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). 

Jewish-Led NYC Rally Targets AIPAC, Dem Allies Who Oppose Gaza Cease-Fire

“AIPAC uses money and racist bullying to ensure congressional complicity in the genocide of Gaza,” said Jewish Voice for Peace.

‘People of Gaza Need a Cease-Fire,’ Medical Aid Leader Tells UN Security Council

“This body has failed to effectively address this conflict. We have watched members of this council deliberate and delay while civilians die.”

All of Us Must ‘Confront the Current Siege in Gaza’

As the Nuremberg Tribunal and U.S. law make clear, it is the responsibility of the people to halt crimes that the courts have proved impotent to prevent.

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

The US Must Stop Arming Israel’s Assault on Hospitals

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

Injured Palestinians, including children, are brought to Nasser Hospital to receive medical treatment following Israeli attacks in Khan Younis, Gaza, on January 22, 2024.  (Photo: Belal Khaled/Anadolu via Getty Images)

If we can’t find the morality to stop, we may find we have created a world in which no one can count on upholding basic human rights.

Many decades ago in Chicago, my favorite of several part-time student jobs was operating the “old-style” telephone switchboard at a small hospital called Forkosh Memorial. The console of coils and plugs included a mirror so operators could keep an eye on the hospital entrance, which on weekends and evenings was also monitored by an elderly, unarmed security guard named Frank. He sat at a classroom style desk near the entrance with a ledger book.

Over the course of four years, on weekends and evenings, “security” at the hospital generally consisted solely of Frank and me. Fortunately, nothing much ever happened. The possibility of an attack, invasion, or raid never occurred to us. The notion of an aerial bombardment was unimaginable, like something out of War of the Worlds or some other sci-fi fantasy.

Now, tragically, hospitals in Gaza and the West Bank have been attacked, invaded, bombed, and destroyed. News of additional Israeli attacks is being reported on a daily basis. Last week, Democracy Nowinterviewed Dr. Yasser Khan, a Canadian ophthalmologist and eye surgeon who recently returned from a humanitarian surgical mission at the European Hospital in Khan Younis in Gaza. Dr. Khan spoke of bombings taking place every few hours resulting in a constant influx of mass casualties. The majority of patients he treated were children from age 2 to 17. He saw horrific eye injuries, shattered faces, shrapnel wounds, abdominal injuries, limbs severed above the bone, and traumas caused by drone-launched laser-guided missiles. Amid the overcrowding and chaos, healthcare workers tended to patients while lacking basic equipment, including anesthesia. Patients lay on the ground in unsterile conditions, vulnerable to infection and disease. Most of them also suffered from severe hunger.

At Forkosh Hospital in the 1970s, I had a mirror to see what was happening behind my back, but everyone on Earth can see, directly, the horror of U.S. support for a genocidal event happening on our watch.

Normally, a child who undergoes an amputation faces as many as 12 additional surgeries. Khan wondered who would do the follow-up care for these children, some of whom have no surviving relatives.

He also noted sniper fire prevented doctors from going to work. “They’ve killed healthcare workers, nurses, paramedics; ambulances have been bombed. This has all been systematic,” Khan explained. “Now there are 10,000 to 15,000 bodies decomposing. It’s the rainy season right now in Gaza, so all the rainwater mixes with the decomposing bodies and that bacteria mixes with the drinking water supply and you get further disease.”

According to Khan, Israeli forces have kidnapped 40 to 45 doctors, specifically targeting specialists and hospital administrators. Three healthcare professional organizations have issued a statement expressing deep concern that the Israeli military has abducted and unlawfully detained Dr. Khaled al-Serr, a surgeon at the Nasser Hospital in Gaza.

On February 19, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus described conditions in the Nasser hospital after Israel ordered evacuation of Palestinians from the complex. “There are still more than 180 patients and 15 doctors and nurses inside Nasser,” he said. “The hospital is still experiencing an acute shortage of food, basic medical supplies, and oxygen. There is no tap water and no electricity, except a backup generator maintaining some lifesaving machines.”

Eight years ago, in October of 2015, the United States military destroyed Afghanistan’s Kunduz hospital, run by Médecins sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders). For more than an hour, a C-130 transport plane repeatedly fired incendiary devices at the hospital’s emergency room and intensive care unit, killing 42 people. Thirty-seven additional people were injured. “Our patients burned in their beds,” read the MSF’s in-depth report. “Our medical staff were decapitated or lost limbs. Others were shot from the air while they fled the burning building.”

The horrific attack outraged war resisters and human rights groups. I remember joining a group of activists in upstate New York who assembled outside a hospital emergency room with a banner proclaiming, “To bomb this site would be a war crime.”

In 2009, on a smaller, yet still horrific scale, I witnessed an Israeli onslaught in Gaza called “Operation Cast Lead.” In the emergency room of the Al Shifa hospital, Dr. Saeed Abuhassan, an orthopedic surgeon, described experiences similar to Khan’s. This surgeon grew up in Chicago, very close to the neighborhood where I lived. I asked him what he would want me to tell our neighbors back home. He listed a litany of horrors, and then he stopped. “No,” he said. “First, you must tell them that U.S. taxpayer money paid for all of these weapons.”

Taxpayer money feeds the bloated, swollen Pentagon budget. U.S. Senators, last week, cowed by AIPAC, decided to send Israel an additional $14.1 billion to boost military spending. Only three Senators voted against the bill.

From PalestineHuwaida Arraf, a Palestinian-American human rights attorney, wrote on X: “The scary part is not that Israel is planning the forcible transfer of the Palestinians it hasn’t slaughtered, but that the so-called ‘civilized world’ is allowing it to happen. The ramifications of this coordinated evil will haunt its collaborators for generations to come.”

At Forkosh Hospital in the 1970s, I had a mirror to see what was happening behind my back, but everyone on Earth can see, directly, the horror of U.S. support for a genocidal event happening on our watch. Gravely distorted versions of what occurred on October 7, cannot—even if believed—justify the scale of the horrors being reported in Gaza and the West Bank each day.

The U.S. government continues enthusiastically to bankroll Israel’s systemic and inhumane destruction of Gaza. U.S. advisers make feeble attempts to suggest Israel should pause or at least try to be more precise in their attacks. In its quest for hegemonic superiority, the United States tears into ever tinier shreds whatever remains of a commitment to human rights, equality, and human dignity.

What kept Forkosh Hospital secure, decades ago, was a social contract that presumed safety for a small hospital serving the local population.

If we can’t find the morality to stop supplying weapons for ongoing Israeli onslaughts against Gaza and its places of healing, we may find we have created a world in which no one can count on upholding basic human rights. We may be creating intergenerational wounds of hatred and sorrow from which there will never, ever be any safe place to heal.

A version of this article first appeared on The Progressive website.

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

Continue ReadingThe US Must Stop Arming Israel’s Assault on Hospitals

Morning Star: The moment of truth is fast approaching for MPs over Gaza

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Israeli soldiers drive a tank near the Gaza Strip border, in southern Israel, February 19, 2024

WEDNESDAY is a fresh moment of truth for British politicians. For the second time, they will have the opportunity to vote in the House of Commons for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

Since they backed the Israeli aggression by a majority last November, the genocidal assault on the Palestinians has only intensified.

More than 100,000 people have now been killed or wounded, nearly 5 per cent of Gaza’s total population. Of the dead, more than a third are children.

To date, the British government has not just acquiesced in this. It has enabled it — with arms supplies, logistical support, diplomatic backing and political indulgence.

It is complicit in genocide. So too is the Labour Party, which under Keir Starmer’s pro-imperialist leadership — it is the only issue on which he never wavers or changes course — has been hard line in its backing for the British and Israeli governments alike.


Continue ReadingMorning Star: The moment of truth is fast approaching for MPs over Gaza

Starmer tries to make SNP Gaza ceasefire motion all about Israel’s feelings

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Article republished from the Skwawkbox for non-commercial use.

Labour amendments betray Gaza’s murdered and oppressed civilians and uses classic asymmetric language to value Palestinian life less than Israeli

Keir Starmer – after days of posing to try to bring Muslim and other decent voters onside by mouthing ceasefire language – has yet again betrayed the two million people in Gaza suffering violence and starvation and the more than 100,000 people murdered and maimed by Israel.

While the ‘mainstream’ media speculated whether Starmer would order MPs to support the SNP’s motion demanding a ceasefire, which is being debated in Parliament tomorrow, more realistic observers knew it was inevitable that Starmer would do the minimum he hopes will fool voters opposed to Israel’s genocide in Gaza, while protecting the interests of the pro-Israel right.

And so he did: Labour has tabled amendments to the original motion that gut it of its impact and has gone as far as making the motion more about Hamas’s supposed guilt and the feelings of Israel and its supporters. And the amendment uses the classic tactics of politicians and ‘mainstream’ media to present Israeli lives and suffering as more valuable than Palestinian.

In Starmer’s worldview, Palestinians are not being murdered by Israel – their lives are just ‘lost’, as if to a natural disaster and not to a campaign of mechanised mass murder. The sheer number of their deaths is presented as ‘intolerable’, but the loss of Israeli lives to Palestinian resistance is ‘horror’. Israelis have the ‘right to assurance’ against attack, but there is no mention of a Palestinian right not to be murdered by the occupation regime. Israel ‘cannot be expected’ to stop fighting if Hamas does not stop – but there is no acknowledgement that Hamas’s violence takes place against a backdrop of decades of wanton violence and oppression by the occupiers. Israel must be ‘safe and secure’ – but a Palestinian state only merits ‘viable’.

The SNP motion is an exemplar of directness and simplicity and rightly focuses on the many tens of thousands of civilians slaughtered by Israel, as well as on the forced displacement of 1.5 million Palestinians into Rafah, where they remain under constant bombardment and the threat of an all-out ground assault:

Labour’s lickspittle version calls resistance ‘terrorism’ but does not mention the Israeli terror state’s genocide and other war crimes, or the fact that so many are dying in Rafah because they were forced to cram there under bomb and bullet – and clearly hasn’t even been proofread, calling for ‘the UN Security Council to be meet urgently’:

Starmer is trying to mask his support for Israel’s war crimes and hoping that the millions in this country disgusted by that support will be fooled. His disregard for the true plight of Palestinians and his complicity in the war crimes being perpetrated against them by Israel is beyond contemptible.

Article republished from the Skwawkbox for non-commercial use. ENDS

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

Zionist Keir Starmer supports Israel’s Gaza genocide.
Continue ReadingStarmer tries to make SNP Gaza ceasefire motion all about Israel’s feelings

Wife Says ‘Day X’ Hearing for Julian Assange ‘Will Determine if He Lives or Dies’

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Original article by BRETT WILKINS reposted from Common Dreams under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). 

Stella Assange speaks to the media outside the Old Bailey on January 4, 2021 in London.  (Photo: Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)

“This could very well be the final hearing for Julian,” said Stella Assange on the eve of the critical U.K. High Court session.

Stella Assange, the wife of Julian Assange, said Monday that the jailed WikiLeaks founder will likely die if he is extradited from Britain to the United States, where he could imprisoned for the rest of his life for publishing classified documents including numerous files exposing U.S. war crimes.

Assange’s final appeal is scheduled to be heard on Tuesday by the U.K. High Court. The Australian publisher’s supporters are calling it “Day X,” and his wife told the BBC that it “could very well be the final hearing for Julian.”

“There’s no possibility for further appeal in this jurisdiction,” she explained, adding that Assange could still seek an emergency injunction from the European Court of Human Rights.

Assange said her husband—who is 52 years old and suffers from physical and mental health problems including heart and respiratory issues—is very weak and “in a very difficult place.”

Imprisoned in London’s notorious Belmarsh Prison since April 2019, Assange could be sentenced to as many as 175 years behind bars if convicted of all the Espionage Act and Computer Fraud and Abuse Act charges against him.

WikiLeaks published a series of document dumps inculding “Collateral Murder” video—which shows a U.S. Army helicopter crew killing a group of Iraqi civilians—the Afghan War Diary, and the Iraq War Logs, which revealed American and allied war crimes.

In 2016, The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found that Assange had been arbitrarily deprived of his freedom since his first arrest on December 7, 2010, including house arrest, imprisonment in London, and nearly seven years of political asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in the British capital.

Nils Melzer, the U.N.’s top torture official from 2016 to 2022, repeatedly said that Assange’s treatment amounted to torture.

Alice Jill Edwards, the current U.N. special rapporteur on torture, is imploring the U.K. government to decline Assange’s transfer to the U.S. because she says his health is likely to be “irreparably damaged” by extradition. Edwards cited conditions in U.S. prisons including the use of prolonged solitary confinement and excessive sentences as causes for concern.

Countless human rights defenders, press freedom advocates, and elected officials around the world have called on the U.S. to drop charges against Assange and for the U.K. to refuse his extradition.

“All eyes are on the U.K. High Court during this fateful hearing, but it remains to be seen whether the British judiciary can deliver some form of justice by preventing Assange’s extradition at this late stage,” Rebecca Vincent, campaigns director at Reporters Without Borders, said in a statement Monday.

“Regardless, none of this is inevitable—it remains within the U.S. government’s power to bring this judicial tragedy to an end by dropping its 13-year-old case against Assange and ceasing this endless persecution,” Vincent continued. “No one should face such treatment for publishing information in the public interest.”

“It’s time to protect journalism, press freedom, and all of our right to know,” she added. “It’s time to free Assange now.”

Original article by BRETT WILKINS reposted from Common Dreams under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). 

Continue ReadingWife Says ‘Day X’ Hearing for Julian Assange ‘Will Determine if He Lives or Dies’

With Rafah Under Siege, ICJ Reiterates Israeli Obligations Under Genocide Convention

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

Palestinian children hold placards during a march demanding an end to the war and their right to live, education, and play on February 14, 2024 in Rafah, Gaza.  (Photo: Ahmad Hasaballah/Getty Images.

A South African leader welcomed the court’s affirmation that “the perilous situation demands immediate and effective implementation of the provisional measures” from its earlier ruling.

As Israeli forces plan a full-scale assault on Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, the International Court of Justice on Friday forcefully reminded Israel that it must comply with a January order to meet its obligations under the Genocide Convention.

South Africa—which is leading the genocide case against Israel that led to six provisional measures from the ICJ last month—asked the World Court for emergency action on Tuesday in light of the Israeli plan to attack Rafah, whose population has surged to roughly 1.5 million as Palestinians have fled bombings and raids in northern Gaza.

The ICJ, which is part of the United Nations, weighed in just a day after Israel submitted its response to South Africa’s request.

“The court notes that the most recent developments in the Gaza Strip, and in Rafah in particular, ‘would exponentially increase what is already a humanitarian nightmare with untold regional consequences,'” the ICJ said Friday, quoting United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks to the U.N. General Assembly last week.

“This perilous situation demands immediate and effective implementation of the provisional measures indicated by the court in its order of 26 January 2024, which are applicable throughout the Gaza Strip, including in Rafah, and does not demand the indication of additional provisional measures,” the World Court continued.

“The court emphasizes that the state of Israel remains bound to fully comply with its obligations under the Genocide Convention and with the said order, including by ensuring the safety and security of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip,” the ICJ added.

Clayson Monyela of South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation said on social media that his country welcomes the development.

“The court has affirmed our view that the perilous situation demands immediate and effective implementation of the provisional measures indicated by the court in its order of 26 January 2024 which are applicable throughout the Gaza Strip and has clarified that this includes Rafah,” he said.

The ICJ’s decision comes as countries including South Africa prepare to participate in hearings before the Hague-based court next week about Israel’s 57-year occupation of Palestine. South African representatives are set to present second, after the Palestinians.

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

Continue ReadingWith Rafah Under Siege, ICJ Reiterates Israeli Obligations Under Genocide Convention

Israeli Assault Leaves Gaza’s Nasser Hospital ‘Not Functional’

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

Injured Palestinians are brought to Nasser Hospital in Khan Yunis, Gaza on January 22, 2024.  (Photo: Belal Khaled/Anadolu via Getty Images)

The WHO “was not permitted to enter” the facility in recent days, said the agency chief, warning that “the cost of delays will be paid by patients’ lives.”

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced Sunday that the largest hospital in the southern Gaza Strip “is not functional anymore, after a weeklong siege followed by the ongoing raid” by Israeli forces.

After claiming that Hamas was using Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis for “military activity” and some hostages’ bodies may be there, the Israel Defense Forces on Thursday began raiding the facility, where around 10,000 people had sought shelter. Sources there said the IDF bombed “a ward full of patients” and multiple people who were dependent on oxygen have died due to power outages.

Tedros highlighted on Sunday that the WHO team “was not permitted to enter” the facility in recent days “to assess the conditions of the patients and critical medical needs, despite reaching the hospital compound to deliver fuel alongside partners.”

“There are still about 200 patients in the hospital. At least 20 need to be urgently referred to other hospitals to receive healthcare; medical referral is every patient’s right,” he added. “The cost of delays will be paid by patients’ lives. Access to the patients and hospital should be facilitated.”

Later Sunday, the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza said that “150 patients who cannot move are piled inside the rooms and corridors of the old building at Nasser Medical Complex without medical care after the arrest of 70 of the complex’s management and medical staff.”

“The occupation refuses to evacuate patients for treatment in other hospitals, which endangers their lives, including seven intensive care patients, five dialysis patients, [and] three newborns in the nursery, in addition to cases of burns, amputations, quadriplegia, childbirth, and others,” the ministry added.

The IDF said on Telegram that in its operations around the facility, Israeli troops apprehended “hundreds of terrorists and other terror suspects who were hiding in the hospital, some of whom had posed as medical staff,” including alleged participants in the October 7 Hamas-led attack that led to the war.

Noting IDF claims that soldiers aimed to recover the remains of hostages believed to be in the facility, The Washington Postreported that “Israeli forces have not yet found the bodies of any hostages but said on Sunday that they discovered medicine at the hospital bearing the names of Israelis who were abducted by Hamas.”

The Israeli assault on the Hamas-governed enclave has killed nearly 29,000 Palestinians, injured over 68,800 others, devastated civilian infrastructure—including hospitals—and left most of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents displaced, hungry, and at risk of disease. Global experts and critics have accused Israel of genocide, including in a South Africa-led case before the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

In response to IDF orders to leave northern Gaza, most residents are now crammed into the southern part of the strip. According toAl-Jazeera:

Al-Amal Hospital, the only other major medical facility still operational in Khan Younis, continues to be a target of Israeli attacks. The Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) on Sunday said Israeli forces targeted the third floor of the hospital with artillery fire.

The Israeli military has expanded its siege on Khan Younis and its medical facilities as it pushed further south into Rafah on the border with Egypt.

Throughout the week, people around the world including humanitarian and United Nations leaders have pressured Israel to refrain from a full-scale attack on Rafah. The ICJ on Friday echoed U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres’ warning that it “would exponentially increase what is already a humanitarian nightmare with untold regional consequences.”

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

Continue ReadingIsraeli Assault Leaves Gaza’s Nasser Hospital ‘Not Functional’