By Julie Webb-Pullman
Last week marked the first anniversary of the November 2012 Israeli offensive against Gaza. It would be good to be able to say that it marked the END of that offensive, but as events over past days have clearly shown, it did not. Why not?
Maybe if we look to the body charged with ensuring international peace – The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) – it might hold some clues.
The Operation Pillar of Cloud offensive began on 14 November 2012 with the assassination of Ahmed Al-Jabari, head of Al Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas. What did the UNSC have to say about this extra-judicial killing?
Nothing. The assassination of Ahmed al-Jabari by the state of Israel did not attract a single statement, let alone a UNSC Resolution condemning it – unlike the assassination by Zionist terrorists on 17 September 1948 of the UN Mediator in Palestine, Count Folke Bernadotte, which was denounced in UNSC Resolution 57 the very next day, or even the assassination in Tunisia on 16 April 1988 of the founder of Fatah, Khalil Al-Wazir, denounced over a week later in UNSC Res. 611.
Both of these gentlemen’s murders were roundly condemned by the international community, yet the UNSC remained as silent on the political assassination of Al-Jabiri as it did on the assassinations of at least another 24 Palestinian political leaders killed by Israel between 1972 and 2012. (See appendix)
However, in 2011 the UNSC managed to condemn the assassination of Chairman of the Afghanistan High Peace Council and former president Professor Burhanuddin Rabbani in Afghanistan , in the 2000’s it condemned all targeted assassinations of Lebanese leaders , and in the 1990’s it condemned the assassination of officials of the legitimate Government in Haiti and the attempted assassination of Egyptian President Hosni Mubrak in Ethiopia.
The only straw Palestinians have to clutch at is that in the 1980’s the UNSC did manage to condemn the attempted assassinations of the mayors of Nablus, Ramallah and Al Bireh.
That was when Jimmy Carter was president of the United States. No US president since has had the courage or moral fibre to not only apprise themselves of the ‘facts on the ground’, but also to publicly disseminate them, as Carter has belatedly done.
On the contrary, every US president since has used their power of veto in the UNSC to block almost every resolution condemning Israeli actions against Palestinian interests.
Civilian Targets and Excessive Force
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights reported that during Operation Pillar of Cloud, over 100 of the 171 Palestinians killed were civilians, including 20 elderly people, and 35 children. 625 of the 648 wounded were civilians, including 214 children, 93 women, and 16 people with disabilities.
Entire families were wiped out by direct targeting of residential properties by missiles with warheads weighing hundreds of kilograms – the al-Dalu and Hijazi family homes, and Bassel al-Shawa’s apartment between them accounting for 19 deaths including seven children, and 32 injured.
196 residential units housing 1,229 people were destroyed, and another 243 were severely damaged. 233 public facilities, including religious, educational, health, sports, industrial, commercial and agricultural facilities, four media institutions and four banks were also struck.
Deliberate targeting of civilians and civilian targets and use of excessive force constitute war crimes, and breach a number of UN instruments, particularly the Geneva Convention. What did the UNSC do? Held an emergency meeting on 14-15 November 2012, and came to no decision.
In the 1970’s the UNSC strongly condemned Portugal for the invasion of Guinea territory, and grieved at the loss of life and extensive damage caused by Portugal’s invasion , and in the years since has managed to make similar statements defending the self-determination and territorial integrity of Namibia, East Timor, and several other countries under threat – but seemingly cannot muster the same moral fibre when it comes to Gaza.
Would another UNSC Resolution have made any difference? After all, since 1955 the UNSC has made 43 Resolutions condemning, deploring, noting concern, calling on or making demands of Israel in relation to Palestinian rights – sometimes merely just to comply with prior UN decisions – but all to no avail.
Israel apparently enjoys total impunity, routinely thumbing its nose at the international community – and at the UN itself.
Add the US power of veto in the UNSC and the situation is even more daunting. As Stephen Lendman noted in 2006, over the last 50 years the US has used its Security Council veto dozens of times to prevent resolutions condemning Israel for its abusive or hostile actions.
“By its actions and with 6% of the world’s population, the US has thus arrogantly ignored the will of nearly all the other 94% to support its client state even when Israel had committed war crimes or crimes against humanity the rest of the world demanded it be held to account for,” he wrote.
In the first three months after the so-called Pillar of Cloud ceasefire agreement, there were over 800 violations of the truce by Israel and just two by Palestinians, according to data collected by the United Nations, the Israeli Legal Centre for Freedom of Movement (GISHA), the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, and Israeli and Palestinian media outlets.
Who has investigated these breaches? Enforced this agreement? The answer is obvious – no-one, least of all the UNSC.
When has Israel ever kept its word, which ceasefire agreement has it ever observed? What agreement has it ever honored? Oslo? Camp David?
Without minimizing the situation in the rest of Palestine, where territorial integrity and rights are trampled by occupation, settlements, excessive use of force, deportations, house demolitions, arbitrary detention, extra-judicial killings and particularly gross abuses of the rights of children, the current situation in Gaza a year after the so-called truce is dire.
Even such Geneva Convention basics as ensuring the living conditions of the civilian population following hostilities by the maintenance of essential public utility services, for example water and sanitation, electricity supply, are patently absent in Gaza one year after Operation Pillar of Cloud.
Not content with destroying housing and infrastructure, Israel in collusion with post-coup Egypt, now prevents all building materials from entering the Gaza Strip, meaning that essential reconstruction of buildings and services destroyed or damaged in the offensive cannot proceed.
The UN reports the humanitarian situation in Gaza today is at crisis point , with sewage flowing in the streets and power cuts of 16 hours a day, while other humanitarian organizations report lack of essential medicines, water, employment and other necessities of life.
Even the UN’s own agencies are not immune from the Israeli/Egyptian stranglehold. UNRWA chief Filippo Grandi told donor representatives last week that 19 of its 20 construction projects in Gaza had ground to a halt because since March the agency had not had any construction projects cleared by the Israeli government, and for the past month, has been unable to import building materials.
“First and foremost, the Israeli blockade – which is illegal – must be lifted,” he said.
Based on the failed notion of trying to subdue an entire people by famine in all its forms, the Israeli blockade of Gaza is clearly an act which violates international law, contradicts the aims and principles of the United Nations Charter, and is a transgression of the right to peace, development, self-determination and safety.
Not only UNRWA’s Grandi, but also the UN Goldstone Report, the UN Human Rights Council’s Independent Experts , and other UN agencies all hold that the Israeli blockade of Gaza is illegal.
So who will force Israel to lift it?
Is the international community, particularly its peace-making and peace-keeping instrument the veto-encumbered UNSC, up to the task?
We have seen that when it wants to, the UNSC IS capable of condemning the type of political assassinations that launched Operation Pillar of Cloud, we have seen it IS capable of condemning war crimes and crimes against humanity similar to those perpetrated against Gaza during that Israeli offensive, and we have seen it IS capable of demanding and achieving access to the types of public utilities and humanitarian aid currently denied Gaza.
So why is it ignoring Gaza’s plight? Because they are ‘just Palestinians’?
Yes, they are just Palestinians – they are JUST Palestinians. And like every world citizen, they deserve justice.
It is not time that the UNSC acted not only in accord with its own agencies, but also with the principles of the UN Charter, and delivered justice to Gaza?
Is it not possible that maybe, just maybe, the US will have another principled Carter-moment, and support a UNSC resolution in the interests of justice, not Israel, that resolves to lift the illegal blockade of Gaza, as a first step towards Palestinian peace?
Wouldn’t that be a change Obama could be remembered by!
The alternative is certain death for thousands more Palestinians.
This is not an exhaustive list of all assassinations of Palestinians by Israel, merely of many Palestinian political leaders. Nor does it include the assassination of Yasser Arafat, as this has yet to be investigated to determine who was responsible.
In addition to actual killings, there have been several unsuccessful assassination attempts, most notably those of September 1997 on Khaled Meshaal, chairman of Hamas’ political bureau, in Amman, Jordan, and of August 2001 on senior Fatah member Marwan Bargouthi in the West Bank.
In the former, Israeli agents attempted to kill Meshaal by injecting poison into his ear. The latter saw Israeli forces launch at least two missiles at a convoy of cars carrying Bargouthi, which missed his vehicle.
Although Israel denies responsibility for some of the above killings, it does, however, admit to more than 200 targeted assassinations since 1956.
Assassinations of Palestinian political leaders by Israel 1972 – 2012
8 July 8 1972: Ghassan Kanafani, member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) Palestinian author, major international literary figure and intellectual, killed in Beirut by a Mossad car bomb.
16 October 1972: Wael Zwaiter, Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) representative to Italy, renowned Palestinian intellectual and pacifist, shot and killed by Israeli agents in Rome.
28 March 1978: Wadie Haddad, senior member of the PFLP, dies in East Germany from slow-acting poison ingested several months earlier. It is later revealed that Israeli agents were behind his murder.
21 August 1983: Mamoun Meraish, senior PLO official and top aid to Yasser Arafat, is shot and killed by Israeli agents in Athens, Greece. According to later Israeli press reports, future Foreign Minister (currently Minister of Justice) Tzipi Livni is involved in Meraish’s killing.
9 June 1986: Khalid Nazzal, Secretary of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), is shot dead by Israeli agents in Athens, Greece.
October 1986: Munzer Abu Ghazala, member of the PLO’s Supreme Military Council, killed by an Israeli car bomb in Athens, Greece
16 April 1988: Khalil al-Wazir, military chief of the PLO, and founder of Fatah, shot dead in Tunisia. The US State Department condemns the murder as an “act of political assassination.”
26 October 1995: Fathi Shiqaqi, a founder of Islamic Jihad, shot by Mossad agents in Malta, as he leaves his hotel.
5 January 1996: Yahya Ayash, Hamas military commander, killed in Gaza by an Israeli explosive device planted in his cell phone.
25 July 2001: Salah Darwazeh, senior Hamas activist, killed by Israeli ground-to-ground anti-tank missiles fired at his car in the West Bank.
29 July 2001: Jamal Mansour, a senior member of Hamas’ political wing, killed in an Israeli helicopter strike on his workplace.
5 August 2001 Amer Mansour Habiri, member of Hamas, killed by Israeli helicopter strike on his car in Tulkarem.
15 August 2001: Emad Abu Sneineh, a member of the Fatah Tanzim militia, killed in Hebron by undercover Israeli agents.
27 August 2001: Abu Ali Mustafa, secretary general of the PFLP, killed by Israel using US-made Apache helicopter gunships to attack his office in Ramallah.
23 November 2001: Mahmoud Abu Hanoud, senior Hamas military leader, killed by Israeli helicopter strike on his car near Nablus.
14 January 2002: Raed Karmi, a leader in Fatah’s Al Aqsa Brigades, killed by an Israeli bomb planted outside his Tulkaram home following a ceasefire agreement
23 July 2002: Salah Shehada, Hamas leader, killed when Israel bombed his Gaza apartment building, also killing 14 others including 9 children, and scuttling a ceasefire agreement.
8 March 2003 Ibrahim Maqadma, one of the founders and top military commanders of Hamas, killed by four missiles from two Israeli helicopters fired at his car in Gaza.
22 March 2004: Sheik Ahmed Yassin, 67-year-old wheelchair-bound spiritual leader and co-founder of Hamas, killed by Israeli rockets as he left morning prayers at a Gaza City mosque. Nine bystanders were also killed.
17 April 2004: Abdel Aziz Rantisi, a co-founder of Hamas and its leader since the assassination of Sheik Ahmed Yassin, killed by an Israeli helicopter strike on his car
8 June 2006: Jamal Abu Samhadana, founder of the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) and Interior Minister of the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority government, killed by Israeli rocket attack in Rafah.
1 January 2009: Nizar Rayan, senior Hamas leader, killed in Israeli rocket attack on his home, which also killed 15 of his family members, including 11 children
15 January 2009: Said Seyam, prominent Hamas leader and Interior Minister of the elected government of Ismail Haneyya, killed in an Israeli airstrike on his brother’s central Gaza City house. Seven others were also killed.
19 January 2010: Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, senior Hamas leader, killed by Israeli agents in Dubai
9 March 2012: Zuhair al-Qaisi, head of the Gaza-based PRC, killed in an Israeli rocket attack on his car in Gaza City. His aide, Mohammed Hannani, was also killed.
14 November 2012: Ahmed al-Jabari, head of Al Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, killed in an Israeli rocket attack on his car in Gaza City.
– Julie Webb-Pullman is a freelance journalist from New Zealand who has been living in and writing from Gaza since 2011. She contributes to SCOOP Independent News, Palestine Chronicle, and other online news sites. She contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.