstone later retracted that central accusation, writing in The Washington Post, after Israeli investigators presented counterevidence, “If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document.” Other members of the Goldstone panel stood by the report.
In Israel’s latest aerial and ground campaign, several episodes already stand out as likely focuses of international attention, including several deadly Israeli strikes at or near United Nations schools in Gaza where thousands of civilians were taking refuge, actions that the secretary general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, has denounced as “outrageous, unacceptable and unjustifiable.”
Critics have also pointed to the Israeli military’s policy of bombing family homes it said were being used by Hamas operatives or other groups as “command and control centers” or for weapons storage, causing heavy casualties among civilians, including many minors and women, despite a system of issuing prior warnings. B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights organization, asserted in a recent report that the practice violated the international legal principles of distinction and proportionality, calling into question the clear military nature of the targets and whether the military gains were significant enough to justify the deaths of civilians.
And questions have been raised about a particularly aggressive and deadly Israeli assault on the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah on Aug. 1 as Israeli forces pursued a Hamas squad they believed had captured a soldier. Prof. Emanuel Gross, an Israeli expert in military law and a former military judge, said in a recent interview that the firepower used in Rafah to try to return one soldier did not seem justified, morally or legally, and appeared to be “disproportionate.” (The soldier was later declared killed in action.)
In a move that some Israelis hope will take the wind out of the Human Rights Council inquiry and other potential ones by outside groups, Israel’s attorney general and the military advocate general are setting up an independent mechanism for investigating the events in Gaza, and the state comptroller also plans an inquiry.
But the Israeli military is not waiting. Lt. Col. Eran Shamir-Borer, head of the strategic affairs branch in the international law department at the Military Advocate General’s Corps, said in an interview that a recently established military committee of fact-finding teams, independent of the chain of command and made up largely of reservists, is already investigating certain cases and could have some preliminary findings as early as Friday.
Speaking at military headquarters in Tel Aviv, Colonel Shamir-Borer said that since Israel’s 2006 war in Lebanon, the army’s legal counselors have become more involved in operational activity before and during military campaigns, as well as in the aftermath, training commanders, reviewing planned targets and deploying to the Gaza border to work with commanders at the division level during the recent conflict.
“We know the law very well,” Colonel Shamir-Borer said, “but it is always more complex than in the textbooks.”
“The modus operandi of our enemy,” he said, referring to Hamas, “is by definition defying the laws of armed conflict.”
Colonel Shamir-Borer said that the planned bombing of homes was reviewed house by house, based on intelligence and other considerations, and guidelines were set for some of the attacks, for example, determining that they could be carried out only at night, or with a drone to check that the residents had evacuated.
Individual cases where many family members were nevertheless killed, such as a July 13 airstrike on a home that killed 18 members of the Batsh family and severely wounded Tayseer al-Batsh, the Hamas police chief in Gaza, are now being examined. In each case the teams will decide if a criminal investigation is warranted. At this stage, the policy of targeting houses is not under review.
Colonel Shamir-Borer said his department had invited nongovernment organizations to submit complaints and had also approached them.
“You know the international community is going to raise allegations,” he said. “You need answers.”
Israel bans national service with human rights group B'Tselem in Gaza row
Young barred from serving in organisation as alternative to military service after it is accused of 'incitement against IDF'
Orlando Crowcroft in Jerusalem
theguardian.com, Friday 15 August 2014 12.51 BST
Israel has banned young people from serving with one of its most prominent human rights groups because of its opposition to the war in Gaza. B'Tselem, which campaigns against Israeli settlements in the West Bank, was informed on Wednesday night that it has been blacklisted as a civilian alternative to military service.
The director of the body responsible for non-military options for Israelis who don't want to serve in the IDF, Sar-Shalom Jerbi, told Channel 2 TV that B'Tselem had: "crossed the line in wartime (by) campaigning and inciting against the state of Israel and the Israel Defence Force, which is the most moral of armies."
Hagai el-Ad, executive director at B'Tselem, said that the move was the latest in a campaign of intimidation and threats against the organisation over the last three weeks, during which it has voiced vociferous opposition to the war in Gaza. It had tried to have the names of Palestinian children aired on state TV during Operation Protective Edge, but was denied. Its appeal to the high court of justice was rejected on Tuesday.
"The level of intimidation and the broadness of attacks on the organisation over the past three weeks is unprecedented in the 25-year history of B'Tselem," Ad said, citing death threats and attempts to violently attack employees, as well as an organised internet campaign against the group.
He said it was a trend that could apply more generally to Israeli society over the past month, where groups of rightwing Jews and ultra-nationalists have attacked peace rallies in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and there has been a surge in racism against Arabs in Israel.
"Until this day Arabs in Jerusalem are afraid of gang violence against them on the streets of this city. This has never happened before, and still remains the situation in Jerusalem," he said.
B'Tselem has called on Uri Orbach, the government minister in charge of the authority for national civic service and a member of the ultranationalist Jewish Home party, that is in coalition with Binyamin Netanyahu, to overturn the decision, but the minister seemed to rule that out in a statement, published by Reuters.
"Israel is in the midst of a difficult military and diplomatic campaign against terrorists. An organisation that works to prove allegations that Israel is committing war crimes should be so good as to do so with its own resources and not with civilian national service volunteers and state funds," he said.
Ad would not speculate on how the disqualification would affect B'Tselem going forward – the authority revealed that the group only has one civilian volunteer – as the organisation intends to fight the decision.
All Israeli citizens have to carry out three years conscription when they turn 18, and all but a handful of young people choose to serve in the IDF. However, the Israeli government has been increasing alternatives to military service to accommodate Orthodox Jews and Arab Israelis, as well as pacifists.
Gaza counts the cost of war: 'Whole families smashed under the rubble'
Harriet Sherwood in Gaza
Friday 15 August 2014 10.35 BST
At least 59 Palestinian families suffered multiple casualties over four weeks of Israeli bombardment in Gaza, according to data collated by the Guardian. The youngest casualty was 10-day old Hala Abu Madi, who died on 2 August; the oldest was Abdel al-Masri, aged 97, who was killed on 3 August.
The figures are based on data from three independent Palestinian human rights organisations – the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) and Al Mezan, both based in Gaza, and the West Bank-based Al-Haq; the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem; and the UN office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
However, it is almost certainly an incomplete picture. Systematic identification of bodies and logging of data have been hampered by the sheer scale of the casualties in Gaza – about 2,000 killed in total, and 10,000 wounded – types of injuries, and the need for swift burial.
Among families in which four or more people died, 479 people were killed in total, including 212 children under the age of 18, and 15 people aged 60 and over. The deadliest day was 30 July, when 95 members of 10 families were killed. On 20 July, 65 members of 10 families died, and on 21 July, 71 members of six families were killed.
The Guardian has interviewed six families who suffered multiple casualties. In each case, relatives say there was no warning of attack, and all deny any connection with militant organisations in Gaza.
However, in many cases there may have been a military target among the dead. But the number of women and children killed in such attacks has led human rights organisations and international observers to question whether Israel’s use of force was proportionate and in keeping with the obligation under international law to protect civilians in war.
Hamdi Shaqqura, of the PCHR, said: “What has been significant about this onslaught is the deliberate attacks on families – whole families have been smashed under the rubble. We have documented 134 families, in which two or more members have been hit by Israeli forces – a total of 750 people.
“No justification can be accepted in targeting civilians, even if there is a security threat [in the vicinity]. Israel’s excessive use of force is contrary to international law on two counts – the principle of distinguishing between combatants and non-combatants, and the principle of proportionality, under which attacks must be proportionate to threat.”
The Israel Defence Forces did not respond to questions specifically about the six families interviewed by the Guardian. However, in a general statement it said: “As an absolute rule, the IDF never targets civilians, under any circumstance. On the contrary, the IDF takes globally unprecedented steps to limit civilian harm, despite fighting a terrorist organisation that exploits its civilians as human shields and callously embeds its terror infrastructure within the urban environment, including in schools, homes, hospitals and mosques.
“While Hamas indiscriminately targets Israelis, the IDF considers any civilian loss deeply tragic and regrettable and it goes without saying that the IDF categorically and emphatically rejects in the strongest terms any assertion of targeting families. Indeed, tactics such as the ‘knock on roof’ warning procedure are specifically designed to prevent harming civilians whilst striking legitimate and dangerous terror targets that pose an imminent threat to the security of the state of Israel. Over the course of this operation the IDF made over 400,000 warnings in its attempt to limit civilian casualties.”
16 July, Gaza City: Al-Bakr family, four dead
It was one of the most shocking moments of the Gaza war: four boys killed while playing on a beach. As well as the deaths of Ismail, 10, Ehad, 9, Zakaria, 10 and Mohamed, 11, several other children were injured. The event was witnessed by international journalists at a nearby hotel.
Mohamed Bakr, Ismail’s father, said his son had quit school to earn money serving tea to fishermen at the port. But a combination of war and Ramadan meant there were no fishermen, and no tea to serve. Instead the child – one of 10 siblings – went to play on the beach with some cousins.
Salwa al-Bakr with her son Sayed. The family lost their son Mohamed during the air strike on Gaza City's beach. Salwa al-Bakr with her son Sayed. The family lost their son Mohamed during the air strike on Gaza City’s beach.
“I was sleeping when some nephews ran to tell us the TV news said four children had been killed on the beach. I was counting my children, and shouting ‘where is Ismail?’” Mohamed rushed to al-Shifa hospital and found Ismail in the morgue. “Part of his brain was outside his head and his back was burnt. But there were only small marks on his face. It was chaos in the morgue and I thought only my son was dead. But then I saw my brothers screaming.”
Some of Ismail’s siblings had reached the morgue before their father. “They saw him. All the children are afraid to go outside now.”
Twelve-year-old Sayed, the brother of one of the dead boys, also called Mohamed, was on the beach. Despite injuries, he ran home, screaming that his brother had been killed. “I didn’t believe him,” said the boys’ mother, Salwa. “Why were they targeted? Did they have weapons? They were playing.”
Sayed is now deeply traumatised, but has had no psychological help. “I don’t want Jewish mothers to feel the pain I feel,” said Salwa. “I don’t know what they are thinking.”
19 July, Beit Hanoun: Abu Jarad family, eight dead
The Abu Jarads had just finished iftar, the meal that breaks the daily Ramadan fast, when two shells ripped into the building that was home to the large extended family.
One shell hit the flat of Alian Abu Jarad, 62, then a second blasted into his nephew’s home. In the black chaos that ensued, Alian rushed out of his house and scrambled up the stairs to find a scene of horror. Three adults, three infants and two teenage girls had been torn to pieces.
Alian pulled the limp, bloody corpse of five-month old Moussa from the rubble and staggered down the stairs with the dead baby in his arms. “All the neighbours came to help,” he later said, standing amid rubble. A pair of child-sized jogging pants, a pillow, shredded curtains and scraps of paper poked out from lumps of masonry and jagged shrapnel in the first-floor room. “There was no warning,” said Alian; no leaflets were dropped telling the families to evacuate the neighbourhood, no phone calls or text messages were received.
“Suddenly – boom,” he said. “There are no fighters here. No one is connected to any political faction. We have a brick factory – we are only concerned with our business. We are civilians. I never thought we’d face this. But now we have to deal with it. What else is there to do?”
His brother, Issa, added: “Palestinian people are not terrorists and criminals. We just want freedom and dignity.”
After the shelling, the homeless family scattered to five different UN shelters. Alian did not know if they would rebuild the property, which overlooks the family orchards of citrus and olive trees. “For now, we don’t want to come back,” he said.
21 July, Rafah: Siyyam family, 11 dead
Nabil Siyyam, 33, wept as he recalled the morning he lost his wife and four children, along with his left arm. A fifth child was in a critical condition in an Egyptian hospital. Nabil pulled up his shirt to reveal shrapnel wounds over his torso.
At 6am, there were several air strikes near the house, and the family decided to leave, fearing their home was at risk. Grandparents Mahrous and Dalal quickly rounded up the extended family and herded them into the road. Two drone missiles hit the group, killing 11 and injuring nine. Nabil Siyyam lost his wife and four children, along with his left arm. 'I saw my daughter cut into two.'
“The air was full of dust, I couldn’t see anything,” said Nabil. “I felt my arm hanging by skin, and I was bleeding from the chest.” When the air cleared, “I saw my daughter cut into two. I saw my baby thrown 10 metres from her mother. The drones were still in the sky.”
He said there was no warning and no reason for the strike. “They have the technology to watch us – they could see there were women and children.”
From a deep pocket in his robe, Mahrous pulled a handwritten list of the names, birth dates and identity numbers of those killed. At 67, he and Dalal have become substitute parents for baby Mayar, who was in a cast from her armpits to her toes and had lost her mother, father and siblings.
Dalal, left, and Mahrous with their injured 16-month-old granddaughter Mayar in their flat in Rafah. The 67-year-old grandparents are now in effect the child's parents as she lost her mother, father and siblings. Four more members of the family were killed in another air strike the following day. Dalal, left, and Mahrous with their injured 16-month-old granddaughter Mayar in their flat in Rafah. The 67-year-old grandparents are now in effect the child’s parents as she lost her mother, father and siblings. Four more members of the family were killed in another air strike the following day.
Four more members of the Siyyam family were killed in a separate air strike the following day.
21 July, Gaza City: Al-Qassas family, nine dead
Shadia al-Qassas took a crumpled photograph out of her bag, all she had left as mementoes of her two daughters. Lamiya, 13, and Nisma, 12, were killed along with seven other members of the family as they prepared pizza on the balcony of a relative’s house.
Shadia, her husband and seven children had left their own home after Israeli troops dropped leaflets in the neighbourhood, warning residents to evacuate ahead of the ground invasion of Gaza. They trudged through the streets to what they believed was a safer area; at about 4pm the next day their new home was shelled.
“There were 30 people in the house when it was hit,” she said, wiping away tears with the corner of her hijab. “I saw my daughters brought out on stretchers. They were cut into pieces. We couldn’t recognise their face, just their clothes. We buried nine bodies in one grave because we couldn’t separate the pieces.”
Shadia and Iyad al-Qassas lost two daughters. 'They were cut into pieces. We couldn’t recognise their face, just their clothes,' said Shadia. 'Most of the dead in this war are civilians.' Shadia and Iyad al-Qassas lost two daughters. ‘They were cut into pieces. We couldn’t recognise their face, just their clothes,’ said Shadia. ‘Most of the dead in this war are civilians.’
Her five surviving younger children “talk about their sisters all the time. They always want to be close to us; they freak out every time they hear a boom.”
She describes Lamiya and Nisma as “very sweet, they liked school and helped me in the house with the younger ones.” Lamiya wanted to be a teacher, and Nisma a hairdresser, she said.
“I don’t know why the house was hit. My father is old, my brothers drive trucks.” Her husband, Iyad, has a cart selling liver sandwiches.
Israel, she said, did not care about killing children. “Most of the dead in this war are civilians – children and women.”
On the heavily damaged top floor of the house, a relative points to the spot where the girls were squatting, kneading dough for pizza. His wife and four daughters were also among the dead.
23 July, Khan Younis: Abu Jame family, 26 dead
Bassem Abu Jame had just sat down to eat with his pregnant wife, Yasmin, and their three young children – Batol, four, Suhaila, three, and 18-month-old Besan – when the extended family’s six-flat home was pulverised in an air strike.
“I had one mouthful, and the explosion came before the second,” he said, standing on crutches amid the ruins. “I hit a wall and lost consciousness. I woke up the next day with no idea what had happened to my wife and children.”
Bassem Abu Jame lost all his family when his home was destroyed in an air strike. He also lost all his possessions, even family photos and his identity card. 'We will never recover from this. The scar will be there for ever.' Bassem Abu Jame lost all his family when his home was destroyed in an air strike. He also lost all his possessions, even family photos and his identity card. ‘We will never recover from this. The scar will be there for ever.’
They were dead, along with two dozen others including his mother – 26 people in total. Three people survived the blast: Bassem, whose leg was broken in three places, his brother Hussein, and a three-year-old nephew.
He said there was no warning, and he had no idea why the house was targeted. One of the dead was reported to be a Hamas-employed policeman, but Bassem insisted that he and his brothers were vegetable-sellers. “We are not affiliated with any faction,” he said.
As well as his immediate family, Bassem said he had lost everything he owned, including photographs of his loved ones. “All my documents, my identity papers, money, pictures – it’s all gone,” he said gesturing towards a huge crater left by the blast.
“We will never recover from this. It’s like a wound – it might heal, but the scar will be there for ever.”
26 July, Khan Younis: Al-Najjar family, 38 dead (in total)
Before this war, the Najjar family was one of the biggest in Khan Younis, with several branches spread across homes in the area. But in four separate strikes, their number has been reduced by 38. At one attack, on 26 July, seven members of the family, including two children aged three and two, were killed in a huge blast in the middle of the night. “I was sleeping when the explosion came,” said Salah al-Najjar. Clambering over broken glass and fallen masonry to reach his brother’s house next door, Salah heard his nephew calling for help. “I couldn’t see him because of the dust and the dark.”
Other relatives rushed to help. “It took us two hours working with our hands to get three survivors out,” he said. “The fourth was very deep down. He had to wait until the bulldozer came.”
Salah al-Najjar, who dug into the rubble with his hands for two hours to rescue some of his brother's family when their home was hit. Seven members of the family were killed. Salah al-Najjar, who dug into the rubble with his hands for two hours to rescue some of his brother’s family when their home was hit.
Salah said there was no warning. “If there had been, we would have left. Our neighbourhood is very quiet. We are farmers. Nothing happens here – usually.” Asked why he thought the house had been targeted, he said: “This is the question we need an answer to. Please tell us.”
In an adjacent house, Nafisa al-Najjar, 45, who survived the blast, was wrapped in a blue-checked cloth on a narrow bed. In the moments following the explosion, she could feel the building collapsing around her and feared being buried alive. Her pelvis and several ribs were broken.
Nafisa’s 10-year-old daughter Nama’a, who escaped with barely a bruise, was crouched at the bedside. “Her cousins ask her to go out and play, but she wants to stay near me all the time,” said Nafisa.
“I’m really shocked that we were targeted. Relatives wanted to come to our house because they thought it was safe. What are my husband and children guilty of?”
Resisting Nazis, He Saw Need for Israel. Now He Is Its Critic.
By CHRISTOPHER F. SCHUETZE and ANNE BARNARD
AUG. 15, 2014
THE HAGUE — In 1943, Henk Zanoli took a dangerous train trip, slipping past Nazi guards and checkpoints to smuggle a Jewish boy from Amsterdam to the Dutch village of Eemnes. There, the Zanoli family, already under suspicion for resisting the Nazi occupation, hid the boy in their home for two years. The boy would be the only member of his family to survive the Holocaust.
Seventy-one years later, on July 20, an Israeli airstrike flattened a house in the Gaza Strip, killing six of Mr. Zanoli’s relatives by marriage. His grandniece, a Dutch diplomat, is married to a Palestinian economist, Ismail Ziadah, who lost three brothers, a sister-in-law, a nephew and his father’s first wife in the attack.
On Thursday, Mr. Zanoli, 91, whose father died in a Nazi camp, went to the Israeli Embassy in The Hague and returned a medal he received honoring him as one of the Righteous Among the Nations — non-Jews honored by Israel for saving Jews during the Holocaust. In an anguished letter to the Israeli ambassador to the Netherlands, he described the terrible price his family had paid for opposing Nazi tyranny.
“My sister lost her husband, who was executed in the dunes of The Hague for his involvement in the resistance,” he wrote. “My brother lost his Jewish fiancée who was deported, never to return.”
Mr. Zanoli continued, “Against this background, it is particularly shocking and tragic that today, four generations on, our family is faced with the murder of our kin in Gaza. Murder carried out by the State of Israel.”
His act crystallizes the moral debate over Israel’s military air and ground assault in the Gaza Strip, in which about 2,000 people, a majority of them civilians, have been killed. Israel says the strikes are aimed at Hamas militants who fire rockets at Israeli cities and have dug a secret network of tunnels into Israel.
Mr. Zanoli transformed over the decades from a champion to a critic of the Israeli state, mirroring a larger shift in Europe, where anguish over the slaughter of six million European Jews led many to support the founding of Israel in 1948 as a haven for Jews worldwide.
But in the years since Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza during the 1967 war, Europeans have become more critical. Israel blames anti-Semitism, which has grown in Europe with the rise of right-wing politicians. Some European protests against Israeli military action have been marred in recent weeks by open anti-Semitism, blurring the line between criticism of Israeli policy and hate speech against Jews. But many other critics, like Mr. Zanoli, say their objection to Israeli policy is not anti-Jewish but consistent with the humanitarian principles that led them to condemn the Holocaust and support the founding of a Jewish state.
“I gave back my medal because I didn’t agree with what the state of Israel is doing to my family and to the Palestinians on the whole,” Mr. Zanoli said in an interview Friday in his spare but elegant apartment, adding that his decision was a statement “only against the state of Israel, not the Israeli people.”
“Jews were our friends,” said Mr. Zanoli, a retired lawyer who uses a motorized scooter but remains erect and regal, much as he appears in a yellowing 1940s photograph archived at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem.
Mr. Zanoli said he had never publicly criticized Israel “until I heard that my family was the victim.”
In Gaza, Mr. Zanoli’s in-laws say his gesture is a fitting response to the losses of their family and others who have lost multiple relatives in strikes on homes. Those in-laws include Hassan al-Zeyada, a psychological trauma counselor who is an older brother of Ismail Ziadah. Their mother, Muftiyah, 70, was the oldest family member to die in the bombing.
Like Mr. Zanoli, Dr. Zeyada, 50, who works to treat the many Palestinians in Gaza traumatized by war and displacement, has given much thought to the fact that Israel was founded after the Holocaust, one of history’s greatest collective traumas.
Dr. Zeyada, who transliterates his family name differently from his brother, said Friday that he admired Mr. Zanoli and his family for their struggle in World War II against “discrimination and oppression in general and against the Jews in particular.”
“For them,” he added, “it’s something painful that the people you defended and struggled for turn into aggressors.”
Document: Award Returned ‘With Great Sorrow’
In a letter to the Israeli ambassador to the Netherlands, Henk Zanoli returned his medal as one of the Righteous Among the Nations.
OPEN Document: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/08/16/world/middleeast/16dutchman-letter.html
Dr. Zeyada said last month that none of his family members were militants. Israel says that it takes precautions to avoid killing civilians, and that Hamas purposely increases civilian casualties by operating in residential neighborhoods. It has offered no information on whether the Zeyada family home was hit purposely, and if so, what the target was and whether it justified a strike that killed six civilians. The military told the left-leaning Israeli newspaper Haaretz, which first reported Mr. Zanoli’s decision, only that it was investigating “all irregular incidents.”
At Yad Vashem, where a leafy garden commemorates the 25,000 people named Righteous Among the Nations, a spokeswoman said Friday that Mr. Zanoli’s renunciation of the prize was “his decision,” but “we regret it.”
More than 5,000 Dutch have received the honor; only Poles have been honored more.
In 1943, Mr. Zanoli’s father was detained by the Nazis for his work in the Dutch underground resistance movement. Soon after, according to Yad Vashem’s citation, also awarded posthumously to Mr. Zanoli’s mother, Jans, Mr. Zanoli traveled to Amsterdam to get Elchanan Pinto, 11, an Orthodox Jewish boy whose parents and siblings would all die in the death camps.
“Jans Zanoli knew very well the risks involved by then in hiding a Jewish youngster in her home, but felt the moral obligation to do so,” the citation reads. “Elchanan found a warm and loving home with them.”
After the Allied victory in 1945, an uncle of Elchanan’s took him to a Jewish orphanage. In 1951, the citation says, Elchanan immigrated to Israel, where he changed his last name to Hameiri. An Elchanan Hameiri is listed in phone directories as living in Israel, but could not be reached on Friday.
In his letter to the Israeli ambassador, Mr. Zanoli noted that among the bereaved were “the great-great grandchildren of my mother.”
He relinquished the honor “with great sorrow,” he wrote, because keeping an honor from Israel’s government would be “an insult to the memory of my courageous mother” and to his Gaza family.
He added that his family had “strongly supported the Jewish people” in their quest for “a national home,” but that he had gradually come to believe that “the Zionist project” had “a racist element in it in aspiring to build a state exclusively for Jews.”
He referred to the displacement of Palestinians — including members of the Ziadah family — during the war over Israel’s founding as “ethnic cleansing” and said Israel “continues to suppress” and occupy Palestinian areas. Israel still occupies the West Bank; it pulled troops out of Gaza in 2005 but retains control over its seafront, airspace and most of its borders.
Israel says it maintains control to curb Palestinian militants like those with Hamas, which in the past has killed several hundred Israelis in suicide bombings. Palestinians see the continuing conflict as a struggle for self-determination — they use Mr. Zanoli’s word for his anti-Nazi work, resistance — and say Israel is obstructing the establishment of a Palestinian state with policies like settlements in the occupied West Bank.
Mr. Zanoli said he could envision a situation in which he would take the medal back.
“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,” he wrote. “Although this will result in a state no longer exclusively Jewish it will be a state with a level of righteousness on the basis of which I could accept the title of ‘Righteous among the Nations’ you awarded to my mother and me.”
In that event, he concluded, “be sure to contact me or my descendants.”
Hague court under western pressure not to open Gaza war crimes inquiry
Potential ICC investigation into actions of both the IDF and Hamas in Gaza has become a fraught political battlefield
Julian Borger, diplomatic editor
theguardian.com, Monday 18 August 2014 08.00 BST
The international criminal court has persistently avoided opening an investigation into alleged war crimes in Gaza as a result of US and other western pressure, former court officials and lawyers claim.
In recent days, a potential ICC investigation into the actions of both the Israel Defence Forces and Hamas in Gaza has become a fraught political battlefield and a key negotiating issue at ceasefire talks in Cairo. But the question of whether the ICC could or should mount an investigation has also divided the Hague-based court itself.
An ICC investigation could have a far-reaching impact. It would not just examine alleged war crimes by the Israeli military, Hamas and other Islamist militants in the course of recent fighting in Gaza that left about 2,000 people dead, including women and children. It could also address the issue of Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories, for which the Israeli leadership would be responsible.
The ICC's founding charter, the 1998 Rome statute (pdf), describes as a war crime "the transfer, directly or indirectly, by the occupying power of parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies".
Also at stake is the future of the ICC itself, an experiment in international justice that occupies a fragile position with no superpower backing. Russia, China and India have refused to sign up to it. The US and Israel signed the accord in 2000 but later withdrew.
Some international lawyers argue that by trying to duck an investigation, the ICC is not living up to the ideals expressed in the Rome statute that "the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole must not go unpunished".
John Dugard, a professor of international law at the University of Leiden, in the Netherlands, and a longstanding critic of Israel's human rights record, said: "I think the prosecutor could easily exercise jurisdiction. Law is a choice. There are competing legal arguments, but she should look at the preamble to the ICC statute which says the purpose of the court is to prevent impunity."
In an exchange of letters in the last few days, lawyers for the Palestinians have insisted that the ICC prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, has all the legal authority she needs to launch an investigation, based on a Palestinian request in 2009. However, Bensouda is insisting on a new Palestinian declaration, which would require achieving elusive consensus among political factions such as Hamas, who would face scrutiny themselves alongside the Israeli government. There is strong US and Israeli pressure on the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, not to pursue an ICC investigation.
Western pressure on the ICC to stay away from the issue has caused deep rifts within the prosecutor's office. Some former officials say the Palestinians were misled in 2009 into thinking their request for a war crimes investigation – in the wake of an earlier Israeli offensive on Gaza, named Cast Lead – would remain open pending confirmation of statehood. That confirmation came in November 2012 when the UN general assembly (UNGA) voted to award Palestine the status of non-member observer state, but no investigation was launched.
Bensouda initially appeared open to reviewing the standing Palestinian request, but the following year issued a controversial statement (pdf) saying the UNGA vote made no difference to the "legal invalidity" of the 2009 request.
Luis Moreno Ocampo, who was prosecutor at the time of the Palestinian 2009 declaration, backed Bensouda, saying in an email to the Guardian: "If Palestine wants to accept jurisdiction, it has to submit a new declaration."
But another former official from the ICC prosecutor's office who dealt with the Palestinian declaration strongly disagreed. "They are trying to hiding behind legal jargon to disguise what is a political decision, to rule out competence and not get involved," the official said.
Dugard said Bensouda was under heavy pressure from the US and its European allies. "For her it's a hard choice and she's not prepared to make it," he argued. "But this affects the credibility of the ICC. Africans complain that she doesn't hesitate to open an investigation on their continent."
Moreno Ocampo took three years to make a decision on the status of the 2009 Palestinian request for an investigation, during which time he was lobbied by the US and Israel to keep away. According to a book on the ICC published this year, American officials warned the prosecutor that the future of the court was in the balance.
According to the book, Rough Justice: the International Criminal Court in a World of Power Politics, by David Bosco, the Americans suggested that a Palestine investigation "might be too much political weight for the institution to bear. They made clear that proceeding with the case would be a major blow to the institution."
Although the US does not provide funding for the ICC, "Washington's enormous diplomatic, economic and military power can be a huge boon for the court when it periodically deployed in support of the court's work," writes Bosco, an assistant professor of international politics at American University.
In his book, Bosco reports that Israeli officials held several unpublicised meetings with Moreno Ocampo in The Hague, including a dinner at the Israeli ambassador's residence, to lobby against an investigation.
A former ICC official who was involved in the Palestinian dossier said: "It was clear from the beginning that Moreno Ocampo did not want to get involved. He said that the Palestinians were not really willing to launch the investigation, but it was clear they were serious. They sent a delegation with two ministers and supporting lawyers in August 2010 who stayed for two days to discuss their request. But Moreno Ocampo was aware that any involvement would spoil his efforts to get closer to the US."
Moreno Ocampo denied that he had been influenced by US pressure. "I was very firm on treating this issue impartially, but at the same time respecting the legal limits," he said in an email on Sunday. "I heard all the arguments. I received different Oxford professors who were explaining the different and many times opposing arguments, and I concluded that the process should … go first to the UN. They should decide what entity should be considered a state."
He added: "Palestine was using the threat to accept jurisdiction to negotiate with Israel. Someone said that if you have nine enemies surrounding you and one bullet, you don't shoot, you try to use your bullet to create leverage."
A spokeswoman for his successor, Fatou Bensouda, rejected allegations of bias in the prosecutor's choice of investigations. "The ICC is guided by the Rome statute and nothing else," she said. "Strict rules about jurisdiction, about where and when ICC can intervene should be not be deliberately misrepresented … Geographical and political consideration will thus never form part of any decision making by the office."
The French lawyer representing the Palestinians, Gilles Devers, argued that it was for the court's preliminary chamber, not the ICC's prosecutor, to decide on the court's jurisdiction in the Palestinian territories. Devers said negotiations were continuing among the Palestinian parties on whether to file a new request for an investigation, even though he believed it to be unnecessary in legal terms. Ultimately, he said, the outcome would be determinedly politically.
"There is enormous pressure not to proceed with an investigation. This pressure has been exerted on Fatah and Hamas, but also on the office of the prosecutor," Devers said. "In both cases, it takes the form of threats to the financial subsidies, to Palestine and to the international criminal court."
Among the biggest contributors to the ICC budget are the UK and France, which have both sought to persuade the Palestinians to forego a war crimes investigation.