Israel's chickens coming home to roost

I'm reading the Goldstone Report (warning: relatively big PDF) a 600-page document that details the findings of a panel investigating the attack on Gaza last winter. It's an astounding document. Not only is it an interesting and immensely readable introduction to the contemporary situation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the oppression of the Palestine people, it is also simply an exquisitely convincing argument. Meticulous, detailed and balanced. It is the objective document that critics on both sides have argued for. It doesn't hesitate to show the full force of Palestinian in-fighting and unlawful attacks on Israel by mortar and Qassam rockets, but it also does not hesitate to shove Israel's face in what they've done. And they have done so very, very much.

It details and substantiates the allegations of deliberate attacks on civilians. I mean, some people might have gotten the impression that those allegations came from crazy, Kalashnikov-toting jihadists. No, those allegations came from so many credible sources that they can no longer be denied. The Goldstone Report documents a pattern of systematic attack on a defenceless civilian population. The Israeli army committed crimes against humanity, and war crimes. The people responsible need to lose their jobs, then they have to be tried and convicted and spend the rest of their lives in prison.

I've read a few documents like The Goldstone report when I was a member of Amnesty and a couple of times afterwards, as well. There is always some detail that gets you. Some ridiculous little piece of information or a telling story that is the convincing detail in the argument being made. It might be the story of how a political activist was shot in front of his children in Chile or the story of how the police routinely administered beatings to 12-years in the US. In the Goldstone Report, for me, it was the chickens:
The chicken farms of Mr. Sameh Sawafeary in the Zeitoun neighbourhood south of Gaza City reportedly supplied over 10 per cent of the Gaza egg market. Armoured bulldozers of the Israeli forces systematically flattened the chicken coops, killing all 31,000 chickens inside, and destroyed the plant and material necessary for the business. The Mission concludes that this was a deliberate act of wanton destruction not justified by any military necessity and draws the same legal conclusions as in the case of [a similar destruction of a flour mill a few days before].
For some reason the image of Israeli soldiers bringing the roof down on 31.000 chickens, for no good military reason other than just to fuck with the civilian population of Gaza; for spite, out of malice, is the detail that really got me.

The Goldstone Report is, in short, mandatory reading for anyone looking for an understanding of the contemporary situation in Gaza and Israel/Palestine. It is readable, well-documented and convincing. As Klassekampen's reviewer Espen Stueland said of another recently published book on Gaza, I know of no words of greater significance that could be read right now.

(Norwegians will find that Mads Gilbert and Erik Fosse's book Øyne i Gaza (Gyldendal, 2009) makes a wonderful supplement to the report.)

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Anonymous anniken said...

Inntil nå hadde jeg bare hørt om rapporten, og tenkt for meg selv at jeg ikke orker å lese den.

Du fikk meg til å ombestemme meg, pdf-en lastes nå.

Takk! Jeg har lenge ønsket meg noe objektivt og solid, og gleder meg til å forstå mer!

October 24, 2009 9:54 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Objektiv? Ikke vær så naiv...

October 25, 2009 12:44 pm  
Blogger mrtn said...

Anniken: Så flott! Kom gjerne tilbake og fortell hva du tenker.

Anonymous: For en banal og intetsigende kommentar. Jeg har lest utallige dokumenter, rapporter, hørt øyevitneskildringer og kjenner folk som bor i og har familie på Gaza og Vestbredden. Jeg har vært engasjert i Palestinasaken i over 12 år. Er det ikke litt hyklersk og uhøflig av deg å anta at jeg er naiv? Les rapporten og se hva som står. Ingenting av det som står i rapporten er det egentlig mulig å bestride det faktiske innholdet av. Vent til du har et begrunnet standpunkt før du uttaler deg. Inntil da er denne formen for ryggmargsytringer som du kommer med her et symbol på alt som er galt med Israel/Palestinakonflikten.

October 25, 2009 1:48 pm  
Blogger Admin said...

Et avslørende eksempel. Slikt kan jo rett og slett ikke og aldri forsvares.

Man blir trist, skremt og matt på samme tid.

Hva skjer med folk som på slikt og andre vis så åpenbart provoseres og som ikke møtes med annet enn skuldertrekk av et Vesten som til alt overmål sitter på høye hester og snakker om liberalitet, rettsstat og demokrati.

Samtidig som man kikker en annen vei.

Men det er vanskelig å la være å kikke på dette dokumentet.

October 25, 2009 8:39 pm  
Anonymous Peter Olsen said...

Enig med brumlebass , de rød-brune fascister har problemer med selvkritisk gransking .

Jesu berømte ord fra bergprekenen, om å se splinten i sin brors øye, men glemme bjelken i sitt eget, har i høyeste grad aktualitet i forbindelse med dagens Midtøsten-debatt. Hva vi i dag er vitne til er at nasjonene til de grader betrakter splinten i staten Israels øye men ser ikke, eller har glemt, bjelken i eget øye. Det er noe dypt irrasjonelt i dette at nasjonene dveler ved et hvert feilgrep Israel gjør. Her samles alt opp – og hukommelsen synes å være svært god. Når det ellers skjer overgrep og grusomme gjerninger i verden, synes hukommelsen å være mindre god. Vi har grunn til å spørre oss selv hvordan vi hadde oppfattet den situasjon som jødene har opplevd og opplever, med krigstrusler, terror og mistenkeliggjøring gjennom årtier.

Leftists like Alexander Cockburn naturally claim they’re not Anti-Semitic, but rather Anti-Zionist. Indeed Alexander Cockburn published a book “The Politics of Anti-Semitism” dedicated to that premise. But as implausible as the premise that an enthusiastic defender of Saddam Hussein like Cockburn and so many of the left, who nevertheless obsessively attack Israel for human rights violations, are not displaying a clear double standard… the Anti-Zionist, not Anti-Semitic argument flies out the window when you’re publishing articles reviving medieval blood libels against Jews, sourced from the likes of “Israel Shamir”, the pseudonym of a Swedish Neo-Nazi, and another regular at Counterpunch, who writes articles about Jews with charming titles like “The Vampire Killers,” “Poisoning Wells,” “Kugel Eaters” and “Bloodcurdling Libel”.


October 26, 2009 10:52 am  
Blogger Unknown said...

The problem with The Goldstone report is that it is posing an unjustified international double standard: the US, Britain and their coalition can invade Iraq and Afghanistan and protect their people against terror with the probable outcome of civilians get hurt (e.g. Faluja), the Russians can send forces into Georgia and literally demolish villages and towns, NATO can bomb Sarajevo with hundreds of "justified" civilians killed. Israel is protecting their citizens who lived under missile attack for years. Every country would do that and in fact, as I wrote above, have did.
Last thing, Martin my friend, with all do respect to the atrocity of killing 31,000 chickens: it is horrible and unmoral but it is not a humanitarian crime or a crime against humanity. We can protest, but we can't trial people for that

October 26, 2009 2:41 pm  
Blogger mrtn said...

There is no double standard. By these standards – indeed: by humanitarian law – the US, Britain, Russians etc. are all guilty of war crimes. The Israeli situation is just a really horrific, obvious and well-documented example. Not in all the situations you list above, but certainly in some.

As to your last point I must disagree in the strongest possible terms. International Humanitarian Law is quite clear. The demolition of the chicken farm was completely and obviously illegal. It was a war crime, and quite possibly a crime against humanity.

The first and most clear violation is of article 52 of Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions, ratified in 1977. Which, notably, Israel has not ratified. However, it is now accepted throughout the world as being customary international law, and the IDF is completely bound by it.

Art. 52 of Protocol I states that

"1. Civilian objects shall not be the object of attack or of reprisals. Civilian objects are all objects which are not military objectives as defined in paragraph

2. Attacks shall be limited strictly to military objectives. In so far as objects are concerned, military objectives are limited to those objects which by their nature, location, purpose or use make an effective contribution to military action and whose total or partial destruction, capture or neutralization, in the circumstances ruling at the time, offers a definite military advantage.

3. In case of doubt whether an object which is normally dedicated to civilian purposes, such as a place of worship, a house or other dwelling or a school, is being used to make an effective contribution to military action, it shall be presumed not to be so used."

I don't seem to remember chickens having military applications, unless of course the Palestinians have somehow gotten hold of a "Blue Peacock" nuclear device. And foodstuffs that are also (indeed, primarily) used for civilian populations are not legitimate targets.

Secondly, this is also a blatant violation of article 55 of the fourth Geneva Convention, ratified in 1949, and which Israel HAS ratified. Article 55 states that:

"To the fullest extent of the means available to it, the Occupying Power has the duty of ensuring the food and medical supplies of the population; it should, in particular, bring in the necessary foodstuffs, medical stores and other articles if the resources of the occupied territory are inadequate.
The Occupying Power may not requisition foodstuffs, articles or medical supplies available in the occupied territory, except for use by the occupation forces and administration personnel, and then only if the requirements of the civilian population have been taken into account. Subject to the provisions of other international Conventions, the Occupying Power shall make arrangements to ensure that fair value is paid for any requisitioned goods.
The Protecting Power shall, at any time, be at liberty to verify the state of the food and medical supplies in occupied territories, except where temporary restrictions are made necessary by imperative military requirements."

In case you were wondering, "imperative military requirements" does not include "because we've blocaded Gaza again", "because we're busy bombing the civilian population" or "because we felt like it".

The definition of "crimes against humanity" contained in the Rome Statute of the ICC is basically really bad things – including war crimes – being done in a systematic way. A system of oppression which derives a people of basic neccesities easily falls under this heading. The destruction of the chicken coops may have been tougher on the chickens than the people in the area. But it was also beyond a shadow of a doubt a crime of war and almost certainly part of a system of abuse which constitutes a crime against humanity.

October 26, 2009 3:39 pm  
Anonymous Peter Olsen said...

The KGB chicken's coming home to roost.

The Motives of Russia's Pro-Gaza Vote
Online political newsletter Counter Punch has posted an interesting piece on Russia's decision to endorse the Goldstone Gaza report in the United Nations Human Rights Council last week. Although I can't agree with the broad summation that Russia's vote indicates a black-and-white pro-justice stance, given that its human rights record on other foreign policy issues is so poor. The contradiction just goes to show that political decisions that appear to be made benevolently in the interests of human rights usually have some ulterior driving point. In this case, the motives may not be clear, but you can bet there's something other than concern for human kindness at work here...

From Counter Punch:

Israel began courting Russia, hoping to build bridges and to enlist Moscow in its cause. Avigdor Lieberman, Israeli Moldova-born Foreign minister, met ten times with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov; Netanyahu flew to Moscow on a "secret mission" for a talk with Medvedev, and President Peres met with Medvedev in Sochi. They wanted Russian support for Iran sanctions and for silencing the Goldstone report. They said to the Russians that it would create a dangerous precedent: If today they judge Israeli ministers and generals for Gaza, tomorrow they will judge Russian ministers and generals for Chechnya. This is a false comparison: Chechens are Russian citizens with full rights, Gazans have no rights at all; Chechens are free to travel and live in Moscow or elsewhere, Gazans are not allowed to leave their concentration camp. Though Russia's campaign against Chechen separatists was bloody and cruel, it could not be compared with the cold-blooded murder the Israelis unleashed on Gaza.

October 26, 2009 4:09 pm  

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