Friday, January 09, 2009

Can Israeli forces get away with war crimes?

WHITE PHOSPHORUS being scattered over Gaza town. It burns through to the bone.

ISRAELI troops in Gaza told a crowd of civilians to shelter in a building -then shelled the building, according to a report reaching the UN today. It says 30 people were killed in this incident on Sunday, in the Zaytoun district. It is reported that Israeli forces also refused to allow ambulance crews to go in and help the wounded. Even if the Palestinians killed this way had all been combatants, prisoners of war, this massacre would have been reminiscent of the conduct of Nazi SS troops behaved in World War II, although from the bland way it was brief ly announced on BBC news this morning you'd think it was a minor counties' cricket score. It must be their training, though of course we must bear in mind that the victims were only Palestinians.

Meanwhile we have also seen on TV the Israeli air force dropping white phosphorus over Gaza. The commentary did not say that was what they were doing, but I had already seen pictures posted by a friend on the internet who explained what those strange white flares were. I was hesitant to use the pictures without checking their provenance, by now I have seen it on the news.

He says: "White phosphorus cause injuries and death in three ways: by burning deep into tissue, by being inhaled as a smoke, and by being ingested. Extensive exposure in any way is fatal. These weapons are particularly dangerous to exposed people because white phosphorus continues to burn unless deprived of oxygen or until it is completely consumed and can not be put out with water"..

Our correspondent, Dan Jacobus, adds: "I want to be fair in that white phosphorus is also used as an illuminating weapon as well as for smokescreen. In that case it is not "illegal" under conventions that exist.

"Now, if I just left it at that, you might think - hmm well, it looks like day time to me and in that last photo it definitely looks like they're burning the shit out of stuff on the ground. To me, if Israel said they're using it for illumination or something, I wouldn't believe them but I'd say they're making a claim and they should get a benefit before investigations occur.

"The fact that today Israel denied even using White Phosphorus - ( well, that pretty much makes me think that in fact they are using it and these pictures show Israel using it in a weaponized manner".

To me, scattering weapons like white phosphorus or cluster bombs (which Israeli officers said were used like confetti over Lebanon), not on an open battlefield with tanks but on a heavily populated area, makes nonsense of the claim to precision targeting, and is clearly a criminal act.

Soldiers and pilots are not responsible for wars. But they are responsible for obeying illegal orders. Israel adoptd that principle into law, if I am not mistaken after the Eichman trial. Whether anyone in the IDF worries about that, or is shocked by an atrocity like that reported at Zaytoun, is another matter. We heard how an Israeli air force commander asked what he felt when dropping a giant bomb that would kill civilians replied "A slight bump in the cockpit". We also saw how an attempt to charge an Israeli general with war crimes when he set foot in Britain was thwarted because the Metropolitan Police tipped him off before he stepped off the plane.
The British government assured the Israelis that it was going to change the law so such prosecutions could not me made.

Unlike the Lebanon war, when the Blair government stood by the US and Israel against calls for a cease-fire, Britain has voted in the UN Security Council this time for a cease fire resolution, leaving it to America's Condoleeza Rice to abstain. But the suspicion continues that British government and media, even when pretending to be neutral or even criticise Israel, are biased in its favour; or more accurately, that in the bigger picture they are on the same side.

Last night the news of a missile being fired from Lebanon, which Israeli forces themselves doubted was the work of Hizbollah(who usually claim their actions) was enough for BBC TV news to show footage of a Hizbollah rally, while a commentator told us that Hamas and Hizbollah were dedicated to destroying Israel, and then displayed a map of Iran, saying it was supporting them n this aim, and supplying the arms. Had someone mistakenly given him next week's script, for the next phase of the war? Barack Obama's Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, promised during the US primaries that if Israel was attacked, the United States would "obliterate Iran". Will a maverick missile fired from Lebanon be construed as an "Iranian attack"?

This morning the son of the manse Gordon Brown was showing his concerned look, saying that cease fire in Gaza must lead to "stopping the arms traffic". He means those tunnels of course. But what about stopping the arms traffic to Israel? Britain supports sanctions against Iran, and British banks have even interfered with charity money going to Palestinians in Gaza, but when it comes to the IDF, latest British Foreign Office figures show that in the first thre months of 2008, Britain exported £18, 847,795 worth of weaponry to Israel. This was more than twice the sales approved in the whole of 2007, and included parts for combat planes and aero engines, as well as high-tech pilot's aides.

Britain has also made huge sales to Saudi Arabia of course, but we are unlikely to see the Saudis use anyof this against Israel.

LIBERAL DEMOCRAT leader Nick Clegg has called for an arms embargo on Israel.
He is quite right. But neither Labour nor Tories are likely to do that. So will Lib Dems or anyone else support workers putting their own embargo on this bloody trade?

Demonstrations are continuing around the world against Israel's war on the people of Gaza. In Toronto and Montreal police moved in on Jewish women who had seized the Israeli consulates in solidarity with the Palestinian people.

In London demonstrators will gather tomorrow at Hyde Park Speaker Corner at 12.30pm for a march on the Israeli embassy. For more details, including coach transport from other parts of the country, see the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) website at

Hands Off The People of Iran, HOPI, which aims to alert people to the dangers of sanctions and war against Iran, at the same time as supporting workers and students opposing the Islamicist regime, says Iranians have a right and duty to support the Palestinian people. But it warns against placing any trust in President Ahmadinejad, saying his posturing has played into the hands of US imperialism, and his policies divide and weaken resistance, as we have seen in Iraq. HOPI warns that the Iranian regime would use the Palestinian people as pawns to be sacrificed. But right now its main warning is against Zionist and US imperialist war plans.

HOPI is inviting people to a meeting - Gaza: what’s going on?, to discuss the underlying and wider issues of the present uneven war. Its speaker will be veteran Israeli socialist Moshe Machover, a founder of the anti-Zionist left-wing Matzpen group in Israel and former editor of Khamsin magazine.
We might also note that Moshe Machover's lawyer son Daniel has been led efforts to bring Israeli war criminals to trial here in the UK.

7pm, Wednesday January 21
Room 2B23,Strand Campus
King's College, London

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At 2:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The white phosphorus story is interesting (and appalling), but I wonder if it is distracting from the much larger number of people being killed by conventional means in Gaza.


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