PA seeks ICC war crimes case against Israel
Published — Wednesday 6 August 2014
GAZA: Israel withdrew ground forces from the Gaza Strip on Tuesday and started a 72-hour cease-fire with Hamas mediated by Egypt as a first step toward negotiations on a more enduring end to the month-old war.
Israeli armor and infantry left Gaza ahead of the truce, with a military spokesman saying their main goal of destroying cross-border infiltration tunnels had been completed.
Troops and tanks will be “redeployed in defensive positions outside the Gaza Strip and we will maintain those defensive positions,” spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said, reflecting Israeli readiness to resume fighting.
Sami Abu Zuhri, a spokesman for Hamas, said Israel’s offensive in the densely populated, coastal enclave was a “100 percent failure.”
In Gaza, where some half-million people have been displaced by a month of bloodshed, some residents, carrying mattresses and with children in tow, left UN shelters to trek back to neighborhoods where whole blocks have been destroyed by Israeli shelling and the smell of decomposing bodies fills the air.
Sitting on a pile of debris on the edge of the northern town of Beit Lahiya, Zuhair Hjaila, a 33-year-old father of four, said he had lost his house and his supermarket. “This is complete destruction,” he said. “I never thought I would come back to find an earthquake zone.”
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Al-Malki said there was “clear evidence” of war crimes by Israel in Gaza as he met International Criminal Court prosecutors on Tuesday to push for an investigation.
“Everything that has happened in the last 28 days is clear evidence of war crimes committed by Israel, amounting to crimes against humanity,” Malki said. “There is no difficulty for us to show or build the case. Evidence is there for people to see and collect. Israel is in clear violation of international law.”
Jordan has presented a new resolution on the Gaza crisis to the UN Security Council and hopes for action on the measure in the coming days, its ambassador said.
The draft resolution backed by Arab countries calls for a lasting cease-fire as well as an international effort to rebuild Gaza.
Immediate and uncensored, Twitter is proving to be Israel’s weakness, writes Suraya Dadoo
On 9 July at 9:26pm, Allan Sørensen, a correspondent for the Danish newspaper Kristeligt Dagblad, tweeted: “Sderot cinema. Israelis bringing chairs 2 hilltop in sderot 2 watch latest from Gaza. Clapping when blasts are heard.” (sic) The tweet – and its accompanying image of a party atmosphere on Koby Hill in Sderot, an Israeli town on the Gaza border that supposedly bears the brunt of Hamas rockets – was retweeted almost 13 000 times. Those 140 characters almost single-handedly shattered the image that Israel’s spokespeople had been carefully crafting in international media: a terrorized Israeli population cowering in bomb shelters as Hamas rockets rained down on them.
“Witnessed 3 young boys killed by Israeli ordinance on an otherwise empty beach this afternoon in Gaza City,” tweeted Tyler Hicks a week later. Hicks’ tweet, and subsequent images captured by the Pulitzer-Prize winningNew York Times photographer, of what turned out to be four boys of the extended Bakr family killed on that Gazan beach, went viral. One image in particular, showed with painful clarity, the lifeless arm of a Palestinian boy cradled by an adult running across the beach, and a small child lying face down in the sand – dead.
The Israeli Defence Force (IDF) claimed it mistook the boys for Hamas fighters. But Hicks, and other Western journalists staying at a nearby hotel who witnessed the bombing, found the IDF explanation incredulous, and expressed it on Twitter. Not only did Hicks tweet, but he immediately wrote up a first-person account for the Times. In it, he wryly observed: “ Children, maybe four feet tall, dressed in summer clothes, don’t fit the description of Hamas fighters.”
Through Twitter, Sørensen, Hicks, and hundreds of other journalists, are able to tell the world what is in front of them, what they are seeing and feeling – all in real time. They have access to a medium that allows them to speak instantaneously to an unlimited number of people – uncensored. Most of their tweets contain information that would never make it into an article, or get past an editor. “Something that [journalists] might have said to friends at a bar now goes out on Twitter,” David Pollock, an Arab-Israeli relations expert at the neo-conservative Washington Institute for Near East Policy, recently told Mashable. Each tweet is like an urgent telegram straight from the battlefield, allowing us to see an attack through the eyes of the journalist and those being attacked – without the intervention of an IDF or Hamas spokesperson.
While the IDF’s military might will ensure that Israel wins the physical battle in Gaza, the Israeli government is losing the war of public opinion one tweet at a time. Its sponsored social media ‘war rooms’ in Israel are churning out dozens of catchy memes and infographics depicting Israel’s rationale for the war in Gaza as “self-defence”. Primarily spread through paid university students, one of the most popular infographics shows how a house in Gaza allegedly becomes a target. “When is a house a home and when does it become a military target?”, the image reads, in response to accusations that Israel indiscriminately bombs houses in Gaza. Another one compares “what Israel does to protect civilians” vs. “what Hamas does to endanger its civilians.” The graphic urges Internet users to share the image if they think Israel has the right to self-defence. According to Israeli expert Dena Shunra, the aim of this Twitter army is to look like they are just every day people chatting online. However, they specifically target Twitter users expressing Palestinian solidarity and outrage over the killings in Gaza.
But this well-funded, sophisticated pro-Israel social media operation is being out-tweeted by millions of ordinary Twitter users around the world, determined to show their solidarity with Gaza. The hashtag #GazaUnderAttack has been used more than 4 million times over the past month while the hashtag #IsraelUnderFire has been used less than 200 000 times.
Using well-rehearsed lines, these pro-Israel tweeps try hard to explain – with graphics and Youtube videos – that Hamas is firing its rockets from schoolyards and apartment blocks, and that Israel warns Gazan residents to get out of their homes when it is about to strike. But up against real-time reports on your timeline from the war-zone, and graphic pictures of dead women and children, these explanations – and the ones from talking heads on TV – don’t hold much water. As the death toll hits the 1000 mark, we can only hope that Twitter is, in some way, preventing truth from becoming a casualty in Gaza too.
An erratic tweeter, @Suraya_Dadoo prefers to communicate in more than 140 characters, and is the co-author of Why Israel: The Anatomy of Zionist Apartheid: A South African Perspective (Porcupine Press, 2013).
Anti-war demonstrators march in Tel Aviv
by Leehee Rothschild
The police originally tried to prevent the demonstration from taking place by taking the organizers outside of Habima Square, where the protest was meant to be held, and detaining them on the other side of the road. This left the gathering crowd in limbo, which lasted until the police officially declared the event an illegal gathering. But what had started as a messy attempt to resist the riot police, who formed a line and tried to push the demonstrators out of the square, turned into the liveliest protest we have seen thus far. There were arrests, and yes, they were violent. But there was also non-violent resistance by the protesters, which turned into a march down Dizengoff Street in the heart of Tel Aviv.
Rather than only expressing anger and fury over the deaths in Gaza, the marchers yelled slogans that tried to communicate directly with the Israeli public. Slogans such as “From both sides of the wall, we’ve had enough of this war”; “The people demand a ceasefire”; and the always relevant “In Gaza and Sderot, little girls just want to live.” Although some of the onlookers hurled insults, aside from the arrests there was no violence against the demonstrators. There were, on the other hand, a few people who spontaneously joined us as we marched.
When we only pay attention to last night’s arrests, we succumb to a narrative of conflict and violence, thus missing a major component of what actually happened. We turn it into just another story of conflict between anti-war demonstrators and policemen, forgetting that this is a protest against the war. Those 500 people who marched through Tel Aviv last night had more energy than the 5,000 who stood in Rabin Square last week, not to mention much better interactions with their surroundings. And for the first time in three weeks, the people around me ended their Saturday nights with a bit of positivity.