Israeli War Crimes & Elections Update

Gaza war crimesGeorge Bisharat publishes an excellent article in the Seattle Times, insisting that Israel must be held accountable for its war crimes:

“THE boss has lost it,” many Israeli military and political officials, and people on the street, were reportedly joking after their army’s recent devastation of the Gaza Strip. As Israeli journalist Uri Avnery observed, the jest means that: ” … in order to deter our enemies, we must behave like madmen, go on the rampage, kill and destroy mercilessly.”

In fact, the “boss has lost it” is an unselfconscious admission of policies that violate international law, and could at some point be used against Israeli leaders in a criminal prosecution.

Evidence suggests that Israel may have committed at least seven serious offenses during its Gaza invasion: launching a war of aggression (because Israel itself triggered the breakdown of a six-month truce, and therefore did not have a valid claim of self-defense); deliberate targeting of civilian infrastructure; deliberate killings of civilians; collective punishment; illegal use of weapons, including white phosphorous; preventing care to the wounded; and disproportionate use of force.

These constitute grave breaches of customary and conventional international law, and some amount to war crimes. Hamas’ indiscriminate rocket attacks on Israeli civilians were also war crimes, but did not justify Israel’s violations.

What is the likelihood that Israel leaders faced with allegations of war crimes will ever be investigated and brought to justice?

Bisharat is not confident of any international court being able to try the Israeli war criminals and suggests it is civil action which may have the most success in conditioning Israel’s sociopathic behaviour.

Thus, perhaps the “court of last resort” is that of international civil society, whose tools for nonviolent enforcement include boycotts, divestment and sanctions. That route, once so effective in helping to end apartheid in Africa, offers a powerful model for those seeking justice in Israel/Palestine today. Israel is both sensitive to Western opinion and dependent on trade and would likely respond to ostracism.

The UN’s John Ging points out the continuing misery that Israel’s illegal blockade of Gaza is causing, whilst reprimanding the Hamas police for seizing aid from UNWRA.

John Ging, the director of operations for the United Nations refugee agency in Gaza, said Thursday that Israel’s blockade was creating growing misery there by choking off basic humanitarian supplies like food, medicine, clothes and blankets as well as school supplies.

He also criticized the leadership of Hamas for letting its police force run wild, attacking a distribution center for the needy to cart off supplies.

“We are neither getting in the volume nor the range of supplies that we need here,” Mr. Ging told reporters at the United Nations, speaking via video link-up from Gaza. “This is creating a lot of misery among the people.”

In one example, Mr. Ging said that the teachers in the schools run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency had worked throughout the three-week Israeli bombardment that ended Jan. 18 to create a new human rights curriculum. But because Israel was blocking paper supplies, the textbooks and workbooks could not be printed, so some 60 percent of the children in United Nations schools lack books.

There’s pertinent discussion on keeping the borders of Gaza open with Egypt at the Jerusalem post.

In the West Bank, an Israeli court has decided to permit the destruction of yet another Palestinian village situated on Palestinian land, for the benefit of a neighbouring illegal Israeli settlement.

About 25 Palestinian families would be forced to leave their homes and agricultural lands in the village of Khirbet Tana, located within the territory of the Beit Furik town, east of Nablus, after the Israeli high court rejected the objection made by human rights organizations on behalf of the families.

Gaza childRacism in Israeli society is highlighted with the rise of Lieberman.

Arab Knesset member Ahmed Tibi has warned that Lieberman’s rising popularity reflects a dangerous trend.

“We are talking about a pure and obvious fascist phenomena invading the Israeli society,” Tibi said. “During the last years, racism became mainstream in the Israeli society.”

Meantime, Abbas meets with Gordon Brown whose platitudes are empty without the support of the world’s other hegemon, the US. Abbas also takes another counter-productive stab at Hamas.

The international community must make the reconstruction of Gaza a top priority, Gordon Brown has said.

Speaking after meeting Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, Mr Brown said he had urged Israeli PM Ehud Olmert to grant aid agencies full access to Gaza.

He also said it was vital that the fragile ceasefire between Israel and Hamas remained in place.

Mr Abbas accused Israel of “dreadful aggression” in Gaza but said there was no alternative to the peace process.

Gordon Brown said the UK had trebled its humanitarian aid to Gaza as a result of the recent conflict in which more than a thousand Palestinians, including 300 children, died.

He said it was in Israel’s interest as well as that of the international community that aid agencies had unrestricted access to Gaza to help those in need.

“We must do everything we can to help rebuild Gaza and to provide humanitarian aid to families whose lives have been shattered,” he said in Downing Street.

“We must help rebuild Gaza’s economy to give hope that there can be a true peace dividend.”

Countries in the region must do more to stop arms smuggling into Gaza while dialogue between different Palestinian groups must be stepped up to try and bring about a reconciliation, he said.

Progress in peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians was a “top priority” for the UK and world leaders must focus on the search for a lasting peace in the region with “renewed urgency”, Mr Brown added.

Mr Abbas said the cost of rebuilding Gaza would be close to $15bn (£10.2bn) and the “world must keep sending aid”.

The Palestinian Authority, which he heads, has said it will donate $600m (£408.8m) towards reconstruction in Gaza.

He accused Israel of seeking to “deepen divisions” between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas through its campaign in Gaza, which Israel says was provoked by Hamas rocket attacks.

But he also attacked Hamas for perpetrating what he called “a revolution” in Gaza.

However, he called for Palestinian unity and for the resumption of peace talks with Israel on the basis of approved UN resolutions.

“We believe that there are no alternatives to peace in the Middle East,” he said. “We remain committed to achieving peace.”

Thanks for all the fish, suckers

The Minister for Digital Obstruction has decided to reduce his mooted 18 day EPIC FAIL blog to 16 days – get in now folks, you have till 3 pm on December 24 to vent your thoughts. And if this is the first you’ve heard about it, follow the links below and in previous posts here to bring yourself up to speed.

Conroy’s signature behaviours are scope-creep, secrecy and lies, in view of which trusting him, the present wowser government and their Hollow Men with upholding our individual human rights is patently unwise. Without revealing precisely who is participating in the ludicrous ISP filter trials yet or which filtering technology will be tested, Conroy’s latest scope creep is to include filtering of Bit Torrent and other P2P protocols in his trials, the commencement of which has now been delayed to mid January. Filtering unencrypted traffic is fraught with difficulties and expense, let alone considering the degrading effects on network performance and potential major dangers resultant from encrypted packet inspection at ISP level.

Pushed by news stories detailing a leaked IIA report commissioned by the Howard government which identified serious flaws in ISP filtering, Conroy has now published the full report himself. Contributor to the report, Bjorn Landfeldt makes further comment about blacklists on his blog.

“So, what is the big issue as I see it? A blacklist requires manual effort in order to determine what should be included. The Internet is a network of networked computers that carry information in many forms and realms, one of which is the World Wide Web. If we restrict ourselves to talk about only WWW, we have a global network with billions of pages worth of information. The information is made up of all different languages of the world and incredible diverse. Some information has a very high profile and some information has very limited visibility. Since a blacklist would rely on user reporting, it is questionable how efficient it would be to locate unwanted content in the first place. Second, every case would have to be tried to see if it breaches Australian law and falls within the categories specified for the filtering list. It will be a very difficult task to do this for content in the grey zone in all different languages. If the point is to stop child pornography, determining if a model is 19 or 25 in content from a different country with different jurisdiction is not an easy task and would be quite labour intensive. The next question is who is responsible for blocking of material that is legal if the wrong judgement is made?

The only way to identify such material quickly and significantly limit the risk of accidental access is to do some form of dynamic content filtering. However, the state of the art of such technologies is very limited in accuracy and if they are to be used there is a consequential performance impact on the response times of systems or at least an increased cost for the service provider. Current filters are rather good at detecting certain patterns of information such as a combination of many images and certain keywords usually means a porn site. However, there are at least two additional dimensions to consider. First, the current filters only look at such patterns, they do not try to analyse the actual content in any meaningful way. It is therefore difficult to distinguish between different types of content where there are similarities. For example, if a web site contains information about sex education or erotic content. Second, more and more content moves to other forms of multimedia and filtering and detecting the nature of content is much much harder in this case. For example, analysing a video and detecting that it has adult content is not a lightweight computational task. Separating sex education from porn is even harder. Third, if indeed there would be widespread filtering of content the providers would see a need to obfuscate content to fool filters. When we step into this realm it becomes very difficult for any filters to keep up.”

Confirming his continued commitment to filter trials, Conroy suggests that “International experience suggests that index-based filtering of a central blacklist is technically feasible.” But is it desirable or sensible?

In the face of the following, if he really cared about children, Conroy should repudiate his censorship plans immediately. The idiocy and counterproductivity of government blacklists in enabling, not preventing child abuse is perfectly illustrated with the publishing of the Danish and Thai blacklists on Wikileaks. Thai censorship was initially focused on child pron sites, and was expanded to include political censorship of sites which criticised the Thai royal family. The Fringe anticipates the leaking of the Australian blacklist is nigh.

Here’s some great Christmas links to remind us that Australians do care about their freedoms, even if government has forgotten it’s the servant of the people, not their ruler:

In Touch With The Obvious. Mostly says:

“In spite of the Senator’s reassurance, this is fundamentally an attack on free speech. Our laws are defined in such a way that whatever is not prohibited by law remains legal. (We legislate against certain behaviours, rather than regulate in favour of others.) Final responsibility for any action ultimately falls to the individual. By introducing an ISP-level filter, Sen Conroy has removed that freedom. In spite of your protests, Senator, you are censoring free speech by introducing this filter.”

The Fringe has read somewhat bemusedly the statement of Mike of Melb, who posted in hit and run fashion on this blog as The Observer. The statement in part reads:

“I have been interacting with several players involved in this whole process for over a year, on an ad-hoc and unpaid basis (advisory on technologies and market developments), however I recently agreed to be contracted with a vendor of ISP-filtering solutions.”

Meanwhile, Hoyden About Town has trouble making sense of this world. So do we!

Alex Byrne’s “The way of the wowser: censorship as a barrier to access to information” is a worthy reference on Australian wowserism:

“The wowser is a killjoy, one who wishes to spoil the pleasure of others especially in entertainment, alcohol and sex. It includes temperance advocates and homophobes. The way of the wowser is to seek to control the lives of others: in our domain, to bar access to information which the censor finds objectionable.”

And from the twitterverse:

@mpesce “”Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.” — Groucho

Another example of gross governmental irresponsibility and inadequacy has come to light with the release of the Clarke report on the Haneef affair. Mick Keelty, the AFP, Howard and his Ministers will be protected despite the report’s findings of culpability. Cameron Reilly puts it not so mildly:

The report found that the AFP told the Howard Government that there was no evidence against Haneef – AND THEN CHANGED THEIR MIND. This is what they call “in good faith”?

I call it BULLSHIT.

So the Rudd Government is going to give the Howard ministers and the AFP a get out of jail free card. Does it have anything to do with how Rudd, when Opposition leader, didn’t have much to say about the Howard Government’s handling of the case? Or is it just favours for mates?

Heads should roll.

Over at Tech Wired Australia, Ben Grubb has a stellar piece about the victimisation by police of citizen journalist Nick Hac who last Friday was “threatened with arrest under the Australian Anti-Terrorism Act 2005 for videoing Police performing a search in public.” His phone was confiscated, searched and the video deleted despite him not consenting to search of his phone. Margaret Simon highlights this travesty on her blog at Crikey.