Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign
التضامن الإيرلندي الفلسطيني

Israel 2015: A government of extremists in charge of an-out-of control military (New IPSC Briefing Paper)

The Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign has distributed the following important and informative new briefing paper to members of the Oireachtas, members of the European Parliament and members of local Irish councils.

Titled Israel 2015: A government of extremists in charge of an-out-of control military, the paper is an in-depth investigation the extremist nature of the new Israeli government, the shocking views of its leading members, and the appalling recent record of the Israeli occupation forces in Gaza. Finally the document makes a series of recommendations that we believe the Irish government must take to help ensure that Israel is held to account for its actions, and that the Palestinian people receive the justice they so richly deserve.

The Israeli officials’ words and soldiers’ testimonies contained in the document reinforce the immediate need for arms embargo and other sanctions against Israel, a course of action that Western governments have so far refused to follow, with predictably tragic results for the Palestinian people.

NOTE: If you have not already signed the online petition to End the Irish Arms Trade With Israel, we ask you to please do so now and become another supporter of this important new initiative which was launched last month.

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Note: You can download this document as a PDF file by clicking here
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Israel 2015: A government of extremists in charge of an-out-of control military

Israeli officials’ words and soldiers’ testimonies reinforce immediate need for arms embargo and other sanctions

2coverpicIreland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign
Briefing Paper – May 2015

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Note: You can download this document as a PDF file by clicking here
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1. Introduction

In a statement at a conference in Israel in May 2015, the new Israeli Minister for Defence promised to kill even more civilians, including deliberately targeting children, in future attacks on both Gaza and Lebanon, and appeared to suggest that Israel could launch a nuclear strike on Iran. This is just one of many such frightening and disturbing sentiments expressed by members of Benjamin Netanyahu’s new Israeli government that was sworn in on Tuesday 19th May 2015.

In this briefing document compiled by the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign, we look at some of those who now make up what has been widely characterised as ‘the most extremist government in Israel’s history’. We argue that this is not a government that is in any way interested in a negotiated solution with Palestinians. Indeed it is not a government which even views Palestinians as equal human beings. Their statements make clear that what they intend is a continuation of the policy of annexation, occupation and brutal military control. Such policies have bought misery to millions of Palestinians and instability to the region. We examine what Israeli impunity means for Palestinians by summarising a recent report by Israeli military participants on the conduct of the Israeli military during its massive assault on Gaza last year. Finally, the document explores how all of this relates to Ireland and the global movement for justice for Palestine, and makes concrete recommendations for the Irish government to take to help bring about a just peace in the Palestine-Israel region.

2. A political and military leadership of extremists

1 yaalon2.1. Minster for Defence: Moshe Ya’alon

Speaking at a conference organised by the Israel Law Centre (Shurat HaDin) earlier this month, the new Israeli defence minister and former Chief of Staff of the Israeli military Moshe Ya’alon said that in future attacks Israel is “going to hurt Lebanese civilians to include kids of the family. We went through a very long deep discussion … we did it then, we did it in [the] Gaza Strip, we are going to do it in any round of hostilities in the future.”

Ya’alon further said that with regard to Iran “in certain cases” when Israel feels “surgical operations” would not suffice it might take “certain steps” such as the US did in “Nagasaki and Hiroshima” causing “the fatalities of 200,000 [people].”

Ya’alon has also previously stated his view that “The Palestinian threat harbours cancer-like attributes that have to be severed and fought to the bitter end.”

2 gantz2.2. Former Israeli Military Chief of General Staff: Benny Gantz

Also speaking at the Shurat HaDin conference was Benny Gantz, the former head of the Israeli occupation forces during both the 2012 ‘Pillar of Cloud’ and 2014 ‘Protective Edge’ assaults on Gaza, which jointly killed over 2,350 Palestinians. Although acknowledging that Palestinian and Lebanese civilians have paid a high price during attacks on Gaza and Lebanon, Gantz promised that “the next round of violence will be worse and see this suffering increase, because while Israel has to constantly face moral dilemmas, it also has to defend itself”. Gantz had previously stated that, Israel intended to “take Lebanon and knock it back 70 or 80 years, in all areas” in a future war.

Although not a member of the new government, Gantz is nevertheless suitably representative of the military leadership under Netanyahu. Indeed, Gantz’s successor Gadi Eizenkot has previously stated openly, in relation to any population centre from which shots are fired in the direction of Israel: “We will wield disproportionate power against it and cause immense damage and destruction. From our perspective, these cities are military bases. This isn’t a suggestion. It’s a plan that has already been authorised.” This statement was made in 2009 – we have seen the result of this plan again and again in Gaza in the six years since.

Similarly, another Israeli military official, Brig. General Moni Katz, told Israeli army radio that in a future war on Lebanon, Israel will strike “an even harsher blow [than it did in 2006] … It’s hard to envision the homes in these villages, which are so close to the borderline, remaining standing after the next war.”

These are stunning examples of Israeli politicians and military commanders openly and brazenly declaring their intention to continue committing war crimes against Palestinian and Lebanese civilians. The New York Times even recently acted as a propaganda mouthpiece for similar Israeli military threats against Lebanese civilians.

It is worth noting that the Shurat HaDin conference itself was organised on the theme of changing the laws of war to make it easier for Israel and other such rogue regimes to kill vast numbers of civilians while avoiding even verbal scolding from the international community. Ironically, the conference was held in the same week that Breaking The Silence, an organisation of former Israeli soldiers, released testimonies that exposed the illegal, indiscriminate and murderous nature of the assault on Gaza last year.

More about this report will follow in a section below, but for now we shall continue to investigate further proof of the extremist nature of the latest Israeli government that can be gleaned by looking at several other high profile appointments in the new Netanyahu administration.

3 bennett2.3. Minster for Education: Naftali Bennett

Firstly, Naftali Bennett, leader of Jewish Home (HaBayit HaYehudi), the second largest party in Netanyahu’s coalition, has taken up the post of Education Minister where aside from sitting in the cabinet he will also be responsible for overseeing the education of Israeli youth – an area in which academic investigations have already uncovered an abundance of racism and anti-Palestinian bias.

According to the Guardian, Bennett heads an “extreme rightwing nationalist and pro-settler” party. The Jewish Daily Forward has called him the “dangerous man who dreams of leading Israel” while the New Yorker says he is “the face of the next generation of religious nationalism” in Israel. Whether in media interviews or political discussions, he has not been shy about publicly expressing his disturbing extremist views. Below are some of the statements he has made in the past few years:

“If you catch terrorists, you have to simply kill them … I’ve killed lots of Arabs in my life – and there’s no problem with that.”

“There is not going to be a Palestinian state … It’s just not going to happen. A Palestinian state would be a disaster for the next 200 years.”

“My positions are very clear: I never hide the fact that I categorically oppose a Palestinian state.”

“I will do everything in my power, forever, to fight against a Palestinian state being founded.”

“There are certain things that most of us understand will never happen: ‘The Sopranos’ are not coming back for another season … and there will never be a peace plan with the Palestinians … I will do everything in my power to make sure they never get a state.”

“Building [illegal settlements in the West Bank] is our answer to murder.”

“I don’t accept it’s illegal under international law, but I agree the world would not recognise [Israeli annexation of Area C – 60% of the West Bank’s land]. The world hasn’t recognised Jerusalem as our capital, or the Western Wall as part of Israel, so this would just be another area that the world doesn’t recognise.”

“We will never agree to give up Jerusalem, a united city under Israeli sovereignty, and only Israeli. We will not accept a terrorist Palestinian state, we will not accept an agreement based on the [1967] lines”

“The most important thing in the Land of Israel is to build, build, build [illegal settlements on Palestinian land]. It’s important that there will be an Israeli presence everywhere. Our principal problem is still Israel’s leaders’ unwillingness to say in a simple manner that the Land of Israel belongs to the People of Israel.”

“Descendants of the [Palestinian] refugees should be absorbed into the countries where they currently reside and will not be allowed to move west of the Jordan River.”

4 shaked2.4. Minister for Justice: Ayelet Shaked

Secondly, advocate of genocide Ayelet Shaked has been elevated to the position of Minister for Justice. Ms. Shaked, another Jewish Home party luminary, earned notoriety last summer when she approvingly posted an article on Facebook that said:

“This is a war between two people. Who is the enemy? The Palestinian people … What’s so horrifying about understanding that the entire Palestinian people is the enemy? … in wars the enemy is usually an entire people, including its elderly and its women, its cities and its villages, its property and its infrastructure … the morality of war knows that it is not possible to refrain from hurting enemy civilians”.

The post also called for the killing of Palestinian civilians who it claims are all “enemy combatants”, and singled out mothers for murder to prevent them from having children, which it labels “little snakes”. Further, the post advocates the wholesale destruction of religious and educational infrastructure, along with people’s homes.

“Behind every terrorist stand dozens of men and women, without whom he could not engage in terrorism. Actors in the war are those who incite in mosques, who write the murderous curricula for schools, who give shelter, who provide vehicles, and all those who honor and give them their moral support. They are all enemy combatants, and their blood shall be on all their heads. Now this also includes the mothers of the martyrs, who send them to hell with flowers and kisses. They should follow their sons, nothing would be more just. They should go, as should the physical homes in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there.”

Finally that post asserts that the family homes of Palestinian suicide bombers or fighters killed by Israeli occupation forces

“should be bombed from the air, with intention to destroy and to kill. And it should be announced that we will do this from now on to every home of every martyr… Every suicide attacker should know that he takes with him also his parents and his house and some of the neighbors.”

Such statements, it hardly needs to be added, meet the legal definition of a call for genocide.

Furthermore, in a 2012 interview on Israeli TV, Shaked was asked the question “When your husband the pilot, when he’s up in the air, do you hope he’ll be pounding the Arabs hard with bombs?” She responded by laughing and saying, “Yes.”

This is Israel’s new Minister for Justice, and lest anyone think she is a ‘loose cannon’ in the party, her boss Bennett gave her the ultimate seal of approval this month when he stated that “we are all Ayelet Shaked”. Indeed.

5 bendahan2.5. Deputy Minister for Defence: Eli Ben-Dahan

Thirdly, Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan, also from the Jewish Home party, has been appointed deputy defence minister and head of the so-called ‘Civil Administration’, which in reality is the Israeli military government of the occupied Palestinian territories, responsible for controlling the lives and movement of millions of Palestinians, overseeing illegal settlement construction and the theft of the land of the indigenous people.

Ben-Dahan is on record as saying that “[Palestinians] are beasts, they are not human,” and that a “Jew always has a much higher soul than a gentile, even if he is a homosexual.” Thus, we see that the man granted control over the lives of millions of Palestinians views them as subhuman.

Ben-Dahan himself is a colonial settler living in the illegal Israeli settlement of Har Homa between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, and his belief in a ‘Greater Israel’ built on all of historic Palestine is disturbingly coupled with his view that he sees his role as “making sure the state remains Jewish [and] things that contradict [Jewish] values, culture or tradition will not get legal sanction.”

6 hotovely2.6. Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs: Tzipi Hotovely

Tzipi Hotovely, a pro-settlement, anti-Palestinian, rightwing religious member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, has been appointed deputy foreign affairs minister. She will be responsible for the day-to-day running of the Ministry – the nominal head of which is Prime Minister Netanyahu himself – as well as being its public face in the world.

Hotovely is another opponent of Palestinian statehood, who has made no secret of her antagonism towards it. When asked whether the government will agree to returning lands to the Palestinians, she responded “I will quote the prime minister on this issue – there is no such scenario.” During her inaugural address to Israeli diplomats in May, in a speech reported by The Guardian as being “laced … with biblical commentaries in which God promised the land of Israel to the Jews,” Hotovely stated baldly that “this land is ours. All of it is ours,” and that the Foreign Ministry will try to rally global recognition for the illegal settlements. Elsewhere she has further stated that the occupied territories “are our lands as the Jewish people, these lands are our heritage lands, which is why I don’t see us as occupiers.”

In a radio interview she stated that her view was that Israel should annex the occupied West Bank, dividing it from Gaza to maintain an artificial Jewish majority in the region:

“My position is that between the sea and the Jordan River, there needs to be one state only – the state of Israel, which has an Arab minority. There is no place for an agreement of any kind that discusses the concession of Israeli sovereignty over lands conquered [in 1967].”

She is a strong believer in the use of extrajudicial assassination of Palestinian political leaders, saying that “Israel must declare a war of annihilation of Hamas … and return to the assassination policy.” Such extrajudicial assassinations are illegal under international law.

Echoing previous Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir’s infamous racist statement that “there is no such thing as the Palestinian people,” Hotovely too believes:

“there is really no reality in which people grew up as part of a Palestinian people in a Palestinian state, because there was no Palestinian state and no Palestinian people recognised in the world.”

Furthermore, she is an opponent of mixed marriages between Arabs and Jews in Israel, stating that “it is important to me to check systems to prevent mixed marriages.”

7 netanyahu2.7. Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs: Benjamin Netanyahu

Of course, at the helm of this government of extremists is Benjamin Netanyahu himself, who will also double up as Minister for Foreign Affairs for the immediate future. It will be recalled that in the run up to the Israeli election day in March 2015 Netanyahu declared that there would be no Palestinian state after he was elected, and while people were going to the polls he lamented that the 1.2 million Palestinian citizens of Israel that are eligible to vote were “moving in droves to the polling stations.” However, this was far from the first time he had spoken in such terms – even if those other times were not picked up on in Western media, thus allowing the image of Netanyahu as a ‘two-state moderate’ to be widely propagated, uncountered by reality.

Here are some examples of Netanyahu’s views regarding Palestinian statehood and sovereignty:

“The [US] asked me before the election if I’d honour [the Oslo Accords] … I said I would, but … I’m going to interpret the Accords in such a way that would allow me to put an end to this galloping forward to the ’67 borders. How did we do it? Nobody said what defined military zones were. Defined military zones are security zones; as far as I’m concerned, the entire Jordan Valley is a defined military zone.”

“Demilitarization. Any area in Palestinian hands has to be demilitaris[ed].”

“Israel without Jerusalem is like a body without a heart. Our heart will never be divided again … I know there are people who say that there will be peace if we only divide Jerusalem. I don’t believe this. We will continue to build [illegal settlements in occupied East] Jerusalem.”

“We are keeping Jerusalem, all parts of Jerusalem, under Israeli sovereignty … We won’t divide Jerusalem, we won’t make concessions, we won’t withdraw from land.”

Finally, it is illuminating to note that the person Netanyahu has tasked with overseeing any future peace talks will be newly appointed Interior Minister Silvan Shalom, yet another avowed opponent of the two-state solution, who in the past stated that “we are all against a Palestinian state, there is no question about it.”

British Journalist Ben White has compiled a short list of statements made by many of the Israeli extremists in Netanyahu’s new cabinet, which can be found in the Appendix.

The above statements are not isolated slips of the tongue by unimportant members of the ruling parties. Taken together they reveal a coherent ideological commitment by the main members of the Israeli government to ongoing settlement expansion and repression of Palestinian rights. Underpinning this commitment is a deep sense of contempt – contempt for international law and contempt for the international community’s desire for a negotiation solution leading to a genuine, just peace, but more than that – contempt expressed across the board for Palestinian rights and Palestinian lives.

The following section examines how the new Israeli government is equally committed to settlement expansion and racism against non-Jews in Israel.

8 settlements3. Proving a point – entrenching settlements…

Perhaps to prove a point that the new government can and will do as it likes, the agreement between Netanyahu’s Likud and Bennett’s Jewish Home, as reported in the Jerusalem Post, will see the retroactive legalisation under Israeli law of so-called ‘settlement outposts’.

These outposts are, ostensibly, officially unauthorised settlements (which nevertheless mostly receive state services including electricity, water, military protection and transport links) built after Oslo, and currently there are around 100 of them with variously sized populations. Under Israeli law, these structures are technically illegal – though very few have ever been demolished. However, the link to the state was made clear in 1994 by Adi Minz, former Chairman of the Yesha Council (the largest illegal settler organisation) who said that the building of these outposts”is a carefully planned seizure of strategic points, the outposts have been coordinated with the prime minister.”

Nevertheless, that the new government is going to legalise and officially normalise these outposts speaks volumes about how it will act in regard to the settlement enterprise which has seen over 500,000 settlers move illegally into the occupied Palestinian territories since 1967. It stands in stark contrast to how Palestinian homes are treated by the ‘Civil Administration’. As the joint Palestinian-Israeli organisation the Alternative Information Center notes:

“Israeli policy toward Palestinian-owned homes built without permits is the exact opposite. Hundreds of Palestinian-owned homes and structures in the West Bank’s Area C, under full Israeli military and civil control, are demolished yearly due to the lack of Israeli-issued building permits. While Israel’s restrictive planning system makes it almost impossible for Palestinians to obtain permits, the new government is planning to retroactively approve settlement building that violated even Israeli law, in addition to international law.  In 2013, 565 Palestinian-owned structures in Area C, including 208 residential structures, were demolished due to lack of Israeli-issued permits, displacing 805 people, almost half of them children.”

Further, it should be remembered that unlike Israeli law, International Law and the Geneva Conventions are clear in stipulating that all Israeli settlements built since the 1967 occupation are illegal, whether in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza, or the Syrian Golan Heights.

9 jerusalem4. …de Palestinianising Jerusalem…

One of Netanyahu’s election promises was to expand settlements in the occupied and illegally annexed city, further inflaming tensions between Palestinians and Israelis:

“We will continue to build in Jerusalem, we will add thousands of housing units, and in the face of all the [international] pressure, we will persist and continue to develop our eternal capital.”

In an interview about this issue, Rima Awwad, a member of the Jerusalemites Campaign for Palestinian rights in the city, said that Netanyahu “campaigned on a platform of de-Palestinianisation of the occupied city and he is now following through on his promise.” The aim is to “drive out its Palestinian population,” Ms Awwad said, and noted that a complex web of discriminatory laws regulates every aspect of Palestinian life in Jerusalem.

The destruction of Palestinian houses and lives in Jerusalem continues apace. Israeli authorities have recently issued a new raft of demolition orders to Palestinian families living in the Semiramis neighbourhood in occupied East Jerusalem. According to a court ruling, the Palestinian owners must pay for the destruction of their own homes on top of paying fines of €11,300. Houses and shops have also been demolished in recent days in the Silwan area of the city.

On top of this, last month the Israeli Supreme Court affirmed the applicability of the Absentee Property Law to properties in occupied East Jerusalem belonging to Palestinians living in the West Bank.  In its decision, the Court affirmed the applicability of the law – a highly dubious mechanism which since 1950 has allowed the state to confiscate land belonging to Palestinians prevented by Israel from returning to their homes – to East Jerusalem, approving all past expropriations and giving the green light for continued land theft in the future.

In reaction to this decision, the General Director of Adalah (The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel) Hassan Jabareen said that it:

“Has validated one of Israel’s most racist and arbitrary laws, enacted in 1950 primarily to confiscate Palestinian refugee property after their displacement from their homes. There is no other place in the world, not in democratic systems nor in dictatorial regimes, where such a law applies. Despite these realities and the positions of former Attorney Generals, the Supreme Court gave the green light for the application of arbitrary codes on occupied land and its population, with no regard to their protections under international law.”

10 naqab5. … and ethnically cleansing the Naqab (Negev)

The re-election of Nethanyahu has also meant that Israel will push ahead with plans to ethnically cleanse Bedouin Palestinians (who are nominally citizens of the state) from the Naqab (Negev) desert. An Israeli Supreme Court ruling in mid-May has cleared the way to destroying an entire Bedouin village in the desert, so that it can be replaced with a Jewish town.  The decision marks the end of a 13-year legal struggle by the 800 villagers of Umm al-Hiran, the village which will be destroyed to make way for the new town, which is expected to include 2,500 homes designated for ultra-nationalist Jewish religious groups closely identified with the illegal Israeli settler movement.

Speaking to the Middle East Eye website, Fadi Masamra, director of the Regional Council of the Unrecognised Villages, said that the village’s destruction would be viewed as a major assault on Bedouin rights.

“This is as clear a case of ethnic cleansing as one could imagine – and the courts have given their assent. The government is determined to clear us from as much of our land as possible and force us into ghettos.”

There are now fears that the ruling will reopen the door to allow the reintroduction of the racist ‘Prawer Plan’, which would see the displacement of tens of thousands of Bedouin people from their ancestral homelands in the Naqab and their forcible resettlement in a number of townships, destroying their culture and way of life.

The Prawer Plan was put on ice by Netanyahu seventeen months ago following mass protests by Palestinian citizens of Israel, who make up some 20% of Israel’s population. However, Naftali Bennett’s far-right Jewish Home party insisted on the legislation’s revival as a condition of its entry into the government coalition, and Uri Ariel, a leading party member and illegal settler, was appointed as minister whose remit includes overseeing Bedouin affairs.

In a sign of the increasing pressure being exerted on Bedouin communities in Israel, government officials demanded in a separate court case last week that dozens of families from another village, al-Araqib, be billed €450,000 to cover the cost of repeatedly demolishing their homes. The villagers have resisted government efforts to evict them by rebuilding their homes more than 80 times over the past five years.

The above merely serves to demonstrate that the new government is intent on intensifying its attacks on Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territories and inside Israel itself. This government believes in the continuation of colonial rule over Palestinians and has no interest in a genuine, just and lasting solution. While all Palestinians have suffered under Israeli rule, none have suffered as much as the people of Gaza, cut off from the world and subject to ongoing siege and military attack. In the following section we examine last summer’s attack on Gaza, in the words of Israeli soldiers who took part. It is important to understand how Israel conducts its attacks on Palestinians as there is every indication that this government is intent on conducting a fresh attack in the not too distant future.

11 moral6. A military that is out of control: Israeli soldiers’ Gaza testimonies shatter the myth of the ‘most moral army’

This month also saw the release of a new report from Breaking the Silence, an Israeli NGO made up of military veterans who collect testimonies from current and former soldiers and officers about their activities in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Entitled ‘This is How We Fought in Gaza’, the report makes shocking, but not surprising, reading and highlights the impunity with which Israeli occupation forces can act towards the Palestinian people.

According to testimonies compiled in the report, Israeli soldiers were essentially given orders to kill civilians in Gaza.

The rules of engagement were practically non existent, there was vast and wanton destruction of Palestinian homes, agricultural lands and other property, and all of this occurred within a culture of complete impunity.

The below extracts from testimonies illustrate this; these are only examples, and we encourage you to read the full report for yourself (as well as those linked below).

However, before reading it is important to note that as frightening and criminal as many of these testimonies are, far worse incidents have been reported by Palestinian witnesses and victims, and by human rights organisations.

In this regard, it important to remember, as Palestinian academics Ghada Ageel and Rela Mazali have argued, that “while the content of the [Breaking the Silence] testimonies is not without value, its seemingly natural claim to special status, both in and beyond Israel, in fact supports the militarised culture engendering, allowing and condoning policies of massive and unprecedented harm to the population and the civilian infrastructure’”.

The chief value in the Breaking the Silence testimonies is their source – Israeli soldiers – and what they reveal about operational procedure, orders given to and rules of engagement of the Israeli military, and the thinking of some of those involved in the attack on Gaza.

Yet it must also be borne in mind that only a tiny minority (a mere 0.06%) of the 180,000 Israeli military personnel who were part of the attack on Gaza spoke to Breaking The Silence, so the picture of Israeli violence presented in the testimonies is far from complete, and indeed it is possible, if not probable, that many of testifiers either intentionally or unconsciously self-censored or self-justified criminal actions.

Lastly, many of the soldiers’ testimonies routinely refer to Palestinian fighters as “terrorists” – we will leave it to the reader to decide who constitutes the “terrorist” – Palestinian armed groups fighting inside their own territory against an overwhelmingly powerful invading force that has subjugated their people for decades, or that selfsame invading force.

12 civ6.1. Targeting civilians: ‘There’s no such thing there as a person who is uninvolved’

Testimony #2

The rules of engagement are pretty identical: Anything inside [the Gaza Strip] is a threat, the area has to be ‘sterilized,’ empty of people – and if we don’t see someone waving a white flag, screaming, “I give up” or something – then he’s a threat and there’s authorization to open fire.

To get authorization to open fire, does he need to be armed, or with binoculars?

I think he just needs to be there.

When you say open fire, what does that mean?

Shooting to kill. This is combat in an urban area, we’re in a war zone. The saying was: ‘There’s no such thing there as a person who is uninvolved.’

Testimony #8

Did they discuss rules of engagement with you? What’s permitted and what’s forbidden?

During training, in that respect, [they told us] that we only enter houses ‘wet,’ [using live fire] with grenades, and the more of them the better – and launchers if you can use them. You’re going to ‘open’ a house? Don’t take any chances, use your grenade launcher, utilize every effective tool you’ve got. Aim, fire and only then go in. You don’t know if there is or isn’t someone in there. Go in ‘wet’ with grenades, with live fire. These were the orders for entering houses.

Did they discuss [dealing with] uninvolved civilians with you?

No one spoke about that at all. From their point of view, no one should be there at all. If there is [any Palestinian] there – they shouldn’t be. I think there was something very frightening, and also a bit paralyzing in the atmosphere. And I think that the feeling among [the soldiers] too, was that we really need to give it to them.

Testimony #11

What was said during the debriefing?

You could say they went over most of the things viewed as accomplishments. They spoke about numbers: 2,000 dead and 11,000 wounded, half a million refugees, decades worth of destruction. Harm to lots of senior Hamas members and to their homes, to their families. These were stated as accomplishments so that no one would doubt that what we did during this period was meaningful… We were also told that what had emerged was a picture of the people [of Israel] at their finest hour, the civil unity, the [national] consensus. Discounting a few weirdos who didn’t see it fit to rally around this thing.

Testimony #16

The rules of engagement for soldiers advancing on the ground were: open fire, open fire everywhere, first thing when you go in. The assumption being that the moment we went in [to the Gaza Strip], anyone who dared poke his head out was a terrorist. And it pretty much stayed that way throughout the operation.

Testimony #17

What were the rules of engagement?

There weren’t really any rules of engagement, it was more protocols. The idea was, if you spot something – shoot. They told us: “There aren’t supposed to be any civilians there. If you spot someone, shoot.” Whether it posed a threat or not wasn’t a question, and that makes sense to me. If you shoot someone in Gaza it’s cool, no big deal. First of all, because it’s Gaza, and second, because that’s warfare. That, too, was made clear to us – they told us, “Don’t be afraid to shoot,” and they made it clear that there were no uninvolved civilians.

13 attack

Testimony # 19

Is it a requirement to make sure no civilians are in a structure before it’s attacked by a fighter jet?

It’s not obligatory. Say the target was [Hamas’] deputy battalion commander in Shuja’iyya, an attack would be launched if the number of civilians wasn’t too high. By too high, I mean a two-digit number.

Testimony #22

[Our rules of engagement were], “Anything still there is as good as dead. Anything you see moving in the neighborhoods you’re in is not supposed to be there. The [Palestinian] civilians know they are not supposed to be there. Therefore whoever you see there, you kill.”

Who gave that order?

The commander. “Anything you see in the neighborhoods you’re in, anything within a reasonable distance, say between zero and 200 meters – is dead on the spot. No authorization needed.” We asked him: “I see someone walking in the street, do I shoot him?” He said yes. “Why do I shoot him?” “Because he isn’t supposed to be there.”

Did the commander discuss what happens if you run into civilians or uninvolved people?

There are none. The working assumption states – and I want to stress that this is a quote of sorts: that anyone located in an IDF area, in areas the IDF took over – is not [considered] a civilian. That is the working assumption. We entered Gaza with that in mind, and with an insane amount of firepower. I don’t know if it was proportionate or not. I don’t claim to be a battalion commander or a general. But it reached a point where a single tank – and remember, there were 11 of those just where I was – fires between 20 and 30 shells per day.

Testimony #28

What were the instructions regarding [Palestinians] who return?

The instructions were to open fire. They said, “No one is supposed to be in the area in which you will be.” … The instructions are to shoot right away. Whoever you spot – be they armed or unarmed, no matter what … Any person you run into, that you see with your eyes – shoot to kill. It’s an explicit instruction.

No incrimination process is necessary?

Zero. Nothing.

Testimony #29

All the tanks were standing in a row, and I personally asked my commander: “Where are we firing at?” He told me: “Pick wherever you feel like it” … and the commander called it on the two-way radio, ‘Good morning al-Bureij.’ … Nobody had opened fire at us – not before, not after, not during.

15 range

Testimony #32

Anyone in the zone, anyone you spot within visual range, is considered a suspicious person. During all previous operations in which I took part, the humanitarian issue, or the issue of harming civilians, was never a factor.

Testimony #35

They were two young women walking in the orchard. The commander asked to confirm, “What do you see,” and whether they were incriminated or not. It was during daytime, around 11:00 AM, or noon. The lookouts couldn’t see well so the commander sent a drone up to look from above, and the drone implicated them. It saw them with phones, talking, walking. They directed fire there, on those girls, and they were killed. After they were implicated, I had a feeling it was bullshit.

On what was the incrimination based?

Scouts. “The [Palestinian girls] can surely see the tanks, and they can surely see the smoke rising from all the engineering work.” After that the commander told the tank commander to go scan that place, and three tanks went to check [the bodies]. They check the bodies, and it was two women, over age 30. The bodies of two women, and they were unarmed. He came back and we moved on, and they were listed as terrorists. They were fired at – so of course, they must have been terrorists.

14 tank

Testimony #38

After three weeks in the tank, we went up to the post and saw this route and a sort of competition got going. “You’re a gunner, let’s see if you’re a real man, let’s see if you manage to hit a moving car.” So I picked a car – a taxi – and tried to fire a shell, but didn’t manage to hit it. Two more cars came by, and I tried with another shell or two, and didn’t hit. The commander said, “OK, enough, you’re using up all my shells, cut it out.” So we moved to a heavy machine gun. We didn’t manage to hit cars after a few times with that, either, until suddenly I saw a cyclist, just happily pedaling along. I said OK, that guy I’m taking down. I calibrated the range, and didn’t hit – it hit a bit ahead of him and then suddenly he starts pedaling like crazy, because he was being shot at, and the whole tank crew is cracking up, “Wow, look how fast he is.”

Testimony #40

Were the rules of engagement explained to you before entering [the Gaza Strip]?

There were no rules of engagement. If you see anyone in that area, that person is a terrorist. In this context, it was simple. They told us they have intelligence that there are practically no civilians remaining in the area, and so if someone comes towards us, that person is a terrorist.

Testimony #55

Was anything in particular stressed regarding rules of engagement?

Yes, they explained what you do if you see a civilian. [They explained that] that’s the way it is in combat. It was shoot to kill immediately if you see stuff … “If you see someone – shoot.” In the end you use your own judgment. Really they did say, “If you see someone – shoot him.”

16 innocent

Testimony from Israeli solider in Le Monde newspaper

I remember that one day, a soldier from our unit was killed and our commander asked us for revenge so I drew the tank randomly towards a huge white residential building, just four kilometres away from us and fired a shell at the 11th floor. I must have killed civilians who were absolutely innocent.

17 wanton6.2. Wanton destruction: ‘We bombed civilian targets for entertainment’

Testimony #9

We knew that we were entering a house and that we could be good kids, on our best behavior, but even then a D9 (armored bulldozer) would show up and flatten the house. We figured out pretty quick that every house we leave, a D9 shows up and razes it. The neighborhood we were in, what characterized it operationally was that it commanded a view of the entire area of the [Israel-Gaza barrier] and also of some of the [Israeli] border towns. In the southern and some of the eastern parts of Juhar al-Dik, we understood pretty quickly that the houses would not be left standing … At a certain point we understood it was a pattern: you leave a house and the house is gone – after two or three houses you figure out that there’s a pattern. The D9 comes and flattens it.

You saw this happen?

You see it. It’s close. We started in the northern part of the neighborhood and worked our way south. Every time we left a house – no more house. When we got out of there, there were only a few houses left standing.

What did the neighborhood look like when you left?

A hill of ruins, pretty much – lots of broken up concrete. and sadly also large swaths of agricultural lands dug up by tanks … [It wasn’t] really a neighborhood anymore. And when updated maps were issued after we left [Gaza], we saw the only two houses that remained standing when we left, marked on them.

Testimony #10

In most places [Israeli] soldiers also shot the water tanks (usually located on rooftops).

Why?

Don’t know. When I got to the houses that’s how it was.

Testimony #12

By the time we got out of there, it was all like a sandbox. Every house we left … a D9 [armored military bulldozer] came over and flattened it … The D9 was an important working tool. It was working nearly non-stop.

Testimony #15

After you left, were there still any houses left standing?

Nearly none. Once when we went to a house … there were paths which were more broken-up wherever the tanks had passed through – it was just sand, it wasn’t agricultural land with plants any longer. Uprooted olive trees everywhere. The houses themselves were broken … no house was supposed to be left standing. A 500-meter radius where not a single house is left standing.

18 juhar

Testimony #18

When we left after the operation, it was just a barren stretch of desert. Incredible. Of all the houses that were there, I think I saw maybe four or five still intact, or relatively intact. It was crazy. We spoke about it a lot amongst ourselves, the guys from the company, how crazy the amount of damage we did there was. I quote: “Listen man, it’s crazy what went on in there,” “Listen man, we really messed them up,” “Fuck, check it out, there’s nothing at all left of Juhar al-Dik, it’s nothing but desert now, that’s crazy.”

What caused all the destruction?

Most of it was D9s [armored military bulldozers]. They just took down all the orchards. Not a single tree left. They worked on it for three weeks. When they didn’t have a specific job like leading our way or opening up a specific route for us or some other mission, they just went and flattened things. I don’t know what their specific order was, but they were on a deliberate mission to leave the area razed, flattened.

Testimony #20

They tried to maintain constant fire towards al-Bureij, mostly to keep their heads down. There was no specific target. Every so often, ‘boom’, a shell, or ‘boom’, suddenly a machine gun was fired.

What were you shooting at?

At houses.

Randomly chosen houses?

Yes.

Testimony #21

I don’t know how they pulled it off, the D9 [armored military bulldozer] operators didn’t rest for a second. Nonstop, as if they were playing in a sandbox. Driving back and forth, back and forth, razing another house, another street … everything turned upside down … the level of destruction looked insane to me. It looked like a movie set, it didn’t look real. Houses with crumbled balconies, animals everywhere, lots of dead chickens and lots of other dead animals. Every house had a hole in the wall or a balcony spilling off of it, no trace left of any streets at all.

Testimony #25

At that stage, we returned to pretty much the same area in which we were stationed before, and we didn’t recognize the neighborhood at all because half the houses were just gone. It all looked like a science fiction movie, with cows wandering in the streets – apparently a cowshed got busted or something – and serious levels of destruction everywhere, levels we hadn’t seen in [Operation] ‘Cast Lead.’ No houses.

19 d9

Testimony #30

[The brigade’s] conception was, “We’ll fire without worrying about it, and then we’ll see what happens.”

Only at the houses you’re going to enter?

No, at the surrounding houses too. There are also agricultural fields there, the D9 rips them all up. And tin sheds. It takes down whatever’s in its way, it topples greenhouses. Lots of houses were flattened … Empty houses that bothered us. Bothered us even just to look at. I don’t even know what to call that.

Testimony #37

One of the high ranking commanders, he really liked the D9s … Let’s just say that after every time he was somewhere, all the infrastructure around the buildings was totally destroyed … He was very much in favor of that.

Testimony #39

Was any fire directed at power stations?

Yes. Like the bombing of the Wafa Hospital.

Testimony #55

So many shells were fired at [the house], and it was clearly empty …It was meaningless. It was just for kicks – the sort of fun you have at a shooting range.

Testimony from Israeli solider in Le Monde newspaper

We bombed civilian targets for entertainment. One day at about 8am we went to the Al-Bureij; a highly dense residential area in central Gaza, and the commander told us to select a random target and shoot it, at the time we did not see any Hamas fighters, no one shot at us, but the commander told us jokingly: “We have to send Bureij a morning greeting from the Israeli army”‘.

20 rules6.3. Non-existent rules of engagement: ‘This is Gaza, you’re firing at everything.’

Testimony #34

What rules of engagement were you provided with before you entered [the Gaza Strip]?

I don’t really remember what was discussed in terms of formal instructions before we entered, and after we entered nobody really cared about the formal instructions anyway. That’s what we knew. Every tank commander knew, and even the simple soldiers knew, that if something turns out to be not OK, they can say they saw something suspicious. They’ve got backup. They won’t ever be tried.

Testimony #52

[We were shooting at] at everything, basically. At suspicious houses. What’s a ‘suspicious spot?’ Everything is a suspicious spot. This is Gaza, you’re firing at everything.

21 rogue7. Israel: A rogue state for whom impunity = atrocity

Israel has all the characteristics of a rogue state.

  • It has a dangerous and outspokenly extremist political and military leadership in charge of an out of control military.
  • It frequently and flagrantly flouts international law, including by committing regular war crimes;
  • It severely restricts the human, civil, democratic, economic and national rights of those under its control;
  • It maintains a permanent occupation of Palestinian land and continues to build illegal settlements while engaging in ongoing acts of ethnic cleansing;
  • It maintains an apartheid regime of legal, political and societal ethno-supremacist domination of one population group over another;
  • It denies displaced Palestinian people their right to return home because they are of the ‘wrong’ ethnic background, while offering the same right to anyone from anywhere in the world as long as they are the of the ‘correct’ ethno-religious background.

Mouid Rabbani of the US-based Institute for Middle East Understanding has stated that the current Israeli government is “the most extremist in its history,” and argued, correctly, that

“Since this government does not pay even lip service to the charade of a negotiated peace with the Palestinians, the international community and Western powers in particular can dispense with the traditional honeymoon period. If there is to be any hope for peace in the Middle East, it needs to begin with an end to Israeli impunity and by holding this government to account for its actions.”

Indeed, for every day that Israel remains unaccountable and unsanctioned, the Irish government, the EU and the whole international community bear increasing responsibility for the ongoing injustices perpetrated against the Palestinian people. That responsibility only grows when Israel is ‘rewarded’ in the form of grants and commercial purchases, favourable economic preferences, inclusion in European funded-projects and bi-lateral cooperation agreements, and being a respected member of the international arms trading arena.

Western governments, the Irish government included, have consistently and shamefully ruled out implementing boycotts, divestments or other meaningful sanctions upon Israel; the actions taken by the EU, for example, go merely as far as disallowing EU money going towards projects or entities in the illegal settlements, while some governments are now arguing for a labelling of illegal products produced in the illegal settlements – not even their banning from European markets. This is a paltry and pitiful response to a government which has openly vowed to continue its decades of occupation, ethnic cleansing, apartheid and war crimes.

The message this diplomatic and economic inaction sends to Israel is quite clear: ‘Carry on killing, dispossessing and stealing, there’s nothing to worry about from us.’  Therefore is should be no surprise that Israel continues to do just that; daily arrests and beatings; frequent killings; home demolitions; settlement building; a new massacre of the people of Gaza every couple of years; attacks on neighbouring countries; etc, etc, etc.

The equation is simple, ‘impunity equals atrocity’. Its negation is similarly straightforward; to end atrocity we must first end impunity.

22 bds8. So what can be done? Three words. Boycott. Divestment. Sanctions.

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once observed presciently that “true peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice.” Thus, with regard to Palestine, it can be said that there can never be a genuine, true and just peace until the Israeli occupation has ceased and Palestinians enjoy their full rights under international law.

However, it should be clear by now that no Israeli government has genuinely had an interest in pursuing a just peace. At all. Ever.

Last summer’s slaughter in Gaza was but the latest large-scale attack on the Palestinian people in an ongoing process of colonisation. At other times this practice takes on a less dramatic facade, but it is a constant process nonetheless. Yet the Palestinian people will never simply lie down and allow more and more of their land to be stolen and colonised, nor will they meekly submit to an apartheid regime. For this reason Israeli violence – whether inflicted by soldiers or by systemic, structural means – against them will continue. Palestinians have been subject to Israeli-imposed injustice for too long.

It must end.

We believe the Irish government has a key role to play in helping to bring about this end to Israeli injustice. In order to do so, it must first listen to and heed the call for justice from the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC), which represents the broadest possible alliance of Palestinian civil society, trade union, faith and political organisations. This demand for a campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) is the best means by which Israeli impunity can be ended, and a just and lasting peaceful solution based on the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people be found.

Therefore, in line with the demands of our Palestinian partners, until Israel ends its occupation of Palestinian land, and abides fully by its obligations under international law, including granting equality to all its citizens and implementing the Palestinian refugees’ right of return to their homeland, we ask the Irish government to:

8.1. End the Irish arms trade with Israel and call for an international arms embargo

There is a Palestinian-led international civil society initiative calling for the end of the arms trade with Israel; countries and companies should neither sell arms to, nor buy arms from Israel.

Sadly and shamefully, the Irish state has bought €14.7m worth of arms and military components from Israel over the last decade, while Irish-based companies have exported €6.42m worth of military and ‘dual use’ hardware to Israel since 2011. Meanwhile, Israel has killed over 9,000 Palestinians, including 2,060 children since 2000. Military items exported from Israel will have used Palestinians as ‘human test subjects’ so such weapons can be marketed as ‘battle-proven’.

While Israeli arms companies promote such products with the slogan that they have been ‘battle-tested’, such sterile language masks the horrific reality on the ground. What this means, in plain language, is that these bullets, drones, targeting devices and other military items have been used to viciously attack, kill and oppress the people of Palestine who live under Israel’s apartheid occupation regime.

Any military components exported from Ireland to Israel will be used to kill and maim yet more Palestinians and to entrench the decades-long military occupation.

Simply put, neither Israel nor arms manufacturers in Ireland should be allowed to profit from the killing of Palestinians; this trade in death must end. We call upon the government of Ireland to end the Irish arms trade with Israel, and to advocate for an international arms embargo at EU and UN levels until Israel ends the occupation of Palestinian land and complies fully with its obligations under international law.

It should be unconscionable for a state like Ireland that claims ‘respect for and the promotion of human rights has always been and will continue to be a cornerstone of foreign policy’ to allow such a trade to continue.

There is more information about the End The Irish Arms Trade With Israel Campaign on the IPSC website here.

If you are a public figure or politician and would like to become an endorser of the campaign, please contact us at info@ipsc.ie. We also ask members of the public to sign the online petition by clicking here.

Alongside the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the campaign has been endorsed by many politicians, public figures, NGOs, community groups and trade unions, including; Robert Ballagh; Dr Raymond Deane; Dr Ronit Lentin; Sinn Fein; Anti-Austerity Alliance; The Socialist Party; Communist Party of Ireland; Sen. David Norris; Richard Boyd Barrett TD; Joan Collins TD; Padraig Mac Lochlainn TD; Paul Murphy TD; Clare Daly TD; Thomas Pringle TD; Martina Anderson MEP & European Parliament Chair of the Delegation for relations with Palestine (DPLC); Lynn Boylan MEP; Matt Carthy MEP; Liadh Ní Riada MEP; Nessa Childers MEP; Sen. Averil Power; Sen. Labhrás Ó Murchú; John Douglas, President of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and General Secretary of Mandate trade union; Patricia McKeown, NI regional secretary, Unison; Brian Campfield, NIPSA General Secretary; Frank Keoghan, General President of TEEU; The Communication Workers Union; Afri – Action From Ireland; The Centre for Global Education; Palestinian Community in Ireland; Palestinian Rights Institute; Academics for Palestine; Gaza Action Ireland; Trade Union Friends of Palestine; Peace and Neutrality Alliance; Irish Anti-War Movement; The People’s Movement; Shannonwatch; TCD Apartheid Free Campus Campaign; NUIG Palestine Solidarity Campaign; Cllr. Paul Hand; Cllr. Michael O’Brien; Cllr. Paul Mulville; Cllr. Éilis Ryan.

8.2. Call for the suspension of Israel from the Euro-Med Agreement

A recent letter from the European Eminent Persons Group on Middle East issues (EEPG) – a group of former European leaders, ministers and diplomats including former Taoiseach John Bruton – implored that:

“The re-election of Benyamin Netanyahu as Israeli Prime Minister and the construction of a new Israeli coalition government now requires urgent action by the EU to construct a coherent and effective policy  on the question of Palestine.”

We, along with our Palestinian partners, firmly believe that the most “coherent and effective” action the EU can take is to suspend the EU Israel Association Agreement (aka, the Euro-Med Agreement).

This agreement, the main treaty between the EU and Israel, grants Israel trading privileges with the EU. Article 2 of the Agreement states that:

“Relations between the Parties, as well as all the provisions of the Agreement itself, shall be based on respect for human rights and democratic principles, which guides their internal and international policy and constitutes an essential element of this Agreement.”

If “respect for human rights” form an “essential element” of the agreement, then Israel simply should not be a party to the agreement.

Regarding taking action to suspend the agreement due to breaches of its obligations, when responding to a question about EU double standards in rescinding trading privileges and imposing sanctions on states such as Sri Lanka and Russia but not Israel, the European Commission asserted that “Article 79 of the Association Agreement provides that if one Party considers that the other Party has failed to fulfil an obligation under the Agreement, it may take appropriate measures”.

Furthermore, the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission Federica Mogherini has also stated that

“the Association Agreement between the EU and Israel … can be terminated by either Party notifying the other. On the EU side, this would require a unanimous decision by the Council. Article 79 of the Agreement describes the procedure to be followed if either Party considers that the other Party has failed to fulfil an obligation under the Agreement.”

Unfortunately, Ms Mogherini continued by saying that:

“The EU is currently not considering a review of the Association Agreement with Israel. We remain convinced that political engagement is the most effective way to convey our concerns. Matters related to Human Rights in Israel are addressed regularly with the Israeli authorities, at different levels, and more specifically in the framework of the EU’s political and human rights dialogues with Israel. The EU has raised issues related to minority rights in Israel at such occasions.”

That the EU refuses to even consider the issue of suspension reflects negatively on its proclaimed commitment to “democratic and human rights values”. That it continues to insist that “political engagement is the most effective way to convey our concerns,” despite the fact that Israeli aggression and apartheid towards the Palestinian people has only gotten progressively worse in the 15 years since the Association Agreement has been active suggests that the EU is, at best, naive, or at worst, utterly unconcerned with the fate of the Palestinians and happy to facilitate Israel’s destructive policies toward them.

We call on the Irish government to take the brave step to become the first EU member state to openly make this call for the suspension of the EU-Israel Association Agreement. Even the very fact of it being discussed at all could have a dramatic impact on Israel’s behaviour and policies. In doing so, the Irish government would be listening to the demands of the Palestinian people, and joining the 63 MEPs who, in a unique cross-party initiative in January 2015, called for the Agreement’s suspension, and the more than 300 human rights groups, trade unions and political parties from across Europe who last December also called for this move to be taken.

What is certain is that as long as the EU, in the words of its Ambassador to Israel, hopes “close relations … will continue” and “would like to see [them expand] in more fields in the future”, then Israel can rest assured that its impunity will continue. Such messages are not only unhelpful, they are a de facto green light for Israel’s continued oppression and destruction of the Palestinian people.

8.3. Ban the importation of Israeli goods into Ireland

In 1986, Ireland became the first country in Western Europe to ban imports of fruit and vegetables from Apartheid South Africa. The Irish government should again lead the way and take steps to ban goods from Apartheid Israel, revenues from which help fund Israel’s brutal assaults like last summer’s assault on Gaza so harrowingly described in the testimonies above, the many others that have gone before it and that will undoubtedly follow it if action is not taken.

8.4. IPSC policy submissions to the Irish government: The ‘National Plan on Business and Human Rights’ & ‘Foreign Policy Approach to Palestine-Israel’

In 2014 and 2015 the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign made two separate policy submissions to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in the fields of Foreign Policy and Business and Human Rights.

2014: IPSC submission re: ‘Review of Ireland’s foreign policy approach to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict’

2015: IPSC submission re: ‘National Plan on Business and Human Rights’

The recommendations contained in both submissions remain as valid and as urgent as when they were written, and we urge the government to take action to implement these suggestions as soon as possible.

8.5. Palestine, Israel and the International Criminal Court

On 1st April 2015, Palestine officially accepted the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Unfortunately, it appears that some western governments are seeking, or will seek, to prevent Palestinians from exercising their right to justice in taking cases against Israel to the ICC. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that the Irish government makes it a priority to ensure that it supports Palestinians in seeking justice at the ICC and Israel being held accountable for war crimes.

23 mand9. Conclusion: From Johannesburg to Jerusalem, the great moral issues of our times

To those, including the Irish government, who oppose BDS and counterpose ‘dialogue’, ‘political engagement’ and ‘negotiations’ as a means of achieving justice, we must pose the following question: ‘What have decades of such an approach achieved?’

The answer, of course, is nothing. Nothing, except an ever more extremist Israeli polity, military and society, and the further entrenchment of the occupation and its associated criminality.  Just as the strategy of ‘constructive engagement’ did not help bring about the end of Apartheid in South Africa, so too will its modern equivalent fail to assist in bringing about an end to Apartheid in the Palestine-Israel region. The Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign offers the only glimmer of hope for us in the West to help to achieve this noble aim.

Ireland has supported international sanctions on many human rights abusing countries in the past. Why have we never supported even the mildest of sanctions against Israel? Whatever the reason Israel is singled out for such special treatment, it is time to end this impunity. The concrete actions outlined above must be implemented, for, if they are not, in another two or three years’ time the world will be horrified by yet  another Israeli massacre of Palestinians and the election of a yet more extremist government intent on continuing the destruction of the Palestinian people.

As legendary anti-Apartheid fighter and former South African president, the late Nelson Mandela said, Palestine “is the greatest moral issue of our time”.  The heroic sacrifices of the Palestinian people over the past seven decades demand that people of conscience take action to help them achieve their freedom, justice and equality, and ultimately a true and just peace for everyone in the Palestine-Israel region. Sixty-seven years after Al Nakba – the Palestinian Catastrophe that saw the foundation of the State of Israel at the expense of the indigenous people, the first act in the drama of their ongoing destruction – nothing less is acceptable.

The time to act is now.

Appendix – Other statements by Israeli government extremists

Other statements made by Israeli extremists in the new Israeli government, compiled by Ben White for Middle East Monitor.

Naftali Bennett, Minister of Education, Minister of Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs

“There is not going to be a Palestinian state within the tiny land of Israel.”

Yuval Steinitz, Minister of National Infrastructure, Energy and Water

“We will not agree to the division of Jerusalem and giving up the Jordan Valley.”

Silvan Shalom, Minister of Interior

“We are all against a Palestinian state, there is no question about it.”

Moshe Kahlon, Minister of Finance

“We should annex all the territories that same day.” (When asked what he thinks Israel should do if the Palestinians unilaterally declare independence).

Uri Ariel, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development

“I think that in five years there will be 550,000 or 600,000 Jews in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank], rather than 400,000 [now].”

Ze’ev Elkin, Minister of Immigration and Absorption, Strategic Affairs

“There is no place for a Palestinian state, not in temporary borders and not in any other configuration.”

Ophir Akunis, Minister without Portfolio

“I resolutely oppose the establishment of a Palestinian state in the place where our nation was born.”

Danny Danon, Minister of Science, Technology and Space

“We will strengthen the settlements in [the West Bank].”

Yisrael Katz, Minister of Transportation and Road Safety, Minister of Intelligence

“I am opposed to a Palestinian state. It is unacceptable, mainly because of our rights to this land.”

Gila Gamliet, Minister for Gender Equality, Minorities and Young People

“I disagree with the word ‘occupation.’…The Gaza Strip can annex itself to Egypt, some of the Palestinians can annex themselves to Jordan. They have many countries.”

Benny Begin, Minister without Portfolio

“If the two-state solution is the only solution, then there is no solution.”

Haim Katz, Minister of Welfare and Social Services

“The conclusion is clear – not to establish a Palestinian state, for this will become a terror state on the outskirts of Tel Aviv.”

Yariv Levin, Minister of Tourism, Minister of Internal Security

“A clear Israeli law will…show our insistence that we are a Jewish state.”

Miri Regev, Minister of Culture and Sport, Minister of Intelligence

“The Land of Israel belongs to the Jewish People, and not only to the Jews who live in that land.”

ipsc_logoAbout the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign

The Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) is the largest and longest established organisation working for Palestinian rights on this island. We formed in 2001 as a democratic, broad-based and multifaceted campaign to support the human, civil, political and national rights of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Territories, in Israel and in the Palestinian Diaspora. In partnership with Palestinians now living in Ireland the IPSC was formed to provide a voice for Palestine in Ireland.

We are proud to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people and have been to the forefront in promoting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel since the Palestinian call was issued ten years ago. The IPSC is a volunteer-based coalition of individuals, human rights and political activists, academics, journalists and trade unionists all committed to a just peace in the Middle East. We are independent of all Irish and Palestinian political parties and groups.

The IPSC campaigns for freedom, justice and equality for the Palestinian people and for an end to Israel’s racist and colonialist apartheid system. We do this through raising public awareness about the human rights abuses in the occupied territories, the violations of international law and the historical causes of the injustices to the Palestinians that lie at the heart of the Palestine-Israel issue.

The IPSC lobbies the Irish government and politicians at local, national and international level and the EU, campaigns on the streets and urges for a vigorous Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign similar to the one that played a part in ending Apartheid in South Africa. The IPSC also holds public talks with Israeli and Palestinian speakers and various cultural and fundraising events.

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