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Gaza 2020: has life become impossible for Palestinians?

13 Dec

VIDEO by Mohamed Hassan, NZ documentary-maker and senior journalist at Middle East Eye. 13 December 2019.

Israel’s siege is ‘main reason for Gaza’s catastrophe’

13 Dec

An explosion erupts in Gaza City during an Israeli air strike in May 2019 (AFP)

By Meron Rapoport, Middle East Eye, 13 December 2019 [Abridged]

Gaza 2020: Palestine’s crisis deepens – and still Israel sticks to its failed policies

Gaza needs more than cosmetic improvements, such as widening the fishing zone – it needs a permanent end to the blockade

One could easily claim that the Jewish-Israeli public is largely blind and deaf to the suffering of the people of Gaza. 

This moral indifference has been manifested repeatedly during the many military operations that Israel has launched on Gaza over the past decade.

Israeli soldiers stand by a military vehicle across the Gaza fence in June (AFP)

Even when entire families have been wiped out by Israeli bombing, very little attention has been paid to the subject in the Hebrew media; it is not part of the public debate. 

It therefore comes as no surprise that the UN warning that Gaza could become uninhabitable by 2020, now less than a month away, has failed to attract the Israeli public’s attention. 

Calls for Israel to disengage

The popular attitude in Israel towards Gaza could be summarised as follows: Palestinians in Gaza have brought trouble upon themselves by electing a Hamas government. Let them pay the price of this choice.

But the issue is much more complicated. Israel is well aware that a humanitarian crisis in Gaza could affect it directly. A 2017 report published by the Institute for National Security Studies, a leading Israeli think-tank, warns that the deteriorating water and sanitation crisis in Gaza could lead to the spreading of epidemics, such as cholera, into Israel.

Political and military logic has taken precedence over all other considerations: Even fears of a total collapse in Gaza are not enough to change this reality.

Fears over the deteriorating humanitarian crisis in Gaza have led to strengthened calls within the Israeli establishment to further disengage from Gaza – to let it run its own affairs, with minimum Israeli interference. Israel Katz, the former intelligence minister and now foreign minister, has proposed building an artificial island near Gaza’s shores, serving as a seaport for aid delivery. 

Yet, Israel has not reversed course, instead continuing its blockade on Gaza. The siege is the main, and perhaps the only, reason for Gaza’s catastrophe. But political and military logic has taken precedence over all other considerations: Even fears of a total collapse in Gaza are not enough to change this reality.

Is ICC about to slam the door on justice for Palestine?

12 Dec

A Palestinian man walks across the rubble of his home destroyed during Israel’s 51-day bombardment of the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2014, al-Shujaiyeh, Gaza City, April 2015. Ashraf Amra APA]

By Maureen Clare, Electronic Intifada, 11 December 2019

In the decade since Palestinians first petitioned the International Criminal Court, around 3,500 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli occupation forces in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Around 800 were children.

Israel has expanded its settlement colonies in the West Bank, encouraged by a Trump administration that has put Washington’s seal of approval on war crimes only tacitly endorsed by previous US governments.

That tacit support has been more than symbolic.

Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, signed a $38 billion military aid pact with Israel – the “single largest pledge of bilateral military assistance in US history” by the State Department’s admission.

All that to secure Israel’s military occupation, now in its sixth decade, and the violent oppression that it requires.

The Gaza Strip has remained under a cruel and illegal siege of collective punishment, all but destroying the economy and plunging the territory’s population of two million into poverty and unprecedented despair.

In 2014, Israel subjected Gaza to a 51-day military assault, during which nearly 150 families lost three or more members in a single Israeli strike as Israel targeted homes, schools, hospitals and other civilian infrastructure.

Two years later, B’Tselem, Israel’s leading human rights organization, declared that it would no longer cooperate with the Israeli military’s sham system of self-investigation, stating that it only serves as a fig leaf for the occupation.

The UN Human Rights Council tasked several independent commissions of inquiry to investigate Israeli crimes in Gaza. They published their reports, but their calls for accountability were ignored or undermined by those in a position to challenge Israeli impunity.

The international boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, which seeks to pressure Israel into respecting Palestinian rights, has been put in the crosshairs of Israel’s strategic affairs ministry.

Palestinian leaders of that popular movement have been punished and threatened, while international BDS supporters are criminalized and smeared.

The preliminary examination of the situation in Palestine by the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has provided a glimmer of hope in this otherwise bleak landscape.

But anyone concerned with justice in Palestine should be alarmed by the chief prosecutor’s latest progress report on the preliminary examinations in the West Bank and Gaza and elsewhere.

In it, chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda states that she “believes that it is time to take the necessary steps to bring the preliminary examination to a conclusion.”

“Distorted quest for balance”

Since 2015, Bensouda has been conducting the preliminary examination into alleged war crimes in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. She has yet to open any formal investigations that could lead to prosecutions.

“The delay in proceeding to investigation … is of grave concern,” three Palestinian human rights groups state in a response to Bensouda’s report, published last week.

The groups – Al-Haq, Al Mezan and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights – say that the section on the situation in Palestine in Bensouda’s report contains “a number of unwarranted and disturbing omissions.”

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What does the future hold as Gaza faces 2020?

12 Dec

A Palestinian boy walks bare-foot following a storm in the village of Al-Moghraga, near the Nuseirat refugee camp, central Gaza in February 2016 (AFP)

By Maha Hussaini, Nada Nabi, Middle East Eye, 11 December 2019

Gaza 2020: ‘Our worst nightmare is when it starts raining’

Palestinians, living under the Israeli blockade, describe conditions in the territory

The United Nations issued a report seven years ago warning that by 2020, the Gaza Strip could be uninhabitable due to severe problems with its water, power, healthcare and education systems. 

Today, on the eve of 2020, MEE spoke with a homeowner, a doctor and a teacher about how their lives have changed in recent years – and what the future may hold.

The homeowner: Aisha Abu Nemer

Aisha Abu Nemer says her family struggles to access clean water (Sanad Latefa/MEE)

Aisha Abu Nemer, 23, lives with her husband and three children – aged eight, six and eight months – in Khan Younis in southern Gaza. 

The shabby house, located in a marginalised, poor neighbourhood, is 50 square metres in total and topped with a tin roof. The family lives in one room, which serves as a living room, kitchen and toilet. In an adjoining, single bedroom where all the family sleeps, there is a mattress on the floor and a white closet, the only piece of furniture in the home.

None of this protects Aisha Abu Nemer and her family from Gaza’s heat, cold or damp.

“Our worst nightmare is when it starts raining,” she tells MEE. “We have to get up at midnight to fill buckets with the rainwater that floods the house and remove the mattresses and blankets from the floor.

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Israel supporters defend Trump’s vicious anti-Semitism

10 Dec

US President Donald Trump pats Las Vegas Sands Corporation chief executive and Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson on the arm before speaking at the Israeli-American Council National Summit in Hollywood, Florida, 7 December.[Patrick Semansky AP Photo]

By Ali Abunimah, Electronic Intifada,10 December 2019

On Saturday, President Donald Trump spewed out an anti-Semitic diatribe at the Florida conference of the Israeli-American Council, a major lobby group.

“A lot of you are in the real estate business because I know you very well,” Trump told the largely Jewish audience.

“You’re brutal killers, not nice people at all, but you have to vote for me. You have no choice.”

According to the president, Jews would vote to re-elect him just to protect their wealth. He also suggested that some Jews are not sufficiently loyal to Israel.

“We have to get them to love Israel more because you have people that are Jewish people, that are great people – they don’t love Israel enough,” Trump said.

J Street denounced the president’s speech.

The liberal Israel lobby group stated that the president “is incapable of addressing Jewish audiences without dipping into the deep well of anti-Semitic tropes that shape his worldview.”

Democratic Majority for Israel, a lobby group founded to attack supporters of Palestinian rights within the Democratic Party, called the president’s trafficking in anti-Semitic stereotypes “disgusting.”

But what is remarkable is how mainstream pro-Israel Jewish communal groups tip-toed around the president’s words.

Their criticism fell far short of clear condemnation, and the reason is clear: They are prepared to tolerate an anti-Semite and white supremacist in the White House as long as he supports Israel.

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Prospects for a formal ICC investigation into the Palestine situation are nil

10 Dec

Absent a formal investigation by the ICC, Israeli crimes against the Palestinian people can continue with impunity.[Mohammed Sabaaneh]

Is there any prospect of an investigation into the ‘situation in Palestine’ under the watch of the present Prosecutor of the ICC, Fatou Bensouda?

No, there is not, John Dugard explains, for reasons that might be considered shocking.

Rights Forum, 9 December 2019.

I have a short and easy answer to the question posed. No, there is no prospect of such an investigation under the watch of the present Prosecutor of the ICC, Fatou Bensouda, whose term of office expires in 2021.

Why do I say this?

It has become abundantly clear that the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) is determined not to open an investigation into crimes committed by Israel in Palestine and against the Palestinian people. On 16 January 2015 the Prosecutor commenced a preliminary examination into the situation in Palestine. On 15 May 2018 Palestine itself referred the matter to the ICC.

However, the Prosecutor had already conducted a preliminary examination into the situation in Palestine in 2009, which was discontinued in April 2012, and into the Gaza Flotilla situation from 2013. This means that the OTP has been conducting a preliminary examination for ten years into a situation on which there are four Human Rights Council independent fact-finding mission reports, an advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice, resolutions of the Security Council and General Assembly, numerous Israeli, Palestinian and international NGO reports, extensive TV coverage and video recordings depicting and testifying to war crimes and crimes against humanity.

And to date it has found no basis to proceed to the next stage of an investigation – which has been reaffirmed by the Prosecutor in her latest report on preliminary examinations. A report which, as usual, fails to give a straight and reasoned explanation for her failure to commence an investigation.

Coupled with this is the persistent refusal of the Prosecutor to open an investigation into the Comoros case [Mavi Marmara – ed.], despite urgings from the judges of the Court.

In my view the only explanation for this refusal to investigate the situation in Palestine and that of the Comoros is that the Prosecutor’s office is guided by extra legal, political considerations in its decision-making.

I am satisfied that there is more than sufficient evidence to support a finding that Israel has committed war crimes by using excessive and disproportionate force and violence against civilians in Gaza and the West Bank. I am also convinced that the evidence is clear that Israel’s settlement enterprise constitutes apartheid and has resulted in the forcible displacement and transfer of thousands of Palestinians from their homes, meaning that it has committed crimes against humanity.

I am, however, reluctantly willing to accept that there may conceivably, possibly be some debate about the law and the evidence relating to the commission of these crimes.

So instead let me base my claim that extra legal factors guide the OTP on the crime of the transfer by the Occupying Power – Israel – of parts of its civilian population into the occupied territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Here the law and facts are clear and permit no possibility whatsoever of dispute or debate.

The law is clear. Article 8(2)(viii) of the Rome Statute makes such conduct a war crime. So do articles 49(6) of the Fourth Geneva Convention and 85(4)(a) of the 1977 Protocol to the Geneva Conventions. So does customary international law.[1]

The facts are clear. Some 700,000 Jewish Israeli settlers live in some 130 settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. These settlements are clearly within occupied Palestinian territory – as held by the International Court of Justice in 2004.[2] Israel continues to expand its settlement empire. These facts have been repeatedly drawn to the attention of the OTP by the Government of Palestine and NGOs.

The evidence clearly provides a reasonable basis to believe that a crime within the jurisdiction of the Court has been committed as required by the Statute of the ICC.[3] Failure to act in these circumstances, when the evidence of Israel’s criminality relating to the expansion of settlements grows, not only removes any pretence of deterrence, but in addition contributes to the commission of the crime. Culpable failure to take steps to suppress a crime when under a duty to do so makes the Prosecutor complicit in the commission of the crime.

There is overwhelming authoritative support for the conclusion that Israel’s settlements are illegal under international law. The International Court of Justice unanimously held the settlements have been established in breach of international law.[4] The Security Council has on many occasions condemned settlements as illegal, most recently in 2016 in resolution 2334. The General Assembly has annually condemned settlements as illegal. The EU and almost all states have condemned settlements as illegal. The International Committee of the Red Cross agrees. Even Israel’s own legal adviser: Theodor Meron advised that they were illegal when Israel embarked upon this colonial enterprise. (Of course President Trump has a different opinion, but this is only evidence in favour of a contrary position.)

This all leads me to conclude that non-legal, political factors guide the decision-making of the OTP. But how have these factors determined the decision-making of the OPT? As I see it, there are two possibilities: a deliberate collective decision by the Prosecutor, her deputy and senior officers not to prosecute; or inarticulated factors that have led the Prosecutor and her staff to a bias in favour of Israel.

The first explanation envisages a deliberate, collective decision on the part of the Prosecutor and her senior staff not to open an investigation. The most likely reason for such a decision would be fear of retaliation from Israel and the United States. Or it might be sensitivity to the widespread view, prevalent among European states, that the ICC is too fragile an institution to withstand the backlash that might follow such an investigation. While such a collective decision is possible I do not think it is the likely explanation.

The second explanation, that inarticulated factors have determined the decision requires some explanation.

The American legal realists, a respectable school of jurisprudence, argues that the judicial decision is the outcome of the entire life-history of the judge; that rules of law and concealed stimuli such as the judge’s political and moral prejudices interact to produce the judicial decision. US Supreme Court Justice Benjamin Cardozo warned that ‘Deep below the consciousness are … forces, the likes and dislikes, the predilections and prejudices, the complex of instincts and emotions and habits and convictions’ of a judge which contribute to the judicial decision.

Such inarticulated factors contribute even more to the decision-making of prosecutors. Inarticulate factors are more significant in the context of prosecutorial discretion – a broad grant of discretionary authority with little oversight and limited transparency. It is far easier for a prosecutor to succumb to improper inarticulated influences when she believes that she will not have to publicly justify her position.

Although the decision to investigate is primarily that of the Prosecutor it is strange that no member of her staff has publicly raised objections to the decision not to investigate. One would have expected a whistleblower to expose the decision making of the Prosecutor and her senior staff. The only explanation for this is that they too have reasons, inarticulated, to acquiesce in the decision.

As most members of the OTP staff have limited tenure and are required to consider their next professional post there is inevitably the fear that future job opportunities may be jeopardized by a decision to investigate Israel which will be interpreted by potential employers as a sign of anti-Semitism. There is also the fear that this may result in refusal of entry to the United States. Most European states view Israel as part of the European alliance (hence its inclusion in WEOG, the group of Western European and Others Group in the United Nations) and therefore as a state exempt from investigation by the ICC. Failure to respect this ‘given’ may understandably be seen as an obstacle to future employment.

The inarticulate premise of the Prosecutor is of paramount importance. Are there factors in her life-history, particularly in The Gambia, that may provide some indication of inarticulated reasons for her decision to protect Israel from investigation?

Between 1987 and 2000 Fatou Bensouda was Principal State Counsel, Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions, Attorney General and Minister of Justice, and Chief Legal Advisor to the President and Cabinet of the Republic of The Gambia. From 1994 to 2016 The Gambia was under the brutal dictatorship of Yahya Jammeh. Repression was the order of the day as human rights were vigorously suppressed. The Minister of Justice could not remain aloof from this. That she was involved in this process of repression has become clear from evidence before The Gambian Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC). Two men, Batch Samba Jallow and Sainey Faye have recently testified that she was complicit in their brutal torture, long detention without trial and denial of legal representation.[5] This has led two Venezuelan lawyers[6] to lay a complaint with the head of the Independent Oversight Mechanism (IOM) of the ICC that claims that she is unfit to hold the office of Prosecutor. Fatou Bensouda is not on record as having criticized or distanced herself from Yahya Jammeh.

These complaints call for a serious and urgent investigation into the fitness of the Prosecutor to hold office. It is the fear that further abuses may be revealed by Israel if she initiates an investigation may well be the inarticulate factor in her decision not to investigate Israel.

In South Africa, during the apartheid era, legal scholars invoked the methods of the American legal realists to expose the inarticulate premises of white judges who routinely delivered racist and pro-executive decisions.[7] This led to a heightened awareness on the part of judges of the nature of the judicial decision and resulted in more fair and independent decisions. American legal realism is a powerful antidote in an unjust and corrupt system. It might profitably be employed in an examination of the work of the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC.

The purpose of my talk tonight is to make the Prosecutor and her staff aware of the dangers of being guided by their inarticulate premises; premises that have led to a failure to deliver justice for the Palestinian people. I have attempted to expose the kind of extra-legal factors that have probably led the Prosecutor and her staff to show bias in favour of Israel. I hope that they will seriously examine their consciences and question their inarticulate motives for failure to do justice for the Palestinian people.

The above text was presented by John Dugard at a side event to the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute; The Hague, December 5th, 2019. Dugard is a member of the Advisory Council of The Rights Forum.

John Dugard is Emeritus Professor of Law at the universities of Leiden and the Witwatersrand; Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights Situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, 2001 to 2008; Former Judge ad hoc International Court of Justice; and a member of the Advisory Board of The Rights Forum.

[1] J-M Henkaerts and L Doswald-Beck, Customary International Humanitarian Law, Vol I: Rules, ICRC, CUP, 2005, Rule 130, p 462.

[2] Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, 2004 ICJ Reports 136, paras 78, 122.

[3] Article 53(1)(a) of the Rome Statute.

[4] Ibid, para 120. Judge Buergenthal of the United States concurred in this finding.

[5] Thierry Cruvellier and Mustapha K Darboe, ‘Will Fatou Bensouda Face the Truth Commission in Gambia?’, JusticeInfo.Net, Fondation Hirondelle, commission-trrc-gambia.html

[6] Carlos Ramirez Lopez and Walter Marquez, retired deputy of the Nationl Assembly of Venezuela and President of the AEl Amparo Foundation. Complaint of 2 August 2019.

[7] See J Dugard, Human Rights and the South African Legal Order, Princeton University Press, 1978, pp 366-388; J Dugard, ‘The Judicial Process, Positivism and Civil Liberty’ (1971), South African Law Journal 181; J Dugard, Confronting Apartheid. A Personal History of South Africa, Namibia and Palestine, Jacana 2019, pp 52-53.

See also:

Human Rights / The Rights Forum calls for broad protest against passive ICC

NOTE: The Rights Forum has petitioned International Criminal Court to open an investigation into possible war crimes in the Occupied Palestinian Territories without further delay. This demand will be hand-delivered to the ICC today, 10 December, on behalf of a coalition of organizations, including Kia Ora Gaza and Palestine Solidarity Network Aotearoa.

While International Law fails, the Freedom Flotilla sails

9 Dec

Part of the Freedom Flotilla Coalition contingent (including Kia Ora Gaza reps) which joined the protest at the International Criminal Court, at the Hague last weekend. [Photo: Ann Wright]

Freedom Flotilla Coalition statement, 6 December, 2019

“This is not over yet, we are calling on Judges of the International Criminal Court to step in.”

On December 2 2019, the International Criminal Court (ICC)’s Public Prosecutor’s Office decided not to open an investigation into war crimes committed by members of the Israeli military in the boarding of the Mavi Marmara, and its aftermath, which resulted in 10 people being killed, 55 people wounded and outrages upon the personal dignity of potentially many others during the voyage to Ashdod. In its decision, it did not give any new reasons and failed to address the shortcomings of the previous investigation. Lawyers representing the victims of the 2010 Israeli attack on the Mavi Marmara are appealing to judges at the ICC to fulfill their function of serving justice and international law.

Lawyers for IHH, a Freedom Flotilla member, have issued a statement announcing that they will appeal the recent decision by the ICC prosecutor to the judges of the ICC:

“We believe that the judges of the ICC will not remain indifferent to this call for justice and initiate a trial process for the punishment of all unjust actions taking place in Palestine. All necessary appeals will be made and the on-going process with the ICC will be followed.”

While the wheels of justice turn slowly, the Palestinians of Gaza cannot wait, as conditions in the illegally occupied and blockaded territory continue to deteriorate. That is why the Freedom Flotilla will be sailing again in May 2020: to challenge this illegal and inhumane blockade of Gaza, along with our governments’ complicity.

The full statement of the lawyers for the victims of the Israeli attacks on the Mavi Marmara is available here on the IHH website.

For media inquiries, please contact any of the Freedom Flotilla Coalition spokespeople.



‘Shameless racism’ claim as 13 countries switch their vote at UN in favour of Israel

6 Dec

..but why did NZ abstain?

Making a first, 13 countries, including Germany, voted against a Pro-Palestine resolution at the United Nations this week. Why did NZ abstain? (Photo: File)

Palestine Chronicle, 5 December 2019

For the first time, 13 countries changed their longstanding positions and voted against a pro-Palestine measure at the United Nations on Tuesday.

Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Greece, Lithuania, Netherlands, Romania, Slovakia, Brazil, and Colombia voted against the annual resolution regarding the “Division for Palestinian Rights of the Secretariat”, according to the Times of Israel.

They had previously abstained on the vote.

The resolution, which includes a call to halt to illegal Israeli settlements being constructed in the occupied West Bank, still passed with a large majority voting in favor.

The Palestinian representative told the council: “If you protect Israel, it will destroy you all.” He also said Israel’s character as a Jewish state is “shameless racism”.

The New York-based Division for Palestinian Rights oversees the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.

The resolution was co-sponsored by Comoros, Cuba, Indonesia, Jordan, Kuwait, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.

The UK, France, and Spain abstained, as they do every year, allowing the resolution to pass with a vote of 87-54, with 21 other abstentions.

The General Assembly adopted five resolutions on the question of Palestine and the Middle East, including one calling on the Member States not to recognize any changes to the pre-1967 borders, including with regards to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties through negotiations.

(Sources: Middle East Monitor, PC, Social Media)


Below is an extract from the website of Division for Palestinian Rights of the United Nations Department of Political Affairs (DPA) in New York which provides an overview of numerous UN actors that work on the Question of Palestine around the globe, including the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP) and various other United Nations organs, bodies and agencies such as the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Secretariat and the Human Rights Council.

The Division for Palestinian Rights

The Division for Palestinian Rights serves as the Secretariat of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP) and provides the following core functions:

Protest demands action from International Criminal Court

5 Dec

On Friday 29 November – the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People – a coalition of sixty organizations from 14 countries held a demonstration at the International Criminal Court offices in The Hague, demanding the ICC opens a full-scale investigation of Israeli war crimes in Palestine and pursue charges for their deadly commando attack on the Gaza flotilla in 2010 which killed 10 civilians and injured 56 others on the Mavi Marmara

The spirited protest included representatives from the Freedom Flotilla Coalition and Kia Ora Gaza (see photo below).

But the struggle goes on – a few days later this item appeared in the news:

No Charges to Be Brought in Gaza Freedom Flotilla Case

By MOLLY QUELL, The Hague, Courthouse News, 4 December 2019

The International Criminal Court prosecutor has declined to pursue charges in the Gaza Freedom Flotilla case, in which Israeli commandos killed 10 humanitarian aid workers in 2010.

“There remains no reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation, since there is no reasonable basis to conclude that any potential case arising from the situation would be of sufficient gravity to be admissible before the Court,” International Criminal Court prosecutor Fatou Bensouda wrote in a brief this week.

The MV Mavi Marmara, part of the humanitarian flotilla sent to Gaza and intercepted by Israeli forces. (Adambro/Flickr via Wikipedia)

Bensouda decided in 2014 not to bring charges against Israel for its role in the deaths of the aid workers attempting to bring relief to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, but the Appeals Chamber ordered her to reconsider her decision this year.

The Union of the Comoros, which brought the complaint, requested a review of the decision not to pursue charges in 2015.

Israel is not a party to the 2002 Rome Statute that created the court, but the relief ship that Israel attacked, the Mavi Marmara was registered in the Union of the Comoros, an island nation off the coast of Mozambique, which is a signatory.

“This is fundamentally a dispute between the judges and the prosecutor,” said Kevin Jon Heller, an associate professor of public international law at the University of Amsterdam.

At the International Criminal Court, cases are brought at the discretion of the prosecutor. If the prosecutor declines to bring a case, both parties and states can appeal. In that case, the Appeals Chamber, which consists of the president of the court and four other judges, can request that the prosecutor reconsider.

Bensouda’s office has the final say in the decision.

After the 2007 Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip, Israel and Egypt blockaded the self-governing Palestinian territory, including a naval blockade of the territory’s Mediterranean coast.

Nongovernmental organizations organized the Gaza Freedom Flotilla to bring humanitarian aid to the 140 square-mile strip of land.

Six of the flotilla’s ships were boarded by the Israeli military. Ten activists of the 600 aboard the flagship, the Mavi Marmara, were killed when Israeli commandos rappelled onto the ship by helicopter. Israel claims they were attacked by the activists, while those aboard the vessel say the shooting began as soon as the commandos landed on the ship.

After her preliminary investigation, Fatou Bensouda said in a statement: “I have concluded that the potential case(s) likely arising from an investigation into this incident would not be of ‘sufficient gravity’ to justify further action by the ICC. The gravity requirement is an explicit legal criteria set by the Rome Statute.”

Marco Longobardo, a lecturer in international law at the University of Westminster in the United Kingdom, said, “The concept of sufficient gravity is not defined but it is referenced in the Rome Statute as one of the criteria for bringing cases.” The concept was included in the treaty to ensure that the ICC would not get involved in minor cases.

There is no further avenue for appeal.

A related story:

Top IDF lawyer tells The Hague to back off, says Israel can probe own alleged war crimes

Part of the big demonstration at ICC in The Hague last Friday. [Photos: Kia Ora Gaza]

Freedom Flotilla 2020: For the Children of Gaza

5 Dec


Some of the delegates at the Freedom Flotilla Coalition planning meeting in Rotterdam last weekend.

Freedom Flotilla Coalition statement, 4 December, 2019

After joining other civil society organizations in The Hague on Friday November 29 calling on the International Criminal Court to take action and prosecute Israeli crimes against Palestinians, the Freedom Flotilla Coalition met in Rotterdam this weekend to plan our May 2020 sailing towards Gaza with these important goals:

  • To challenge and end the illegal and inhuman Israeli blockade of Gaza
  • To restore the rights of children and youth in Gaza, for life, security and freedom of movement.

For more than five years the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has been warning the world that Gaza will become uninhabitable by 2020 if the blockade does not end. Basic human rights of Palestinians in Gaza are violated daily by the Israeli-imposed blockade, including the right to adequate housing, the right to education, the right to healthcare, the right to clean water and food, and in particular the right to freedom of movement.

Civil society organizations from around the world have combined to challenge the blockade since 2008, when Free Gaza boats managed to arrive in Gaza and leave again peacefully. In all, more than 35 boats have sailed to challenge the blockade. May 2020 will mark 10 years since the attack by Israeli forces on boats including the Mavi Marmara, where they killed 10 people and seriously wounded 56 others. Since 2010 we have sailed as the Freedom Flotilla Coalition: international civil society organizations united for human rights and dedicated to challenging the blockade of Gaza through nonviolent direct action. 

“The children of Gaza deserve the same rights as children in every other country of the world,” comments Ann Wright of the US Boat to Gaza. “They are more than a million, more than half of the population of Gaza, and they are being deprived of the right to a just future because of the illegal blockade and ongoing military attacks on occupied Gaza by Israel, with the complicity of our governments.”

The Freedom Flotilla Coalition calls on people of conscience from around the world to support our May 2020 mission for the children of Gaza.

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For further background information, see:
For media comment, contact our campaign spokespeople:



Make a direct payment to our bank account: Kia Ora Gaza Trust, 03-0211-0447718-000, Westpac Bank, Onehunga branch. Afterwards, email with your deposit details so our Board of Trustees can send you an e-receipt.

Write a cheque for ‘Kia Ora Gaza’ and post to: Kia Ora Gaza Trust, P.O. Box 86022, Mangere East, Auckland 2158

Kia Ora Gaza is a Charitable Trust incorporated under the Charitable Trusts Act 1957. Registration number 2540065 However we are not registered with IRD for tax deduction purposes, as Kia Ora Gaza is deemed to be mainly an advocacy group.

New video: Dreams in the crosshairs

26 Nov

The Freedom Flotilla Coalition is proud to sponsor this inspiring and powerful new film by We Are Not Numbers, called “Dreams in the Crosshairs”, produced by Rakan Abed El Rahman.

As our friends at We Are Not Numbers write: When Israeli snipers shoot protesters, medics and journalists in Gaza’s Great Return March, they are trying to do more than maim and kill. Their goal is to destroy the dreams of a new generation. But that is harder to do, and they won’t succeed.
Please watch & share:


Kia Ora Gaza is a member of the Freedom Flotilla Coalition which is planning another international attempt to break Israel’s illegal blockade of Gaza in 2020.

Settlements still violate international law

24 Nov

TRT World interview with US/Palestinian author, Dr Ramzy Baroud. 20 November 2019.

Reassert illegality of Israel settlements on occupied land

20 Nov

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Israel’s PM Netanyahu.

Palestine Solidarity Network Aotearoa statement, 19 November 2019

In a letter to the Minster of Foreign Affairs today, the Palestine Solidarity Network Aotearoa has called on Winston Peters to reject the historic reversal of US policy, announced by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo yesterday, whereby the US under Donald Trump now says Israeli settlements built in occupied Palestine are “not inconsistent with international law”.

This interpretation of international law involves mesmerising legal gymnastics and verbal contortions which have been employed for political rather than legal reasons.

We are not aware of any significant entity outside the US and Israeli governments which agrees with this position.

In recent days UN Special Rapporteur on Palestinian Territories, Michael Lynk, has called once more for international action to pressure Israel to abandon illegal settlement building and urged countries to develop a series of progressive sanctions to pressure Israel to abide by international law and United Nations Security Council resolutions.

New Zealand has been consistent in its view of illegal settlement building and it is important in the current context that we say so clearly and without ambiguity as the European Union has done.

In line with the recent UN report we should also make clear that Israel’s continuing flagrant abuses of international law and UN resolutions will have political consequences for their relationship with New Zealand and the international community.

John Minto,

National Chair, Palestine Solidarity Network Aotearoa

Take action NOW to support the Palestinian struggle in Gaza

16 Nov

Gaza medical officials have put the death toll from the two days of fighting at 34, almost half of them Palestinians civilians and including eight children and three women. In Israel, at least 63 Israelis received treatment for injuries.

A call to action by Chair of Palestine Solidarity Network Aotearoa, John Minto, 15 November 2019

Take action NOW to support the Palestinian struggle in GAZA

What we want you to do right now:

Email the Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters to demand the government remove the racist tweet and condemn the political assassinations carried out by Israel which caused rockets to be launched from GAZA.

(Copy your email to your local member of parliament – no matter what party!)


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Three children killed as Israel escalates Gaza attacks

14 Nov

Relatives of a slain Palestinian mourn outside of al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City on 13 November. [Mahmoud Ajjour APA]

By Tamara Nassar, The Electronic Intifada, 14 November 2019

The number of Palestinians killed in the Gaza Strip rose to at least 25 on Wednesday as Israel escalated its lethal attacks on the territory that began on Tuesday morning.

Three children are among those slain.

Gaza’s health ministry said that more than 85 Palestinians have been injured, including 30 children.

Israel extrajudicially executed Islamic Jihad leader Baha Abu al-Ata early Tuesday along with his wife, provoking an exchange of Israeli missile strikes on Gaza and rocket fire from the territory.

Israel is targeting civilian areas, homes, vehicles, stores, security sites and fields, the human rights group Al Mezan stated on Wednesday.

Some 15 schools in the Gaza Strip have been damaged as a result of the escalation, according to the territory’s education ministry.

No serious Israeli injuries have been reported as of this writing as a result of rockets fired by Palestinian resistance groups in response to the Israeli attacks.

This has been the most serious military confrontation between Israel and Palestinian resistance factions in the Gaza Strip in months.

Egyptian intelligence officials are attempting to broker a ceasefire, but Tel Aviv daily Haaretz said an agreement was unlikely to materialize quickly.

Islamic Jihad secretary-general Ziad al-Nakhala told Lebanon’s al-Mayadeen TV channel that the group’s demands for a ceasefire with Israel include an end to extrajudicial assassinations and the killing of Palestinian protesters at the Israel-Gaza boundary fence, and lifting Israel’s 12-year siege on the Strip.

Al-Nakhala said he expected an answer by Wednesday night.

Children killed

An Israeli missile strike killed a father and his two sons riding a motorcycle near their home on Wednesday morning.

Rafat Muhammad Ayyad, 54, and his sons Islam Rafat Ayyad, 24, and Amir Rafat Ayyad, 7 [pictured above] were in the al-Zaytoun neighbourhood of Gaza City trying to get to the nearby al-Shifa hospital when an Israeli missile hit, killing all three. [Report: Defense for Children @DCIPalestine ]

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‘NZ govt must condemn political assassinations’

13 Nov

Senior Palestinian resistance leader Bahaa Abu Al Ata and his wife were assassinated by a Israeli missile attack on their Gaza City home on Tuesday morning. [Photo: Social media]

Palestine Solidarity Network Aotearoa, Media Release, 13 November 2019

New Zealand government must condemn political assassinations

In a letter today to the New Zealand Foreign Minister, Winston Peters, the Palestine Solidarity Network Aotearoa is calling on the government to condemn the political assassination of two leaders of Islamic Jihad.

Within the last 24 hours Israel simultaneously attacked the homes of two leaders of Islamic Jihad in Gaza and Syria, killing Bahaa Abu Al Ata and his wife in their house in Gaza, and the son of Akram al-Ajjouri in the al-Ajjouri house in Damascus.

Whatever one thinks of the policies and actions of Islamic Jihad they are the micro issue. The macro issue is the brutal racist behaviour of Israel which has terrorised the Palestinian population of Palestine and the wider Middle East for over 70 years.

We want Winston Peters to demand an explanation from the Israeli government for these illegal political assassinations, as well as the blatant breach of both the 2014 ceasefire agreement with Hamas, and the recently-negotiated (20/05/2019) six-month ceasefire agreement which is technically still in force.

With the death and destruction which follows this Israeli outrage we join with the rest of the world in calling for medical and financial assistance, and the lifting of the blockade of Gaza, to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian refugees.

John Minto

National Chair, Palestine Solidarity Network Aotearoa

[For more on this click on: ]

Ten killed in Gaza as Israel instigates new war

13 Nov

VIDEO by PressTV: Palestinian resistance leader assassinated during Israeli airstrike on Gaza, 12 Nov 2019.

By Maureen Clare, The Electronic Intifada, 13 November 2019

Israeli missile strikes on Gaza and rocket fire from the territory continued late Tuesday evening after the assassination of an Islamic Jihad leader earlier in the day set off the most serious military confrontation in months.

Ten Palestinians were killed in Israeli strikes during the day, according to Gaza’s health ministry. Meanwhile, Israel closed the besieged territory’s crossing points and reduced the fishing zone to six nautical miles off of Gaza’s coast.

The spokesperson for Islamic Jihad’s military wing vowed late Tuesday that the “coming hours will mark a victory for the Palestinian people. Israel began this campaign, but it will be notified when it ends.”

Baha Abu al-Ata, 42, described by Israeli media as the northern military commander of Islamic Jihad in Gaza, was killed in an airstrike on his home in the Shujaiyeh neighborhood of Gaza City.

Baha Abu al-Ata, who was killed in an Israeli airstrike on 12 November [File photo. Ashraf Amra APA ]

His wife, Asma Abu al-Ata, 38, was also killed in the Israeli attack. Seven other people, including four children, were injured and nearby houses and a school were damaged.

Meanwhile, in the Syrian capital, the home of Akram al-Ajouri, the head of Islamic Jihad’s military wing, was targeted in an airstrike. Syria blamed Israel for the attack.

Two people were reported killed in the strike, including one of al-Ajouri’s sons.

Palestinian fighters in Gaza responded to the attacks with rocket fire that reached as far as Tel Aviv. Ziad al-Nakhala, Islamic Jihad’s secretary-general, stated that “we are going to war” and that Israel’s prime minister “crossed all the red lines” by assassinating Abu al-Ata.

A toy factory in Sderot, a town in southern Israel, was among the sites hit by rockets fired from Gaza, and security camera footage showed a rocket striking a highway, nearly hitting motorists:

No serious Israeli casualties were reported on Tuesday.

On Tuesday morning, a missile hit the offices Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights in Gaza City, lightly injuring one of its staff members.

Amnesty International condemned the attack, stating that “strikes targeting civilian buildings [are] a violation of international law.”

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Israeli soldiers shoot dead defenceless Palestinian man

12 Nov

A defenceless Palestinian man, Omar al-Badawi, 22, has been shot dead by Israeli forces in the West Bank village of al-Arroub, during marches marking the 15th anniversary of the late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat’s death.

Middle East Eye, 11 November 2019

A Palestinian was shot and killed by Israeli forces on Monday morning in al-Arroub refugee camp in the southern occupied West Bank, the Palestinian Authority (PA) confirmed.

Official PA news agency Wafa reported that a Palestinian identified as Omar Haitham al-Badawi, 22, was shot in the abdomen at the entrance of al-Arroub during a march commemorating the 15th anniversary of the death of Palestinian president Yasser Arafat.

“There were protests in commemoration of Yasser Arafat’s death, like every year,” Mohammad Badawi, a 28-year-old cousin of Omar Badawi, told Middle East Eye. “Then the Israeli army entered the camp.

“Soldiers were firing live ammunition, tear gas and sound bombs into the crowd, and one of the tear gas cannisters exploded next to Omar’s house, causing a small fire,” Mohammad, 28, recounted. “So he stepped outside of his house to go see what was wrong. He was holding a bottle of water, and communicated to one of the soldiers that he was just going to put out the fire. The soldier immediately fired live ammunition at him in his abdomen and he fell to the ground.”

Footage published by Palestinian news outlet J Media reportedly showed the moment Badawi was shot at close range, as Mohammad estimated his cousin was some 50 metres away from the soldiers.

“Omar did not present any danger to them. You can see in the photos he was in his house clothes, still wearing his house slippers when he came outside,” Mohammad Badawi said. 

In the video, soldiers are seen firing bullets and throwing tear gas cannisters, even as Palestinian journalists and civilians attempt to carry Badawi to safety.

“Omar al-Badawi was not throwing stones or participating in the protests,” camp resident Ahmad Muhammad Adawi told MEE. “He was just observing, standing at the entrance to his home when he was shot in his side.”

Mohammad Badawi said Israeli forces had closed off all exits to the refugee camp during the raid, forcing the vehicle transporting his injured cousin to go through lengthy detours before reaching a hospital.

“They tried to help him at the hospital but he died shortly after they arrived,” he said.

An Israeli army spokesperson told Middle East Eye that Israeli forces entered al-Arroub on Monday morning after Palestinians allegedly “threw stones at an adjacent road” during a “riot”. The spokesperson said they did not have further information on the circumstances surrounding Badawi’s death.

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Outrage after leaked video shows Israeli officer shoot Palestinian in the back

6 Nov

VIDEO published by CGTN America [4 Nov 2019] Israeli officers apparently filmed themselves shooting an unarmed Palestinian in the back in a now-viral leaked video. The shooting occurred about a year and a half ago, and the officer involved has not been indicted yet.

By Yumna Patel. Mondoweiss, 4 November, 2019

Palestinian social media erupted over the weekend as people expressed their outrage over a leaked video showing and Israeli border police officer shooting a Palestinian in the back as the man walked away from the officers, his hands raised in the air.

The video, taken last year, was leaked over the weekend and broadcast to the public on Saturday by Israel’s Channel 13.

Footage shows Israeli border police officers ordering an unidentified Palestinian man to turn around and walk away from the officers, who were stationed at a checkpoint between the West Bank and Jerusalem.

“’Run already,’ the officers tell the man, who then swiftly turns around, puts his hands in the air, and hastily walks away from the officers.

Seconds later, while one officer films using his phone, another one of the officers fires a sponge-tipped bullet, which can be lethal when fired at close range, hitting the man in the back. He then falls to the ground, and can be heard screaming in pain.

According to Haaretz (Israeli newspaper), the incident came to light last year during an investigation into another incident involving border police officers who beat a Palestinian man for no apparent reason.

The offending female officer, reportedly around 20 years old, was arrested along with four of her fellow officers, and discharged from the border police, only to then be reinstated as a soldier in the army to complete her mandatory service.

Israeli police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld told the media that the other border policemen who were present at the scene were “removed and some of them were transferred from their positions.”

At a court hearing for the officer last October, Haaretz reported that the judge said the officer apparently shot the Palestinian “as a dubious form of entertainment”.

“The video shows the magnitude of blind hatred and Zionist racism,” the PLO said in a statement, saying “Palestinian lives and blood have become the funiest place for human killers.”

Dr. Hanan Ashrawi took to Twitter to express her anger, writing “crass and cruel inhumanity: the horror of the unconscionable when unarmed Palestinians are shot in cold blood just because ‘brave’ Israeli soldiers can do it with impunity and for their own entertainment. Stop #IsraeliCrimes. #FreePalestine.”

Much of the frustration expressed by Palestinians on social media over the weekend came not only from the shooting, but from the alleged interaction that ensued between the soldiers after.

According to Haaretz, evidence presented during the officer’s hearing included text messages between her and her unit boasting about the shooting.

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The ethnic cleansing of Palestinian Christians that nobody is talking about

30 Oct

On Good Friday, hundreds of Christian pilgrims retraced the last journey of Jesus in the Old City of Jerusalem. [Photo: DW]

By Ramzy Baroud, Middle East Monitor, 30 October, 2019

Palestine’s Christian population is dwindling at an alarming rate. The world’s most ancient Christian community is moving elsewhere. And the reason for this is Israel.

Christian leaders from Palestine and South Africa sounded the alarm at a conference in Johannesburg on October 15. Their gathering was titled: “The Holy Land: A Palestinian Christian Perspective”.

One major issue that highlighted itself at the meetings is the rapidly declining number of Palestinian Christians in Palestine.

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