Monday, April 12, 2010

Ahmadinejad the bogey-man, Palestinians the target

IT was a weekend for warmongers. First, President Obama announced that Iran (and North Korea) was being excluded from a US pledge not to attack first with nuclear weapons. Hardly an inducement not to acquire them, which is supposed to be the US policy aim.

Then Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu used the platform at Yom Hashoa -Israel's Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony at Yad Vashem to claim that Iran was threatening to destroy the Jewish state and accuse "the world" of remaining silent.

"Iran's leaders are barreling toward developing a nuclear weapon, and openly declaring their desire to destroy Israel, " Netanyahu declared. Meanwhile other states "direct their fire at Israel".

America is the only country which has ever used nuclear weapons, and did so while it was the sole possessor of them. Israel is the only state in the Middle East which has nuclear weapons, and unlike Iran has never signed the non-proliferation treaty, nor allowed inspection, preferring to jail its citizen who dared talk about them. Iran is being subjected to US-led international sanctions, while Israel continues to receive massive US aid and enjoy privileged trading status and scientific co-operation in Europe.

To complete the picture of Netanyahu's lies, Iran's "open threats" to destroy the Jewish state consist of one at worst ambiguous speech by President Ahmadinejad where he spoke of Israel disappearing from the pages of history (or "being wiped from the map" as Western media reported) the way the Soviet Union had. The Soviet Union was not destroyed by nuclear attack, and nor would Israel be, if the Palestinians have any say in it, since they wish for freedom in their homeland, not to inherit a radio-active waste. But if it suits the Zionist leaders to have a bogey-man, and it suits Ahmadinejad to play the part, it is the Palestinians, with neither nuclear weapons nor an air force, who are being threatened in their very existence by Israel.

New orders which the Israeli military have been provided with enable the occupation forces to deem any Palestinians or foreigners living in the West Bank 'infiltrators', unless they can show an Israeli-issued residence permit. Those who fail to do so can be deported within 72 hours or jailed for seven years.

The new Order Regarding Prevention of Infiltration and Order Regarding Security Provisions, which comes into force tomorrow (Tuesday) could have "severe ramifications," according to warnings by Palestinian and Israeli human rights group. The order does not define what constitutes a valid permit.

"The orders … are worded so broadly such as theoretically allowing the military to empty the West Bank of almost all its Palestinian inhabitants," said Israeli rights groups in a statement, supported by Ha-Moked, B'Tselem, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, and Rabbis for Human Rights. Until now the vast majority of Palestinians in the West Bank have not been required to hold a permit just to be present in their homes, the groups say.

"The military will be able to prosecute and deport any Palestinian defined as an infiltrator in stark contradiction to the Geneva conventions," they said. The law broadens the definition of an "infiltrator" and could allow Israel to transfer some Palestinians from the West Bank to Gaza, or to deport foreign passport holders married to West Bank Palestinians, or to deport Israelis or foreigners living in the West Bank. The groups said tens of thousands of Palestinians were in those categories.

Israel effectively controls the Palestinian population register and since 2000, apart from once in 2007, the Israeli authorities have frozen applications for renewal of visitor permits for foreign nationals, or applications to grant permanent status in the occupied territories. As a result, many Palestinians live in the West Bank without formal status and are now vulnerable under the new orders. The human rights groups wrote to the Israeli defence minister, Ehud Barak, today asking him to delay or revoke the orders, which they said were "unlawful and allow extreme and arbitrary injury to a vast number of people".

The Israeli military said the purpose of the orders was "the extradition of those residing illegally in Judea and Samaria," an Israeli term for the West Bank. The orders had been "corrected" in order to "assure judicial oversight of the extradition process," it said.

Ironically, the one sizeable group of illegal residents who won't be affected are those who call it "Judea and Samaria" - the Zionist settlers. They can still go where they like, carry firearms, and count on the military for protection whatever they do. Israeli authorities already control the movement of Palestinians with their roadblocks, and decide who is allowed to visit, and now the want to dictate whether people can even remain there.

Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, said the orders would make it easy for Israel to imprison or expel Palestinians from the West Bank. "These military orders belong in an apartheid state," he said. "They are an assault on ordinary Palestinians and an affront to the most fundamental principles of human rights. Israel's endgame is not peace. It is the colonisation of the West Bank."

Indeed this order is reminiscent of the powers the Nazis gave themselves to remove people from Germany, except their's began before they began occupying neighbouring territories. It is some way to commemorate the victims of what began with small, legal measures, and casual brutality. It is to the credit of Israeli rights campaigners that they are giving warnings now. But will Israel's backers in Washington and in Europe pay attention, and rein it in, or will they be pre-occupied with the Iranian bogeyman? That too, from being a useful diversion (for both presidents, in Washington and Tehran) , could escalate dangerously into a war they did not really want.

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