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Corbyn renews calls to end UK arms sales to Israel in wake of UN report on Gaza protests

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UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has renewed his calls for Britain to cease arms sales to Israel following a UN report last week that the Israeli army’s actions against Palestinian protesters in Gaza’s Great March of Return could amount to war crimes.

“The UK government must unequivocally condemn the killings and freeze arms sales to Israel,” Corbyn tweeted on Friday, linking the report.

The Labour Party approved a motion during a conference last September that called for the same embargo on arms sales to Israel.

During the conference, Corbyn, who has sustained years of attacks and accusations of anti-Semitism for his support of Palestinian rights, slammed US policies in the region and said that Palestinians can’t be “left alone in the darkness.”

Last week’s report by the UN Commission of Inquiry highlighted the killings of at least 189 Palestinians — though local estimates report much higher numbers — and the thousands of demonstrators who were maimed by Israeli snipers along the border since the Great March of Return started almost one year ago.

The commission criticized Israeli security forces’ rules of engagement in Gaza, saying that the majority of protesters killed  “did not pose an immediate threat of death or serious injury to others when they were shot.”

“Less lethal alternatives remained available and substantial defenses were in place, rendering the use of lethal force neither necessary nor proportionate, and therefore impermissible,” the commission said.

Despite Israeli claims that Hamas has used the protests as cover to “infiltrate” Israeli territory and carry out attacks, there have been little to no reports of Palestinians breaking through the border fence during protests or carrying out physical attacks against Israelis.

Additionally, the UN commission that conducted the study, which included over 300 interviews with victims, witnesses, and officials from the Israeli and Palestinians sides, found that as of the end of 2018, only 29 of the dead “could be clearly identified as members of Palestinian armed factions.”

The report estimated that as many as 23,000 Palestinians were injured by Israeli army fire, including hundreds who lost limbs as a result.

In accordance with dozens of similar reports from local and international rights groups, the commission said that Israeli snipers along the border intentionally shot at journalists and health workers despite their being clearly marked.

The report went on to say that due to the possibility of war crimes committed, Israeli security forces should be held “individually and collectively accountable” for the deaths and injuries of the protesters.

Israeli and US officials widely condemned the report, citing “anti-Israel bias” in the UN.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is set to be indicted on charges of bribery and corruption in coming weeks, slammed the report saying it “set a new record for U.N. hypocrisy” and was “based purely on an obsessive hatred of Israel.”

The Trump administration’s special envoy to the Middle East, Jason Greenblatt, called the report “another manifestation of the UNHRC’s clear bias against Israel,” and went on to claim that Hamas was behind the protests.

“Hamas behaved with reckless irresponsibility & disregard for human life when it incited VIOLENT (not “civilian”) protests, breaches & attacks at the Gaza fence-line,” Greenblatt tweeted.

“Hamas is directly responsible for the miserable situation of the people of Gaza,” he said.

But in its report, the commission determined that the protests “arose out of a desire by Gaza residents to draw attention, in a nonviolent manner, to the dire humanitarian situation in the strip amid a strict land, sea and air blockade by Israel and Egypt that has been in place for more than a decade.”

The Gaza Strip is home to more than 2 million Palestinians, over 70 percent of whom are refugees whose families were forcibly expelled from their homes during the Nakba in 1948.

Since the Great March of Return was launched on March 30, 2018, thousands of Palestinians in Gaza have taken to the borders with Israel to demand the right of return of refugees to their ancestral homelands in present day Israel, and an end to the nearly 12-year siege on Gaza, which has crippled the coastal enclave’s economy.

Gazans suffer from lack of access to clean water, high unemployment rates, and electricity for only a few hours a day, contributing to the growing frustrations in the coastal enclave.

Yumna Patel

Yumna Patel is the Palestine correspondent for Mondoweiss.

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12 Responses

  1. just on March 4, 2019, 6:30 pm

    Thanks, Yumna, and a huge thank you to Jeremy Corbyn (again)! The US is behaving and speaking in a most foul and inhumane manner (again)! So is the US Congress (again)! First of all, Democracy Now! had Norman Finkelstein and Sara Hossain on today wrt to this very topic which has been largely ignored by western MSM in a strange deference to Netanyahu’s and Trump’s legendary corruption and lies, etc. Corbyn is the only Western leader to speak about and address the truth.

    “U.N. Finds Israel Intentionally Shot Children, Journalists & the Disabled During Gaza Protests …”


    “It Is Time to Indict Israel: Norman Finkelstein on Growing Push for ICC to File War Crimes Charges …

    … But this human rights report by the Human Rights Council, it’s very straightforward. It says intentionally targets children, intentionally targets even disabled persons. And that, to me, was a credit to them that there was no fake balance. If you look at the proportions, when it looks at the damages done to the people of Gaza, they devote 10 full pages. And then there’s a section called “Impact on Israel.” It’s three paragraphs. And that’s exactly what the reality shows, that overwhelmingly—in fact, virtually entirely—all the infliction of death and destruction is on the Palestinian side. For the period they covered, during the demonstrations, there were no fatalities during the demonstrations, and four Israeli soldiers were lightly injured. These are massacres. They’re not conflicts. They’re not engagements. They’re just outright massacres of overwhelmingly unarmed, nonviolent demonstrators.

    AMY GOODMAN: This report comes out as the attorney general of Israel says he’s going to indict the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. The significance of this?

    NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Well, the Israelis ignore the reports. So, in that context, it’s not significant. However, there is a critical significance. Namely, the International Criminal Court has had now two cases referred to it on the situation among the Palestinians. One case is on the Mavi Marmara, the flotilla in 2010 that came under Israeli attack. And the second case is on Israeli war crimes in the West Bank, mostly the settlements, and Operation Protective Edge in Gaza. Now, the chief of staff during Operation Protective Edge during July, August 2014—the Israeli chief of staff is—was Gantz—I guess his first name is Benny, but I could be mistaken—Gantz. And the fact of the matter is, if Netanyahu is out, Gantz will probably be the prime minister, and he will be up for indictment by the International Criminal Court. The chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, is desperately trying not to investigate Israeli war crimes. But within the International Criminal Court, there has been an unprecedented pushback. There are large numbers of members—large numbers of members of the ICC who say it’s time to indict Israel. And the pressure—because of this report, the pressure on Bensouda, chief prosecutor Bensouda, is going to be enormous. It’s time to indict Israel. …”

    There is video available at the links. Fatou Bensouda needs to get up off her backside and DO something. How much more information and evidence does she need? Is she not up to the job?

    wrt arming Israel with support and weaponry, I remain disgusted with the US. Beyond arming them and sending billions to them, they had joint war games named ‘Juniper Falcon’ that ended in mid- February. Now the US has deployed THADD:

    “The United States has deployed its advanced THAAD missile defence system temporarily to Israel for a joint military exercise, the first of its kind, officials said Monday.

    The two countries confirmed the deployment, with Israel’s military stressing it was “not related to any specific current event”.

    It is the first such exercise in Israel, although the two allies hold regular joint war games. No dates have been announced for the manoeuvres…”

  2. JWalters on March 4, 2019, 8:41 pm

    Corbyn strikes back!

  3. Nathan on March 4, 2019, 10:17 pm

    Maybe, just once, there could be an article in Mondoweiss in which the author gives a little bit of criticism to the Palestinian side. I understand that this is quite a challenge, because in the anti-Israel world criticism of the Palestinians is thought to be an expression of the pro-Israel world. However, in a world in which we actually care about others, we give criticism in the hope that someone might improve his reality. I don’t mind being that one single voice on this website that can express some helpful criticism, so here it is: The demonstrations at the border fence are a terrible mistake. It would be much preferable to negotiate an end of conflict.

    As long as we have taken the daring step of criticizing the Palestinians, let’s add another thought about their mistaken handling of the conflict. This article mentions the demand to return to their villages and the demand to end the blockade of Gaza. However, someone forgot to mention that with the “right of return” and with the “end of blockade”, the Palestinians would be willing to end the conflict. If the intention is to return the refugees and to end the blockade while the conflict remains unresolved, then obviously there’s not much hope that anyone is going to take these demands too seriously. It’s really not too complicated to understand that returning refugees and ending blockades are an end-of-conflict phenomenon.

    • DaBakr on March 4, 2019, 11:25 pm


      . Oh, it’s too complicated for bubble dwellers. they can’t even get past the ‘jewish’ issue. they also can’t get past the issue of israel comprising more then 50% arab jews forced out of arab lands after 48. they think it’s a myth and a couple zionist agents caused a million jews to flee. but at least it isn’t nakba denial.

    • Keith on March 5, 2019, 1:12 am

      NATHAN- “Maybe, just once, there could be an article in Mondoweiss in which the author gives a little bit of criticism to the Palestinian side.”

      That would be unfair as it would ignore the totally asymmetrical power relationship between the Palestinians and their Jewish Zionist persecutors. The Palestinians can’t be expected to behave “normally” in an abnormal situation. How the Palestinians would behave if the Zionist Jews stopped persecuting them can only be known when and if the Zionist Jews stop persecuting them.

      “There is, evidently, much satisfaction to be gained by careful inspection of those writhing under our boot, to see if they are behaving properly; when they are not, as is often the case, indignation is unconstrained.” (Noam Chomsky)

    • RoHa on March 5, 2019, 2:38 am

      “It would be much preferable to negotiate an end of conflict. ”

      But the Palestinians have no-one to negotiate with. Israel simply refuses to end the conflict.

    • Talkback on March 5, 2019, 6:25 am

      Nathan: “It’s really not too complicated to understand that returning refugees and ending blockades are an end-of-conflict phenomenon.”

      It’s really not too complicated to understand that denial of the refugees’ return and illegal blockades, occupation and colonialization essentially IS the conflict.

    • genesto on March 5, 2019, 1:49 pm

      Sure, let’s go back to the vaunted ‘Peace Process’ that did nothing but give cover to Israel’s continued expansion into the Occupied Territories. You can’t negotiate with a far superior power who despises you and is bent on your ethnic cleansing from the biblical lands of Israel. Trump and Co. will try to buy off the Palestinians but that effort, along with everything else this disaster of a president has done, will end in abject failure!

    • eljay on March 5, 2019, 2:22 pm

      || Nathan: Maybe, just once, there could be an article in Mondoweiss in which the author gives a little bit of criticism to the Palestinian side. … ||

      The rapist kidnaps women, chains them in his basement and rapes them. The women lash out at him, so he also beats them.

      Newspaper articles abound about the on-going injustice and immorality of the situation. Supporters of the victims demand an end to the evil, justice for the victims and accountability for the rapist.

      Defenders of the rapist say: Maybe, just once, there could be an article in the local paper in which the author gives a little bit of criticism to the victims’ side.

    • RoHa on March 6, 2019, 12:20 am

      “Maybe, just once, there could be an article in Mondoweiss in which the author gives a little bit of criticism to the Palestinian side. ”

      Commenters, at least, have been very critical of the Palestinian leadership.

  4. just on March 5, 2019, 12:20 am

    “The demonstrations at the border fence are a terrible mistake. It would be much preferable to negotiate an end of conflict.”

    You have to be kidding! First of all, the Palestinians who are protesting are entirely within their rights. Are Israelis allowed to protest without being murdered by the IOF/police/others?

    Second~who in the hell do the Palestinians have to “negotiate” with? The Israelis have proved for years now that they have no intention of negotiating for peace, an end to the Occupation, Apartheid, settlements, etc.

    Oh, and btw, BDS is also peaceful protest of Israel’s continued violent and thieving behaviors toward the indigenous Palestinians.

    Amira Hass said it very well in May 2018:

    “The Gaza Fence That Separates the Brave From the Cowardly …

    In the Gaza Strip the border fence separates the brave from the cowardly. It separates those armed with empty hands, kites and burning tires from a military power and its soldiers. It separates detainees serving a life sentence from their wardens.

    The desperate courage demonstrated by tens of thousands of citizens of Gaza over the past few weeks in general and on Monday in particular hints at the energies, the talents, the dreams, the creativity and the vitality of the inhabitants of this strip of land — who has been subjected to a 27-year policy of closure and siege aimed at suffocating and crushing them. That policy has not been a total success, but it’s proved successful enough that so many people are willing to commit suicide with open eyes. In their death they are bequeathing to their friends and families the hope that someone there, in the world beyond the fences, will become alarmed and will finally understand.

    The arrogant cowardice demonstrated by the well-protected soldiers and commanders – when I began writing these lines on Monday they had already taken the lives of 18 human beings – is Israel’s real calling card. Because what is cowardice if not the decision to kill masses of unarmed detainees who are demonstrating against their prolonged imprisonment?

    Journalists report that four of those killed by Israeli fire are commanders in the Palestinian security lookout posts. In that case, every Israeli soldier in every one of the hundreds of lookout posts in the West Bank and around the Gaza Strip should also be doomed.

    The earlier report by the Israel Defense Force’s spokesman mentions three people who were killed by gunfire when they tried to place an explosive device near the border fence. Even if that’s true (and incidentally, if Gaza is sovereign and independent, as Israel claims – it has the right to defend itself from inside, from enemy invasions) – what is the IDF spokesman’s explanation for all the rest? At the moment of writing these lines the number of Palestinian dead has already reached 37, including two minors. How many soldiers were required to kill dozens and to wound hundreds with live fire?

    Despite the clear Israeli warnings, and the signals that the army intended to kill and wound indiscriminately, tens of thousands of residents of the Strip attended the demonstration. They did so even though they knew that the hospitals in the Gaza Strip are incapable of treating the hundreds and perhaps thousands of additional wounded, and that more than ever, the snipers’ bullets wound and destroy tissue and bones and muscles to the point of permanent disability. This is a desperate demonstration of courage, addressed to the nations of the world and to Europe in particular, which to their shame enabled Israel, which they consider democratic, to turn the Palestinian enclave into this terrible prison facility.

    Despite the pleas of Israeli and international human rights organizations and of this newspaper that the IDF desist from the policy of slaughtering the demonstrators, despite their warnings that shooting unarmed civilians contradicts international law and will only add fuel to the fire — the army did as it pleased. Under the command of Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, the IDF lawyers always say that we are the supreme interpreters of international law, because after all, U.S. President Donald Trump is on our side.

    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Lieberman and Eisenkot gave the orders, and the commanders and soldiers are only obeying them. But in that sense we’re a democracy: Behind Netanyahu, Lieberman and Eisenkot stands most of the Jewish Israeli public, which gives them its full support. No fact and no demonstration will convince that majority that those who are jailed without trial are rebelling against their imprisonment. The warden is asserting his supremacy. …”

    Now, nearly a year later, the Israelis are still killing and maiming Palestinians. The UNHRC has issued a damning report that is consistent with other human rights groups. It’s not Palestinians that made the “mistake”; it is Israel, and it is beyond “terrible”. It is criminal.

  5. just on March 5, 2019, 11:36 am

    UNHRC is keeping busy:

    “UN Human Rights Commissioner: Review of Settlement ‘Blacklist’ to Be Completed Within Months …

    The UN Human Rights Council intends to publish in the coming months its conclusions regarding the creation of a list of companies operating in Israeli settlements, the council’s high commissioner said Tuesday.

    The Palestinians and Arab representatives had requested that the conclusions be during the council’s next conference in Geneva.

    The council passed a resolution in 2016 obligating the drawing up a list of all firms operating in settlements in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights.

    A letter signed by High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said that her office “shall continue to devote requisite attention to the matter, with a view to finalizing this mandated activity in coming months, and I look forward to engagement with the Council in that regard.”

    The Foreign Ministry said after the letter’s publication that the council “must shelve all work in the economic sector that threatens to hurt the region’s residents. We have noted the commissioner’s statement. Our basic position has not changed – the council made its decision on the matter without authority and with an anti-Israel bias.”

    Israel has sought to torpedo work on the planned list ever since the decision to create it. The high commissioner’s letter is being interpreted in Jerusalem as a postponement of the conclusions’ publication, but supporters of the resolution see it as an assurance that the work will be completed.

    On March 24, 2016, the UN Human Rights Council adopted Resolution 31/36, entitled “Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan.” The resolution requests that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights compile a database of Israeli and international companies with links to what the council deems “certain Israeli settlement activity” in those areas.

    The resolution was initiated by the Palestinians, and was advanced by Egypt, Pakistan and other Arab and Muslim countries. It includes a condemnation of the settlements, stating that they are illegal under international law, and calls on the world’s countries to refrain from providing any assistance of any kind to the settlements and to warn companies and businesses against entering into business transactions in the settlements so as not to risk being involved in human rights violations.

    Business activities specified by the resolution include security services, housing demolition equipment, banking and financial operations, the use of natural resources and others.

    “Business enterprises have, directly and indirectly, enabled, facilitated and profited from the construction and growth of the settlements,” the resolution states. “In addition to the previously mentioned violations of Palestinian worker rights, the mission identified a number of business activities and related issues that raise particular human rights violations concerns.””

    Please hurry! Palestine and her people have been waiting too long while others enable the theft of their land and destruction of same lands by squatters and an Israel dedicated to the destruction of the Palestinian people and erasure of their culture, heritage, history and their very presence. This ‘blacklist’ will bolster BDS!

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