Mythbusting Pakistan: Here is The Reality of Asia’s Most Resilient Nation

By Adam Garrie
Source

Whenever the Kashmir crisis re-enters international headlines, India’s perpetual narrative regarding the Pakistani state tends to get amplified outside of south Asia and unfortunately, Pakistan typically does little to counter the propaganda in a point-for-point manner. Below are some frequently repeated but unsubstantiated and materially false accusations against Pakistan (almost all of which are Indian in origin), following explanations of the truth behind the matter.

–“Pakistan funds terror organisations”

Such accusations require proof and lots of it. When it comers to detailing such proof, a good source is Wikileaks. This is the case due to the fact that Wikileaks has a well documented record of exposing regimes which in fact do fund terrorist groups, as well as a strong record of exposing war crimes committed by various regimes throughout the world.

Fortunately, there is a lot of information on Pakistan contained in the United States diplomatic cables leak which was first published by Julian Assange’s organisation between 2010 and 2011. A summary of the leaks demonstrates a high level of confidence in Pakistan’s military by US officials who were otherwise sceptical of Pakistan’s then PPP led government.

This should not be surprising due to the fact that while Pakistan’s Army excelled at repelling terrorist onslaughts that could have otherwise destroyed the entire nation, the PPP government was effectively useless.

Fortunately, since then, Pakistan’s governance has greatly improved, but the fact remains that even in the early 2000s, US officials privately admitted that Pakistan’s military was a strong counter-terrorist force, rather than the terrorist backer, funder and enabler that India consistently accuses it of being.

Even a sensationally headlined article from the Times of India called Wikileaks: Pakistan’s Worst Nightmare, fails to mention any linkage between Pakistani state institutions and terror groups. In hindsight, the article actually vindicates the position of the Pakistani Army and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) as the November 2010 article reveals that American allies at the time were worried that non-state terror groups would take over all of Pakistan. Thanks to Pakistan repelling these terrorist forces, the fears of 2010 have been rendered redundant.

Finally, in 2009, Wikileaks published internal emails from the pro-Washington US based think tank Stratfor. Here, it was thought that Pakistan’s ISI was trying to promote the Khalistan movement in Indian Punjab. For the sake of context, Canada’s current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been scolded by New Delhi for his open associations with pro-Khalistan activists in both India and North America.

Of course, nothing came of the fears expressed in the Stratfor emails and today, the biggest centres of pro-Khalistan activism tend to be among NGOs and unaffiliated activists in Canada and Britain – not Pakistan.

“Pakistan allows terrorists to operate on its soil”

All nations are in danger of terrorists operating on their soil and in this sense, there is nothing exceptional about Pakistan. What is exceptional is how Pakistan’s duel-track approach to counter-extremism has turned the once ungovernable Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province into a place capable of good governance and economic renewal. While Pakistan’s Army and ISI worked for decades to stem the tide of terrorism in what was once called the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), 2013’s provincial election saw the dawning of a new era in the politics of what after 2010 became KP province.

In 2013, Imran Khan’s PTI led a regional coalition government which emphasised the need for civil institutions to work hand in hand with the Army and ISI, in order to eradicate the extremism that took hold in the province after terrorists from Afghanistan flooded the area after the US war on the Afghan Taliban government, which began in 2001.

The KP of today is very different than the KP of the past. In Imran Khan’s own words, the people of KP do not give politicians second chances as they know that the difference between good and poor government can literally be a matter of life or death. Today’s PTI majority provincial assembly continues to oversee expanded opportunities in the realms of education, medical care, the improved status of women and the elimination of local warlords and Afghan born terrorist leaders who in the past used a combination of material bribery and blackmail to stifle the freedoms of the population and retard the progress of healthy state institutions.

This is a clear example of Pakistan fighting terror with a root and branch approach and it is one that now serves as an internationally acknowledged model for counter-extremism.

In Pakistan’s south-west Balochistan province, the country has for decades faced terrorism from the BLA whose links with both India and in the 70s and 80s, the USSR, were well known. While the BLA still remains active thanks to its relationship with some foreign regimes, the group is far weaker than it once was. Furthermore, the economic renewal of Balochistan owing to the Chinese funded Gwadar port which forms the southern terminus of CPEC, has led many ordinary people to themselves join the fight against political extremism and anti-state violence, so that they can enjoy a peaceful and prosperous future that CPEC and related development projects can bring. Of note, infamous English anti-Islam hate preacher Tommy Robinson has been on record supporting anti-Pakistan separatism in Balochistan. This may help to contextualise the kinds of people who support anti-Pakistan terrorism for a western audience.

Of course, there are still some small al-Qaeda linked cells in parts of western Pakistan. This itself is largely the legacy of the disastrous Soviet and American wars in Afghanistan. That being said, contrary to much Indian propaganda, al-Qaeda and all related groups are proscribed as illegal by Pakistan and hundreds of Pakistani soldiers have been martyred in the fight against an international terror group that unfortunately still has members across all continents.

Pakistanis know full well of the dangers of such a terrorist presence and as such are well prepared to fight this terror either alone or with an honest and transparent partner. In this sense, Pakistan’s fight against terrorism continues and this fight against an internationally recognised terror group should be supported rather than undermined by Pakistan’s neighbours.

“Pakistan is run by its Army”

The history of armies leading countries out of dark periods and into those of renewal is well established throughout modern history. At a time when modern Turkey was threatened with western directed colonialism on all sides after 1918, it was Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s Turkish National Movement that reclaimed Turkey’s dignity and helped to form the modern Republic of Turkey. As it was Atatürk’s army that helped to create the modern state, so too did the army play a major role in shaping Turkey’s politics until very recent years when it became clear that the civilian government had sufficiently modernised itself and was up to the important task of overseeing stable governance. Yet few in the west nor in Asia have insulted the historic role of Turkey’s army in the way that they have done in respect of Pakistan.

In many ways, Pakistan’s 21st century war against a multitude of terror groups has been even more harrowing than the Turkish War of Independence. While for decades India had sponsored terror groups aiming to sever Pakistan’s national unity whilst no Afghan government has ever recognised Pakistan’s internationally acknowledged border along the Durand Line, it was the unleashing of George W. Bush’s “war on terror” that for Pakistan became a war for survival as extremist groups supported by Pakistan’s regional enemies swarmed across the border causing havoc throughout the country, but particularly in the north-west.

While America’s misguided war on Afghanistan after 2001 was supposed to be a war to avenge the 9/11 atrocity, this war unleashed onto Pakistan many micro-9/11s in which civilians were slaughtered by terror groups that were perversely aided by the fledgling Kabul forces that the US had installed. While US drone strikes in Pakistan killed civilians almost as frequently as they targeted actual terrorists, it was Pakistan’s Army that succeeded in turning groups like Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan from a force that threatened to plant the flag of terror in Islamabad into a rudderless, leaderless rump whose power has more or less been totally neutralised.

Between the period of 1999 and 2013, Pakistan’s Army was the one constant in a political system that ping-ponged between the Musharraf quasi-dictatorship and the corrupt 2008 election which re-established parliamentary democracy, but which failed to re-establish accountability. This is one of the reasons why PTI boycotted the 2008 election.

By 2013, Pakistan’s political system began to stabilise and in 2018, Pakistan held its second ever peaceful and democratic transition of power which saw a tired PML-N government give way to PTI’s first ever “third way” government in Pakistan.

While today, a competent government co-exists with a strong military in the same way that such a status quo exists in the US, Turkey, Russia and China, it is helpful to remember that between 1999 and recent years, the professionalism of the Army and ISI was literally the difference between Pakistan’s existence and the country being totally consumed by terrorism. Again, the US diplomatic cables leak published by Wikileaks ten years ago, underscores the fact that in private, American strategists acknowledged this as the dire reality of the early 2000s in Pakistan.

At a time when Pakistan’s political parties were heavily compromised, the Army and ISI kept the people safe so that democracy could one day be re-established. Today, that democracy has been re-established – so much so that the chattering classes of Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi are living so well that they have little better to do than complain about minutiae.

“Pakistan funds terrorism in Kashmir”

This argument is worse than false, it is a cop-out. Like many parts of the world, Indian occupied Kashmir (IOK) is home to an indigenous resistance against the presence of hundreds of thousands of heavily armed soldiers who have committed countless atrocities against the civilian population. These atrocities have frankly been far better documented by the United Nations than by the Pakistani state. To say that resistance to this occupation is Pakistan’s fault, implies that Kashmirs have no political agency and are somehow too weak or too stupid to demand the enforcement of their UN mandated right to self-determination. This is a dangerous distortion of reality and an insult to the human condition itself.

Furthermore, if one wonders why some groups in IOK have resorted to extreme measures, one should realise that in the words of Gandhi himself “an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind”. As such, violence begets violence and as Indian forces clearly have the upper hand against a local resistance incapable of full scale mobilisation, India has a unique responsibility to de-escalate the situation and allow a proper international dialogue to take place, with the aim of fomenting the peace process mandated by UN Security Council Resolution 47.

This will save both Kashmiri lives and the lives of Indian soldiers. This is a win-win solution that Pakistan publicly endorses.

To put it in a different context, while groups classified as extreme by Pakistan exist in IOK, India’s ruling BJP  exists as part of a consummate alliance with the militant Hindutva extremist group RSS. The contrast could not be more stark.

Finally, many in Pakistan who believe strongly in the cause of peaceful political self-determination for the people of IOK are very transparent about the fact that they believe Pakistan does too little on the Kashmir issue. In this sense, pro-Kashmiri activists themselves can help to expose the false Indian narrative which states that all anti-occupation Kashmiris are somehow tools of Islamabad.

Conclusion 

Pakistan has faced threats to its existence from the moment it achieved independent statehood. In spite of this, the Pakistani people have persevered against the odds and today look forward to continually developing their state on the 21st century model of peace through prosperity. Today’s Pakistan is one that looks to the future whilst sadly, others are stuck repeating the false anti-Pakistani epithets of the past.

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Zionist Media Cites Bin Salman’s Failure to Provoke Pakistan, India & China against Iran

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Zionist Media Cites Bin Salman’s Failure to Provoke Pakistan, India & China against Iran

The Pakistani State-run TV Channel muted the broadcast of the speech delivered by the Saudi state minister for the foreign affairs Adel Al-Jubeir while he was tackling the Iranian cause, one Zionist political analyst said.

The Israeli media channels cited the Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin Salman’s failure to  provoke Pakistan, India and China against Iran, adding that India rejected his offer to sell it the same amount of oil it purchases from Tehran for a lower price.

The Zionist analysts considered that Bin Salman tried to build more political partnerships and alliances in order to improve his conditions in his relation with the United States.

Source: Al-Manar English Website

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Shamkhani Predicts Further Withdrawal of US from Region in 2019

23 February 2019

TEHRAN – Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council highlighted the US failure to form a regional coalition against the so-called “Islamic Republic” (ISIS, Daesh), predicting that America would have to pull its forces out of more regions in the Middle East in 2019.

In an interview with the Tasnim News Agency, Ali Shamkhani outlined the major problems that the US is facing in the Middle East, describing Washington’s plan to transfer its military forces from Syria to Iraq as part of a propaganda campaign.

Asked about his view on US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw American troops from Syria, Shamkhani said it results from the fact that “the realities on the ground in the region have been imposed on the United States.”

“One of the main realities in Syria and elsewhere in the region is that the US allies have been defeated by the wills of nations, and have therefore inflicted heavy political, military and financial costs on the US,” he added, according to Tasnim.

Referring to Trump as a “businessman who cannot tolerate costs with no gains”, Shamkhani said the US military pullout from Syria is a result of the political realities.

US plan to deploy troops from Syria to Iraq a propaganda

He further slammed the US plan to deploy the troops from Syria to Iraq as a propaganda, stressing that the Iraqi government, parliament and nation are vehemently opposed to the US military presence in the Arab country.

“Americans face a tough job in this regard. I believe that the US will have to get out of other places of the region as well by the end of 2019,” he noted.

Shamkhani further highlighted the US failure to form regional alliances against Iran, saying the Arab states are not united when it comes to siding with the US against Tehran.

Heunderlined that Iran has always taken the hostile military threats serious, which is why it continuously tries to boost the deterrent power, be it the missile industry or the advanced air defense systems.

“Today, Iran is able to decisively combat any threat in the military sphere, which is quite obvious to Trump, the US ruling system, and to Tel Aviv,” he noted, saying that is why the US and Israel are making anti-Iran threats with a “loud voice”.

“Definitely because they know that they cannot enter a war, they raise the sound of threats. This is Trump’s technique. Trump is not made for wars. He issues threats to avoid a war,” Shamkhani concluded.

Shamkhani: Iran to Keep Working with Syria against Terroris, Israel

 Shamkhani went on to say that Iran is in Syria at the request of the Damascus government and will keep working with the Arab country in countering terrorism and the Zionist entity.

He explicated Iran’s plans to help the Syrian government in the battle against terrorism and to fight off the Israeli attacks on the Syrian territories.

Shamkhani underlined that Iran provides “advisory help” for Syria in the fight against terrorism at the request of the Damascus government and with the purpose of supporting the Arab country and its people.

He underlined that lawful presence in Syria is the “basic principle” for the Islamic Republic, noting that all parties acknowledge that Iran has behaved successfully in such process.

“We will stay in Syria and fight against terrorism as long as the legitimate Syrian government would make such request,” Shamkhani added.

As regards the Israeli military strikes on Syria, Shamkhani said Iran believes that such attacks are meant to help the terrorists.

“Israel is clearly taking steps to serve the interests of terrorists and to counter the Syrian government and army,” he underscored.

Iran Has Plans to Neutralize US Oil Sanctions

Elsewhere in the interview, Shamkhani said that Iran has devised initiatives to foil the US sanctions on its oil exports, noting that the country has multiple ways to sell its crude.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran has designed and put into practice initiatives that would neutralize the illegal US sanctions against Iran’s export of oil,” Shamkhani clearified.

He noted that although the US pressures may inflict some costs on Iran, they could not undermine the Islamic Republic’s resolve.

As regards the speculation that Iran could block the Strait of Hormuz in case of a halt to the export of Iranian oil, Shamkhani said, “Although the Islamic Republic of Iran’s military capabilities and extensive capacities have been proved to professional observers and there is no need to mention and repeat it, a cut in the export of oil would not be necessarily tantamount to a blockage of Strait of Hormuz.”

“There are multiple methods to make that (blockage of Hormuz Strait) happen, and we hope we would not have to use them,” the top official concluded.

H.M

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Putin’s Self-Defense Warning Twisted as ‘Unacceptable Threat’ to US

Putin’s Self-Defense Warning Twisted as ‘Unacceptable Threat’ to US

Putin’s Self-Defense Warning Twisted as ‘Unacceptable Threat’ to US

With stupendous double-think, Western news media claimed this week that Russian President Vladimir Putin was “threatening” the United States and its NATO allies with nuclear missiles.

The New York Times accused the Russian leader of “nuclear saber-rattling” while Radio Free Europe headlined: ‘Putin threatens to target the US with missiles’. Many other news outlets conveyed the same depiction of Russia somehow escalating bellicose tensions, based on Putin’s annual state-of-the-nation address this week.

Buried beneath the sensational headlines was a little more context that hints at the gross distortion being propagated by the Western media.

The New York Times disdained Putin was speaking with an “aggressive tone” and “doubling down on threats against the United States”.

The Times then went on to report: “President Vladimir Putin used his state-of-the-nation address to make some of his most explicit threats yet to start a nuclear arms race with the US after [sic] the Trump administration said this month that America was withdrawing from a landmark arms control treaty.”

Obliquely, but crucially, what the Western media coyly admit is that Putin’s remarks this week on deploying new missiles systems are in response to Washington’s decision to unilaterally abandon the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

In other words, decisions have consequences. But for the Western media, they seem to be only preoccupied by consequences.

Furthermore, the Washington Post added somewhere lurking in the bowels of its coverage: “Putin emphasized that Russia will only respond if the United States makes the first move.”

That is, if the US instals short- and medium-range missiles in Europe then Russia will take symmetrical measures to target America territory and that of its NATO allies.

Radio Free Europe even breezily reported Putin as saying, “we don’t want confrontation” and added: “Putin said Russia wanted friendly relations with the United States and remained open for arms control talks with Washington.”

So, Western media are correctly – albeit coyly – noting that the Russian leader is acting in response to actions taken by Washington, and that he is explicitly appealing for friendly relations instead of confrontation. And yet the headlines were all screaming that Putin was “threatening the US”.

This willful distortion is reprehensibly adding to already dangerous international tensions. It is also a baleful failure to accurately determine which party is actually responsible for the brooding confrontational climate. Russia is being blamed for “threatening” the US and its allies when the reality is the reverse: it is the US that is unleashing the dangers of nuclear conflict, as even the Western media obliquely admit.

The Trump administration’s decision to walk away – unilaterally – from the 1987 INF Treaty is the key here. The US side claims that Russia has violated the treaty with its development of a land-launched cruise missile within the banned range of 500-5,500 kilometers. Moscow counters that the 9M729 (also known as SSC-8) missile has an operating range below the lower limit banned by the INF. Last month, in an unprecedented move, the Russian ministry of defense publicly disclosed the missile’s flight specifications at a press conference. Moscow points out that the US has not provided substantiating details to back up its claims that Russia is in breach of the treaty.

For its part, Russia accuses the US side of violating the INF treaty by already installing missile systems in Romania and Poland which can deploy offensive cruise warheads as well as performing as anti-missile systems. The US says its Aegis Ashore system is solely defensive.

However, rather than negotiating through the claims and counter-claims, it is the US side which decided to terminate its participation in the INF Treaty – just like it did with the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty back in 2002 under President GW Bush.

The abandonment of a second major arms control accord is solely the responsibility of the US. The third remaining treaty, New START, is also at risk from redundancy by Washington.

With the INF now being trashed, the US has freed itself to potentially deploy additional missile systems in Europe right on Russia’s borders. The eastward expansion of NATO over the past three decades means that US nuclear weapons could be deployed with a strike capability on Moscow within 10-12 minutes, not hours as with strategic warheads.

President Putin this week noted that Washington has not indicated if it will refrain from installing medium-range nuclear missiles in Europe.

But the Russian leader emphatically specified the condition that “if” the US does embark on such a threatening deployment then Russia will take “symmetrical measures”. He warned that new hypersonic and submarine-launched missiles will be deployed to match the 10-12 minute flight time that the US could poise against Moscow. The Russian weapons will target European launch sites for the US missiles as well as “decision-making centers” in American territory.

Of course, such a dramatic proximity of nuclear capability is extremely alarming and deplorable. The risk of error is manifold greater in such a scenario in a way that far exceeds the Cold War decades. Putin noted that the scenario recalls the Cuban missile crisis in 1962 when the world almost witnessed a nuclear war. The reference point is apt for today’s predicament. The Soviet Union deployed nuclear missiles in Cuba in 1962 after the US installed ballistic missiles in Turkey the year before in 1961. Again, as now, it is the US side that is initiating the dynamics of provocation.

Any objective observer can see that it is the US that is continually upping the ante for nuclear war. The jettisoning of the ABM is now followed by the US discarding the INF based on dubious, unverified claims. Russia in fact views the ulterior rationale of the US as covertly wanting to free itself from the arms controls restriction in order to exert threatening pressure on Moscow for geopolitical goals: those goals may include forcing Russia to be compliant with American foreign policy interests, or opening up Russia’s natural resources to American capital exploitation, and so on.

Putin’s remarks this week are clearly consistent with Russia’s defensive doctrine for using nuclear forces. Moscow is patently stating that it will take “reciprocal steps” if Washington follows through on its offensive trajectory. Yet Western media invert the situation to portray Russia as “threatening” the US.

This is analogous to a gang marauding outside a home. Then the mob ringleader announces that projectiles are to be readied to lob over the garden wall. The homeowner shouts out: just try it and we’ll shoot your henchmen. Nobody in their right mind could fault the homeowner. It’s called self-defense.

But in Russia’s case, self-defense is twisted by dutiful, brainwashed Western news media as “unacceptable threat”.

The Escalation of israeli (apartheid state) Collective Punishment of Palestinians

The Escalation of Israeli Collective Punishment of Palestinians

by Nada Awad, for Al Shabaka Palestinian Policy Network

The Israeli authorities forcibly transferred Palestinian Nadia Abu Jamal from Jerusalem in 2017, following the demolition of her family home in 2015. Israel’s National Insurance Institute also revoked healthcare and other social security entitlements from Abu Jamal’s three children, two of whom suffer from chronic medical conditions. The orders came as punitive measures after her husband, Ghassan, was killed while allegedly carrying out an attack. They demonstrate Israel’s expansion of policies that punish Palestinian individuals for offenses they did not commit.

Israel has used collective punishment against Palestinians since the military occupation began in 1967 through home demolitions and psychological and economic warfare against the families of alleged attackers – a violation of international law. While implemented across the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), the Israeli authorities have intensified measures on the families and extended families of alleged attackers in East Jerusalem in particular, and especially since 2015.

For example, Israeli lawmakers have proposed legislation over the last few years that would legalize actions such as those taken against Abu Jamal by officially enabling the state to revoke the permanent residency status of family members of alleged attackers. In December 2018 the Israeli Knesset passed the preliminary reading of a bill that would allow the forcible transfer of families of alleged Palestinian attackers from their hometowns to other areas of the West Bank. Netanyahu expressed support for the bill, declaring: “Expulsion of terrorists is an effective tool. To me the benefit exceeds the damage. Jurists say it’s against the law given how it’s defined, and it will surely be a legal challenge, but I have no doubt of its effectiveness.”

This commentary tracks the rise in Israeli collective punishment against alleged attackers’ families through such acts as forcible transfer, home demolitions, and economic warfare, and suggests possibilities for countering Israel’s efforts to inscribe these methods into law to use them to intensify the displacement of Palestinians from Jerusalem.

The Expansion of Forcible Transfer

Forcible transfer has been at the heart of Israeli policy to attain and maintain a Jewish majority in Jerusalem since Israel’s de facto annexation in 1967. 1 To reach this demographic goal, Israel implements discriminatory urban planning to limit the growth of the Palestinian population while Israeli law makes it difficult for Palestinians to either stay in or move to the city.

Palestinians living in Jerusalem following 1967 were ascribed the legal status of permanent resident. The Entry into Israel Law makes it easy for the state to revoke their permanent resident status by providing the Minister of Interior the prerogative to rescind the residencies of Palestinians based on the following criteria: living abroad for more than seven years; obtaining foreign nationality or permanent residency abroad; failing to prove “center of life” in Israel; and, since 2018, “breaching allegiance” to Israel.

Such revocation of residency rights is a direct means of forcible displacement, as Palestinians in this situation are denied even the right to be physically present in Jerusalem. These Jerusalem residency laws also restrict family unification for Palestinian Jerusalem residents with family members who do not hold Jerusalem residency or Israeli citizenship. For Palestinian Jerusalem residents who choose to reunite with family in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, or diaspora, the result is the revocation of their residency rights in Jerusalem, leading to their forcible transfer from the city.

Since the adoption of the 2003 temporary order to the Law of Citizenship and Entry into Israel, family unification applicants are barred from receiving permanent residency status. In other words, a non-Jerusalemite Palestinian who marries a Jerusalemite Palestinian cannot receive permanent residency status but is instead given periodic permits if the Israeli Ministry of Interior accepts the family unification application. The policy places Palestinians in Jerusalem at risk of being separated from their family and often coerces them to move from Jerusalem to live with spouses who are not granted the permits; they subsequently permanently lose their right to live there. There have been 14,500 Palestinian residencies revoked since 1967, with 11,500 of them executed since 1995.

In October 2015, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated that the government was examining the “abolition of family unification” and the “revocation of residency and citizenship status of assailants’ families.” Such was the case for Nadia Abu Jamal, who hailed from a West Bank village. After she married Ghassan, and following a long family unification procedure, she obtained temporary residency permits to live in Jerusalem that she renewed annually. Following her husband’s alleged attack, the Ministry of Interior ordered Nadia to leave the city and moved to reject issuance of any permits to which she might apply. In January 2017, the police arrested Nadia at her in-laws’ home, where she had been staying since the punitive demolition of her own home, and forcibly transferred her outside of Jerusalem.

The pattern of the Abu Jamal case has since been repeated, and on a larger scale. The Israeli Ministry of Interior declared after an alleged attack in January 2017: “From now on anyone who plots, plans, or considers carrying out an attack will know that his family will pay a heavy price for his deed.” Aryeh Deri, speaking on behalf of the ministry, warned that “consequences will be harsh and far-reaching.”

The “far-reaching” consequences were clear in the case of Fadi Qunbar, who was accused of committing a car attack in July 2017. Deri revoked the permanent residency status of Qunbar’s 61-year-old mother in addition to 11 family unification permits held by his extended family. Among the 11 individuals to lose their right to live in Jerusalem was the husband of the daughter of Qunbar’s half-sister. The expansive scope of Deri’s application of the law marked a clear extension in the reach of punitive residency revocation. All of the Qunbar family members are waiting on a decision on whether they will be forcibly transferred from their homes.

The Qunbar case is just one example of how Israel has stepped up collective punishment measures in certain cases, establishing a precedent that paves the way for laws that allow such practices to be used in a widespread manner. In 2016 and 2017, Israeli lawmakers introduced at least four bills that would give legal basis for the revocation of residency permits of both persons who allegedly commit an attack and their extended families. Three of the four bills were amendments to Article 11 of the Entry into Israel Law.

The first, P/20/2463, allows the Ministry of Interior to revoke permanent residency status from alleged assailants and their relatives, in addition to rights related to the National Insurance Law and other laws. “There is no logic behind granting equal rights to residents who act against the state and giving them the ability to enjoy the social benefits which accompany one’s being a permanent resident in the State of Israel,” the bill stated. Shortly after, bill P/20/2808 stipulates that the Ministry of Interior can cancel a visa or permanent residency status of “family members of a person who commits a terrorist act or has contributed to committing that act through knowledge, help, encouragement, and support before, during, or after committing the terrorist act.” Bill P/20/3994 “gives the Minister of Interior the relevant right to exercise discretion with regard to the committing of terrorist acts.” And, as mentioned above, in December 2018, bill P/20/3458, which would allow for the “expulsion of families of terrorists on nationalistic grounds,” passed the preliminary reading at the Knesset. The bill would grant the Israeli army the authority to “expel the families of assailants who perpetrate or try to perpetrate a terror attack” within seven days. It calls for the forcible transfer of families of alleged Palestinian attackers in any area of the West Bank.

In addition, in March 2018, the Israeli parliament adopted an amendment to the Entry into Israel Law, allowing for the punitive revocation of the residency status of Palestinians based on “breach of allegiance.” Such revocation is prohibited under Article 45 of the Hague Regulations of the Fourth Geneva Convention which explicitly forbids the occupying power from demanding allegiance from the occupied population. Using a criterion as vague as allegiance, Israel can revoke the residency status of any Palestinian in Jerusalem.

Psychological and Economic Warfare

In 2015, the Israeli security cabinet upheld the demolition of an alleged attacker’s home as a legitimate punitive practice and called for the prohibition on new construction at the site of the demolished home and confiscation of the property itself. Since November 2014, Israel’s High Court of Justice overturned 11 cases in which families from Jerusalem appealed demolition orders, confirming the Israeli military’s decision to punitively demolish or seal homes. Out of five houses sealed off and confiscated, three were filled with concrete, making their sealing irreversible. This leaves the families of alleged attackers homeless and leads to their internal displacement.

These moves have come after a decade-long halt in home demolitions. An Israeli military committee in 2005 concluded that punitive house demolitions had counterproductive results, leading Israeli executive authorities to suspend the practice with some exceptions before resuming in 2014.

Israel also withholds the bodies of Palestinians killed during alleged attacks as a form of collective punishment against families. In 2016, the Israeli parliament adopted an amendment to the Israeli Counterterrorism Law of 2016 that grants the Israeli police this authority. Since October 2015, Israel has withheld the bodies of 194 Palestinians, 32 of whom still remain in Israeli morgues. 2 In many cases, bodies have been conditionally returned to the family for burial following a long legal battle. Conditions required by the Israeli authorities for release often include an immediate burial – thus barring autopsy – that also must take place at night and be attended by a limited number of approved people.

New collective punishment measures have also targeted families’ livelihoods. The Israeli Minister of Defense issued several money confiscation orders against families of alleged attackers through the Combating Terror Law of 2016. The minister declared that confiscation is warranted on the basis that the money serves as compensation for the attack. In August 2017, Israeli police forces stormed several houses belonging to families of alleged attackers and confiscated large sums of money. For instance, the Israeli Minister of Defense confiscated $4,000 from the Manasra family after the Israeli army killed Hasan Manasra, 15, in 2015 during an alleged stabbing incident in a Jerusalem settlement. This new collective punishment measure aims at keeping families of alleged attackers in fear of reprisal and targets their basic economic resources.

In another precedent-setting action, the Israeli government filed two civil lawsuits against the wife and four children of Fadi Qunbar as well as the wife and five children of Misbah Abu Sbeih, who allegedly committed attacks in East Jerusalem in October 2016. The lawsuit against the Qunbar family demanded the family pay $2.3 million, while the lawsuit against the Abu Sbeih family imposed a sum that amounted to over one million dollars. The Jerusalem District Prosecutor’s office stated: “This lawsuit, which stems from a terrorist incident in which soldiers were murdered, is designed to recover the expenses incurred in events of this kind to the state’s coffers, as well as sending a clear message that the state will also settle accounts on a civil level with the perpetrators of hostile acts.” The office also stated: “In light of the fact that the [terrorist] caused the damage, his legal heirs are the ones who need to bear it and indemnify the state for it.”

The families of alleged attackers often find themselves isolated from a society that is afraid of retaliation measures. Today, victims of collective punishment by Israel are more and more reluctant to fight or report violations out of fear of further retaliation by the Israeli authorities. Following months and sometimes years of collective punishment, Palestinians often hope that their silence might shelter them from further punitive measures. This fear of retaliation and the attendant erosion of intra-Palestinian solidarity as a result of the expanding arbitrariness of state retaliatory power has deepened Israel’s impunity in regard to its violations of the international prohibitions on collective punishment.

Directives of International Law

International human rights law affirms the prohibition of collective punishment. Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention affirms that “no protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.”

Moreover, the forcible transfer of Palestinians is a violation of international law, as Palestinians are considered a protected population. Indeed, international bodies have repeatedly affirmed the status of Jerusalem as an occupied city, designating the Palestinian people as “protected persons.” Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits the forcible transfer of the protected Palestinian population and considers it a war crime. If used in a systematic and widespread manner, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court considers it a crime against humanity. 3 Israel’s collective punishment measures also violate the prohibition against the destruction and appropriation of property of protected persons.

Further, the UN General Assembly declared in 2016 that “in addition to amounting to collective punishment, the withholding of bodies is inconsistent with Israel’s obligations as an occupying Power pursuant to the Fourth Geneva Convention (articles 27 and 30) and violates the prohibition of torture and ill-treatment.”

Israel is also forbidden from attempting to use state of emergency or security rationales to justify the violation of legal norms established by international human rights law. The UN Human Rights Committee has noted that the prohibition against collective punishment is non-derogable, even in states of emergency. Yet Israel consistently uses the security rationale to escalate punitive policies against the Palestinian population with the aim of forcible transfer.

Within the principles of international customary law, third states are responsible for preventing ongoing violations of humanitarian law by investigating, prosecuting, withholding aid or recognition, and cooperating to end the grave breach, including through retaliation measures against the violating states. However, the international community’s opposition to Israel’s use of collective punishment has rarely risen above the level of verbal condemnation. It is up to Palestinians and the Palestinian solidarity movement to pressure the international community and Israel to discontinue these violations.

Countering Collective Punishment

1. It is imperative for Palestinians and their allies to raise awareness in the media and civil society of Israel’s use of collective punishment as a means of forcible transfer, and to highlight this as a war crime and crime against humanity. This can help prioritize the topic on the UN’s agenda.

2. Palestinians should also pressure the International Criminal Court (ICC) to add collective punishment to its list of prosecutable crimes. The ongoing ICC preliminary investigation into potential breaches of international law throughout the OPT should be monitored, as it is a test case for international law regarding collective punishment. The naming of collective punishment as a criminal act by the ICC would be a step toward ending Israeli impunity, allowing for prosecution of this violation of basic human rights.

3. It is thus imperative to assist victims in submitting their cases of collective punishment to the ICC section that is dedicated to facilitating the participation of victims.

It is through holding Israeli war criminals to account that policies of collective punishment against Palestinians, leading to their forcible transfer from Jerusalem, will cease.

Notes:

  1. According to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, deportation or forcible transfer of population means“forced displacement of the persons concerned by expulsion or other coercive acts from the area in which they are lawfully present, without grounds permitted under international law.”
  2. Data from Al-Haq monitoring unit, January 12, 2018.
  3. Although the imposition of collective punishment was considered a war crime in the Report of the Commission on Responsibility set up after the First World War and in the Statutes of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, it was not included as such in the Rome Statute.

 

 

Saudi/Bahraini FM’s dodge reporters after first-ever public meeting with Israeli PM – English subs

February 22, 2019

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Syrian War Report – Feb. 21-22, 2019: Iran Took Control Of Several US Drones Flying Over Syria, Iraq

South Front

22.02.2019

The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and the National Defense Forces (NDF) have finished their combing operation in the central Syrian desert, the NDF media center said in a statement.

According to the released statement, the SAA and the NDF eliminated several ISIS members and seized loads of weapons and equipment in the framework of the operation, which covered desert areas of Homs, Rif Dimashq, Deir Ezzor and Raqqa provinces. Despite this, ISIS cells still control a large chunk of the Homs-Deir Ezzor desert.

On February 21, a car bomb exploded near the Deir Rasm hospital in the center of the Turkish-occupied city of Afrin injuring up to 10 people. The attack took place a few hours after a military parade held  by Turkish-backed militants in the city. Opposition activists accused YPG-linked rebels of carrying out the attack. Since early 2018, YPG-linked cells had conducted multiple IED attacks and ambushes on positions of Turkey-led forces in the region.

A car bomb hit a bus currying workers returning from the Omar oil fields. At least 15 people were killed and multiple others were injured. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but local sources say that it was likely conducted by ISIS cells.

Multiple convoys carrying men, women and children, mostly ISIS members and their families, left the ISIS-held pocket in the Euphrates Valley in the last 2 days. These persons are being transferred to filtration camps controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). According to reports, about 250 ISIS fighters remained besieged in the area because they refuse to surrender.

It is interesting to note that pro-SDF sources pretend that the group allows civilians only to leave the pocket. However, evidence from the ground contradicts to these claims. On February 21, it appeared that the US-backed group had handed over 500 ISIS members to the Iraqi military.

On February 19, Russian forces opened two humanitarian corridors allowing refugees to leave the camp. Members of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent were stationed at the checkpoints to provide medical aid to refugees leaving the camp.

However, according to the Russian Reconciliation Centre, militants have blocked the exit from the camp by building an earth berm. They also threatened the refugees with “jail and death” on the territory under the control of the Damascus government.

Head of the Centre Sergei Solomatin added that at the same time, “the possibility of exit of foreign fighters from the 55-kilometer zone to Jordan and Iraq is not limited” and ISIS militants and their families are being moved to the camp from the eastern bank of the Euphrates River. From its side, US-backed militants continue to repeat that the Damascus government is persecuting and punishing refugees returning to their homes.

The Iranian Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) have got control of 7-8 US unnamed aerial vehicles operating in Syria and Iraq, IRGC Aerospace Force Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh said adding that the IRGC extorted intelligence data from the aircraft. The IRGC media also released videos confirming its claims.

While ISIS is de-facto defeated in Syria and Iraq, a possible escalation of the long-standing conflict between the US-Israeli-led bloc and Iran continues to pose a threat to regional security.

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