Monday, February 23, 2009

Suspend military aid to Israel, Amnesty urges Obama after detailing US weapons used in Gaza.

Hell will freeze over before this is ever allowed to happen, but Amnesty International have prepared a report for Barack Obama outlining the extensive use Israel have made of US weaponry against the civilian population of Gaza, including white phosphorus artillery shells, 500lb bombs and Hellfire missiles, and have called on the new president to suspend military aid to Israel.

The human rights group said that those arming both sides in the conflict "will have been well aware of a pattern of repeated misuse of weapons by both parties and must therefore take responsibility for the violations perpetrated".

The US has long been the largest arms supplier to Israel; under a current 10-year agreement negotiated by the Bush administration the US will provide $30bn (£21bn) in military aid to Israel.

"As the major supplier of weapons to Israel, the USA has a particular obligation to stop any supply that contributes to gross violations of the laws of war and of human rights," said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa programme director. "To a large extent, Israel's military offensive in Gaza was carried out with weapons, munitions and military equipment supplied by the USA and paid for with US taxpayers' money."

Amnesty are also calling for an investigation into the "indiscriminate rockets" fired at civilians from the Palestinian side of the conflict and are asking that both sides be investigated for war crimes.

Nothing will ever come of this but that doesn't mean that nothing should come of this.

There are strict conditions attached to all sales of weapons, mostly stating that they should only be used in defence and certainly never against civilians. And yes, the country which supplies the weaponry can expect a certain amount of "blowback" if the weaponry is used in a way which most people regard as illegal or immoral.

Amnesty researchers in Gaza found several weapon fragments after the fighting. One came from a 500lb (227kg) Mark-82 fin guided bomb, which had markings indicating parts were made by the US company Raytheon. They also found fragments of US-made white phosphorus artillery shells, marked M825 A1.

On 15 January, several white phosphorus shells fired by the Israeli military hit the headquarters of the UN Relief and Works Agency in Gaza City, destroying medicine, food and aid. One fragment found at the scene had markings indicating it was made by the Pine Bluff Arsenal, based in Arkansas, in October 1991.

The human rights group said the Israeli military had used white phosphorus in densely populated civilian areas, which it said was an indiscriminate form of attack and a war crime.

Of course, US politicians always vote with a lockstep unanimity on the subject of Israel which would not be out of place in a totalitarian state, so there's only so much that one could reasonably expect Obama to do here. He's certainly not going to take on the Israeli lobby this early in his presidency.

But some Americans are coming around to the notion that Israeli war crimes committed with American weaponry, and with the full support of America's political class, contribute to anti-Americanism across the globe. Glenn Greenwald on the decision of both houses to vote to support the recent Israeli attacks on Gaza:

What makes this transpartisan consensus so notable is not merely the improbability of 510 ideologically diverse lawmakers all looking at this perplexing and contentious war and just happening to decide that Israel is fully in the right. Beyond the abstract question of whether Israel’s attack is justified lies the weightier question of whether the United States should incur the wrath of much of the world, and virtually the entire Muslim world, by involving itself in this war. Remarkably, the consensus extended not only to the view that Israel was right to attack Gaza, but that the U.S. should formalize its support for Israel’s offensive.

Though the resolution was nonbinding, it was not inconsequential. At a time when worldwide disgust was at its peak, the U.S. made Israel’s war our war, its enemies our enemies, its intractable disputes ours, and the hostility generated by Israeli actions our own.

And American politicians do this against US public opinion, which continues to ask that the US act as an honest broker in this conflict, the very thing which the US political class refuse to do.

Indeed, it is true to say that there are more American politicians who object to America's wars than there are who object to any war which Israel decides to engage in. That's a seriously f#cked up situation.

So we can hardly expect Obama to expend too much political capital calling for a suspension of military aid to Israel. Especially as any attempt to do so which had to be voted on by America's political class would be guaranteed to fail.

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5 comments:

Shachar said...

What you and Robert Fisk appear to ignore is that all factions of Palestine, Hamas and Fatah and the rest, are committed to Israel's destruction, and clearly hide amongst civilians as they attack Israeli civilians - FORCING Israel to defend itself in civilian areas. They turned many opportunities to start a healthy nation into attacks on Israel, which have caused Israel to respond defensively. Israel's majority has been hoping for a two state solution for many decades, and has offered it numerous times.

You say that American politicians are creating a "f#cked up" situation because they support Israeli wars, but not American wars. The difference is that American wars are generally over resources, whereas Israel's war is over survival from people who would surely commit all out genocide if they could.

You fail to see that if Israel puts her and American's guns down, there will be a genocide at worst - an all out civil war at best. If this were to happen you would instead be complaining 'Why didn't the USA help Israel to defend itself from people who openly want to murder its people?'

Kel said...

You say that American politicians are creating a "f#cked up" situation because they support Israeli wars, but not American wars. The difference is that American wars are generally over resources, whereas Israel's war is over survival from people who would surely commit all out genocide if they could.

What planet are you on? The Palestinians have no army, no navy and no air force, so how do you imagine they could commit genocide on the country with the fourth largest army in the world?

The one sided death toll from the latest conflict in Gaza shows how little chance there is of genocide taking place.

Steel Phoenix said...

"The difference is that American wars are generally over resources,"

I would argue that none of the American wars in our lifetime were declared to be over resources. You can claim they are, just as we could claim Israel wars for territory not recognized as their own by the international community. Everyone lies about the motivation of their wars. This is no exception. September eleventh made for pretty convincing motivation to attack Afghanistan. I opposed it anyway beacause I didn't see it as constructive.

I don't ask Israel to put down it's guns, I ask her to use them more proportionately. I don't see it as our role to supply Israel with free high tech tanks and jets against a blockaded people fighting with rocks and guns. What motivation does this give her to use diplomacy? Where is the common ground for peace? If there is none, then what should the course be for the future? Continue Palestine's status as a periodically scoured concentration camp? Preemptive genocide?

You have a first hand look we lack, but it also puts you more directly in the propaganda. I don't trust American media sources for U.S. news for this very reason.

Shachar said...

Kel - You seem to be blind to one side. Israel has tolerated 8 years of rockets being fired into civilian towns. But how long can leaders continue to tell these civilians to weather the attack, when we know that Israel can defend itself. These rockets, supplied by Iran, and allowed in by Egypt, are gaining in range. Iran has the technology to fire rockets into Tel Aviv. Rockets have already reached the large city just south of Tel Aviv. Furthermore, Iran has the knowledge and possibly the supplies to make a nuclear warhead, courtesy of Russia.

This is no empty threat from people whose rallying cry is "Kill the Jews!" You have no idea how scared Israelis are about the threat that is at our doorstep. Most of us have an attitude of 'If the nuclear bomb will come tomorrow, at least I'm living fully today.' This is not an 'eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die' philosophical masturbation that Americans do; it is a reality that is in Israeli's face.

Steel - that Israel can defend itself is the only reason why the Palestinians have a motivation to accept its existence. Their leaders have turned way too many opportunities to build a good nation (including removal of almost all Jewish settlements) and peaceful coexistence into failed attacks. Israel has been trying diplomacy since its birth, but self-defense has been its only option.

Israel has been waiting for 61 years for a real diplomatic solution. This solution will not be possible until the Arabs accept the state of Israel.

The offer of peace has been put on the table by Israel year after year. Israelis are losing hope - most have given up hope for peace. I am scared to think of the options that Israel has when it becomes obvious that Iran has nuclear capabilities.

Remember who is defending themselves and who is the aggressor here and for the past 61 years.

Kel said...

You seem to be blind to one side.

Yes, 42 years of brutal military occupation tends to do that to me.

It makes me, and much of the world, more sympathetic to the people who are being brutalised by occupation.

Israel has tolerated 8 years of rockets being fired into civilian towns.

Yes, and that's bad. But do you know of any occupied people who did not resist their occupiers? The brutal act is not limited to the act of resistance, the brutality exists in the occupation itself.

The offer of peace has been put on the table by Israel year after year.

Then why didn't Israel accept the Saudi Peace proposal which was backed by every Arab government in the region and offered Israel full recognition?

If "the offer of peace has been put on the table by Israel year after year", why didn't she snap the Saudi's hands off to accept that deal? The reality is that she simply ignored it. That's not the act of people serious about peace, and neither is building settlements on their land whilst claiming to want peace with them. Land theft is hardly going to make peace more likely.

Remember who is defending themselves and who is the aggressor here and for the past 61 years.

The occupation is an act of aggression. And land theft is an act of aggression.

All I know is that the Israelis keep stealing Palestinian land and have been doing so since 1967. She talks of peace, but the settlement building continues apace, despite the fact that every single settlement built is utterly illegal under international law. And yet Israel is NOT the aggressor?

As I say, what planet are you on? You seem to find it unreasonable that the people you are occupying - and whose land you are stealing - have the gall to resist what you are doing. Such horror at their resistance ignores the history of occupied people the world over.