The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is set to vote on a resolution that describes Israel as an “occupying power,”

Tue May 2, 2017 8:53AM
Palestinian worshipers are seen near the Dome of the Rock shrine at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, in the Old City of Jerusalem al-Quds, before Friday prayers, April 21, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Palestinian worshipers are seen near the Dome of the Rock shrine at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, in the Old City of Jerusalem al-Quds, before Friday prayers, April 21, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is set to vote on a resolution that describes Israel as an “occupying power,” denying its sovereignty claims over all of Jerusalem al-Quds.

The UN heritage body will on Tuesday vote on the resolution, which describes as null and void any decision by the Israeli “occupying power,” its parliament, its supreme court, or any other Israeli authority that pertains to Jerusalem al-Quds.

The resolution has reportedly been drafted with the help of Germany, which also led efforts for the vote’s timing.

The measure also slams Israel’s excavations in East Jerusalem al-Quds and the Old City.

The motion is expected to be approved despite Israel’s intense attempts to exert pressure on members of the UN body to vote against it.

The resolution has drawn Tel Aviv’s ire. The regime’s Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely expressed such anger at the resolution and its timing — which coincides with the creation of the Israeli regime — on Monday.

“Tomorrow, even as we celebrate, UNESCO will be voting against Israel’s right to sovereignty in its capital city, Jerusalem. This is absurd. We have become used to the concept of ‘fake news.’ Well, welcome to ‘fake history,’” she claimed in bizarre remarks.

Israeli sources say Italy is the only country that has decided not to support the resolution.

Last year, the UNESCO approved a motion that endorses the right of the Palestinians to the al-Aqsa Mosque compound and slams Israeli provocations around the holy site.

The occupied territories have witnessed new tensions ever since Israeli forces imposed restrictions on the entry of Palestinian worshipers into the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in East Jerusalem al-Quds in August 2015.

More than 300 Palestinians have lost their lives at the hands of Israeli forces in the tensions since the beginning of October 2015. A number of Israelis have been killed, too.

The Tel Aviv regime has tried to change the demographic makeup of Jerusalem al-Quds over the past decades by constructing settlements, destroying historical sites, and expelling the local Palestinian population.

Palestinians say the Israeli measures are aimed at paving the way for the Judaization of the city.

In December 2016, the UN Security Council adopted a historic resolution that condemns Israeli settlement activities as a “flagrant violation of international law.”

Approved 14-0 in the 15-member Council, Resolution 2334 (2016) calls on Israel to immediately and completely cease all settlement activities on occupied Palestinian territory, including the West Bank.

The United States — Israel’s staunchest ally — uncharacteristically decided not to wield its veto power and to allow the adoption of the text with a mere abstention.

The Tel Aviv regime had lobbied extensively to prevent the ratification of that resolution, too.



Tue May 2, 2017 8:33AM
Families of Palestinians imprisoned in Israeli jails demonstrate in the Old City of Jerusalem al-Quds on April 29, 2017 in support of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike. (Photo by AFP)
Families of Palestinians imprisoned in Israeli jails demonstrate in the Old City of Jerusalem al-Quds on April 29, 2017 in support of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike. (Photo by AFP)

A young Palestinian man becomes the first victim of an open-ended mass hunger strike by Palestinian inmates in Israeli jails as well as their supporters in the occupied West Bank.

The 30-year-old victim from the city of Ramallah, identified as Mazan al-Maghrebi, passed away at his home in Ramallah on Monday due to a kidney disease after joining the hunger strike in protest at the inhumane treatment of Palestinian inmates in Israeli prisons, Saba news agency reported.

More than 1,600 Palestinian prisoners have joined the protest action dubbed the Freedom and Dignity Strike since April 17 which was initially called by former Fatah movement leader, Marwan Barghouti, to protest conditions in Israeli regime’s prisons.

Meanwhile, the media committee of the hunger strike announced on Sunday that several of the hunger-striking inmates had lost 10 kilograms of their weight, according to the Palestinian Ma’an news agency.

A number of the hunger strikers held in the Israeli Ofer prison are suffering from low blood pressure, severe headaches as well as stomach and joint problems, according to the report.

It further noted that the Israeli authorities do not allow the Palestinian prisoners to drink cool water and instead force them to drink warm water.

Israeli police forces scuffle with a Palestinian youth in the Old City of Jerusalem al-Quds on April 29, 2017 during a protest in support of Palestinians imprisoned in Israeli jails. (Photo by AFP)

Ma’an also reported on Monday that a hunger-striking inmate identified as Ayman Bisharat, who was released from prison on Sunday evening after being held captive by the regime for 16 years, told crowds in his hometown of Tammun in the Tubas district of the occupied West Bank that the health of the hunger strikers was deteriorating.

He held the Tel Aviv regime responsible for the well-being of the hunger-striking protesters.

Bisharat, however, insisted that the hunger strikers remained in high spirits and were determined to achieve their goals, calling on the world to support their “heroic” struggle.

According to January figures provided by the Palestinian prisoners’ rights group Addameer, nearly 6,500 Palestinians are held captive in Israeli jails, 536 of them without charge or trial.

Palestinian prisoners have continuously resorted to open-ended hunger strikes in efforts to voice their outrage at the Israeli regime’s policy of enforcing administrative detentions, which amounts to jailing Palestinians for up to six months without charge or trial.

Palestinian inmates complain that they are often subjected to assault and torture inside Israeli prisons.


OPINION ISRAELI–PALESTINIAN CONFLICT29 DECEMBER 2016

Israel’s never-ending crimes: It’s not just settlements

Israel has not just committed unspeakable acts of genocide but done so with absolute transparency.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement in front of a new Jewish settlement construction site, in the Occupied West Bank [Reuters]
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement in front of a new Jewish settlement construction site, in the Occupied West Bank [Reuters]

by

Stanley L Cohen is an attorney and human rights activist who has done extensive work in the Middle East and Africa.

Last week, the world stood fixated at a largely symbolic gesture by the United Nations in which it found the continued Israeli occupation of the West Bank of Palestine to be illegal. Or did it?

Although the UN Security Council, with rare uniformity, chastised Israel for flouting the law of occupation, the resolution, crafted with ambiguous lawyerly precision, left experienced thinkers on the subject debating just what it means.

In its most ambitious read, some would argue it appears that the decree concerned the occupation as a whole, and swept within its prohibitive reach all settlement activity since 1967 when Israel seized the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, from Arab-Palestinian control.

Others view its advisory language as helpful through its continued embrace of the time-tired two-state solution and its apparent call for a return to the status quo ante of some 15 years ago when illegal settlements had not as yet swallowed much more than 60 percent of the West Bank.

In its least appealing landscape painting, it would appear that the resolution seemingly bestows upon already completed settlements de facto legitimacy and addresses only that part of the building glut currently under way or planned for tomorrows yet to come.

To make matters worse, despite its gratuitous dicta, the resolution remains very much a toothless declaration without any enforcement mechanism whatsoever – essentially relying upon a sudden burst of Israeli conscience to reverse a steady march of indifference to international law that has led Israel’s way since the very first day it was manufactured from stolen land in Palestine.

Defiant Netanyahu

Predictable in immediacy and urgency, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threw his weekly tantrum, accusing the world of a dark conspiracy organised by the soon to be ex-President of the United States, Barack Obama, who on his way out of the door after years of obsequious obedience to Israeli will, has suddenly discovered that it’s OK to say no … well … maybe … or perhaps, to its glaring intransigence.

But then again, it’s kind of hard to take seriously “pressure” exerted by a country that has just enriched Israel’s military coffers and occupation to the tune of $38bn.

Not satisfied with the echo of his own vitriol, Netanyahu was just beginning. Next, he singled out Senegal – one of the most impoverished countries in the world and a mover of the resolution – for economic reprisal. Its offence is having the temerity to believe in the rule of law and being housed in the international building with flags of 193 nations and the State of Palestine that sits overlooking the East River of New York City.

Netanyahu told the world just what he thinks of the UN and its resolution when he announced plans to proceed with the building of thousands of new housing units in Jerusalem in particular.

“Israel will not turn its other cheek,” Netanyahu proclaimed as he went on to prophesy a “plan of action” against the UN directly. Not long thereafter he suspended working ties with the UK, France, Russia, China, Japan, Ukraine, Angola, Egypt, Uruguay, Spain, Senegal and New Zealand, those countries that supported the resolution.

Like a dark lord

Netanyahu should quit while he’s ahead, but he just can’t. There is no incentive. Like the hundreds of earlier resolutions critical of Israeli policies, as worded, the most recent condemnation by the UN can do little more than cry out for justice in the night from a state built from the marrow of genocide.

I get “bombast”, “brash” and, at times, even “bully”. However, it’s the two-legged beasts that feed on the innocent I do not. Netanyahu is very much that kind of beast – an ogre who lives in a world surrounded by dark, deadly thoughts. With delusion his ally, dishonesty his friend and death his messenger, he thumbs his nose at the world as his reign of state terror consumes more and more civilian victims guilty of no offence other than breathing the air that surrounds them and seeking a free life.

When the history of our times is written, an honest accounting will no doubt add Netanyahu’s wicked shadow – and that of his predecessors – to the list of fiends that have seen the world as little more than a playground within which to use their toys of death and despair – always, of course, for the right reasons and always, of course, against the meek and defenceless among us.

The sum total of Israel’s efforts these past 68 years is nothing short of the deliberate infliction upon Palestinians, as a cognizable group, conditions of life and death calculated to bring about their physical destruction in whole or in part.

In the world of Joseph Stalin, induced famine was the prime weapon of choice, though mass execution and exile helped him dispose of tens of millions he viewed as “enemies of the people”.

To Henry Kissinger, the world, particularly Indochina, was very much a small chess game. Civilians were mere pawns ripe for sacrifice through hi-tech weaponry, including biological and chemical warfare, to enforce his worldview at any cost. Millions lost their lives to his cerebral game board.

To Pol Pot, struggle was little more than purification, erasing through starvation, overwork and execution a quarter of his people whose sole crime was to see life through a prism that collided with his own – no matter how soft their view or backward his sight.

In Rwanda up to half a million women were sexually assaulted, mutilated or murdered, along with an equal number of male Tutsis, as enemy agents of the Hutu state – machetes and rape induced Aids to the plentiful weapons of preference.

Slow-motion genocide

These are but a few of the extremes of genocide, those rare cases we are told noted mostly for mass murder, systemic rape or group starvation – the worst of the worst. Yet, genocide does not demand of us an immediate mountain of bodies or an explosive rage of terror for international law to take hold.

As it turns out, in what increasingly seems to be more than mere passing coincidence, the legal definition of “genocide” enacted by the UN General Assembly was born in 1948, the very same year as Israel – which has since gone on to become both expert at its application and legendary in its denial.

In relevant part, under the applicable Convention, genocide means “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: (a) killing members of the group; (b) causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; or (c) deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part”. Each and every one of these types of genocide has been perpetrated by Israel, seemingly with almost proud boast, and no accountability, for almost 70 unbroken years.

One need not rest upon obtuse historical footnotes to find abundant, indeed systemic, acts of extermination carried out by Israel since 1948 against Palestinians – very much a cognizable “national, ethnical, racial or religious group” as those terms are contemplated and commonly understood and applied under international law.

OPINION: Barack Obama, John Kerry, and the Palestine saga

Beginning with its mass expulsion, rape and murder at the onset of the Nakba (the Catastrophe) Israel has devoted itself to 68 years of non-stop genocide coming up for air only periodically to retool or to change the nature of its weaponry of choice.

What started out with the expulsion, at gunpoint, of more than 700,000 Palestinians from their ancestral homeland set in motion a refugee stampede that has grown to more than seven million displaced and stateless people, providing the world more than a disturbing glimpse of what was to come decades later in Syria.

Never-ending violence

Over the years, Israel has found diverse ways to kill more than 400,000 Palestinian civilians and injure or cripple two to three times as many, including tens of thousands of women and children. Whether by tank fire, rockets, or cluster or phosphorus bombs, it has given new meaning to the evil of willful group slaughter.

In its thirst to ethnically cleanse all of Palestine of its remaining inhabitants, it has made use of starvation, in violation of Additional Protocol I to the 1949 Geneva Conventions, as a method of war targeting foodstuffs, crops and livestock throughout the occupied territories.

In particular, it has destroyed more than a million olive trees which not only serve as an essential mainstay of Palestinian culture but, along with hundreds of thousands of razed fruit trees, constitute key products of a Palestinian national economy largely in various states of ruin.

In Gaza, Israel has targeted hospitals, schools, daycare centres, multi-storey apartment complexes, UN Relief and Works Agency shelters and mental health clinics with a deadly proficiency that would make historic war criminals blush with envy.

It has laid waste to thousands of its hardscrabble built homes and left upwards of a hundred thousand Palestinians internally displaced, indeed homeless – leaving many families at a breaking point.

INTERACTIVE: Palestine Remix

For the survivors of the Gaza killing fields, Israel has made life unbearable over the past decade though a criminal embargo that not only guarantees insufficient caloric intake, fresh water and medicine, but denies to its 1.8 million survivors building materials essential for the reconstruction of its beleaguered, and largely levelled, infrastructure.

Not satisfied with physical pain alone, with cruel, wanton abandon, it is no stretch to find that its master plan has consciously induced levels of post-traumatic stress disorder unmatched anywhere else in the world.

Given all these palpable elements of ethnic cleansing, it is reasonably projected that Gaza will be uninhabitable by 2020 thereby once again driving several million traumatised refugees out on to the road of an uncertain and dangerous diaspora.

To describe Israel’s Gaza strategy as anything but one intended to cause “serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group” is to deny a very public and systematic orgy of punishment meted out to Palestinian civilians on the basis of group identity and dynamic – and nothing more.

In the West Bank, Israel’s calculus of pain and punishment is largely a difference without a distinction: one that varies in form but not intent or ultimate goal.

Not satisfied with the 531 villages and localities it depopulated and completely eradicated during the early days of the Nakba, since 1967 Israel has stolen, resettled and annexed almost all of the West Bank, including much of East Jerusalem, in clear violation of Article 4 of the Geneva Conventions which prohibit an occupation force from doing little more than erecting limited bases for its own security needs in occupied land.

During this criminal land grab, it has approved, indeed subsidized, the building of illegal housing for some 800,000 – largely immigrant – settlers at the same time it has destroyed almost 50,000 Palestinian structures, largely homes, many of them ages-old, rendering tens of thousands of its indigenous population homeless, often destitute or dependent upon the largesse of already overcrowded housing of family or friends.

A Palestinian man sits in a refugee camp following the displacement in Nakba [palestineremembered.com/Flickr]

Unaccountable as always

None of these facts about Israel’s sordid and deadly history can be dispatched as the product of mere hyperbole or unsupported hearsay.

Claims of Israeli genocide have been substantiated time and time again by a host of independent human rights organisations and NGOs, with no axe to grind, and include findings from respected groups from within Israel, itself.

In point of fact, from its arrogant perch, Israel has not just committed unspeakable acts of genocide but done so with absolute transparency as if to say to the rest of the world: there we did it, and we are well beyond the reach of international law.

Make no mistake about it, the sum total of Israel’s efforts these past 68 years is nothing short of the deliberate infliction upon Palestinians, as a cognizable group, conditions of life and death calculated to bring about their physical destruction in whole or in part.

OPINION: The UN settlement resolution is too little and too late

In the presence of overwhelming evidence of premeditated Israeli genocide, to argue otherwise is to reduce the dark, evil and systematic deeds of Stalin, Kissinger, Pol Pot and the Hutu state to little more than a collection of misunderstood happenstance.

Yes, Mr Prime Minister, you should quit while you are ahead. Today, Israel stands charged with violations of the law of occupation. Tomorrow, it might very well, indeed should, find itself seated in a well-deserved international dock on trial for genocide.

Stanley L Cohen is a lawyer and human rights activist who has done extensive work in the Middle East and Africa.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

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