Saturday, September 24, 2016

Haaretz: Secret Documents Reveal How Israel Tried to Evade International Scrutiny of Occupation

Dear friends,
the following article published recently by Haaretz discusses how Israel's deliberate violation of the Geneva convention and its attempt to deny that they have violated them and attempted to ensure that they were applied by denying that they are carrying out an illegal military occupation of Palestinian territory in the Occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza - something which Israel continues to do today.  These documents reveal that the Israeli military and government were well aware that they were violating international law and sought to evade being held accountable for their actions and treatment of the Palestinian population in the territories they now controlled. 

As the Haaretz article notes: "
These documents are not merely an interesting historical record of how Israel initially related to the Geneva Conventions, nor are they merely an admission of its violation. They are also relevant to the ongoing debate today over the occupation’s legality."

This article should be read in conjunction with the previous blog I posted, which discusses how Israel attempted to conceal its building of illegal colonies in the Occupied West Bank in the wake of their seizure of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza and the Golan Heights in 1967.  You can access it by clicking here.

in solidarity, Kim 


Secret Documents Reveal How Israel Tried to Evade International Scrutiny of Occupation

In two cables from '67 and '68, Foreign Ministry officials admit violations of Geneva Conventions, instruct diplomats how to evade need for compliance by eschewing use of the word ‘occupation.’
Yotam Berger Sep 20, 2016 Haaretz

Israeli troops line up prisoners in the Gaza strip in readiness for questioning and identification on June 6, 1967, during the early stages of the Arab-Israel war.AP

Two classified Foreign Ministry documents, from 1967 and from 1968, disclose how the government tried to avoid application of the Geneva Conventions to the territories immediately after they were captured and how it tried to prevent international criticism of violations of the conventions.

They also show how Israel tried to avoid granting the International Committee of the Red Cross access to the territories as mandated by the conventions.

In the documents, senior civil servants admit to various violations of the conventions, including the use of violence against the Palestinian population. They also reveal how Israel sought to avoid defining itself as an occupier in the territories, while admitting explicitly that this claim was put forth for strategic reasons, to avoid criticism, even though there was no substantive justification for it.

One document is a cable sent in March 1968 to Israel’s then-ambassador in Washington, Yitzhak Rabin, by Michael Comay and Theodor Meron. Comay, a senior diplomat whose previous posts included ambassador to the United Nations, was political advisor to then-Foreign Minister Abba Eban when the cable was written. Meron was the Foreign Ministry’s legal advisor.

The cable, which was classified top-secret, contains instructions from Comay and Meron on what Rabin should do to prevent the United States from forcing Israel to apply the Geneva Conventions to the territories.

“Our consistent policy has been and still is to avoid discussing the situation in the administered territories with foreign parties on the basis of the Geneva Conventions. ... Explicit recognition on our part of the applicability of the Geneva Conventions would highlight serious problems under the convention with house demolitions, expulsions, settlement and more — and furthermore, when we’re obligated to leave all options open with regard to the issue of borders, we must not recognize that our status in the administered territories is solely that of an occupying power,” the cable said.

“In short, our policy toward the administered territories is to try to prevent clear violations of the Geneva Conventions without getting into the question of the conventions’ applicability,” the cable continued.

Comay and Meron acknowledged that the status of Jerusalem was particularly problematic, because the government had already taken steps that would likely be viewed as violations of the conventions.

“The most serious problem is of course East Jerusalem, because here, if the government were to follow the Geneva Conventions and the Hague Regulations, it wouldn’t be able to make far-reaching administrative and legal changes, such as expropriating land,” they wrote. “The Americans recently said that our status in Jerusalem is solely that of an occupation. On this basis, we can’t even talk to them about the issue of Jerusalem, because although here, too, we’re trying to avoid actions that would have international repercussions, there’s no possibility of making all our actions in Jerusalem fit the restrictions that derive from the Geneva Conventions and the Hague Regulations.”

The diplomats therefore instructed Rabin “to tell the Americans that there are unique aspects to the status of the territories and to our status in the territories. Before the Six-Day War, the Gaza Strip wasn’t Egyptian territory, and the West Bank, too, was territory that had been occupied and annexed by Jordan without international recognition. Given this ambiguous, indeterminate territorial situation, the question of the convention’s applicability is complex and unclear prior to a peace agreement that includes setting secure and recognized borders.”

The cable added that there is “no point in debating publicly” with the Americans. “We recommend that you don’t get into any discussion or argument over the aforementioned issues, but merely record their response and leave the clarification to the embassy, without a circular and without the participation of UN members,” it said.

Another document, classified as secret, was sent by Comay to the Foreign Ministry’s deputy director general several months previously, on June 22, 1967, less than two weeks after the Six-Day War ended. In it, he advised that the ministry not use the word “occupation,” so as to avoid committing to allow the Red Cross free access to the West Bank’s civilian population.

“In light of the fact that the international Red Cross is trying to assert rights with regard to the civilian population, in accordance with the Geneva Conventions ... it’s necessary to be careful about the use of certain phrases noted in the convention; I’m referring primarily to the phrases ‘occupied territories’ and ‘occupying power,’” Comay wrote. “Our UN delegation and our legations must know that here, we’re avoiding discussions with representatives of the international Red Cross about the status of the territories.”

Comay recommended replacing the phrase “occupied territories” with “territories under Israeli control” or “territories under military government.”

These documents are not merely an interesting historical record of how Israel initially related to the Geneva Conventions, nor are they merely an admission of its violation. They are also relevant to the ongoing debate today over the occupation’s legality.

“In recent years, political actors have tried to insert a claim that wasn’t serious even back in the 1970s into the discussion — that the territories aren’t actually occupied and that their residents aren’t entitled to the rights guaranteed by the Geneva Conventions,” said Lior Yavne, executive director of Akevot Institute for Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Research, a left-wing research institute that works to uncover and publicize archival material on the conflict. “The uniqueness of the cable is the rare frankness with which the authors explain the reasons for the government’s refusal to admit the convention’s applicability to the territories, which were that some of its policies in the territories simply contradict the convention’s rules, and also as a tactical step in preparation for a future diplomatic agreement,” Yavne said.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

How Israel concealed the building of its first illegal colonies in the Occupied West Bank

Dear friends,
the following article discusses how the Israeli state deliberately sought to conceal the establishment of its first colonies in the Occupied West Bank, two years after Israel seized the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza and the Golan Heights in 1967.  The document reveals clearly that Israel was well aware that it was breaking international law by establishing the colonies and sought to hide what they were doing by claiming that the Palestinian land seized for the colonies was for "military needs".

In solidarity, Kim


Israel Used Military Censor to Conceal First Settlements From Public, Document Reveals

The authorities sought to prevent Haaretz and another newspaper from reporting on first settlements; 'We cause entirely unnecessary damage to ourselves by publicizing things that can basically be done quietly.'

Yotam Berger, Haaretz, Sept 07, 2016

    Photo: Tents at the Alon Moreh settlement, 1969.Moshe Milner / GPO

A previously classified document from 1969 shows that Israel’s leaders used the military censor to cover up the establishment of the first West Bank settlements.

According to the document, which has been released to the state archives, the censor banned the publication of articles by Haaretz and another daily, Hatzofe, on the issue.

The document was sent on June 19, 1969, by Eliashiv Ben Horin, the Foreign Minister’s deputy director general, to the office of the foreign minister, Abba Eban. The paper, called “Gush Etzion – Publicity,” deals with the establishment of settlements in the West Bank’s Gush Etzion bloc. The area had ostensibly been seized for military purposes.

The document refers to a Mr. Hillel – Shlomo Hillel, another deputy director general at the Foreign Ministry.

“As you know, on June 5 a ‘seizure order for military needs’ was issued for specific land in Gush Etzion. That was after Mr. Hillel and the undersigned convinced those involved to waive a confiscation order” as opposed to a military seizure order, the document states.

“We also agreed with those connected to the discussion … that the only publicity we should engage in is what is required – publishing the order on the bulletin board of the Civil Administration in Bethlehem,” the document states.

“We feared that civilian groups, and in particular groups connected to the plan to build the yeshiva on the seized land, would cause unnecessary publicity, since this would contradict the objectives of the seizure as defined in the order.”

The building of settlements on areas ostensibly seized for security needs was very common in the settlement movement's early days. It was designed to bypass international law, which banned the building of civilian structures in occupied territory.

In the document, Ben Horin notes that information on the deception had reached the newspapers, so the military censor prevented publication.

“Now Mr. Hillel is saying that Hatzofe and Haaretz submitted lists to the military censor about civilian plans on the land that was seized ‘for military needs’ …. The seizure for military needs can easily be defended from a legal point of view,” Ben Horin writes. “Civilian enterprises are another thing entirely. The censor did not pass on the two lists above but apparently will be unable to prevent the publication of such reports for long.”

Ben Horin explains how the political leaders mobilized.

“Hillel and I believe that there is a need for urgent and vigorous activity among the decision-makers in order to prevent a situation in which, with our own hands, we cause entirely unnecessary damage to ourselves by publicizing things that can basically be done quietly,” he writes. “We particularly recommend working with the interior minister so that he uses all his influence in the desired direction.”

The Akevot Institute for Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Research, which strives to expose archival materials, says the document proves the importance of releasing government documents.

“To this day, various types of censorship and classification are preventing public access to millions of archival documents that could shed light on the development of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” says the institute’s executive director, Lior Yavne.

“The Israel State Archives must stop the trend of increased interference by the military censor in the public’s right to peruse the documents kept there.” 

**NOTE: The original Hebrew document is available on the Haaretz website article.

Football and flags: Why Celtic fans back the Palestinian cause

Dear friends,
I am a little late in posting this. Please find below Marc Conaghan's article from the Middle East Eye explaining why Celtic fans back the Palestinian struggle.

in solidarity, Kim

Football and flags: Why Celtic fans back the Palestinian cause

Marc Patrick Conaghan
Middle East Eye: 22 August 2016

Scottish club's followers have always shown solidarity towards the dispossessed and oppressed
By a lonely prison wall, I heard a young girl calling
Michael they are taking you away
For you stole Trevelyan’s corn
So the young might see the morn.
Now a prison ship lies waiting in the bay…

By a lonely prison wall, I heard a young man calling
Nothing matters Mary when you're free,
Against the Famine and the Crown
I rebelled, they ran me down
Now you must raise our child with dignity.
This verse is from a song that Celtic football fans sing called The Fields of Athenry. Written during the 1970s, it tells the story of a family dispossessed of their land and left starving due to the Great Irish Famine of the mid 19th-century.

Due to hunger, the husband is caught stealing food from the person who took his land. He is imprisoned and transported to Australia: his wife is left to fend for herself and their child.

Celtic supporters are sympathetic to the Palestinian cause because their ancestral story is, for the most part, similar. To understand why Celtic fans are vocal about the struggle of the Palestinians, you need to understand where many Celtic fans come from.

Celtic fans backed anti-apartheid movement

The dispossession and hunger during the famine - which left more than one million dead - and the devastation on the land and psyche of the survivors forced a diaspora of Irish people all over the globe. Many settled in Glasgow, Scotland. The massive influx into the city of poor Irish people, fleeing due to dispossession of land, poverty or general necessity, was a huge burden on the residents.
But Victorian Glasgow was not tolerant of these interlopers, who they deemed to be racially, culturally and, by their Catholic faith, religiously inferior.

Celtic Football Club was formed in 1887 by Brother Walfrid, a Catholic cleric, in order to generate revenue to feed the Irish immigrants resident in Glasgow and relieve their poverty. Eventually it became a beacon of hope and source of pride to dispossessed people.

The flying of the Palestinian flag by Celtic fans in the European tie against Hapoel Beersheva last week has made headlines in newspapers and across social media. However, it is not a new phenomenon: Celtic fans fly Palestinian flags every week during games. Supporters have been showing solidarity with the people of Palestine for as long as I can remember: first it was badges, then it was kaffiyehs and now it's flags.
'By waving the Palestinian flag, Celtic fans were not choosing a side between Hamas and Fatah, or endorsing any of their political viewpoint'
Celtic fans have also shown solidarity with the oppressed people of South Africa under apartheid, the Basque people seeking independence from Spain and, of course, due to the club's cultural heritage, the oppression and persecution of nationalists in the north of Ireland. The majority of these areas of conflict have been resolved amicably: the plight of the Palestinians has become increasingly worse.
By waving the Palestinian flag, Celtic fans were not choosing a side between Hamas and Fatah, or endorsing any of their political viewpoints. It was done to show solidarity with the people of Palestine.

Similarly, when the Green Brigade - a group of Celtic supporters - recently unveiled a banner stating “Refugees welcome, a club founded by immigrants,” they were not advocating a side in the Syrian conflict, but showing their backing for the plight of refugees.

Fans will not back down and roll over

Solidarity towards the dispossessed and oppressed is easy for the Celtic fan to understand and relate to and makes us sympathetic towards others suffering the same plight.

What Celtic fans don’t seem to understand is how others don’t get it. UEFA, and much of the media, miss the fact that Celtic fans are not anti-Israel and certainly not anti-Semitic. There is no group of supporters I know of who are less sympathetic to fascists and the extreme far-right.
In fact, it’s not uncommon for Celtic supporters to be targeted by far-right thugs on European trips for our anti-fascist/anti-Nazi views. History has shown that Celtic fans and Palestinians have few friends in the media.

Celtic supporters show their support for the Palestinian cause by waving flags (AFP)
When Celtic were paired with Israeli team Hapoel Beersheva in the Champions League tie, everyone knew there would be Palestinian flags on show. Everyone knew that UEFA would sidestep the real reason the flags were there and that the club would be fined.

If Celtic beat Hapoel Beersheva on Tuesday evening and progress into the Champions League group stages, there will still be Palestinian flags on show among the Celtic fans, regardless of who our opposition is. If UEFA decide to be more punitive, as some have advocated, and close down one of Celtic’s stands in a future game, then I guarantee that there will be even more Palestinian flags at the next match.

At this point Celtic Football Club would be forced to challenge UEFA rather than just pay the punitive fine because Celtic know that although their fans love their team and the ethos that permeates through the club, we will stubbornly, like most Scots, not back down and roll over when we are in the right.

Celtic supporters have pledged to match any fine that UEFA may impose on the club for flying the Palestinian flag, with all donations raised going to Medical Aid Palestine (MAP) and to the Lajee Centre, a Palestinian creative cultural children’s centre in Aida Refugee Camp, Bethlehem.

Within 24 hours Celtic fans had passed their initial target of £40,000 ($52,700): at time of writing the sum stood at $125,000.

Waving of the flag? It's not a negative act

The argument that UEFA has made - that there is no place for political expression or politics in football - would be hilarious if it wasn’t so ridiculous. Right now Celtic are in Beersheva, which is 20 miles from Gaza, which the Israeli military has bombed this week. How can you divorce football from the reality of people?

Football and political expression have been interwoven since people started kicking things that roll at each other. Throughout history, often the only place where people could congregate and voice a political opinion without fear of arrest and persecution was at a public stadium.

The flying of the Palestinian flag by Celtic fans is not a negative. It is not there to be waved in the face of the opposition as an attempt to upset and annoy others. It is done to remind the people of Palestine, wherever in the world they may be, that they are not alone and that they are not forgotten.

Marc Patrick Conaghan is a self-employed political consultant who works with political parties and political candidates at various levels in the US and the UK. Most importantly, he is a season ticket holder at Celtic Park @marcconaghan