Gantz’s Electoral Campaign Is Focused on Gaza’s Vulnerability

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Ramona Wadi
August 14, 2019

Five years after the colonial massacre unleashed by Israel on Gaza, known as Operation Protective Edge, Israeli politicians are still eyeing the enclave for ultimate destruction. Former IDF Chief and leader of the Blue and White Party, Benny Gantz, is promoting the same violent tactics that formed part of his earlier electoral campaign: invade Gaza and assassinate Hamas leaders if the conditions Israel demands are not accepted.

“We will aim for the toppling of Hamas, take action to assassinate all Hamas leaders and go in with ground forces for however long we want,” Gantz remarked during a press conference in Sderot.

As the IDF Chief of Staff during Operation Protective Edge in 2014, Gantz oversaw the scale of bombardment and massacres against Palestinians civilians. The deliberate violence, which also targeted Gaza’s infrastructure, left thousands of Palestinians displaced. Over 2,000 Palestinians were killed and 11,231 injured, according to UN reports.

Netanyahu has so far refrained from another large-scale aggression against Gaza. While his strategic, intermittent bombing has earned him widespread criticism in within Israel’s settler-society, Netanyahu has merely changed tactics but not ideology. Without any overt declarations of targeting Gaza, Netanyahu is normalising the Israeli agenda and deflect criticism from the international community. The latter was put to the test a few months ago last May, when Israel’s airstrikes on Gaza elicited rhetoric from the international community justifying Israel’s purported right to “defend itself” while blaming Hamas.

While attempting to portray himself as different from Netanyahu, Gantz is merely offering another trajectory of implementing Zionist colonial violence. Israeli media is already running reports of a possible coalition government between Likud and the Blue and White party, thus signalling that despite alleged differences, Netanyahu and Gantz are still in accordance over political issues, notably Gaza, settlement expansion and the prevention of any form of a Palestinian state.

Gantz’s party is proposing the elimination of the Hamas leadership and destruction of its “headquarters, warehouses, operatives,” after which it would “fix the humanitarian situation in Gaza.” This plan of action was outlined by Gabi Ashkenazi, under whose direction as IDF Chief of Staff Operation Cast Lead unfolded in 2008.

Such exploitative comments illustrate Gaza’s vulnerability. In recent years, Palestinians in Gaza have suffered increasing deprivation as a result of endeavours by Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the international community to render humanitarian aid conditional. UN officials have even stated their preference for a return to PA rule in Gaza to facilitate their humanitarian operations. Again, depriving Gaza of basic necessities is also blamed upon Hamas.

Gantz’s solution is to eliminate a political leadership and resistance movement in a large scale, drawn out aggression that will affect Palestinians in Gaza who are still suffering the consequences of the previous Israeli bombardments. Humanitarian aid, according to Gantz, is conditional upon Hamas’s elimination. As Gaza is rendered fragile to Israeli threats and their implementation, the manipulation of humanitarian aid for Palestinians, already a plan in action, will be consolidated.

Furthermore, Gantz is proposing is the re-establishment of Israeli presence in the enclave – a notion which is prevalentamong other Israeli candidates, albeit with different interpretations.  The ground invasion, therefore, must not be thought of merely as a military action tied to a specific operation, but as a possible prelude envisaged by the former IDF chiefs to contain Gaza from within – along with the illegal blockade that continues to threaten the wellbeing of Palestinians.

Once again, the Israeli electorate is facing propaganda that pits Netanyahu’s refined and brutal strategy against the violent “deterrence” promoted by Gantz. Yet, talk of a possible coalition only highlights how close both agendas are in terms of destroying Gaza.  Netanyahu has prepared the groundwork in terms of influencing the international community to turn a blind eye to Israel’s assaults on Gaza. A prospective Israeli government with Netanyahu and Gantz at the helm will build upon what Israel has so far accomplished in generating oblivion when it comes to Palestinians in Gaza.

The Spider Web vs. the Iron Wall

By Jihad Haidar

Beirut – It is not surprising that the effects of the “spider web” concept are still reverberating among leaders and experts in Tel Aviv, 19 years after Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah delivered his 2000 liberation speech.

The policy and propaganda makers in Tel Aviv failed to contain the effects of this concept and root it out. This failure is not a passing phenomenon. On the contrary, this concept is being renewed at every political and security juncture. Nevertheless, we find Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu repeatedly denying that “Israel” is a “spider web” during his speech a few days ago on the anniversary of the 2006 war in Mount Herzl.

Why did Netanyahu mention the “spider web” slogan again? Why is this slogan engraved in the “Israeli” consciousness? What is the secret of this slogan’s great impact on “Israel”? Is it related to its content, to its creator or to its context and timing? What is the danger that lurks behind this slogan, which the “Israeli” leaders repeatedly feel the need to point to? How did Netanyahu try to refute this slogan, and to what degree did he succeed?

The “spider web” concept does not refute the fact that “Israel” is a strong state both in terms of military and technological might or that it possess immense destructive powers. This exact description applies to the reality of the Zionist society. However, this society’s division and defeat will only be achieved if it encounters a resistance and a society that depends on this resistance, a society with steadfastness, determination and willingness to sacrifice for its cause. Perhaps the fact that Sayyed Nasrallah stated this position in this context suggests that he deliberately distinguished between the superiority of “Israel’s” military capabilities and its structural and social weakness.

““Israel”, which possesses nuclear weapons and a strongest air force in the region, is by God, weaker than a spider web,” Sayyed Nasrallah said.

19 years later, one of the most prominent generals in “Israel” and the chair of the Herzliya Conference Major General (Ret.) Amos Gilad, echoes the same concept in different terms.

““Israel” is a home protected by strong walls from the outside, but termites are eating it from the inside,” Gilad said.

On the other hand, the concept of the “spider web” is the opposite to that of the “iron wall”, which has been the main factor in shaping “Israel’s” general strategy. The summary of this Zionist concept is that its leaders realized very early on that they would not succeed in imposing their entity without planting despair in the hearts of the Arab and Palestinian people regarding the possibility of victory over the Zionist project. From here, the concept of the “iron wall” had to be planted and propagated to become something along the lines of a self-evident truth. If promoting this thought succeeds, and if it becomes a reality, recognizing the existence of “Israel” becomes a logical result that is suitable for this introduction.

Meanwhile, the “spider web” concept presents a contrasting image to the “iron wall” in how the “Israeli” public views itself and in the consciousness of the Arab people. Thus, the underlining factor of the “spider web” concept is that there is a possibility of victory over “Israel” despite its technological and military superiority as well as unlimited US support.

Nevertheless, not all slogans that have these meanings lead to the sort of repercussions the “spider web” caused.  What characterized the “spider web” slogan is that it was not the result of purely theoretical jurisprudence of a group of theorists or a summary of an academic research. It was the culmination of a historic victory that derived its credibility from the facts. In other words, the practical achievement that is based on this concept was there before Sayyed Nasrallah uttered his slogan.

But what supported its credibility and influence in “Israel” was that it was issued by the leader of the resistance. This indicates that it is an expression of a vision from which the resistance launched its strategic and historical achievements. The resistance also depends on it with a broad realistic outlook in crystallizing its plans for the future. This led to a rise in the level of danger in the consciousness of the “Israeli” leaders. In short, the “spider web” slogan was able to strike a serious blow to the “iron wall” concept along more than one juncture starting from 2000 liberation, to the 2006 victory, to the regional deterrence formulas Hezbollah imposed on the “Israeli” entity.

The “spider web” slogan was characterized with a degree of distinctiveness, which dominated decision-making institution in Tel Aviv and appeared prominently among experts. This was reflected in the “Israeli” discourse over the years that followed. Netanyahu himself was one of the prominent speakers who repeated this concept. He repeated references to the concept in the wake of Operation Protective Edge [aggression against Gaza] in 2014. He also addressed the same concept in 2016 twice in the same day. Netanyahu again referred to it a few days ago during his speech marking the anniversary of the 2006 war.

On this particular point it is sufficient to point to Netanyahu most recent claim that the “Israeli” society is not a “spider web”.

“In practice, the total opposite came true: For more than a month we have deployed both soldiers and citizens along the front because the home front also turned into a [battle] front. We showed immunity. We proved our strength and steadfastness … Our fighters showed determination, sacrifice, courage and heroism,” Netanyahu added.

This address reflects that “Israel” is trying to reproduce a picture that is different from the 2006 war. However, when they try to embark on this failed task, they are forced to ignore the fact that “Israel” has failed in its strategic goals of crushing Hezbollah to produce a new Middle East. Netanyahu failed to reach an objective approach when he said, “at the same time, there have been failures – not just a few – at the political level and the military level. And we are applying the lessons learned from these failures on both the strategic and operational sides.”

To refute Netanyahu’s failed attempt, we will recall some junctures. The Winograd report noted that the army refrained from launching a major land invasion during the 2006 war and only partially implemented it at the end of the war. Was this proof of the determination and sacrifice shown by the soldiers, or was it a result of the horror that was haunting them and awaiting them should they venture with their land invasion? Following the famous Merkava tank massacre, the [“Israeli”] army demanded a halt to the military operation before the time that it initially requested had elapsed. Where is the heroism demonstrated by the soldiers in the battles of Maroun al-Ras, Bint Jbeil and Ayta al-Shaab?

Where is the steadfastness of the home front? Does it lie in the success of the deterrence formula – Tel Aviv in return for Beirut – imposed by Hezbollah? Why did the enemy refrain from targeting Beirut? Is it not because it recognized that Hezbollah had the courage, the will and the ability to carry out the threat that Sayyed Nasrallah issued?

“Israel’s” problem is that it was late in trying to modify the image of the war. Netanyahu’s repeated references to the “spider web” concept in the years that followed only underscores the great impact the concept had on the “Israeli” reality, despite its denials. This strongly suggests that it will remain a feature in “Israel’s” future and a constant concern in the consciousness and rhetoric of all its leaders.

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The Enemy’s Main Threat In 2019: Hezbollah’s Precision Missiles

Al-Ahed News

A report authored by “Israel’s” Institute for National Security Studies [INSS] outlined next year’s strategic assessment as well as the threats facing the enemy entity.  According to INSS, these include a full-scale war in the north against Iran and the classification of Hezbollah and the Syrian state as the most dangerous threat of 2019.

The head of the institute, Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin, submitted the report to the president of the “Israeli” entity, Reuven Rivlin. The report notes that “in early 2018, Iran intensified efforts to strengthen its military capability in Syria and provide Hezbollah with advanced military capabilities.” The report alleged that the enemy “applied firm military activities against the Iranian attempt and that its attacks damaged the Iranian infrastructure in Syria.”

The report questioned “whether Iran will abandon its positions in Syria,” warning that “stabilizing the Syrian state’s strength and rearming the Syrian army by Russia, will limit the freedom of the “Israeli” army’s work in the region.”

“Because of the developments in Syria, Iran has transferred part of its accumulating strength – used to fight “Israel” – to Iraq and Lebanon,” the report added.

“It is true that Iranian support for building Hezbollah’s strength in Lebanon is not new. However, the quality of the weapons transferred in recent years from Tehran to Hezbollah is worrying.”

According to the report, the main source of concern for “Israel” is the transformation of Hezbollah’s inaccurate and heavy rocket-propelled projectiles into precision missiles as well as improving the party’s air defenses and supplying it with long-range naval missiles.

The report pointed out that the enemy’s efforts against the Iranian “precision project” in Lebanon will be managed in different and more complex circumstances than was the case in Syria throughout recent years.

It warned that should a full-scale confrontation take place in the north, it will not be restricted to one front. “We will find ourselves in a situation where “Israel” will be confronting Iran, Syria and Hezbollah in the north and terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip [i.e. the Palestinian resistance factions].”

It noted that “the possibility of war with Hamas in Gaza is very likely in the coming year, even if the seriousness of the threat has diminished substantially.”

The report explained that “the main reasons for a possible escalation in the south is the continued deterioration of the socio-economic situation in the Gaza Strip, the pressure exerted on Hamas by the Palestinian Authority in Gaza, and the erosion of the deterrence achieved by the enemy during Operation Protective Edge in the summer of 2014.”

The report warned of the deterioration of the situation in the West Bank, pointing out that the entity must be prepared for the weakening of the Palestinian Authority’s stability and the possibility of the end of Abu Mazen’s era.

IDF Awards Israeli Soldiers for Deadly Crackdown on Gaza Protests

By Whitney Webb
Source

GAZA CITY — The chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), Gadi Eisenkot, awarded the IDF’s Gaza Division with a “certificate of appreciation” for contributing to “Israel’s security” by brutally suppressing protests, ongoing since March in the Palestinian enclave.

The controversial award was given as the number of unarmed Gazan demonstrators wounded by the IDF since March 30 surpassed 22,000 while the number of those killed by the IDF over that same time frame reached 198. Since “Operation Protective Edge” in 2014, the IDF’s Gaza Division has sustained one single fatality.

A statement released by the IDF spokesperson on Wednesday stated:

The Gaza Division is dealing with a variety of threats, against which it stands strong, while showing determination, creativity and wisdom. It is working night and day to defend the residents of the South.”

During the award ceremony, which took place at the Gaza Division’s headquarters in Re’im, Eisenkot told those assembled:

Over the past six months you have dealt with terror attacks, attempts to violate our sovereignty and various terror activities under the guise of popular protests involving women, children and adults.”

Eisenkot added that the division had “acted responsibly and professionally in a complex reality” and deserved “international recognition” for its efforts.

Though commonly described by the corporate Western media as “clashes,” the protests in Gaza involve heavily-armed Israeli snipers firing into crowds of unarmed young Palestinians. Those killed by IDF fire include journalists, medics and children. IDF soldiers are under orders to shoot protesters who get “too close” to the border fence.

“No innocent people”

Palestinians IsraelA photo of 11-year-old Nasser Musabeh, shot and killed by Israeli troops at a protest in Gaza, is displayed in a school in Khan Younis, southern Gaza, Sept. 29, 2018. Sanad Abu Latifa | AP

The brutal nature of the repression led Israel Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman to assert that there are no “innocent people” in Gaza, despite the Strip being home to one million adolescents and children; and Israel Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked to claimthat the only way for the Gaza border to be “completely quiet” would be for Israel “to conquer the Strip.”

Warnings have emerged periodically over the past year that the IDF is preparing to “conquer” Gaza. Earlier this year in July, the IDF stated that if “incendiary balloons” and similar objects continue to cross the Gaza-Israel border, Israel may decide it has “no choice” but to embark on a military campaign intended to “conquer all of Gaza,” according to a report that aired on Israel’s Channel 10 News on Tuesday and was cited by the Times of Israel. This warning was followed by a major IDF drill practicing “securing control” over Gaza.

In February, Eisenkot stated that another Israeli invasion of Gaza was “likely” to occur this year. Eisenkot ironically framed the imminent invasion as a way to “prevent a humanitarian collapse” in Gaza, suggesting that military action against Gazan civilians and infrastructure would somehow improve the daily lives of the Strip’s inhabitants.

The dire situation in Gaza is widely believed to be nearing a dangerous climax, with the vast majority of Gazan drinking water being non-potable and the UN warning that the entire Strip will be uninhabitable in less than two years. The increasingly troubling humanitarian situation in Gaza is largely the result of Israel’s blockade of the enclave, now in its 11th year.

 

Is Haifa Nuclear Bomb has become True? هل باتت نظرية قنبلة حيفا النووية أمرا واقعا؟

 

 

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International Criminal Court Gets Slammed; Russia, Other Countries, Withdraw from Body

iccartoon

By Richard Edmondson

The International Criminal Court, based in The Hague, Netherlands, seems to feel that the only people capable of committing war crimes are Africans.

You can go here to view a list of 32 people indicted by the ICC since the year 2005. All of them are from Africa. The list includes such notable U.S. enemies as Muammar Gaddafi and his son, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi.

Some African nations have said ‘enough is enough’ and ended their membership in the court, and just last week Russia announced that it too will follow suit.

The International Criminal Court, or ICC, was set up with the passage of the Rome Statute, an international treaty adopted in Rome in 1998. The treaty formally went into effect in 2002, and the ICC began operations that same year. States which have either ratified or become signatories to the treaty become, in turn, members of the ICC. Currently 124 countries, at least officially, hold such membership. These are each allowed one voting representative on the Assembly of State Parties. The ASP is a legislative body set up to provide “management oversight” of the ICC, but usually it only meets once a year.

The court was given a mandate to investigate and prosecute crimes of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and crimes of aggression. There’s lots of that going on in the world, you know. Crimes against humanity for instance entail large-scale attacks against civilian populations. Just off the top of our heads we might think of, oh, say, Israel’s attacks against Gaza and its deliberate targeting of hospitals, UN schools, and residential buildings.

ustortureiraq

Or take the category “war crimes”–crimes falling under this classification include the torture of prisoners, oh, such as occurred in US-run torture facilities.  Heck, we even have Obama admitting, “We tortured some folks.”

But up until January of this year, just about the only armed conflict venues the ICC had ever launched formal investigations into were in… Africa.

Ah! But on January 27, 2016, in a rare departure, the ICC announced it wouldlook into some alleged crimes committed outside of Africa.

gazaphos

Umm…to be sure, the scope of this new investigation will not cover US officials such as, say, Alberto Gonzales, or the US treatment of prisoners in Iraq; and…well…neither is the ICC investigating Israel for its firing of white phosphorus shells into a UN compound in Gaza City on January 15, 2008, or the Jewish state’s use of the controversial “Hannibal Directive” during its 2014 war on Gaza, a measure which resulted in the deaths of 190 civilians in the town of Rafah on August 1, 2014–the date Palestinians have since come to refer to as “Black Friday.”

No.

Specifically the ICC has begun, or found itself compelled to begin, an investigation into the Russia-Georgia war over South Ossetia that occurred in 2008. And just to make sure the world understands it is being fair and impartial, the court has announced it has “gathered information on alleged crimes attributed to the three parties involved in the armed conflict – the Georgian armed forces, the South Ossetian forces, and the Russian armed forces.”

So yes, the court is now investigating Russia.

But as I say, the only indictments so far have been of Africans.

Perhaps it should come as no surprise, then, that last month three African countries announced their withdrawal from the court. The three countries are: South Africa, Burundi, and Gambia. The Parliament of Kenya has also voted to leave the ICC. And in 2015, the African National Congress issued a public statement in which it asserted that the “ICC is no longer useful for the purposes for which it was intended.”

But perhaps the real blockbuster came last week when Russia announced it, too, will be withdrawing from the Rome Statute and the ICC. This took place via an announcement posted on the website of the Russian Foreign Ministry on November 16.

Interestingly, on that same day, November 16, University of Illinois Law Professor Francis A. Boyle sent out an email containing a scathing indictment of the ICC, the legal scholar denouncing the court as “a joke and a fraud.”

The comments of both Boyle, who has an extensive background in international law, and the Russian government, were prompted by a recently-released ICC report blandly entitled, “Report on Preliminary Examination Activities 2016,” that was  published on the ICC’s website on November 14.

The report (available here in PDF) offers the results of a “preliminary investigation” into nine different conflict areas in the world. The ICC views a preliminary investigation as a necessary step in order to determine “whether a situation meets the legal criteria” needed to warrant a full investigation. In other words, the ICC is investigating whether or not to do an investigation.

Of the nine different conflict areas, two are of particular interest: Palestine and Ukraine. Russia’s main concern, as you might expect, would be the findings pertaining to the latter. The concerns expressed by Boyle, on the other hand, were focused on the section of the report dealing with Palestine. Let’s take Palestine first.

The ICC on Palestine

bennsouda2

ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda

The report is a declaration of activities undertaken by the branch of the ICC known as the Office of the Prosecutor, referred to in the document as “OPT”, or simply “the Office.” The OPT’s main area of inquiry is the 2014 Gaza conflict, known as Operation Protective Edge. By contrast, Operation Cast Lead, the bloody conflict which took place in 2008-09, goes completely unmentioned, and the term “white phosphorus” does not appear anywhere in the report.

While the report does supply a “contextual background” to the Israel-Palestine conflict–in the course of which the Six-Day War is mentioned, as are Israel’s “unilateral withdrawal” from Gaza in 2005 and the election of Hamas the following year–most of the section on Palestine, as I say, deals with the events of 2014.

“All parties are alleged to have committed crimes during the 51-day conflict,” the report states, and the words “alleged” or “allegedly” are employed repeatedly throughout.

Alleged crimes said to have been committed by Palestinians include “attacks against civilians,” “use of protected persons as shields” and “ill-treatment of persons accused of being collaborators.” A single paragraph is devoted to each category, following which the report moves on to “Acts allegedly committed by the IDF,” and here the “alleged” crimes include “attacks against residential buildings and civilians,” “attacks against medical facilities and personnel,” “attacks against UNRWA schools,” and “attacks against other civilian objects and infrastructure.” Once again, a single paragraph is devoted to each alleged crime.

The ICC says it has reviewed “over 320 reports as well as related documentation and supporting material” in the course of conducting its preliminary investigation. The report also mentions a trip to Israel by the OPT that took place October 5 to 10, 2016. The visit is said to have been facilitated by “Israeli and Palestinian authorities,” but apparently did not include a visit to Gaza. At least none is mentioned. One place they did visit, however, is Hebrew University in Jerusalem, where supposedly the OPC staff “engaged with the law faculty.” Why there was need for such an engagement is not clear, although the report does say the trip to Israel as a whole was undertaken for purpose of “raising awareness about the ICC” as well as to “address any misperceptions” about the judicial body.

Boyle’s comments about the ICC report, or at least his “alleged” comments, we might say, were posted at the Al-Awda Yahoo group (Yahoo login required), and were also sent out by email.

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In addition to branding the ICC “a joke and a fraud” the comment also makes reference to the visit to Hebrew University, which indeed is described on page 32 of the report.

The ICC’s “conclusion and next steps” in regard to its investigation on Palestine will be aimed at “continuing to engage in a thorough factual and legal assessment of the information available, in order to establish whether there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation.” It will also “assess information on potentially relevant national proceedings, as necessary and appropriate.”

The ICC on Ukraine

Like Boyle’s posted comment, Russia’s announced withdrawal from the ICC also came on November 16–in a statement posted on the website of the nation’s Foreign Ministry. The statement does not single out Ukraine or the ICC report specifically. Its criticisms of the court are generalized. But the timing, just two days after the report’s publication, would strongly suggest that the one was prompted by the other.

The ICC report portrays the Maidan protests largely as a spontaneous popular uprising, making no mention of the US role in the overthrow of the Yanukovych government. Reference to the leaked phone conversation between the State Department’s Victoria Nuland and Jeffry Pyatt, the US ambassador to Ukraine, in which the two discussed who would become the new Ukrainian head of state, is completely omitted. “The protest movement continued to grow in strength and reportedly diversified to include individuals and groups who were generally dissatisfied with the Yanukovych Government and demanded his removal from office,” says the report, and the narrative adhered to is primarily that of the US:

On 21 February 2014, under European Union mediation, President Yanukovych and opposition representatives agreed on a new government and fixed Presidential elections for May 2014. However, on 22 February 2014, the Ukrainian Parliament voted to remove President Yanukovych, and he left the country that day to the Russian Federation.

In other words, it was all legal and on the up-and-up.

The relaying of events in Crimea and in Eastern Ukraine also follows a similar pattern. The Crimean referendum of March 16, 2014, in which 96.77% of voters chose to rejoin Russia, is referred to as “the alleged decision of residents of Crimea to join the Russian Federation,” with the report mentioning that the referendum “was declared invalid by the interim Ukrainian Government.” The “interim Ukrainian Government” means, of course, the government installed by the US, though the report doesn’t say so.

While occasional reference is made to crimes committed by “all sides” or “both sides” in the Ukrainian conflict, clearly the main focus is on the alleged transgressions of Russia and, to a lesser extent, those of armed opposition groups in Donbass that are allied to Russia. The crimes cited include:

  • Harassment of Crimean Tatar population
  • Killing and abduction
  • “Ill treatment”
  • Detention
  • Disappearance
  • Torture

The report also talks about destruction of property, including homes and schools, asserting that this has occurred “in both government-controlled territory and in areas controlled by armed groups.” But its fundamental conclusion is that the situation in Ukraine is legally classified as an “armed conflict.” As such, “the situation within the territory of Crimea and Sevastopol factually amounts to an on-going state of occupation.” Occupation by Russia, that is. Furthermore, “a determination of whether or not the initial intervention which led to the occupation is considered lawful or not is not required.” Or in other words, while Russia conceivably may have had some valid concerns (though the report leaves it entirely up to the reader’s imagination to guess what these might be), none of these will be taken into consideration by the ICC.

As noted above, the statement put out by the Russia Foreign Ministry makes no direct reference to the November 14 report, and its criticisms of the ICC are of a mostly generalized nature:

The ICC as the first permanent body of international criminal justice inspired high hopes of the international community in the fight against impunity in the context of common efforts to maintain international peace and security, to settle ongoing conflicts and to prevent new tensions.

Unfortunately the Court failed to meet the expectations to become a truly independent, authoritative international tribunal. The work of the Court is characterized in a principled way as ineffective and one-sided in different fora, including the United Nations General Assembly and the Security Council. It is worth noting that during the 14 years of the Court’s work it passed only four sentences having spent over a billion dollars.

And while Ukraine isn’t specifically mentioned, the 2008 conflict between Russia and Georgia is:

The Russian Federation cannot be indifferent to the Court’s attitude vis-a-vis the situation of August 2008. The Saakashvili regime’s attack on peaceful Tshinval, the assassination of the Russian peacekeepers resulted in the Court’s accusations against South-ossetian militia and Russian soldiers. Eventual investigation of actions and orders of Georgian officials was left to the discretion of the Georgian justice and remains outside of the focus of the ICC Prosecutor’s office attention. This development speaks for itself. We can hardly trust the ICC in such a situation.

The statement also acknowledges the widespread dissatisfaction with the ICC by countries in Africa:

In this regard the demarche of the African Union which has decided to develop measures on a coordinated withdrawal of African States from the Rome Statute is understandable. Some of these States are already conducting such procedures.

Conclusions

While some of those indicted over the years by the ICC may well have deserved it, at the same time, it’s hard not to draw the conclusion that the court has been used as a tool by powerful countries. Yes, it’s true, the ICC is conducting an ongoing “preliminary investigation” into the conflict in Afghanistan. The November 14 report in fact includes a section on Afghanistan which addresses crimes committed by the three main parties to the conflict: the Taliban, Afghan government forces, and the US-led international forces. With regard to the latter, the ICC states it has “a reasonable basis to believe” that the US “resorted to techniques amounting to the commission of the war crimes of torture, cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity and rape.”

Yet elsewhere in the same section, a somewhat contradictory view is offered:

Having reviewed information on a large number of incidents attributed to the international forces, the Office has determined that, although these operations resulted in incidental loss of civilian life and harm to civilians, in most incidents the information available does not provide a reasonable basis to believe that the military forces intended the civilian population as such or individual civilians not taking direct part in hostilities to be the object of attack.

The report goes on to discuss “a few other incidents,” said to involve international forces, though without offering much hope of a prosecution due to “a paucity of the information” concerning them.

The chances of the ICC prosecuting any US official for war crimes seems slim, and indeed as the New York Times put it in a report published on November 14, the court’s prosecutor “has been considering whether to begin a full-fledged investigation into potential war crimes [committed by the US] in Afghanistan for years.”

Or to be more precise, for years the prosecutor has been “investigating whether to investigate” the US.

Interestingly, the Times article goes on to note as well that the court has been “under great pressure to show that it is unbiased in its targets for investigation.”

I have yet to point it out, but I will do so here: the ICC report of November 14 also contains no mention of Saudi war crimes in Yemen.

In the wake of Moscow’s announcement of its withdrawal from the ICC, two Russian writers, Dmitry Rodionov and Sergey Aksenov, published a commentaryon the issue, noting, as did the Foreign Ministry, that the judicial body had spent more than $1 billion over the 14 years of its existence and in the process had handed down only four sentences. They comment:

…The Hague prosecutor called the Crimean referendum “illegal” and the situation on the peninsula “occupation.” The fact that Russian troops were present on the peninsula according to agreements with Ukraine is ignored by the report.

For all of next year and perhaps even longer, the ICC will gather evidence on Crimea. Hague investigations are usually dragged on for years. For example, the court’s prosecutor received permission to investigate the events in South Ossetia from 2008 only this year….

According to lawyer Ilya Novikov, the court’s negative decision on Crimea could potentially result in formal charges and ICC arrest warrants. This will enable the countries complying with the Rome Statue to arrest Russian citizens and send them to the Hague court.

Assistant professor of political theory at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, Kirill Koktysh, has pointed out that the ICC’s legal position is incorrect. It was not an annexation that took place in Crimea like the Hague asserts, but a secession: first Crimea seceded from Ukraine and only then joined Russia. According to Koktysh, the ICC’s initiative resembles a PR action rather than a strict legal procedure.

Whether the ICC is engaging in a “PR action,” as the Russians comment, or whether the court is a “joke and a fraud,” as Boyle would seem to have it, the upshot is that for the entire 14 years since the court came into existence, the biggest war criminals in the world have skated away scot-free.

Israel Absolves Itself from 2014 Naked Aggression on Gaza

Stephen Lendman

Israel remains unaccountable for decades of racist ruthlessness – massacring, persecuting and otherwise collectively punishing Palestinians for not being Jewish.

Operation Protective Edge was its third war on Gaza in five-and-a-half years – premeditated naked aggression against a largely defenseless population, 1.8 million people trapped under lawless siege, no safe havens for protection.

Israel’s war had nothing to do with Hamas rockets. Claiming it was a ruse, media scoundrels reporting it like gospel.

Attacking the Strip targeted Palestine’s legitimate government, democratically elected in January 2006, the PA installed as a puppet regime serving Israeli interests.

War was about preventing Palestinian self-determination. It was to maintain occupation harshness.

It was to keep stealing Palestinian land. It was to expand settlements exponentially. It was to control all valued parts of Judea and Samaria.

It was to keep Palestinians confined on isolated bantustans on worthless scrubland. It was to steal their resources.

It was to assure diaspora Palestinians don’t return. It was to maintain Gaza’s blockade while pretending otherwise when hostilities ended.

It was to have Jerusalem as Israel’s exclusive capital. It was to undermine Fatah/Hamas unity.

It was to let Israel commit high crimes against peace with impunity – any time against invented enemies, unrestrained by inviolable international laws.

It was to show Palestinians they’re defenseless against overwhelming Israeli might. It was to enlist popular homeland support for what demands universal condemnation.

Wars on Gaza, anywhere in Palestine or regionally can be launched at Israel’s discretion – with full US support and encouragement, most other nations turning a blind eye, supporting naked aggression, mindless of the cost in Palestinian lives and suffering.

Whenever Israel investigates its high crimes of war and against humanity, whitewash follows. On Thursday, it summarily closed 13 investigations into Operation Protective Edge criminality committed by its soldiers in summer 2014.

Over 2,100 Palestinians died, mostly civilians, including over 500 children and 300 women, over 11,000 injured, many maimed for life.

Virtually every child was traumatized by war, requiring professional help in most cases unavailable. Only three Israeli soldiers were held accountable for crimes involving looting – not mass murder and destruction, affecting residential areas most.

Dozens of entire families were wiped out, scores more lost three or more members. Promised relief following war’s end never materialized.

A UN warning about Gaza becoming uninhabitable by 2020 goes unheeded. It’s virtually this way now.

Israeli-imposed dire conditions created a humanitarian catastrophe. Little is being done to help long-suffering people, illegally blockaded by Israel for over nine years.

Naked aggression could be launched against them any time at Israel’s discretion. Slow-motion genocide stalks Palestine – its epicenter in Gaza.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

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