Furious SNP hit back as Speaker denies emergency Gaza ceasefire debate

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https://www.thenational.scot/news/24145354.furious-snp-hit-back-speaker-denies-emergency-gaza-ceasefire-debate/

Stephen Flynn has hit back at the Speaker for refusing to allow the party an emergency debate (Image: PA)

THE SNP have accused the Westminster system of “failing the people of Gaza” after the Speaker denied the party an emergency debate on calls for an immediate ceasefire.

Lindsay Hoyle rejected the party’s application for a fresh debate on the issue on Monday afternoon, despite explicitly offering one after his decision to allow a Labour amendment during the SNP’s opposition day debate meant there was no formal vote held on the SNP’s motion.

The SNP tabled a new motion for an emergency debate so the UK Parliament could vote for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and Israel and push the UK Government to take “concrete steps” to help make a ceasefire happen.

Following Hoyle’s decision, a furious Flynn said: “Yet again, Westminster is failing the people of Gaza by blocking a vote on the urgent action the UK Government must take to help make an immediate ceasefire happen.

Read the SNP’s full emergency debate motion below:

That this House officially reaffirms its position, as of 21st February 2024, to support an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and Israel; further reaffirms its horror at the October 7th 2023 terrorist attacks by Hamas and the subsequent collective punishment of the Palestinian people in Gaza; demands the release of all hostages taken by Hamas; condemns any military assault on the 1.5 million refugees sheltering in Rafah; further demands the Government immediately halts all transfers of military equipment and technology, including components, to Israel, and to suspend the issuing of new licences; calls on the international community to ensure the rapid and unimpeded humanitarian relief is provided in Gaza; further calls for an end to settlement expansion and violence; urges Israel to comply with the International Court of Justice’s provisional measures; and urges all international partners to work together to establish a diplomatic process to deliver the peace of a two-state solution; recognises that statehood is the inalienable right of the Palestinian people and not in the gift of any neighbour; instructs the Government to vote for an immediate ceasefire, or wording with that effect, during the next relevant motion brought before the United Nations Security Council.

https://www.thenational.scot/news/24145354.furious-snp-hit-back-speaker-denies-emergency-gaza-ceasefire-debate/

Zionist Keir Starmer supports Israel's Gaza genocide.
Zionist Keir Starmer supports Israel’s Gaza genocide.
Continue ReadingFurious SNP hit back as Speaker denies emergency Gaza ceasefire debate

One Month Later, Israel Has ‘Simply Ignored’ ICJ Ruling and Continued to Starve Gazans

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Original article by JAKE JOHNSON republished from Common Dreams under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). 

Palestinian children hold out their empty containers to be filled with food in Rafah, Gaza on February 25, 2024. (Photo by Abed Zagout/Anadolu via Getty Images)

A new report by Human Rights Watch accuses the Israeli government of defying the International Court of Justice’s order to ensure the flow of humanitarian aid to Gaza.

In the month since the International Court of Justice handed down its interim ruling in the genocide case brought by South Africa, the Israeli government has continued to impede the delivery of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip in violation of the court’s order, Human Rights Watch said Monday.

The ICJ’s January 26 ruling, which is legally binding, requires Israel to do everything in its power to prevent acts of genocide in Gaza and ensure that basic assistance flows to the enclave’s population.

But according to Human Rights Watch (HRW), “the daily average number of trucks entering Gaza with food, aid, and medicine dropped by more than a third in the weeks following the ICJ ruling: 93 trucks between January 27 and February 21, 2024, compared to 147 trucks between January 1 and 26, and only 57 between February 9 and 21.”

HRW’s analysis comes on the day the Israeli government is set to deliver its own 30-day assessment of compliance with the ICJ decision, which stated that Israel is plausibly committing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza. The Times of Israel reported late Sunday that the government report “is being drafted by the Justice Ministry and the Foreign Ministry but will not be released to the press or general public, and both ministries have been extremely tight-lipped about the information in the document.”

Observers don’t expect the government’s self-assessment to reflect the catastrophic reality on the ground in Gaza, where most people are starving and at growing risk of infectious disease due to the scarcity of clean water and adequate shelter. Israel has been accused of firing on aid convoys and targeting crowds of civilians gathering to receive food and other assistance.

In desperation, some Gazans have resorted to eating grass and animal feed and drinking contaminated water. A majority of Gaza’s population is currently crowded into the city of Rafah, which Israel plans to invade whether or not there’s a cease-fire deal with Hamas.

“The Israeli government is starving Gaza’s 2.3 million Palestinians, putting them in even more peril than before the World Court’s binding order,” Omar Shakir, HRW’s Israel and Palestine director, said in a statement Monday. “The Israeli government has simply ignored the court’s ruling, and in some ways even intensified its repression, including further blocking lifesaving aid.”

“Failure to ensure Israel’s compliance puts the lives of millions of Palestinians at risk.”

HRW’s analysis notes that in addition to blocking food aid and medicine shipments, Israeli authorities have also obstructed the delivery of fuel, the lack of which has forced many of Gaza’s hospitals to shut down.

“Between February 1 and 15, Israeli authorities only facilitated 2 of 21 planned missions to deliver fuel to the north of the Wadi Gaza area in central Gaza and none of the 16 planned fuel delivery or assessment missions to water and wastewater pumping stations in the north,” the group said. “Fewer than 20% of planned missions to deliver fuel and undertake assessments north of Wadi Gaza have been facilitated between January 1 and February 15, as compared with 86% of missions planned between October and December.”

Israel’s mass killing of Gazans has also not stopped in the wake of the ICJ order, HRW said Monday. Pointing to figures from Gaza’s health ministry, the group noted that Israeli forces killed more than 3,400 people in the Palestinian enclave between the day of the ICJ ruling and February 23.

“Israel’s blatant disregard for the World Court’s order poses a direct challenge to the rules-based international order,” Shakir said. “Failure to ensure Israel’s compliance puts the lives of millions of Palestinians at risk and threatens to undermine the institutions charged with ensuring respect for international law and the system that ensures civilian protection worldwide.”

The Geneva-based Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor similarly concluded in a report released over the weekend that Israel is in “flagrant violation” of the ICJ’s order.

The group implored the international community “to uphold its legal and moral duties to the people of the Gaza Strip, and to ensure that the ICJ ruling is carried out to prevent the crime of genocide in the Gaza Strip.”

Original article by JAKE JOHNSON republished from Common Dreams under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). 

‘If This Isn’t Genocide, I Don’t Know What Is,’ Says Lula of Israeli Attack on Gaza

‘I Will No Longer Be Complicit in Genocide’: Man Sets Himself on Fire Outside Israeli Embassy in DC

Israel’s Forced Starvation Leads Desperate Gazans to Eat Horse Meat, Animal Feed

UNRWA Says Funding Cuts Have Pushed It to ‘Breaking Point’

Continue ReadingOne Month Later, Israel Has ‘Simply Ignored’ ICJ Ruling and Continued to Starve Gazans

‘If This Isn’t Genocide, I Don’t Know What Is,’ Says Lula of Israeli Attack on Gaza

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Original article by JON QUEALLY republished from Common Dreams under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). 

Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva delivers a speech during the launching ceremony of a Petrobras cultural investment project at the Modern Art Museum in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on February 23, 2024.  (Photo by Pablo Porciuncula/AFP via Getty Images)

“What the Israeli government is doing to the Palestinian people is not war,” said the President of Brazil. “It’s not soldiers who are dying, but women and children who are dying inside the hospitals.”

Just days after Brazil’s President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was announced to be ‘person non grata’ by the Israeli government for critical comments he made about its conduct in Gaza, the leftist leader known as Lula remained outspoken over the weekend as he condemned the military onslaught that has claimed nearly 30,000 lives, mostly innocent civilians, in just over four months.

“What the Israeli government is doing to the Palestinian people is not war, it is genocide,” Lula thundered in remarks Friday during an event in Rio de Janiero. “They are killing women and children. There are thousands of children dead and thousands missing. It’s not soldiers who are dying, but women and children who are dying inside the hospitals.”

He continued: “If this isn’t genocide, I don’t know what is.”

In his remarks, Lula condemned the failure of the UN Security Council to intervene in a meaningful way to stop the carnage in Gaza. On Feb. 19, the United States once again used its veto power to reject a resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire.

The UNSC “represents nothing,” he said. “It does not take any decisions, it does nothing for peace,” he added, while decrying the amount of “hypocrisy in the world today” when it comes to political leadership.

Original article by JON QUEALLY republished from Common Dreams under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). 

Continue Reading‘If This Isn’t Genocide, I Don’t Know What Is,’ Says Lula of Israeli Attack on Gaza

Morning Star: Cynical attacks on the peace movement are fuelling brazen racism

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https://morningstaronline.co.uk/article/cynical-attacks-peace-movement-are-fuelling-brazen-racism

People take part in a Palestine Solidarity Campaign rally outside the Houses of Parliament, London, as MPs debate calls for a ceasefire in Gaza, February 21, 2024

Braverman is continuing her bid to ban peace marches even though the demand for a Gaza ceasefire commands majority support in Britain and indeed right across the world, where Britain and the US stood shamefully isolated this month as the only countries not to support a ceasefire resolution at the UN security council.

Lee Anderson, in the guise of moderating Braverman’s claim (“I don’t actually believe that the Islamists have got control of our country”) actually took it a step further (“they’ve got control of [Sadiq] Khan… He’s actually given our capital city away to his mates.”)

Leftwingers will be incredulous at the implication that peace demonstrators are Khan’s “mates” — the London mayor is no socialist and enthusiastically joined in the character assassination of Jeremy Corbyn when he led Labour.

But Anderson’s subtext is clear: Palestinians are Muslims (not all are, of course, but nuance is not Anderson’s strong point), people marching for justice for Palestinians must therefore be controlled by Muslims, the big marches in London haven’t been banned, and this must be because its mayor is a Muslim.

This is incendiary stuff. So rattled are British authorities that they have repeatedly misrepresented Palestine solidarity demos: the attempt to ban the huge Armistice Day demo rested on a baseless assertion it posed a threat to the Cenotaph (which the fascist thugs riled up by Braverman’s propaganda actually did).

https://morningstaronline.co.uk/article/cynical-attacks-peace-movement-are-fuelling-brazen-racism

Continue ReadingMorning Star: Cynical attacks on the peace movement are fuelling brazen racism

Morning Star: Smearing protesters as a threat to MPs is an excuse to suppress democratic rights

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https://morningstaronline.co.uk/article/editorial-smearing-protesters-threat-mps-excuse-suppress-democratic-rights

People take part in a Palestine Solidarity Campaign rally outside the Houses of Parliament, London, February 21, 2024

THE Prime Minister’s decision to frame the Speaker’s anti-democratic antics this week as “giving in to extremism” obscures reality.

Lindsay Hoyle’s claim he prioritised a Labour amendment over the SNP ceasefire motion because he was worried about MPs’ safety is a damage limitation bid.

But it chimes with ongoing Establishment propaganda painting peace demonstrators as extremists.

Every crisis of ruling-class legitimacy in recent years has prompted attacks on our democratic rights. Britain is racing towards an authoritarian future, with successive laws empowering police to make arrests on the vaguest grounds (such as causing a “nuisance”) and shut down protests before “disruption” even begins.

Now the idea that protest leaves MPs unsafe is used to justify curtailing democratic processes in Parliament itself. Keir Starmer did not browbeat Lindsay Hoyle into trashing procedures because he was worried about MPs’ safety.

He was trying to avoid the embarrassment of a revolt exposing divisions in his party.

https://morningstaronline.co.uk/article/editorial-smearing-protesters-threat-mps-excuse-suppress-democratic-rights

Stop the War Coalition statement on democracy and the right to protest

Continue ReadingMorning Star: Smearing protesters as a threat to MPs is an excuse to suppress democratic rights

‘Small boat’ pilot Ibrahima Bah faces life in jail. He’s a scapegoat

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Original article by Danai Avgeri republished from OpenDemocracy under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence

Forensic officers enter a tent containing the bodies of people who drowned while trying to cross the Channel in the boat piloted by Ibrahima Bah, who will be sentenced today under new legislation to criminalise ‘facilitating arrival’ for asylum seekers in the UK. ‘By convicting Bah of manslaughter, the jury effectively exonerated the UK of responsibility for its lethal border policies.’  | Leon Neal/Getty Images

Those who drive boats are often simply the poorest people on board. Those really at fault still walk free

Ibrahima Bah is today facing a possible life sentence for facilitating illegal entry into the UK, and for four counts of manslaughter by gross negligence. But the real culprits here remain off the hook – and this will almost certainly lead to more deaths.

Arrested in December 2022, Bah was steering an unseaworthy dinghy across the English Channel when it collapsed. The floor of the dinghy ripped when it approached the fishing vessel Arcturus and everyone stood up to try and be rescued. According to Utopia 56, a refugee charity that has announced legal action against the British coastguard and French agencies for this case, authorities failed to launch a search and rescue operation despite being alerted by Alarmphone, a hotline for migrants in distress at sea.

Eventually, four people were found dead while four were recorded missing. Some 39 survivors, most from Afghanistan, were rescued and claimed asylum in the UK.

Asylum seekers dying in the English Channel is not something new. In November 2021, 31 people, including a girl aged five and her teenage siblings, died after their dinghy sank in the Channel. And in October 2020, seven people, including five from one Iranian Kurdish family, lost their lives after a small boat carrying 20 migrants capsized off the French coast.

These are only a few examples in the long deadly history of the French-UK border. But Bah’s case marks a historic and troubling milestone: he is the first shipwreck survivor in the UK to face manslaughter charges for the deaths of fellow passengers.

A network called Captain Support that acts in solidarity with those accused of driving boats to Europe has been closely monitoring Bah’s case. Its members are right to point out the conviction marks a violent escalation in the criminalisation of migration by the UK government under its ‘stop the boats’ campaign and measures to cut net migration.

These have included unlawful and unenforceable schemes, such as the plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda; the launch of the Bibby Stockholm barge, leading to suicide and harm among detainees; and the planned introduction of an unattainable 50% increase in salary threshold for foreign workers to be allowed to come to the UK. Britain has also laid out plans to bar international students and care workers from bringing dependents to the UK.

Ironically, this frontal assault on migrant rights comes at a time when polls for the first time since 2016 suggest that most British people hold positive views of immigration, exposing the ‘stop the boats’ battle for its deeply ideological nature. But other aspects of the policy, less routinely covered in the media, have been no less damaging – and these directly relate to Ibrahima Bah’s unjust conviction.

The Nationality and Borders Act came into force in June 2022, expanding the scope of immigration crimes in the UK in response to the so-called ‘small boats crisis’. This act introduced the offence of ‘illegal arrival’ with a maximum penalty of four years in jail. It also expanded the scope of the more serious offence of ‘facilitating arrival’, of which Bah was convicted, and increased the maximum penalty to life imprisonment.

Hundreds of people have since been arrested and imprisoned for simply trying to reach the UK to claim asylum, according to a forthcoming report by Victoria Taylor, published by the Centre for Criminology at the University of Oxford and Border Criminologies.

While the government repeatedly invokes the mantra of favouring ‘safe and legal routes’ when justifying this increasingly draconian legislation, existing laws don’t provide any. As Amnesty International has pointed out: “The UK government does not allow anyone to make a claim for asylum unless they are physically present in the UK… It is impossible to come to the UK for the purpose of seeking asylum in any way permitted by the government’s immigration rules.”

openDemocracy revealed last year that a toddler and a father were among those who had died while waiting vainly for officially sanctioned UN routes to take them to safety; their families remain stranded in Turkey.

Aside from two temporary visa schemes that have been beset with their own problems – for asylum seekers from Ukraine with family or hosts in the UK, and Afghans who are in danger due to having worked with the UK government – anyone wishing to apply for asylum in the UK has no choice but to travel to the UK in an unauthorised manner.

In simple terms, the UK government requires asylum seekers to endanger their lives and break the law in order to exercise their lawful right to claim asylum.

Countering this means more than debunking the myths of ‘safe and legal’ routes. It’s also about addressing the criminalisation of ‘facilitating arrival’ – often presented as a necessary measure to uproot the ‘criminal gangs’ exploiting vulnerable individuals.

In fact, human rights organisations and academic researchers have time and again shown that counter-smuggling policies and targeting of boat drivers harms migrant communities the most. These policies overlook the reality that, in many instances, those piloting boats are the poorest and least resourced among asylum seekers, agreeing to steer these vessels and take on significant legal risks in exchange for free passage.

And indeed, Ibrahima, who is from Senegal – a country still grappling with the effects of colonialism and with 40% of its population living below the poverty line – asserted that this was precisely why he agreed to pilot the boat.

Having journeyed from Senegal to Mali, then Algeria and Libya, before taking a boat from Libya to Italy with the aid of smugglers, Bah decided to pilot the vessel in exchange for free passage. During his trial, Bah said when he realised the boat was unseaworthy, he refused to drive it, but he was then assaulted by those that organised the trip who coerced him into complying. The jury not only dismissed Bah’s claims but also the testimonies of the survivors themselves, who portrayed Ibrahima as an “angel” trying to save lives.

As detailed in Captain Support’s court report, a witness statement from the captain of the Arcturus presented Bah as “mouthy” and ungrateful, both racial stereotypes. The all-white jury concluded that Bah, a Black teenager, had failed in his duty of care towards his fellow passengers. By convicting Bah of manslaughter, the jury effectively exonerated the UK of responsibility for its lethal border policies.

The UK is not alone in this regard. In Italy, four survivors of the Cutro shipwreck are on trial for the deaths of at least 94 people, with one already convicted, despite evidence that the Italian authorities deemed the migrant boat ‘not of interest’ just before the shipwreck. And Greece prosecuted nine Egyptians over the 2023 shipwreck of the Adriana, which killed 600 near the coast of Pylos, despite mounting evidence for the Greek coastguard’s role in the boats capsizing.

Britain’s emulation of these policies is both predictable and deeply alarming. British prime minister Rishi Sunak recently teamed up with Italy’s far-right leader Giorgia Meloni in her attempts to crack down on ‘illegal migration’. And in November 2023, Suella Braverman – then the UK home secretary and the architect of the ‘stop the boats’ campaign – lauded Greece’s “tough but fair migration policy” following her tour of one of Europe’s most harrowing borders. This dangerous coalition, which wields death and scapegoating as tools of deterrence, must be dismantled immediately.

Ibrahima Bah’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for Friday 23 February. Solidarity actions have been called in response, including a call for support at 2pm at Canterbury Crown and a demonstration at 6pm at the Home Office.

Original article by Danai Avgeri republished from OpenDemocracy under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence

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Continue Reading‘Small boat’ pilot Ibrahima Bah faces life in jail. He’s a scapegoat

UNRWA Says Funding Cuts Have Pushed It to ‘Breaking Point’

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Original article by JULIA CONLEY republished from Common Dreams under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).

People walk past the headquarters of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, which provides assistance to millions of Palestinians, in Gaza City, Gaza on February 21, 2024.  (Photo: Dawoud Abo Alkas/Anadolu via Getty Images)

The warning came as a U.S. intelligence officials said they have “low confidence” that Israel’s accusations against UNRWA workers were true.

Notifying the United Nations General Assembly of numerous steps Israel has taken in the last month to dismantle a humanitarian agency that serves millions of Palestinians, the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East warned Thursday that it has reached a “breaking point” as it attempts to provide shelter and other aid amid Israel’s bombardment of Gaza with sharply reduced funding.

Since Israel claimed last month without providing evidence that 12 UNRWA staff members—out of 30,000 total—had been involved in a Hamas-led attack on southern Israel on October 7, 16 countries including the U.S., Germany, and Canada have suspended funding for the agency, which relies on donations to operate.

The funding cuts have gone into effect as UNRWA itself faces violence from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), with 150 of the agency’s facilities having been hit by bombs or shelling that have killed more than 390 people and injured more than 1,300. Since October, the IDF has killed a total of at least 29,514 Palestinians in Gaza.

“It is with profound regret that I must now inform you that the agency has reached breaking point, with Israel’s repeated calls to dismantle UNRWA and the freezing of funding by donors at a time of unprecedented humanitarian needs in Gaza,” wrote Philippe Lazzarini, commissioner-general of UNRWA, in a letter to the president of UNGA.

Lazzarini warned that the agency’s ability to “fulfill the mandate given through General Assembly resolution 302,” the 1949 measure that created UNRWA and tasked it with providing aid to Palestinians in Gaza, “is now seriously threatened.”

UNRWA is a major employer of Palestinians in Gaza, where almost half of adults are unemployed. The agency runs schools for 300,000 children, provides housing assistance, runs health clinics, and oversees other public works such as playground and road construction.

Since Israel began its assault on Gaza in October, up to 1.9 million displaced Palestinians have found temporary housing at 154 UNRWA shelters, according to the agency.

Since Israel made its accusation against UNRWA, in addition to fueling a loss of $450 million in funding, the government has taken further steps to render it inoperable, despite Lazzarini’s immediate dismissal of the workers implicated in the allegations. Israeli officials have:

  • Taken steps to evict UNRWA from the headquarters it’s used for 75 years in East Jerusalem;
  • Limited visas for its staff to one or two months;
  • Announced a plan to revoke UNRWA’s tax-exempt status;
  • Suspended shipments of UNRWA goods;
  • Blocked the agency’s bank accounts;
  • Refused to grant hundreds of staffers access to UNRWA’s schools, health centers, and headquarters;
  • Tabled bills to eliminate the agency’s U.N. privileges and immunities and to prevent “any activity by UNRWA in Israeli territory”; and
  • Publicly accused UNRWA of being “in the service of Hamas.”

With UNRWA struggling to provide assistance to Gaza residents—about 85% of whom have been displaced and virtually all of whom are facing “crisis-level hunger“—Lazzarini warned UNGA President Dennis Francis that the agency is “on the edge of a monumental disaster with grave implications for regional peace, security, and human rights.”

“In the short term, dismantling UNRWA will undermine U.N. efforts to address Gaza’s humanitarian crisis and worsen the crisis in the West Bank, depriving over half a million children of education and deepening resentment and despair,” said Lazzarini. “In the longer-term, it will end UNRWA’s stabilizing role that is widely acknowledged, including by senior Israeli civilian and military officials and key donors, as vital to the rights and security of Palestinians and Israelis. It will also weaken prospects for a transition and a political solution to this long-standing conflict.”

Journalist Owen Jones noted on Friday that the “throttling” of Gaza’s primary humanitarian aid organization has taken place as Israel has failed to provide evidence of its claims against the UNRWA employees, with a U.S. intelligence assessment saying officials had “low confidence” that staff members had participated in the Hamas-led attack on October 7.

The assessment noted that Israeli officials have not “shared the raw intelligence behind” the accusations that led 16 countries to pull crucial funding from UNRWA—a fact that didn’t surprise Intercept journalist Ryan Grim.

“Why would Israel provide evidence?” said Grim. “Without any evidence, the U.S. suspended UNRWA funding and then [President Joe] Biden endorsed a new law permanently banning funding. Israel would be stupid to bother to present evidence, they know they don’t need to.”

In his letter to Francis, Lazzarini asked whether UNGA would allow “the parameters of peace for Palestinians and Israelis” to be “wiped away by obstructing UNRWA’s mandate and defunding the agency outside of any political agreement and consultation with Palestinians.”

“Should the General Assembly opt to continue to sustain UNRWA in the best interests of Palestine refugees, then I further appeal for a solution that closes the gap between UNRWA’s mandate and its funding structure, which relies upon voluntary contributions that make it vulnerable to wider political considerations, such as UNRWA faces now,” wrote Lazzarini.

“I finally appeal to the General Assembly to bring human rights and international law back to the center of multilateral action,” he added, “beginning with the catastrophic situation in Gaza that has worsened by every measure in recent weeks.”

Original article by JULIA CONLEY republished from Common Dreams under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).

Continue ReadingUNRWA Says Funding Cuts Have Pushed It to ‘Breaking Point’

Climate Trial Against Oil Giant Eni Opens in Italy

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Original article by Stella Levantesi republished from DeSmog

Greenpeace Italy released a new report that shows oil major Eni is using climate denier technical consultants as a defense strategy in its climate warming lawsuit. Flickr via PRP Channel (CC BY-2.0)

The case coincides with a new Greenpeace Italy and ReCommon report showing Eni’s technical consultants have wide links to climate denier groups.

Italy’s first climate change lawsuit brought by Greenpeace Italy and climate advocacy group ReCommon against Italian oil giant Eni opened with its first hearing on February 16, alleging the company contributed to global warming. 

The hearing comes alongside a new report by Greenpeace Italy and ReCommon, which describes how Eni’s technical consultants in the case have deep ties to the fossil fuel industry and climate deniers. 

The lawsuit “aims to build on a similar case targeting Anglo-Dutch oil major Royal Dutch Shell in the Netherlands to force Eni to slash its carbon emissions by 45 percent by 2030,” as DeSmog has previously reported.

At issue in the case is whether or not Eni knowingly contributed to climate change and if it’s responsible for past and future damages. The case is also assessing if the oil giant violated human rights that are protected by the Italian Constitution and international agreements. 

The cache of documentary evidence in the lawsuit includes two “technical reports” produced for Eni’s defense by consultants who Greenpeace Italy’s new report describes as climate deniers.

Last week, the two environmental organizations pushed to have the judge hear their witnesses, which include 12 Italian citizens who have been impacted by climate change, the groups’ lawyer Alessandro Gariglio told DeSmog.

“Now it will be up to the judge to assess whether he considers the documentary evidence presented to be sufficient or, instead, whether he thinks it might be appropriate to hear witnesses and, above all, to order a court-appointed expert opinion,” Gariglio noted. He added that he and his parties are in favor of such a move, “and the counterparties [Eni included] are not.” 

In a statement to DeSmog, an Eni spokesperson said the company “will prove the groundlessness of Greenpeace and ReCommon’s claims, both legally and factually, in the legal proceedings.” Documentation related to the current lawsuit is available for review on Eni’s website.

Eni’s Technical Reports

The technical reports are addendums to one of Eni’s statements of defense and are authored by Carlo Stagnaro, director of research and studies at the think tank Istituto Bruno Leoni (IBL), and Stefano Consonni, professor of Energy and Environmental Systems at the Department of Energy of the Politecnico University in Milan.

According to Greenpeace Italy, the two consultants are “anything but independent,” and “have expressed climate denial positions” on more than one occasion. 

Consonni’s resume states that since 1993 he has been “lead investigator” for research financed by multiple oil and gas companies, including Eni, ExxonMobil, and BP Alternative Energy, and the U.S. Department of Energy. 

Stagnaro’s technical report, Greenpeace says, includes references to Eni’s key climate delay tactics, such as “whataboutism” to obscure the Italian oil giant’s true contribution to global warming. For example, it mentions China’s lack of responsibility in controlling emissions and also the tactic of  diverting accountability towards consumers –  a reference that is repeated 19 times throughout the text.

Ties to the U.S. Climate Denial Machine

According to Greenpeace’s report, the think tank IBL has denied man-made anthropogenic climate change in the past and, in the early 2000s, Stagnaro was “among the most active figures” within the institution to import U.S. climate denial theories into Italy.

In 2006, for example, Stagnaro wrote a briefing called “Climate. We want to be Amerikans,” which includes delayer phrasing such as “climate alarmists.” The briefing states, “Unfortunately, the Kyoto Protocol presupposes a ‘choice of field’ in science: it rests, that is, on the assumption that humans are the root cause,” which is “an assumption that is justified neither by the uncertainty of actual scientific knowledge nor by the complexity of the atmospheric dynamics.”

To support this, the briefing cites retired astrophysicist Sallie Baliunas, who is associated with many climate denier organizations, including the George C. Marshall Institute. In 2002, in a hearing in the U.S. Senate, Baliunas declared that “since no warming trend in the lower layers of the troposphere was observed, most of the surface warming in recent decades cannot be attributed to a greenhouse effect enhanced by human causes.”

Stagnaro’s briefing also cites climate denier Bjorn Lomborg and was co-authored by Mario Sechi, current editor-in-chief of far-right Italian newspaper Libero, who is the former director of Eni-owned news agency, AGI, and a former spokesperson for current right-wing Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.

At a summit in Rome at the end of January, Meloni unveiled the “Mattei Plan,” named after Enrico Mattei, founder of Eni. The program aims to transform Italy into “an energy hub” distributing fossil fuels extracted from Africa that creates “a bridge between Europe and Africa.” Campaigners in Italy and across Africa have criticized the plan, saying it will promote fossil fuel exploitation and “false solutions.”  Before the initiative was announced, over 50 African groups signed a letter to the Italian government calling for an “end of neo-colonial approaches” and “a more consultative approach.” “This ‘dash for gas’ in Africa is dangerous and short-sighted,” the letter states.

Eni has also recently come under fire in some Italian media for sponsoring the week-long music and entertainment TV show, Sanremo, which was seen by 70 percent of Italian viewers this year during one of its broadcasts. According to Greenpeace, this sponsorship is “yet another greenwashing operation.”

Greenpeace’s report underscores the fact that IBL, under Stagnaro’s direction, is part of the Atlas Network, a group of more than 500 “free market” organizations in nearly 100 countries that have supported climate science denial positions and  lobbied against legislation to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

According to previous DeSmog reports, the Atlas Network is also behind efforts to “brand climate activists as extremists” and “pass anti-protest legislation.”

Greenpeace’s report reveals that in 2004, IBL also joined the Cooler Heads Coalition (CHC), a U.S.-based pressure group that has worked to promote climate denialism. After calling climate science a hoax for two decades, CHC played an important role in President Donald Trump’s 2017 decision to pull the U.S. from the Paris Agreement.

Eni’s technical consultants with the Istituto Bruno Leoni (IBL) have ties to U.S. climate denial organizations like the Heartland Institute. Credit: Wikipedia

According to the Climate Investigations Center, from 1997 to 2015, members of CHC received “upwards of $98 million dollars in donations from Exxon Mobil, conservative foundations, and dark money organizations.”

According to another report by Italian news outlet Il Fatto Quotidiano, in 2010, Exxon contributed $30,000 to IBL and Eni gave the group 12,000 euros.

In 2008, IBL also co-sponsored the event “Global Warming Is Not a Crisis” with the Heartland Institute, which has been at “the forefront” of denying scientific evidence for climate change.

IBL’s position seems to have softened over the years, Greenpeace’s report mentions, with Stagnaro tweeting in November 2019 that, “The position of the @istbrunoleoni on #climate is that: 1. climate change exists and is also due to humans 2. Emissions must be reduced 3. Not all policies that aim to reduce emissions work or are efficient.”

However, in 2018, IBL promoted the launch of “In Defense of Fossil Fuels,” a book by Alex Epstein who, according to investigative group Documented, “influences oil policy directly as a member of the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission,” which is “a powerful quasi-regulatory body that lobbies for oil and gas interests.”

“Can the report of someone who has often personally embraced and disseminated climate change denialist positions be considered reliable in the context of climate litigation?” asks Greenpeace Italy and ReCommon, who have named their campaign for the lawsuit “The Just Cause.” Can it “be considered free of judgment if that same expert has received funding from that same company in the past?” the plaintiffs ask.

In response, Eni’s website reads, “There is little that is ‘just’ about this action. “The plaintiffs are in fact asking the court to declare Eni “responsible” for damages suffered and future damages resulting from climate change, to which the company has allegedly contributed with its conduct over the past decades.” 

This “false narrative,” Eni continues, is based on an “obvious instrumental approach” aimed at “demonizing” the business.

Greenpeace Italy and ReCommon stated that they hope the judge will “reject the numerous and specious objections made by Eni” to allow “a radical change in the company’s industrial strategies.”

Original article by Stella Levantesi republished from DeSmog

Continue ReadingClimate Trial Against Oil Giant Eni Opens in Italy

UN Experts Say Arms Exports to Israel ‘Must Cease Immediately’

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Original article by JAKE JOHNSON republished from Common Dreams under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). 

A man looks for survivors amid the debris of destroyed houses in the aftermath of Israeli airstrikes in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on February 22, 2024.  (Photo: Mohammed Abed/AFP via Getty Images)

“State officials involved in arms exports may be individually criminally liable for aiding and abetting any war crimes, crimes against humanity, or acts of genocide.”

Dozens of United Nations experts on Friday called for an immediate arms embargo on Israel and warned that countries and private companies still sending weapons to the Israeli military during its assault on Gaza could be complicit in crimes against humanity.

The experts—including special rapporteurs on education and the rights of displaced people—said in a joint statement that “any transfer of weapons or ammunition to Israel that would be used in Gaza is likely to violate international humanitarian law and must cease immediately.”

“Such transfers are prohibited even if the exporting state does not intend the arms to be used in violation of the law—or does not know with certainty that they would be used in such a way—as long as there is a clear risk,” they said. “State officials involved in arms exports may be individually criminally liable for aiding and abetting any war crimes, crimes against humanity, or acts of genocide.”

The U.N. experts noted that the United States and Germany are “by far” Israel’s largest arms suppliers, though France, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia also export weapons to the Israeli government, which the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled is plausibly committing genocide in the Gaza Strip.

The ICJ’s interim ruling, which Israel has disregarded, has “heightened” the need for an arms embargo, the experts said, noting that compliance with the Genocide Convention of 1948 “requires states parties to employ all means reasonably available to them to prevent genocide in another state as far as possible.”

The experts also said that “arms companies contributing to the production and transfer of arms to Israel and businesses investing in those companies bear their own responsibility to respect human rights, international humanitarian law and international criminal law.”

“They have not publicly demonstrated the heightened human rights due diligence required of them and accordingly risk complicity in violations,” they said.

“All states must not be complicit in international crimes through arms transfers. They must do their part to urgently end the unrelenting humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza.”

The statement comes two weeks after a Dutch court ordered the Netherlands’ government to stop exporting jet parts to Israel, citing the “clear risk” that the aircraft might be used to “commit serious violations of international humanitarian law.” The government is appealing the ruling.

Other countries, including Italy and Spain, have said they have suspended arms sales to Israel since its latest assault on Gaza began—though a Spanish newspaper reported earlier this month that the country exported $1.1 million worth of ammunition to Israel in November.

The U.S., meanwhile, is reportedly planning to send additional weaponry to Israel and has refused to attach conditions to its arms exports even as top officials—including President Joe Biden—publicly voice concerns about the rising death toll in Gaza and Israel’s looming ground invasion of Rafah, where more than half of the enclave’s population is currently sheltering.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the latest proposed arms shipment “includes roughly a thousand each of MK-82 bombs, KMU-572 Joint Direct Attack Munitions that add precision guidance to bombs, and FMU-139 bomb fuses.”

“The arms are estimated to be worth tens of millions of dollars,” the Journal added. “The proposed delivery is still being reviewed internally by the administration, a U.S. official said, and the details of the proposal could change before the Biden administration notifies congressional committee leaders who would need to approve the transfer.”

Israel has used U.S. weaponry to commit atrocities in the Gaza Strip, including airstrikes on homes full of children. An Amnesty International investigation released earlier this month found that a January 9 Israeli airstrike on a residential building in southern Gaza killed 18 civilians, including 10 children.

Based on ordnance fragments recovered from the rubble, the weapon used in the attack was identified as a GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb—made by the U.S. company Boeing.

On Friday, Gaza’s health ministry said that Israeli airstrikes killed more than 100 people over the past 24 hours and injured at least 160 more. Israeli strikes on the severely overcrowded city of Rafah on Thursday destroyed a mosque and several homes, killing or wounding many people and leaving others trapped under the rubble.

“International law does not enforce itself,” the U.N. experts said Friday. “All states must not be complicit in international crimes through arms transfers. They must do their part to urgently end the unrelenting humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza.”

Original article by JAKE JOHNSON republished from Common Dreams under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). 

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Continue ReadingUN Experts Say Arms Exports to Israel ‘Must Cease Immediately’

Oxfam Rips UK Parliament for ‘Squabbling’ Over Cease-Fire as Israel Pummels Gaza

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Original article by JAKE JOHNSON republished from Common Dreams under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). 

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators hold a protest in Parliament Square in London on February 21, 2024.  (Photo: Henry Nicholls/AFP via Getty Images)

“It is a disgrace that there has been so much playground politics in Parliament this evening, while so many lives are at stake.”

What was supposed to be a debate over a motion demanding an immediate cease-fire in the Gaza Strip quickly descended into mayhem and partisan bickering on Wednesday as members of the U.K. Parliament jockeyed for position—all while Israel continued dropping bombs on starving Palestinians.

Wednesday’s debate was started by the Scottish National Party (SNP), which introduced a motion calling for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza, the release of all hostages, and “an end to the collective punishment of the Palestinian people.”

The Conservative and Labour parties both put forth amendments aimed at watering down the SNP motion. House of Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle moved to allow a vote on all three motions, angering Tories who said the decision violated convention.

Ultimately, as The Associated Press reported, “many Conservatives and SNP members walked out, and in their absence the Labour version of the cease-fire call passed on a voice vote—by calls of ‘Aye’—without a full formal vote.” The Labour amendment dropped the SNP motion’s call for an end to collective punishment.

Diane Abbott, an MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, said she entered Parliament on Wednesday to support the SNP motion, which she called “the only genuinely meant cease-fire motion on the order paper.”

“Instead things descended into a shambles,” said Abbott. “Meanwhile Israel’s military continues to kill 250 Palestinians a day.”

Jeremy Corbyn, an independent MP for Islington North and the former leader of the Labour Party, wrote Thursday that “yesterday was an appalling day for British Parliament.

“It was much, much worse for the people of Gaza, who are dying slowly and painfully from dehydration, disease, and starvation,” Corbyn added. “We must end this systematic slaughter—the existence of the Palestinian people is at stake.”

“An immediate and permanent cease-fire is the only solution to stop this devastating cycle of bloodshed.”

Oxfam GB’s head of advocacy, Katy Chakrabortty, also voiced outrage over Wednesday’s proceedings, saying in a statement, “It is a disgrace that there has been so much playground politics in Parliament this evening, while so many lives are at stake.”

“The people of Gaza can’t wait for our politicians to stop squabbling,” said Chakrabortty. “Much of the country lies in ruins and Rafah, where many Palestinian families have been forced to flee, is under threat of a full-scale military offensive. Children in the North of Gaza are dying from hunger because no aid can reach them due to Israel’s continued assault and restrictions on access.”

“An immediate and permanent cease-fire is the only solution to stop this devastating cycle of bloodshed, to ensure the safe release of hostages, and to allow urgent aid to reach all of those in desperate need,” Chakrabortty continued. “Many MPs spoke passionately tonight of the horrors in Gaza and we thank those who raised their voices. The government must listen and support U.N. votes for a cease-fire and end the sale of arms to Israel.”

Citing unnamed sources, The Guardian on Wednesday reported that the U.K.’s Tory government “will consider suspending arms export licenses to Israel” if the country’s military goes ahead with a ground invasion of Rafah, a severely overcrowded city near Gaza’s border with Egypt.

The U.K. has licensed more than £474 million worth of military exports to Israel over the past decade, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).

In December, HRW and other rights groups warned that “the U.K. risks being complicit in and facilitating serious violations of international humanitarian law if it fails to halt arms exports to Israel immediately.”

“Our organizations demand an immediate suspension of arms transfers to all parties to the current conflict,” the groups wrote in a joint letter. “For the U.K. government, this requires a halt to the arming of Israel. Failure to do so risks the government breaching its own laws and being complicit in grave abuses.”

Original article by JAKE JOHNSON republished from Common Dreams under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). 

dizzy: While this is a very good account of what happened, I’m going to emphasize some extra issues. While the Speaker is supposed to be impartial he is acually an MP, currently a Labour MP. Labour Leader Keir Starmer acted improperly by effectively ‘lobbying’ the Speaker in person yesterday. Starmer has said that he didn’t threaten or impose pressure on the Speaker. I suggest that lobbying him in any way is out of order. The Speaker claims that he was concerned for MPs safety, that they are getting confronted by their constituents.

The winner from yesterday’s events is Keir Starmer since huge numbers – perhaps a hundred – of Labour MPs were expected to vote for the SNP’s motion against their party’s instruction. I consider that the Speaker should not be concerned with MPs’ safety and that they should be expected to be confronted by their constituents. The point here is that if you don’t want to be accused of complicity in genocide don’t be complicit in genocide.

24/2/24 I’ve used the wrong term ‘lobbying’. MPs are whipped by their own parties to follow their party’s chosen course of action.

Zionist Keir Starmer supports Israel's Gaza genocide.
Zionist Keir Starmer supports Israel’s Gaza genocide.

22/2/24 10pm How Keir Starmer placed his political image over the lives of those in Gaza

Continue ReadingOxfam Rips UK Parliament for ‘Squabbling’ Over Cease-Fire as Israel Pummels Gaza