Tuesday, February 24, 2009
bitterlemons: Were war crimes committed during the recent Israeli offensive on Gaza and can they be prosecuted?
Sourani: I believe that war crimes were committed, not only during the brutal Israeli offensive that started on December 27 last year, but from before.
We have worked hard to record Israeli war crimes and we are working hard to bring Israeli war criminals to justice. This approach is working and the proof is Israel has instituted new procedures to counter such moves. There is legislation by the Israeli parliament that punishes anyone giving information that can lead to the legal prosecution of war criminals and there is provision for legal aid for any Israeli so accused.
Moreover, the Israeli government is engaged in a campaign in Europe in particular to persuade countries to change their laws to prevent the possibility of holding Israelis accountable in courts there.
bitterlemons: What kind of crimes are we talking about?
Sourani: There are verified specific past cases, such as that of [the July 2002 assassination of] Salah Shehadeh in which a 985-kilo bomb was dropped on a civilian area, killing six children and nine women. In the recent war, hundreds of such bombs were dropped every day over the Gaza Strip.
We have prepared very serious legal documentation of war crimes committed against Gazan civilians during the war. I won't say where or how we are going to use this information. But we have files and names; we know where to use this information effectively and we will use it, sooner or later.
bitterlemons: Is there not a problem of process if this were to be taken, for instance, to the International Court of Justice?
Sourani: No. We avoid any body related to the political will of the United States for the simple reason that we know the limits, pressure and political reality faced by the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court and the UN Security Council.
What we instead pursue is what is known as universal jurisdiction, which does not depend on political will but on the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary in individual countries. So we have to identify where the Geneva conventions are part of a legal system and how we can then effectively use that system.
It is therefore very important for us to coordinate with counterparts in other countries. And there is a real area of cooperation between people across the world seeking the rule of law over the law of the jungle.
bitterlemons: There have been several much-publicized incidents of families decimated and neighborhoods destroyed. In terms of what happened in such incidents, how would you characterize the Israeli offensive?
Sourani: In the Fourth Geneva Convention, these are characterized as "grave breaches" or "war crimes". I don't want to exaggerate and go beyond that, though the Spanish court, in its recent ruling on Salah Shehadeh, said that incident could be described as a crime against humanity.
We have a lot of evidence and detailed legal files on those publicized cases and many, many more. These will make Israeli military and political leaders real targets for those who seek justice and want to ensure accountability for war criminals. This is our duty and our obligation as human rights activists. Our loyalty to the suffering, pain and bloodshed of our innocents, the protected Palestinian civilians in Gaza, will be reflected through this legal process. We want to see the rule of law, not the law of the jungle.
bitterlemons: Israel will say the rocket fire from Gaza is a war crime. Will this complicate efforts to pursue Israeli crimes?
Sourani: A crime doesn't legitimize another crime. If Israel believes that rockets are war crimes perpetrated by Hamas, why is it afraid of having an independent, international investigation committee to look into what happened in Gaza and let them look at both sides? That is the mission of the Human Rights Council. Israel never allowed any of the special human rights rapporteurs, whether John Dugard or Richard Falk, to visit the occupied territories.
If Israel believes the Palestinian side is guilty of war crimes, let an international commission investigate. We are ready to be held accountable as long as it goes both ways. But everyone knows that there hasn't been such a level of suffering, bloodshed and killing as that which occurred between December 27 and January 19 since the Nakba in 1948.
bitterlemons: Are you hopeful that anyone will be brought to justice?
Sourani: Of course. We have to be optimistic. We are aware that the US provides full legal and political cover for Israel; we know Europe is part of a conspiracy of silence; we know Europe is even providing excuses for Israel's war, calling it a "defensive" war. But we also know that this was the first ever war crime broadcast live on TV with the whole world watching. And we know that what happened to our people was unjustified, unfair and illegal. We are not going to be good victims and stay quiet, and we are not going to give up.
We have no right to forget or forgive. One day, the situation will change. Do Jews have the right to prosecute Nazi war criminals? Of course. Do we have a right to prosecute Israeli war criminals? Of course.
I want Israeli military commanders to face justice. They seem proud of what they have done. If they can defend themselves, let them stand in a court of law and do just that.- Published 23/2/2009 © bitterlemons.org
Raji Sourani is director of the Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights.
Hamas said rally, which took place in front of the Al-Awda Mosque in Jabaliya, reaffirmed the holiness of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary, and in protest of repressive Israeli policies in Jerusalem. The demonstration was attended by Hamas officials from the northern Gaza branch of the movement.
Hamas spokesman Tal’at Al-Majdalawi said, “The movement will always defend the religions and God’s prophets, and will always stand by the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Jerusalem.”
The demonstration comes days after news that Israeli authorities ordered 1,500 Palestinians to leave their homes in the Bustan neighborhood of Jerusalem."
I think rallying in support of fellow Palestinians who are being evicted is understandable. What I don't understand is this sentence, which I'm not sure if it comes from Hamas or from the writer of the article:
"Hamas said rally... reaffirmed the holiness of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary!"
Isn't this kind of ... arrogant?
“Considering the UK’s historical role in the region and its continued arms sales to Israel, Al-Haq has come to the UK with the belief that the judicial system of the UK will provide, at the very least, hope for the Palestinian people and again provide meaning to the principle of justice and international law,” said Shawan Jabarin, the general director of Al-Haq...
"The UK has clear international law obligations to do something effective to stop Israel's attacks on Palestinian civilians,” said Shiner, who is leading the case on behalf of Al-Haq.
“The point of this case,” he added, “is to make the Government focus on what it is legally obliged to do, beyond ineffective hand-wringing pleas for Israel to behave properly, which, to date, have fallen on deaf ears."
Monday, February 23, 2009
That's really nice of Hamas.
In the faces of Israeli officials touring Europe. On the receiving end this time is an Israeli army officer speaking about the Israeli attack on Gaza in Amsterdam. Before him, the Israeli ambassador in Sweden received some footwear when he spoke at Stockholm University.
The Israeli strategy is to claim that the projectiles may look like shoes, they certainly smell like shoes, but they aren't shoes (feminists tried this argument a long time ago to no avail). They are weapons of mass destruction aimed at the mighty state.
The shoe decorated officer also whined that throwing them stifles freedom of speech. He must have received one smack in the mouth.
It takes much courage to be an Arab gay rights activist. And these people have lots of it!
When Hosna, the hero's widow, is forced to marry an older Sudanese man she doesn't want, and in reaction to his attempts to rape her, she murders him. The most gruesome scene in the novel is of the mutilated dead bodies of the rapist husband and his victim. I always thought that this scene challenges critics who, like the villagers, would rather remain silent about Hosna's rape and murder.
It's to Salih's credit that he didnt' only talk in his novel about colonial violence and its mirror image in Said's destructiveness. His novel is also about the "other/our" violence that is committed against Sudanese women (female "circumcision, forced marriage, rape). We don't do his memory justice by suppressing this important aspect of his work.
This is why I claim Hosna.