Sunday, January 4, 2015
Saturday, January 3, 2015
Crimes against humanity in Gaza: is it really a 'buffer zone' - or a bigger plan
The international community and states parties to the United Nations should hang their heads in shame
Late last week, the White House decried Israel’s attack on a UN school in Gaza as "totally unacceptable" and "totally indefensible", then proceeded to approve $225m in funding for its Iron Dome. On Monday, the US state department went further, calling the airstrikes upon a UN school "disgraceful" – and yet America provides Israel with more than $3.1bn every year, restocking the ability of the Israel Defense Force (IDF) to hit more schools, and to wage total war against an imprisoned people, because of their nationality.
American taxpayers should not be paying for this. And the western world should stop rejecting serious inquiries about Israel’s moral inconsistencies, or allow it to benefit from cognitive dissonance and information overload amid the current crisis in Gaza.
There is a land grab going on. The Israeli prime minister, Binjamin Netanyahu, has shrunk Gaza’s habitable land mass by 44%, with an edict establishing a 3km (1.8-mile) buffer zone, a "no-go" zone for Palestinians – and that’s quite significant, because a good part of Gaza is only 3 to 4 miles wide. Over 250,000 Palestinians within this zone must leave their homes, or be bombed. As their territorial space collapses, 1.8m Gazans now living in 147 square miles will be compressed into 82 square miles.
Gaza’s entire social and physical infrastructure of housing, hospitals, places of worship, more than 130 of its schools, plus markets, water systems, sewer systems and roads are being destroyed. Under constant attack, without access to water, sanitary facilities, food and medical care, Gazans face an IDF-scripted apocalypse.
With Gaza’s land mass shrinking due to Israeli military action, it’s about time someone asked: What is the end game? Three weeks ago, Moshe Feiglin, deputy speaker of the Knesset, called for Gaza to "become part of sovereign Israel and will be populated by Jews. This will also serve to ease the housing crisis in Israel."
Israel has a housing crisis? After the "no-go" buffer zone is evacuated, there will be 21,951 Palestinians per square mile in Gaza, while Israel’s population density stands at 964 persons per square mile.
Deputy Speaker Feiglin wants the Palestinians in Gaza to lose all of their land. One must not assume that Mr Feiglin or his Likud faction speak for the main government actors like Prime Minister Netanyahu. After all, Knesset politics are complex and divergent. But since Gaza has just lost control of that 44% of its land, it may also be time to ask: does the establishment of that 3km zone represent the unfolding of a larger plan? Is that the end game?
At the very point where an aroused public becomes aghast at the slaughter of Gazans, the western world becomes inured to the violence, hypnotized by the media’s cadence of body counts. The intolerable becomes normalized, and later ignored as old news. Which would seem a perfect time to leave in place the 3km zone – for security purposes, of course – and then advance the proposal that Palestinians crammed into the remaining 56% of Gaza simply … leave.
I assume the IDF acts with deliberation, under orders from the Netanyahu government. And I think the extraordinary and illegal forced relocation of over 250,000 Palestinians from 44% of Gazan land is a crime against humanity under the guise of establishing a "buffer zone" for security purposes.
Look at the region’s maps from recent history. Look at the steady erosion of Palestinian land and the acquisition of land by Israel, and you can understand that the present attack on Gaza is not about solely about Hamas. It’s about land. It isn’t just about Hamas’s rockets. It’s about land. It isn’t just about Hamas’s tunnels. It’s about land. It isn’t about kidnappings. It is about land. It isn’t even about meeting a housing crisis in Israel. It is about grabbing land from the Palestinians in Gaza and the natural resources that go with the land, upon the occasion of Israel’s military invasion of Gaza.
Yes, Hamas’s attacks on Israel are illegal and should be condemned, and those who ordered the attacks should be held accountable under law. All policies and practices which refuse to recognize Israel’s right to exist should be condemned. Israel has a right to exist. But Israel’s right to exist is impaired when Israel decides Palestinians have no right to exist on their own land. It’s time for us to stop paying for Israel’s dubious, destructive self-righteousness. And it’s time for the solipsism syndrome afflicting Israel’s leaders to get a day of discussion in the International Criminal Court concerning their attacks on Gaza – and especially their new 3km "buffer zone". More
By caving to industry pressures, environmental regulatory agencies are failing to uphold their obligation to future generations, declared Mary Christina Wood, the author pushing a new legal framework to fight global warming, on the final episode of Moyers & Company.
Wood, a University of Oregon law professor who wrote Nature's Trust: Environmental Law for a New Ecological Age (2013; Cambridge University Press), advocates an idea called "atmospheric trust litigation," which takes the fate of the Earth into the courts, arguing that the planet’s atmosphere—its air, water, land, plants, and animals—are the responsibility of government, held in its trust to insure the survival of all generations to come.
"If this nation relies on a stable climate system, and the very habitability of this nation and all of the liberties of young people and their survival interests are at stake the courts need to force the agencies and the legislatures to simply do their job."
—Mary Christina Wood, University of Oregon Law School
"The heart of the approach is the public trust doctrine," she told her host, longtime journalist and political commentator Bill Moyers. "And it says that government is a trustee of the resources that support our public welfare and survival. And so a trust means that one entity or person manages a certain wealth, an endowment, so to speak, for the benefit of others. And in the case of the public trust, the beneficiaries are the present and future generations of citizens."
The theory underpins lawsuits filed by Our Children's Trust, which ask for the courts to order state and local governments and agencies to act more aggressively to bring down carbon emissions.
"[I]f this nation relies on a stable climate system, and the very habitability of this nation and all of the liberties of young people and their survival interests are at stake the courts need to force the agencies and the legislatures to simply do their job," Wood explained.
Environmental laws passed in the 1970s "held a lot of promise" decades ago, she said but they've lost what little power they once possessed. Wood continued:
Americans thought they had solved the problem by getting these laws passed. What they didn't realize was that industries got inside the agencies through various means, through campaign contributions, through pressure on the system over and over again. And so one thing we have to keep in mind is we're nearing the end of our resources. And there are laws of nature that we have to comply with.
And those laws are supreme. And they determine whether we will survive on this planet. And they will determine the future conditions for our children. And so right now, our environmental laws are out of whack with the laws of nature. They are allowing destruction, whereas they should be structuring society to create a balance with the natural systems that support our lives.
And Wood disagreed with those who argue that climate change is a political issue to be dealt with outside the courts.
"Climate is not just an environmental issue," she said. "This is a civilizational issue. This is the biggest case that courts will get in terms of the potential harm in front of them, the population affected by that harm, and in terms of the urgency. Climate is mind-blowing. It can't be categorized any longer as an environmental issue."
In a related feature earlier this year, Moyers spoke to a member of the next generation who is a co-plaintiff in one of the atmosphere trust litigation lawsuits being spearheaded by Our Children’s Trust.
"Public trust states that the government is a trustee to protect these natural resources that every living species, including humans, rely upon for our survival, for our well-being," 18-year-old Kelsey Juliana told Moyers at the time. "And so the public trust says, government, we hold you, we trust you to put these resources, air, water, land, you know, to protect them for this generation and for many generations down the line." More
Thursday, January 1, 2015
Following the defeat of a United Nations Security Council resolution that demanded an end to Israeli occupation and recognition of Palestinian statehood, Palestine's president Mahmoud Abbas signed a Palestinian request to join the International Criminal Court on Wednesday, a move that the Guardian wrote sets "Palestinians on a diplomatic collision course with Israel and the U.S."
"There is aggression practiced against our land and our country, and the Security Council has let us down—where shall we go?” Mr. Abbas reportedly said at his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah, as he signed the Rome Statute, the founding charter of the Hague court, as well as over a dozen other international treaties and conventions.
"We want to complain to this organization," he said, referring to the court. "As long as there is no peace, and the world doesn’t prioritize peace in this region, this region will live in constant conflict. The Palestinian cause is the key issue to be settled."
As expected, the decision elicited an angry response from Israel. "The one who needs to fear the International Criminal Court in the Hague is the Palestinian Authority, which has a unity government with Hamas, a terror organization like (the Islamic State group) which commits war crimes," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement.
According to the Associated Press, Netanyahu called Israel's soldiers "the most moral army in the world" and said the country would take unspecified "retaliatory steps."
The AP noted that "turning to the International Criminal Court marks a major policy shift by transforming Abbas' relations with Israel from tense to openly hostile. Abbas has been threatening to join the court since 2012, but held off under American and Israeli pressure. The Palestinians can use the court to challenge the legality of Israeli settlement construction on occupied lands and to pursue war crimes charges connected to military activity."
The State Department criticized the move as well. In a statement issued Wednesday, it said it was "deeply troubled by today’s Palestinian action regarding the ICC," and called it "an escalatory step that will not achieve any of the outcomes most Palestinians have long hoped to see for their people." More