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Thursday night saw an incensed debate over Israel’s attack on the Gaza strip with Israeli PM Shimon Peres defending his nation’s actions. The video for the same may be viewed below,
This open session involved UN Sec General Ban Ki Moon, Arab League Sec General Amr Moussa, Mr. Shimon Peres and Turkish PM Erdogan in what has been termed a very lively discussion. Peres came out strongly on Israel’s right to self defence and brought out the threats that the hamas posed to the jewish nation. He was however alone in his defence as the remaining leaders were vehement in their opposition to the offensive and Israel’s treatment of civilians during the attack of which Mr. Peres offered no apologies or explanation.
The Israeli president unleashed a harsh, unyielding rant that was full of strange statements, truncated arguments and meandering rhetoric. Clearly, he is feeling the effects of his age as his remarks bordered on the incoherent at times. But what was most evident was the choleric tone.
Here are a few of the stranger statements: he claimed that Israel could not accept the Saudi 2002 initiative because “there was a small problem of Iran” which wishes to rule the Middle East. Peres also claimed that Hamas did not win a democratic election. Rather Mahmoud Abbas DID win an election as president of the Palestinians. Peres also claimed there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza; that Israel supplies all the water, fuel and electricity that Gaza needs; and that if there is a problem he would personally intervene to correct it.
Also, during the debate the Turkish PM was not given a chance to reply to Mr. Peres by the Moderator at which he got up and walked out of the room. News items here.
The Webcast of the whole session may be seen here.
I was deeply moved to say the least after reading this article posted below. The Author is the editor of the Srilankan Sunday Leader and was shot dead. This article was published in the Guardian three days after his death.
This blog has been a believer in free speech and this article helps us in spreading that message.
I HOPE MY MURDER WILL NOT BE SEEN AS A DEFEAT OF FREEDOM BUT AN INSPIRATION
No other profession calls on its practitioners to lay down their lives for their art save the armed forces – and, in Sri Lanka, journalism. In the course of the last few years, the independent media have increasingly come under attack. Electronic and print institutions have been burned, bombed, sealed and coerced. Countless journalists have been harassed, threatened and killed. It has been my honour to belong to all those categories, and now especially the last.
I have been in the business of journalism a good long time. Indeed, 2009 will be the Sunday Leader’s 15th year. Many things have changed in Sri Lanka during that time, and it does not need me to tell you that the greater part of that change has been for the worse. We find ourselves in the midst of a civil war ruthlessly prosecuted by protagonists whose bloodlust knows no bounds. Terror, whether perpetrated by terrorists or the state, has become the order of the day. Indeed, murder has become the primary tool whereby the state seeks to control the organs of liberty. Today it is the journalists, tomorrow it will be the judges. For neither group have the risks ever been higher or the stakes lower.
Why then do we do it? I often wonder that. After all, I too am a husband, and the father of three wonderful children. I too have responsibilities and obligations that transcend my profession, be it the law or journalism. Is it worth the risk? Many people tell me it is not. Friends tell me to revert to the bar, and goodness knows it offers a better and safer livelihood.
Others, including political leaders on both sides, have at various times sought to induce me to take to politics, going so far as to offer me ministries of my choice. Diplomats, recognising the risk journalists face in Sri Lanka, have offered me safe passage and the right of residence in their countries.
Continuing with Gaza, I’d invite the readers to read two posts by Dapo Akande and Marko Milanovic on the issue on EJIL Talk. Both the authors discuss the crisis from a strictly legal point of view explaining as to why it is an internationally wrongful act on the part of Israel and its claim of self- defense being unsustainable.
Both the authors identify and analyse the issue of proportionality in this context and attempt tp define the nature of the conflict in Gaza. Dapo writes;
So, to start from the beginning, the first question is what sort of armed conflict is going on in Gaza. Prior to the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza this was clearly an international armed conflict. The Israeli Supreme Court in the Targetted Killings case accepted that fighting in occupied territories between the occupying and resistance forces is part of an international armed conflict. Has the position changed since Israel withdrew from Gaza? This requires one to answer the question whether there is still an occupation in Gaza. If Israel is still the occupying power then the conflict is still international law. Comments are welcome on whether, as a legal matter, the occupation is still continuing.
On the issue of proportionality, Marko Milanovic writes,
“But for the life of me, I just can’t see a jus ad bellum issue in regard of Israel’s actions in Gaza. This is simply not self-defense within the meaning of Article 51 of the UN Charter, as that concept of self-defense is an exception to the general prohibition on the use of force, that operates between states only and exclusively and is enshrined in Article 2(4) of the Charter. That prohibition was not triggered by Israel’s action, as Gaza is not a state, nor a part of any state, but is a part of the sui generis mandate territory of Palestine. In other words, no state claims sovereignty or title over Gaza, and the sovereignty of no state was infringed by Israel’s use of force. Article 2(4) does not apply, and consequently Article 51 and the self-defense notion of proportionality do not apply either, unless one is willing to argue that Palestine (Gaza included) already is a state in international law – a position that is in my view untenable.”
Readers may read the full article in the links provided above.
They came and destroyed my home, I ran away.
They came and killed my young brothers and sisters, I but mourned .
They surrounded us and stopped food and electricity supply to us, life went along.
Ten thousand bombs rained and I pretended that life went along.
Now when I stand up to fight for what I’ve lost, they say that I’m a terrorist and attack me further.
(adaption of Bill haywood’s statement. Taken from the book ‘People v. Clarence Darrow’. )
365 deaths in the past three days as a result of Israeli air strikes and attacks on Gaza is not a joke. Especially when compared to the 11 killings by the hamas in Gaza on Israelis.365 deaths and the International community has not said anything official against Israel. Condolences come from all over the world but no state official has offered any.
Israel justifies these actions on their right to defend themselves. The jews are a community that have faced the most horrific crimes of humanity and perhaps can claim this right. But there has to be some limit on its use and this in no way extends to the killings of hundreds of people, blockades and the gravest human rights violations. Imagine having suffered as a race a few decades ago and then being the cause of the same suffering on another race now.
It is ironic that despite the gravest of crimes being committed against the palestinians, the international community has not raised any objection to the actions of Israel. There are still people in Sierra Leone and Khmer Rouge being tried for crimes of a similar nature if not far less graver. Perhaps it is a measure of the dominance of a race in the world today. The only sympathy shown by a international body has come in the form of a few paragraphs of the ICJ judgment on the Wall in palestine where it has shown some sympathy to the cause of palestine and condemning the acts of Israel.
The jurisprudence evolving from the Genocide cases in the International Criminal Court may lead it to draw inferences that states may be held liable for the committing of international crimes and human rights violations rather than the traditional perceptions that of only individuals being responsible. That Israel is responsible for its actions is left without doubt. The question that arises is whether the notion of self defence can be used to justify the killing of innocent people, women and children? Whether civilians can be targetted in a war between two armed groups ?
The Geneva Conventions and the additional protocols forbid such measures but Israel seems to be paying no heed to them. Even the United Nations has not said anything official on the issue. Mind you that about a year ago, the UN condemned Hamas strikes on Israel killing 28 people and nothing was said now when 365 are killed and numerous injured.
Maybe there will be a time when some concern is shown by the international community for the cause of the palestinians. Moving to the quote above, if this violence breeds revenge in the minds of a few palestinians, then why should they not rise up and protect themselves ? In as much as it may seem a little out of context, Martin Luther King Jr. in his letter from Birmingham jail talks of the rise of the negroes to injustice. The quote below should help us answer and understand the questions posed;
“But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children……….
There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience “
And when this impatience breeds revenge, it is not the revenge that is the crime but the act perpetrating it. Revenge is a mere justification. And an act of revenge cannot be used by the other to propogate more violence. Israel has vowed to destroy hamas with all its might. This action is itself a crime.
Lawrence posted an article by the LA times and states it to be “the most measured article on the subject”. Readers may read it here.
I would also suggest Mona- El- fara’s blog. It is by far the most touching blog on the palestinian conflict that I’ve read.