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Debunking Israel's 'self-defense' argument

July 31, 2014 6:00AM ET
by John Dugard

Israel claims that it is acting in self-defense in Gaza, thereby portraying itself as the victim in the present conflict. President Barack Obama and both houses of the U.S. Congress have endorsed this justification for the use of force. But is it an accurate assessment?

Gaza is not an independent state like Lebanon or Jordan. Israel accepts this but instead sees Gaza as a “hostile entity,” a concept unknown to international law and one that Israel has not sought to explain.

But the status of Gaza is clear. It is an occupied territory — part of the occupied Palestinian territory. In 2005 Israel withdrew its settlers and the Israel Defense Forces from Gaza, but it continues to retain control of it, not only through intermittent incursions into and regular shelling of the territory but also by effectively controlling the land crossings into Gaza, its airspace and territorial waters and its population registry, which determines who may leave and enter.

Effective control is the test for occupation. The International Court of Justice recently confirmed this in a dispute between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda. The physical presence of Israel in Gaza is not necessary provided it retains effective control and authority over the territory by other means. Modern technology now permits effective control from outside the occupied territory, and this is what Israel has established.

in full: http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2014/7/gaza-israel-internationalpoliticsunicc.html

UN right commissioner: Israel and Hamas both guilty of war crimes

Netanyahu: Tunnels will be destroyed, with or without truce; Hagel reiterates support for Israel's right to defend itself; U.S. agrees to Israeli request for ammunition, CNN reports; ministers order military to press on with Gaza op.

By Haaretz | Jul. 31, 2014 | 3:53 PM

snip* 2:38 P.M. The UN's top human rights official is accusing Israel and Hamas militants of committing war crimes in the latest Gaza war.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay says that by placing and firing rockets within heavily populated areas both sides are committing "a violation of international humanitarian law, therefore a war crime."

Pillay also told reporters Thursday in Geneva that she sees "a recurrence of the very acts" from the 2009 Gaza war in which the UN concluded Israel deliberately targeted civilians and might have committed war crimes, along with Hamas. (News Agencies) Read full article

in full: http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/1.608121

Video: Patrick Cockburn 'IS did not act alone' in Iraq and Syria

Veteran Middle East correspondent Patrick Cockburn on the IS phenomenon

Tuesday 22 July 2014 17:31 BST

The Independent's Patrick Cockburn speaks to Middle East Eye about the Islamic State (IS) phenomenon, explaining that they could not have acted without international support.

While the group is a "fighting machine" that is gaining political clout for succeeding militarily against the odds, Cockburn believes that IS' broad reaching Iraq offensive could only have gone ahead with the backing of the group's donors in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the Gulf.

Since launching a large-scale offensive last month and capturing Iraq’s second city Mosul, the militant group has stirred widespread global intrigue, with the world’s analysts and policy-makers striving to find out the extent of their strength and appeal.

Before joining The Independent, Cockburn was a leading Middle East correspondent for the Financial Times and has written several books on Iraq's recent history.

in full: http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/video-patrick-cockburn-did-not-act-alone-iraq-and-syria-1066782998

Noam Chomsky calls on Iran to release imprisoned journalist Marzieh Rasouli

American philosopher speaks out against sentence of 50 lashes given to Iranian journalist

Saeed Kamali Dehghan

theguardian.com, Friday 11 July 2014

The US philosopher Noam Chomsky has called on Iran to release the female journalist Marzieh Rasouli who was jailed last week to endure a sentence of 50 lashes and two years in prison.

Chomsky told the Guardian that the detention of Rasouli and at least three other female journalists in the past two months was "entirely unacceptable", urging Hassan Rouhani's administration to swiftly act for their release. Saba Azarpeik and Reyhaneh Tabatabaei are among other journalists arrested recently.

"I was surprised and distressed to learn of the detention and harsh treatment of Marzieh Rasouli and other women journalists in Iran," Chomsky told the Guardian. "Surely such actions are entirely unacceptable, and I hope and trust that they will quickly be released and compensated for their unjust punishment."

At the time Rouhani is improving relations with the west, Iran's judiciary, which is independent of his government, together with the country's intelligence and security apparatus have launched a new wave of arrests of journalists. Activists said another female reporter, Sajedeh Arabsorkhi, was also summoned to serve her one-year jail term.


B'Tselem info sheet: 52 Palestinians killed in bombings of homes in Gaza Strip, which are unlawful

A house bombed in Gaza. Photo: Muhammad Salem, reuters, 13 July 2014

According to B'Tselem's initial findings, from the start of Operation Protective Shield there were ten incidents in which Palestinians in the Gaza Strip were killed when the Israeli military bombed homes. 52 people were killed in these incidents, of them 19 minors and 12 women. An additional incident, in which six members of the same family were killed was defined by the military as a targeted killing, and was therefore not included in this figure.

Official spokespeople state that it is enough for a person to be involved in military activity to render his home (and his neighbors' homes) legitimate military targets, without having to prove any connection between his activity and the house in which he and his family live. This interpretation is unfounded and illegal. It is not a coincidence that the number of uninvolved civilians killed or injured by these bombings is growing. The law is meant to protect civilians and, unsurprisingly, violating it has lethal consequences. Euphemisms such as "surgical strikes" or "operational infrastructure" cannot hide the facts: illegal attacks of homes, which constitute punitive home demolition from the air, come at a dreadful cost in human life.

Detailed discussion:

Is it legal for the military to bomb the homes of Hamas operatives?

From 8 July 2014, when the military launched Operation Protective Shield, to early Sunday 13 July, the military bombed dozens of houses in the Gaza Strip, according to media reports and statements by the IDF Spokesperson. According to the latter, these bombings are legal because the private homes of Hamas activists are "a legitimate military objective". Is that true?

What does the law say?

International humanitarian law defines a military target as follows:

"[…] 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." (Article 52 (2), Protocol I Additional to the Fourth Geneva Convention)

in full: http://www.btselem.org/gaza_strip/20140713_palestinians_killed_in_illegal_attacks_on_houses

U.S. Demand for Deep Centrifuge Cut Is a Diplomatic Ploy Analysis by Gareth Porter

WASHINGTON, Jul 1 2014 (IPS) - With only a few weeks remaining before the Jul. 20 deadline, the Barack Obama administration issued a warning to Iran that it must accept deep cuts in the number of its centrifuges in order to demonstrate that its nuclear programme is only for peaceful purposes.

U.S. officials have argued that such cuts are necessary to increase the “breakout” time – the time it would take Iran to enrich enough uranium to weapons grade level to build a single bomb – from what is said to be two to three months at present to as long as a year or even more.
Given the past record of political interference in fuel agreements, Washington knows it faces a tough sell trying to get Iran to accept the U.S. insistence on reliance on foreign suppliers.

Tehran has made it clear that it will not accept such a demand. Dismantling the vast majority of the centrifuges that Iran had installed is a highly symbolic issue, and the political cost of acceptance would be extremely high.

But a closer examination of the issues under negotiation suggests that the ostensible pressure on Iran is part of a strategy aimed at extracting concessions from Iran on the issue of its longer-term enrichment capability.


Khamenei Remarks Show Both Sides Maneuvre on Enrichment

WASHINGTON, Jul 12 2014 (IPS) - Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei’s comments on the nuclear talks Monday provided an unusual glimpse of diplomatic maneuvering by the U.S.-led coalition of five nuclear powers and Germany on the issue of enrichment capability to be allowed in a comprehensive agreement.

But his remarks also suggested that Iran was responding with its own diplomatic maneuvre on the issue. Both sides appear to have put forward demands that they knew were non-starters with the intention of moderating their demands substantially in return for major concessions from the other side.

Khamenei described the United States and the P5+1 as demanding initially that Iran’s annual enrichment capability be cut to the equivalent of as few as 500 to 1,000 centrifuges – as little as 2.6 percent percent of its present level of 19,000 centrifuges.

But he also suggested they were now aiming at getting Iran to accept a capability equivalent to the annual production of 10,000 centrifuges on the condition that it would be the final level for the duration of the agreement.


How Washington protects itself

By Noam Chomsky

The question of how foreign policy is determined is a crucial one in world affairs. In these comments, I can only provide a few hints as to how I think the subject can be productively explored, keeping to the United States for several reasons. First, the US is unmatched in its global significance and impact. Second, it is an unusually open society, possibly uniquely so, which means we know more about it. Finally, it is plainly the most important case for Americans, who are able to influence policy choices in the US - and indeed for others, insofar as their actions can influence such choices. The general principles, however, extend to the other major powers, and well beyond.

There is a "received standard version", common to academic scholarship, government pronouncements, and public discourse. It holds that the prime commitment of governments is to ensure security, and that the primary concern of the US and its allies since 1945 was the Russian threat.

There are a number of ways to evaluate the doctrine. One obvious question to ask is: What happened when the Russian threat disappeared in 1989? Answer: everything continued much as before.

The US immediately invaded Panama, killing probably thousands of people and installing a client regime. This was routine practice in US-dominated domains - but in this case not quite as routine. For first time, a major foreign policy act was not justified by an alleged Russian threat.

in full: http://www.atimes.com/atimes/World/WOR-04-030714.html

Egypt's Copts may soon regret supporting Sisi

Most Coptic Christians will tell you that anything is better than the Muslim Brotherhood. Thus, the unequivocal support for current President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi among Copts was no surprise. But now with the devastating curb of freedom of expression and the widespread crackdown on journalists and activists, the Coptic Orthodox Church’s support for the government’s post-June 30 Revolution policies may prove to be a grave miscalculation.

As the church is finding out, Copts, too, are not safe from the new government’s oppressive measures. Two weeks ago, a 23-year-old Coptic teacher was sentenced to prison for six months for insulting Islam. On June 23, a Christian convert reporter was sentenced to five years in prison for allegedly reporting false information about discrimination against Copts. The following day, a 29-year-old Copt from Upper Egypt was given a five-year prison sentence for liking a Facebook page put up by a group of Christian converts — so much for the secular utopia we conjured in our imagination.

The Coptic push for a secular Egypt stemmed largely from the fear of Islamists. The failed Mohammed Morsi administration may have not taken direct action toward minority groups, but for many Copts their policies and statements suggested that it was only a matter of time before wide-scale, concrete laws were put into place. The empowerment of radical religious leaders and fundamentalist groups after Morsi’s election in June 2012 provoked fear among Egypt’s 10 million Copts, who felt more threatened than at any time in recent history.

The debilitating fears were well-justified: Marginalization of Copts from political life was expected to increase, sectarian clashes were already on the rise and hate speech grew rife at the time. Most of all, the unprecedented infiltration of religion into every aspect of political and public life caused the alienation of Copts on a scale unseen since the banishment of Pope Shenouda III by Anwar Sadat in 1981.

Then the June 30 Revolution happened and suddenly Copts were emancipated from the foreboding Islamist rule. For nearly all Copts I know, June 30 had a bigger significance than the Muslim Brotherhood detractors and liberals alike. It was a renewal of hope, a promise of a secular Egypt where political Islam will never have a say again. The then-Field Marshall Sisi was no mere military leader; he was the great savior.

A month and a half later, all hope was dashed to pieces. On Aug. 14, 2013, and for the next couple of days, approximately 1,000 people were killed in police raids on Brotherhood protesters.

Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/07/egypt-coptic-christians-sisi-secular-islamist.html#ixzz36jIBbld1

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