The Acts of the Democracies

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2004

Israel - Palestine

A group of Israeli and Palestinian politicians, former ministers and intellectuals produce the Geneva Accord, a proposed plan for peace between Israel and Palestine. The plan requires both sides to make concessions but attempts to treat both sides as equals. The main points of the accord are listed below:

The Accord is given support by former presidents and winners of the Nobel Peace prize including: Jimmy Carter (former USA president), Nelson Mandela (former South Africa president), Lech Walesa (former Poland president), Michael Gorbachev (former president of the USSR) and F W de Klerk (former South African president).

The Accord is rejected by the government of Israel and thousands of Palestinians who want to maintain the "right of return".

In March, Israel assassinates the spiritual leader of Hammas, Sheik Ahmad Yassin. The wheelchair-bound partially-sighted paraplegic was blown up outside a mosque by missiles fired from an Apache helicopter. Seven other people are also killed. The USA vetoes a United Nations resolution condemning the assassination.

In April, the USA president, George W Bush, makes a speech that approves a unilateral plan by Israel concerning the Palestinians and their occupied territories. The following points are approved:

Western media report this as a wonderful breakthrough and a chance for peace, even though it rewards Israel's ethnic cleansing and denies the establishment of a viable Palestinian state and will effectively turn Gaza into a prison for a million people. The story is told in the form "Israel to withdraw from Gaza".

The plan is discussed with the Prime Minister of Israel, Ariel Sharon, the President of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak and the King of Jordan, Abdullah. No Palestinian representative is consulted. The UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair, who had boasted that invading Iraq with the USA would lead to a just peace in the Middle East, praises the plan.

The leader of the Palestinians, Yasser Arafat, declares that the resistance to Israeli occupation will continue and encourages Arab states to meet and discuss the new USA policy. A legal advisor to the Palestine Liberation Organisation told the USA newspaper, New York Times, "imagine if Palestinians said, 'O.K., we give California to Canada.' Americans should stop wondering why they have so little credibility in the Middle East."

Phyllis Bennis, of the Institute For Policy Studies, writes: "The U.S. position returns Middle East diplomacy to its pre-1991 position, when Palestinians were excluded from all negotiations. Israeli-U.S. negotiations become the substitute for Israeli-Palestinian talks, with the U.S. free to concede Palestinian land and rights. The official U.S. acceptance of the Israeli occupation of huge swathes of Palestinian territory, and the Bush administration's willingness to cede internationally-recognized Palestinian rights represents a new version of the 1917 Balfour Declaration in which Britain, the colonial power, guaranteed settlers of the early Zionist movement a 'national Jewish homeland' in Palestine disregarding the rights of the indigenous population."

The United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, criticizes the USA endorsement of Israel's unilateral plan when he affirmed that "final status issues should be determined in negotiations between the parties based on relevant Security Council resolutions".

Shortly after, Abdul Aziz Rantisi, the leader of Hammas for only a month, is assassinated by an Israeli missile attack. The killing causes mass anger throughout the Arab world and is condemned by many countries (but not the USA).

20 armed Israeli settlers move into Silwan, an Arab neighbourhood in Jerusalem, to occupy a seven storey apartment building. Police help as Palestinians are evicted. The area is recognised as part of the occupied territories by the United Nations.

During May, Israeli forces attack occupied Gaza killing people and demolishing homes, shops, power and telephone lines and destroying agricultural land. Among the dead were Asmaa Mughayer (15) and her brother Ahmed (13) killed on their roof as they fed pigeons. The Israeli army says that they were killed by a Palestinian bomb. Dr Ahmed Abu Nkaira, at Rafah Hospital, shows the single bullet wounds to the heads with their larger exit wounds, to UK journalist, Donald Macintyre.

According to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), Israel destroyed 100 homes in 10 days, leaving 1110 Palestinians homeless. 131 residential buildings were damaged.

UNRWA declares that the demolitions violate the Geneva Conventions. The human rights group, Amnesty International, calls the actions "a war crime" as the demolitions are part of a policy of collective punishments and to help the establishment of illegal settlements (actually "colonies") in violation of international law.

The USA says it is "concerned" and "troubled" but condones the actions as "self defence" even though they are the actions of an occupying army on occupied territories. In the UK, only one newspaper (The Independent) and one television news broadcast (Channel 4 News) covers the story with pictures. These show distressed families in and around the wreckage of their homes trying to salvage possessions, buldozers tearing down walls of buildings and houses being blown up. Israeli Justice Minister Yosef Lapid criticised his own government with this moving statement:

"I saw on television an old woman picking through the rubble of her house in Rafah, looking for her medicine. She reminded me of my grandmother who was expelled from her home during the Holocaust."

In Rafah, an Israeli tank and helicopter fire shells and missiles on civilians demonstrating against the house demolitions. Dozens are killed and injured, mainly children and teenagers. The injuries include severed limbs and intestines hanging out. The pictures seen around the world are so graphic that in the United Nations Security Council, even the rabidly pro-Israel USA abstains and a resolution is passed (by 14 - 0) condemning the attack and calling for Israel to respect international law and to stop demolishing houses.

The death toll between September 2000 and May 2004 stands at 921 Israelis and 2,806 Palestinians. In Gaza, over 2,300 homes have been demolished by Israel, making 17,594 people homeless. Rafah is the worst affected area where 11,215 people have already been made homeless over a three year period. Many people in Rafah are refugees from 1948, 1967 and 1973. Many have been refugees on more than one occasion. The dispair of a people under a 37 year occupation while the powerful West looks the other way can only be imagined.

Israeli Buldozer
An Israeli buldozer in Rafah.
Demolished House
Family among the ruins of their demolished house.

Demolished House
Family looking for belongings in their demolished house.

House Demolition
House being blown up by Israeli forces.
Demolished House
Family outside their demolished house.
Homeless Family
A homeless family.

Crying Children
Children crying after their home has been demolished.
Desolation and Despair
Desolation and despair in Rafah.


© 2004: Rafah Today

In June, a group of MPs (Members of Parliament) from the UK visit the area as part of a United Nations fact finding mission. They are shot at by Israeli snipers. The UK media bury the story.

In July, the World Court rules that the wall being built by Israel in the West Bank is illegal. The court found that:

"Israel is under obligation to terminate its breaches of international law; it is under an obligation to cease forthwith the works of construction of the wall being built in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem, to dismantle forthwith the structure therein stated".

Israel ignores the ruling, saying the the wall (which it calls a "security fence") is temporary. The court disagrees: "the construction of the wall and its associate regime creates a 'fait accompli' on the ground that could well become permanent, in which case, and not withstanding the formal characterisation by Israel, it would be tantamount to annexation".

Further, the court states that Israel is under an obligation to make reparation for all damage caused by the construction of the wall in the occupied Palestinian territory, including in and around East Jerusalem. It specifically excludes portions of the wall built on Israeli territory. This indicates that there is no problem with the wall itself but with the route of the wall.

The court confirmed that the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights applies to all people over which a state has jurisdiction, meaning that they apply to the Palestinian Territories under Israeli occupation.The court also noted that the wall's route has been drawn to include over 80% of the settlements - and it rules that the settlements are illegal, a violation of the Geneva Conventions.

The USA calls the ruling "inappropriate".

Map of the Wall
The wall snakes over occupied Palestinian territory.

The wall snakes across the occupied territory of the West Bank. It cuts off villages from their fields; sometimes it cuts villages in two. It cuts off tens of thousands of people from their families, schools and places of work. Over 200km of a planned 700km has been built. Its maximum height is 8m (30 feet). By comparison, the Berlin Wall was 3.6m.

The court quotes United Nations reports which state that 16% of the West Bank will end up between the wall and the internationally recognised armistice line (the Green Line). This belt includes 237,000 illegal Jewish settlers (a more accurate word is "colonists") and 160,000 Palestinians who will live "in almost completely encircled communities" (a more accurate word is "ghettos").

The United Nations warns that "with the fence/wall cutting communities off from their land and water without other means of subsistence" it fears that people will leave. In the town of Qalqilya over 6,000 people have already left and 600 business or shops have closed. The town will be completely surrounded by a 11km wall. The UN warning continues that the wall is depriving a significant number of Palestinians of the "freedom to choose [their] place of residence" and "is tending to alter the demographic composition of the Occupied Palestinian Territory". A better phrase for this is "ethnic cleansing".

The Israeli Foreign Ministry defends the building of the wall: "if there was no terror; there would be no fence". This is reported in the the Western media who fail to mention the counter claim that if there was no occupation, there might not be a resistance to it.

The Wall
The wall.
Over 200km of a planned 700km has been built. Its maximum (30 feet).
The Berlin Wall was 3.6m.
   
School Children
Primary school children walking home from school by the wall.

Mahmoud Jaffal tells journalist Sa'id Ghazali that his route to the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem from his village involves going through a tiny opening in the wall: "I am angry at the world. Israel does not respect the international law. Israel is a rebellious country. Why can Jews who are from Africa and all over the world move freely here and I, who live in Abu Dis, can not enter Jerusalem? It is disgraceful that the world can not do anything. We are human beings and not animals.."

Meanwhile, Israeli companies have moved factories and complexes close to the wall where they employ Palestinians who earn less than the legal minimum wage in Israel and are not protected by Israeli labour laws. The industries moving from Israel to the West Bank are many of the most polluting - Israel's strict environmental laws will not apply.

The Wall at Qalqilya (Map)
An 11km section of the wall will completely surround the town of Qalqilya. According to the United Nations, over 6,000 people have left the town and 600 business or shops have closed (as of mid 2004).
   
Qalqilya Before the Wall  Qalqilya After the Wall
Satelite views of Qalqilya in 2002 (left) before the construction of the wall and in 2003 (right) during the construction of the wall.

School Children
School children waiting for the checkpoint to open to return home.
   
House Demolition
Ana'ta district in East Jerusalem. One of thousands of homes demolished to make way for the wall.

According to figures from the Israel Defence Force and the Palestinian Monitor, 587 Palestinian and 111 Israeli children have been killed in the region between 2000 and 2004. The following table shows the causes of death for all non-military deaths for the same period.

Cause of Death Israelis Palestinians
Live Ammunition 3661,816
Rubber / Plastic Coated Bullets 03
Shelling / Bombing 108650
Suicide Bombing 4500
Tear Gas 020
Prevention of Medical Treatment 087
Assassination 1308+
Bystanders During Assassinations 0152+
Miscellaneous 45446

For virtually every cause of death, many more Palestinians die than Israelis. The only cause of death that affects Israelis more than Palestinians is suicide bombings. The vast majority of the media coverage in the West covers these suicide bombings. They are endlessly discussed while the other sources of death are virtually ignored. Each event is given major coverage including views of victims and their families. In contrast, Palestinian deaths by, say, missile attacks are only briefly shown, if at all.

In television interviews, Palestinian leaders are constantly asked when the suicide bombings will stop. In contrast, Israeli leaders are rarely asked why so many Palestinians are killed by live ammunition (the biggest cause of death in the table above). Indeed, Israeli leaders are never asked the fundamental question of when the 37 year long occupation will end; or why people die because of being denied medical treatment (a violation of the Geneva Conventions).

This one sided coverage gives a misleading image of the conflict. The fact that Western governments condone it is a betrayal of an occupied people as well as a source of deep anger in the Arab world.

The United Nations General Assembly passes a resolution condemning Israel's building of a wall on Palestinian territory. The resolution is passed with 150 votes (including the European Union) with 6 votes against (including the USA) and 10 abstentions. The UK asks Israel to comply saying that it has a right to build the wall but not on occupied territory.

The USA sends 100 F16-I jets to Israel. These are advanced jet bombers that "can reach Iran and return" and are equipped with "special weapons". None of this is mentioned in the Western press.

In September, Israeli raids in Nablus and Jenin kill 10 people including an 11 year old girl, Mariam al-Nakhlah. The girl's grandmother, Muyasar al-Nakhlah, said that "She was watching the ambulances taking away the bodies when soldiers posted on the roof of a house shot at her, hitting her in the face". 30 people are injured including a 14 year old boy shot in the head.

As usual, none of this is covered by the Western media while Arab stations like al-Jazeera are barred from entering the area.

According to United Nations aid officials, Israeli army bulldozers demolish the homes of more than 200 Palestinians in the Gaza refugee camp of Khan Yunis. The attack came after midnight and resulted in 60 families (about 230 people) losing their homes.

The story appears on the BBC website but is omitted from television broadcasts. Their journalists are barred from entering the area. Fathi Zaroub (who has four children) told the Associated Press: "We were forced to leave the house under intensive shooting from the sky and from tanks, we took nothing from our belongings. We ran away in our pyjamas and we have no other refuge."

In October over 150 people, nearly half of them children, are killed when Israeli forces attack Gaza. The USA vetoes a United Nations resolution condemning the action. Israel arrests 13 United Nations workers. Israel destroys over 100 homes. According to the UK based newspaper, al-Sharq al-Awsat, the lack of international criticism to Israeli policies has emboldened Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, assuring him that he can carry out "disproportionately aggressive reprisals against Palestinians". The report continues: "With the Arab world in a state of complete paralysis, the US in the fray of a contentious election where Bush and Kerry are vying to appease Israel irrespective of its crimes, and with the EU content with issuing polite calls for restraint, Sharon feels he is above the world and above international law and that he can do anything he wants with the Palestinians."

In Jenin, 12 year old Ibrahim Muhammad Ismail is shot dead by Israeli troops during demonstrations against the occupation. In Gaza, 7 year old Ahmad al-Smari and his cousin, 8 year old Muhammad al-Smari are killed when an Israeli tank shell slams into their house near Khan Yunis, shredding their bodies. Three other people are killed on the same day.

In Gaza, Israeli soldiers shoot and kill a 13 year old girl, Iman al-Hams, as she walks to school. An audio tape of the killing was broadcast on Israeli television station, Channel Two. A soldier is heard to clearly identify the target as a child: "It's a little girl. She's running defensively eastwards, a girl of about 10. She's behind the embankment, scared to death". The Israeli commander is heard to say "Anyone who's mobile, moving in the zone, even if it's a three year old, needs to be killed". Ten bullets were fired into the child as she lay motionless on the ground. This story is not covered in the USA or UK. A year later, an Israeli court clears the soldier and commander involved.

After being confined to his compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah by the Israelis for three years, 75 year old Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat falls ill. He is allowed to leave for Paris where he dies. The Western media's coverage of his life is mixed, many following the Israeli and USA line that he was the cause of the problems in the region.

1400 Palestinian civilians, including 570 minors, were killed in the occupied territories in 2004. Many Israeli soldiers have begun to admit publicly that they are often given explicit orders to shoot Palestinian civilians, including children, when seen entering or approaching a certain "danger zone". Amos Harel of the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, describes the Israeli army's practice of shooting Palestinian children and then covering up the killing as "despicable and criminal".

A field study published in the British Medical Journal reports that, in the previous four years, "Two-thirds of the 621 children killed [by the Israelis] at checkpoints on the way to school, in their homes, died from small arms fire, directed in over half the cases to the head, neck, and chest the sniper's wound." A quarter of Palestinian infants under the age of five are acutely or chronically malnourished. The Israeli wall "will isolate 97 primary health clinics and 11 hospitals from the populations they serve."

The report described "a man in a now fenced-in village near Qalqilya [who] approached the gate with his seriously ill daughter in his arms and begged the soldiers on duty to let him pass so that he could take her to hospital. The soldiers refused."

A Friends of the Earth report finds that 94% of Israeli settlements (colonies) pump untreated sewage onto Palestinian land.

Tim Llewellyn, the UK BBC Middle East Correspondent between 1970 and 1990, describes how bias in inbuilt in the BBC's coverage of the Israel-Palestinian conflict:

"In the news reporting of the domestic BBC TV bulletins, 'balance', the BBC's crudely applied device for avoiding trouble, means that Israel's lethal modern army is one force, the Palestinians, with their rifles and home-made bombs, the other 'force': two sides equally strong and culpable in a difficult dispute, it is implied, that could easily be sorted out if extremists on both sides would see reason and the leaders do as instructed by Washington...

"When suicide bombers attack inside Israel the shock is palpable. The BBC rarely reports the context, however. Many of these acts of killing and martyrdom are reprisals for assassinations by Israel's death squads, soldiers and agents who risk nothing as they shoot from helicopters or send death down a telephone line. I rarely see or hear any analysis of how many times the Israelis have deliberately shattered a period of Palestinian calm with an egregious attack or murder. 'Quiet' periods mean no Israelis died... it is rarely shown that during these 'quiet' times Palestinians continued to be killed by the score."

© 2014, KryssTal


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