Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Punishing civilians is a war crime!


DEMONSTRATION AT BIL'IN
Green Hamas flags and Gush Shalom's two-state emblem amid the placards.

The Israeli and US governments are waging war on the Palestinian people. Israeli armed forces have taken up position to cut off the Palestinian West Bank from the Jordan valley, and are ready to seal off the Gaza strip.

Elected representatives from the Gaza area were prevented from travelling to Ramallah for the swearing in of parliament. The army reportedly also wants to stop goods and people travelling to work.

The Israeli cabinet decided on Monday to halt the transfer of funds, mostly about $50m (£29m) a month in tax and customs receipts, to the Palestinian Authority(PA), and to appeal to foreign governments to do the same until Hamas renounces violence and recognises Israel's "right to exist".

Hamas has already said it would agree a long-term truce, for a generation, but that it cannot renounce the right to resist while Israeli troops occupy Palestinian land. Most Palestinians have indicated in polls that they favour renewed peace negotiations. But evidently that is not good enough for Israeli politicians competing to be "hard" for their own elections, nor for the US administration gearing its public up for another war in the Middle East.

The US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, began a tour of the Middle East this week during which she is expected to press Arab governments not to finance Hamas. (this in contradiction of previous US hints that they would reduce their own aid but let Arab states step in to prevent collapse and exercise a moderating influence). Washington has also demanded that the PA repay $50m in aid that could fall under Hamas control.


A New York Times article on February 13, 'US and Israel are said to talk of Hamas ouster,' said the governments hoped to use economic pressures to make Palestinians remove the Hamas government they have just elected.

"The intention is to starve the Palestinian Authority of money and international connections to the point where, some months from now, its president, Mahmoud Abbas, is compelled to call a new election,...The hope is that Palestinians will be so unhappy with life under Hamas that they will return to office a reformed and chastened Fatah movement...

"If a Hamas government is unable to pay workers, import goods, transfer money and receive significant amounts of outside aid, Mr. Abbas, the president, would have the authority to dissolve parliament and call new elections, the [US and Israeli] officials say, even though that power is not explicit in the Palestinian basic law."
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Although US officials tried to play down the report, Condoleezza Rice told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on February 15 that no US money would be given to a Hamas-led government. As well as cutting US funding the Bush administration is pressuring the European Union, individual European states, and America’s allies in the Middle East to follow suit.

The PA's annual budget totals some $1.9 billion and is $750 million in deficit. International contributions provide approximately $1 billion of all Palestinian revenue. The PA's 140,000 employees use their income to support an estimated one-third of the entire Palestinian population.

Rice told the Foreign Relations Committee that some US money would continue to go to humanitarian projects in Gaza and the West Bank, but only on the condition that none of the programs were connected to the PA. Dov Weissglas, advisor to acting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, said cynically "It's like meeting with a dietician. We have to make them [i.e., the Palestinians] much thinner, but not enough to die."

In the last decade the loss of income from workers in the Gulf and closures affecting Palestinians going to work in Israel, combined with interference with land use and development in the occupied territories, have combined to create levels of poverty comparable to those in Africa. A report a few years said many families could not afford enough food. "In the Gaza Strip 13.2 per cent of children under five suffer from chronic malnutrition, which means they suffer stunted growth and mental development".

It is the contrast between a "peace process" that got nowhere and the reality of suffering and humiliations that drove masses of Palestinians to turn to Hamas. Making civilians, and especially children, suffer for what the powerful consider the wrong political decision, compounds the felony of Israeli governments and their US patron who previously made sure moderate Palestinian leaders, from Arafat to Abbas, had nothing to show for their moderation. It is also a crime under international law. Not that this may weigh heavily with the Israeli and US governments. But what is the difference between a sniper shooting up a Sarajevo bread queue, or a terrorist punishing ordinary British or American people for Blair and Bush, and US or Israeli governments seeking to punish Palestinians by seeing their children deprived of medicines or food?

Other Voices in Israel
and the United States

In Israel and in the United States, voices have been raised against the wisdom, let alone morality, of those in power. The ad. below appeared in the Israeli daily Ha'aretz at the weekend:-

HOW STUPID!

The pro-Israeli New York Times disclosed this week an American-Israel plan to starve the Palestinians, in order to bring about new elections and a Fatah victory. How stupid can you get? The Palestinians, like us or any other people, will react with fury to such a despicable outside pressure. They will not overturn Hamas but give it even greater power.
Contacts with the elected Palestinian leadership must be opened at once, in order to achieve their recognition of the State of Israel within the pre-1967 borders and our recognition of the State of Palestine in all the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
That is possible - if only we want it.
Gush Shalom ad published in Ha'aretz, February 17, 2006

In the United States, Jewish Voice for Peace has issued the following call:

" Tell Your Congressional representatives and the President that Americans do not wish to cause innocent Palestinians to suffer because our government is unhappy with the outcome of the Palestinians' democratic election.

The Senate unanimously passed S. Con. Res. 79, which expressed a "sense of Congress" that no funding should go to the Palestinian Authority. The House last week also voted to pass that bill, by a margin of 418-1. Only Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-HI) voted against the bill. But that bill was meaningless, as it had no effect on any aid, but merely expressed Congress' view.

A much more dangerous bill, HR 4681, the "Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006" is now being considered in the House. This bill would severely restrict all funds to the PA, even making humanitarian aid more difficult. And last week, the US even demanded that the PA return $50 million in aid that had already been given to them. US funds do not go to the Palestinian Authority but instead provide development assistance, humanitarian aid, and vital support for building democratic institutions in the West Bank and Gaza.

Take action now to send a clear message that Americans won't stand by while Palestinians are punished for exercising their democratic rights. In addition to sending this e-mail, you might want to contact your congresspeople directly. You can enter your zip code and get their phone and fax numbers by clicking here. During the Presidents' Day week, many of your representatives will be in their home districts. Now is the time to call them and set up meetings with them or their staff".

Jewish Voice for Peace, in contrast to Britain's Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sachs, has welcomed the Church of England Synod decision to disinvest from Caterpillar, whose bulldozers are used in Israeli house demolitions and clearances.

You can get more information about Jewish Voice for Peace and its campaigns at:
http://www.jewishvoiceforpeace.org/
and Gush Shalom gives its views and reports on its activities at
http://zope.gush-shalom.org/home/en/index.html

If such voices are not much heard, for which the media must take some blame, it is is up to us to amplify them. Otherwise we are complaisant in what the US, British and Israeli governments are doing in our name.

1 Comments:

At 8:03 PM, Blogger DesertPeace said...

Great thread. Thanks Charlie. These issues have to be spread far and wide... to be silent on such injustices is to sanctify them.

 

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