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Monday, June 04, 2007

Shamnesty International

Shamnesty International has issued a special report in honor of the 40th anniversary of the Six Day War, which occurs tomorrow on the Gregorian calendar. It's entitled "Enduring occupation - Palestinians under siege in the West Bank" From the title you can already tell that it's one-sided, unfair and a sham. But then, you wouldn't expect otherwise would you?

The report starts with the presumption, which is unjustified in international law, that all Israeli 'settlements' are 'illegal.' It then goes on to complain about the 'security fence':
However, most of the fence/wall is not being constructed between Israel and the West Bank along the Green Line (the 1949 armistice line which separates the State of Israel from the occupied West Bank). Some 80 per cent of it is located on Palestinian land inside theWest Bank, separating Palestinian towns, villages, communities and families from each other; cutting off Palestinian farmers from their land; hindering access to education and health care facilities and other essential services; and separating Palestinian communities from reservoirs and sources of clean water.
As if the green line was ever a recognized international border (it was not!). But here's what has to be the strangest statement in the entire report:
The Israeli authorities have an obligation to protect the security of those within Israel’s borders, including by preventing entry into Israel of people who may constitute a threat to its security. However, such measures must not violate Israel’s obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law. Security measures must be necessary, proportionate and non-discriminatory. This may, for example, include the building of fences, walls, barriers or other structures on Israeli territory, but not inside the occupied West Bank.
I don't understand this. Is there any country in the world that does not restrict access to its international borders in some way, shape or form? Do you need a passport to enter the United States, Canada or England? Does everyone have the right to enter France, Norway or Sweden without a visa? Does a country not have the right to admit its own citizens freely, but to restrict others' rights to enter? Why is it okay to separate EU citizens from everyone else at Brussels' airport but not to separate Israeli citizens and others with proper travel identification at the entrances to Jerusalem?

They also have a paragraph for my favorite highway - Route 443:
Road 443, the main highway connecting the town of Ramallah to Palestinian villages to its south-west, has long been restricted because Israeli settlers use it. In March 2007 ACRI petitioned the Israeli High Court seeking the removal of blockades that deny access to Road 443 for six Palestinian villages.
For the record, Route 443 did not exist until the late 80's or early 90's (For those of you who know the area, I have pictures from a hike that that I took from what is now the Givat Zev - Givon area going up to the Ramot water tower and down to Ammunition Hill in 1979 or 1980. It was a dirt path and the only buildings that existed back then were a few apartments in what is now known as Ramot Alef). Route 443 does not go into Ramallah. It runs from Jerusalem (it becomes the Menachem Begin Highway that criscrosses the city from north to south) past Givat Zev and Beit Horon, and comes out by Macabim, Reut and Modiin. There are 'Palestinians' on the road, but they have special permits, and in fact the villages along the side of the road do not have vehicular access to it. Several murders on the highway perpetrated by 'Palestinian' terrorists are the reason why. I just missed being one of the victims (R"L) six and a half years ago.

Route 443 is the only direct route from north eastern Jerusalem to the Tel Aviv area. Otherwise, you have to go to the main entrance of the city in the northwest. There is a road being built that will bypass some of the congestion at the city's entrance by taking traffic directly to Mevasseret across the Lifta Valley (from which 'Palestinians' fled in 1948), but that road's opening is being held up by environmentalists. It was supposed to open two weeks ago, but it will now be mid-July until it opens.

The following sentence is bitterly ironic this morning:
Palestinians accused of attacks against Israeli settlers are tried by Israeli military courts and receive harsh punishments. In some cases they are assassinated by Israeli forces. By contrast, Israeli settlers who have assaulted Palestinians and destroyed their property are almost never prosecuted, and on the rare occasions when they have been, have not received punishments commensurate with the gravity of the offence.
If only it were true.

The Jerusalem Post has the Israeli government's reaction:
Jerusalem issued a preliminary response early Monday morning, saying that "Israel is the only country in the region in which human rights are at the center of political activity," and that the "judicial system in Israel is independent and efficient," according to Israel Radio.

However, sources in Jerusalem added, the report had only been published several hours earlier and was still being thoroughly studied.

Vice Premier Shimon Peres claimed that since the security fence was erected, terror attacks on busses had almost totally ceased.

"Israel constructed the fence to protect the lives of its citizens, something every country aspires to do," said Peres, adding that while Israel was trying to ease the situation in the territories and to reduce the number of checkpoints, there were still attempts to carry out terror attacks in Israel from the West Bank.
Peres, the father of the failed 'Oslo Accords', is not exactly a right winger.

YNet has an interview with the report's writer who denies that it is biased:
In your report, you listed 7 recommendations for the Israeli government, 1 to Palestinian terrorist organizations, and 1 to the Palestinian Authority. Isn't that a fair indication that your report is biased?

DR: No. I think it’s important to look at what can be asked of each actor. So if we take for example the Palestinian armed groups, they are guilty of killing people, or trying killing people. So that is what we must ask of them (to stop). I mean basically our message to the armed groups has been the same, and very consistent. One must ask them to stop committing the abuses they commit.

When you address a state, be that the Israeli state, or any other state, a state has the power to do a number of other things. For example, to conduct an investigation, bring people to justice. Those kinds of recommendations make the list longer. But you cannot ask armed group to conduct investigations, or to put in place mechanisms, because that's not what armed groups are supposed to do. One wouldn't want to give them that legitimacy. Those are tasks that are up to a state to carry out. So far as armed groups, you will always find recommendation which is based (on ending) one action. What else can you ask them to do? [What I would have asked here is why there is only one recommendation to the 'Palestinian Authority' - "Take effective measures to prevent attacks on Israeli civilians by Palestinian armed groups and bring to justice those responsible for such attacks." There is much more that could have been asked. For example, to stop the incitement in the PA-controlled media. CiJ]

You could ask them to stop indoctrinating children for jihad, or using child-combatants, for example. There appear to be no references at all to the systematic indoctrination of children to racial hatred and genocide in the PA, why is that?

DR: You need to separate cases. Children are used by a variety of armed groups. That is something we have condemned, we've called on the PA to take measures to prevent and end all attacks against civilians, whether committed by minors or by adults. That is something that we oppose completely... So our calls to the PA is for them to take measures to stop all Palestinian armed groups, whatever age (their members) are. But certainly when we found specific cases of children being used to either perpetrate attacks or transport explosives, or involve them in other ways; that is something we absolutely condemn.

Regarding indoctrination, we have not carried out studies on textbooks used in the PA or by other authorities on that matter. [WHY NOT? CiJ] As far as the issue of armed struggle of different parties throughout the world that wish to conduct wars, or armed struggles, as an organization we're not opposed to that. The issue is specific attacks against civilians... we tend to focus on concrete incidents and patterns of the actions of the parties concerned. We tend to address deed more than speech. In the same way, there are calls from certain movements or certain politicians in Israel for expelling all of the Palestinians; again that is not something we've addressed because we look at deeds."

Why do you think you are widely perceived as being biased in Israel? What steps do you think your organization can take to improve your image in Israel?

DR: "I haven't seen any comprehensive statistics. That is your conclusion that Amnesty is widely perceived as biased. I think that on whole, the position that Amnesty takes on the different issues is not so different from the positions taken by Israeli human rights organizations. [Where are the 'Palestinian' human rights organizations? CiJ] If we look at the treatment of civilians, which is our mandate, the remit of our work, our position is crystal clear, and has been crystal clear since Amnesty has existed, which is that we oppose attacks on civilians, whether the civilians are Israelis or Palestinians. So in that respect I don't see what you mean about bias.

In your report's background information, you mention a rise in the killing of Palestinians by the IDF, but there is no mention of what the IDF was doing, such as responding to intelligence of imminent attacks and threats to Israel's security. Don't you think it damages your credibility to omit such facts?

DR: The background does not mention the number of incursions and attacks which have not resulted in killings. It looks at attacks against civilians, instances of where civilians have been harmed. It also does not look at the number of bombings, air strikes, artillery attacks from Israeli forces which have not led to civilian casualties... This report looks at the whole issue of 40 years of occupation, and how certain measures have affected the Palestinian population, such as the existence of settlements, which are a violation of international law [For lots of reasons I have gone into in the past, they are not. CiJ], and which impact the lives of these populations in the occupied territories.
The worst part is that I think these people understand deep down that the issue isn't borders but Israel's existence as a Jewish state in this part of the world. They're either indifferent or worse. More likely worse.


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