US banks vow not to fund Great Barrier Reef coal port, say activists

October 29th, 2014

Oliver Milman; theguardian.com, 28/10/14

Despite being an adviser to Adani on its Abbot’s Point coal port expansion near the Great Barrier Reef, Morgan Stanley has pledged not to finance it, Rainforest Action Network says. US banking giants Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, and JPMorgan Chase have become the latest big financiers to rule out funding a major coal port expansion in Queensland, environmentalists say.
Rainforest Action Network, a US environment group, said it had received written commitments from each of the banks to not back the development of the Abbot Point port, which is adjacent to world heritage site the Great Barrier Reef.
The project is being overseen by Indian mining giant Adani, which has government approval to build a new port terminal in order to export coal it will extract in central Queensland, taken to the port via rail. Several avenues of finance have already been shut off to the $16.5bn project. Deutsche Bank, Royal Bank of Scotland, HSBC and Barclays all ruled out funding the development, before the US banks’ refusal.
Rainforest Action Network said Morgan Stanley had also committed to not investing in the project, although the bank was an adviser to Adani and was helping the company sell part of its stake in Abbot Point in order to provide capital for the development.
Citi and JPMorgan Chase said they would not fund any resources project within a world heritage area, while Goldman Sachs said it ruled out funding a development that “would significantly convert or degrade a critical natural habitat.”
The Adani terminal itself would not sit within the world heritage area and the US banks have not been asked by Adani to study the project and provide funding for it. None of the “big four” Australian banks – ANZ, Westpac, Commonwealth Bank and NAB – have yet ruled out funding the development, despite pressure from climate activists.
However, environmentalists say the stance taken by overseas banks shows that the project is economically and socially toxic.
Conservationists have warned that dredging and extra shipping associated with the port will damage the reef’s coral and fish, while the exported coal will, when burned, result in carbon emissions that will return to haunt the coral ecosystem. A recent government assessment found that climate change was the leading threat to the future of the reef.
Blair Palese, chief executive of climate activist group 350.org, said coal projects such as Adani’s were facing a “perfect storm” of falling coal prices and reluctant investors.
“Adani are quickly running out of options for international finance for this project,” she said. “These banks know a huge amount about investments and they don’t need to look hard to see that this isn’t a good deal. There’s also the reputational damage of being associated with something that will damage the Great Barrier Reef.
“Without a doubt Australia is living in a coal bubble, thinking the world will continue as it always has done. We have a political leader who says coal is good for humanity, which is just sticking your head in the sand. We need to see a rapid transition to renewables, for the good of the climate and also for the good of the Australian economy.”
Aside from the challenge of financing the coal project, Adani has been plagued by allegations of poor employment and environmental practices in India, as well as a court challenge in Australia aimed at stopping its planned Carmichael mine, which would be the largest such development in the country. However, the company has insisted that there are no issues with the “rigorous and stringent” environmental conditions associated with its coal project.
“They are as robust, if not more so, than any applying to projects that any banks invest in around the world,” Adani said in a statement, adding that Morgan Stanley had confirmed to it that it had not made any judgment of the coal project’s environmental safeguards.
“Morgan Stanley Australia are Adani’s advisers on the potential partial sale of Adani’s existing terminal (T1) at Abbot Point,” Adani said. “Any partial sale of Adani’s current holdings at the port would, far from [being] a withdrawal from the port, in fact be used to deliver the port’s expansion.
“Additionally, Adani has not sought funding for this project from Citibank, Goldman Sachs, or JPMorgan Chase. The premise that institutions who have not been asked to provide funding, have no insight into our projects, and have not studied the details, have declined to or distanced themselves from involvement is rejected. Taken together, this demonstrates that this ill-informed campaign mounted by activists with little familiarity with Australia has no basis in fact.”

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/oct/28/us-banks-vow-not-to-fund-great-barrier-reef-coal-port-say-activists

Australia, Environment

UK axes support for Mediterranean migrant rescue operation

October 29th, 2014

Alan Travis, The Guardian, 27/10/14
The official Italian operation, Mare Nostrum, which is due to end this week, has contributed over the past past 12 months to the rescue of an estimated 150,000 people. Britain will not support any future search and rescue operations to prevent migrants and refugees drowning in the Mediterranean, claiming they simply encourage more people to attempt the dangerous sea crossing, Foreign Office ministers have quietly announced.
Refugee and human rights organisations reacted with anger to the official British refusal to support a sustained European search and rescue operation to prevent further mass migrant drownings, saying it would contribute to more people dying needlessly on Europe’s doorstep.
The British refusal comes as the official Italian sea and rescue operation, Mare Nostrum, is due to end this week after contributing over the past 12 months to the rescue of an estimated 150,000 people since the Lampedusa tragedies in which 500 migrants died in October 2013.
The Italian operation will now end without a similar European search and rescue operation to replace it. The Italian authorities have said their operation, which involves a significant part of the Italian navy, is unsustainable. Despite its best efforts, more than 2,500 people are known to have drowned or gone missing in the Mediterranean since the start of the year.
Instead of the Italian operation, a limited joint EU “border protection” operation, codenamed Triton and managed by Frontex, the European border agency, is to be launched on 1 November. Crucially, it will not include search and rescue operations across the Mediterranean, just patrols within 30 miles of the Italian coast.
Human rights organisations have raised fears that more migrants and refugees will die in their attempt to reach Europe from the north African coast. The hard-pressed Italian navy will be left to mount what search and rescue operations it can. The new European operation will have only a third of the resources of the Italian operation that is being phased out.
British policy was quietly spelled out in a recent House of Lords written answer by the new Foreign Office minister, Lady Anelay: “We do not support planned search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean,” she said, adding that the government believed there was “an unintended ‘pull factor’, encouraging more migrants to attempt the dangerous sea crossing and thereby leading to more tragic and unnecessary deaths”.
Anelay said: “The government believes the most effective way to prevent refugees and migrants attempting this dangerous crossing is to focus our attention on countries of origin and transit, as well as taking steps to fight the people smugglers who wilfully put lives at risk by packing migrants into unseaworthy boats.”
The Home Office told the Guardian the government was not taking part in Operation Triton at present beyond providing one “debriefer” – a single immigration officer – to gather intelligence about the migrants who continue to make the dangerous journey to Italy.
Other EU countries have responded to the call for help with two fixed-wing aircraft and three patrol vessels.
It is understood that Britain does not rule out providing further support later for an operation it says will be limited to “border management”. As it does not involve search and rescue missions it will not be covered by British government policy which regards the rescue of desperate migrants as only encouraging others to make the hazardous journey.
The home secretary, Theresa May, was among justice and home affairs ministers who agreed earlier this month to the ending of the Italian search and rescue operation and to deploying Operation Triton without delay in order to “reinforce border surveillance in the waters close to the Italian shores”.
European interior ministers acknowledged that the situation in the Mediterranean was of the greatest concern “as there are indications that the current trend will continue and the situation even risks deteriorating further”.
As well as deploying “Task Force Mediterranean”, which includes two fixed-wing surveillance aircraft and three patrol vessels in Operation Triton, ministers agreed a series of North African measures including finding ways of curtailing the supply of vessels from Tunisia and Egypt used by people smugglers.
May told the Commons the meeting had agreed “the prompt withdrawal of the Mare Nostrum operation … and for all member states to comply fully with their obligations under EU migration and asylum [policies].”
Admiral Filippo Maria Foffi, the commander in charge of the Italian naval squadron involved in Mare Nostrum, is expected to spell out on Tuesday the impact of its cancellation.
The British Refugee Council chief executive, Maurice Wren, responding to the Foreign Office refusal to take part in future search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean said: “The British government seems oblivious to the fact that the world is in the grip of the greatest refugee crisis since the second world war.
“People fleeing atrocities will not stop coming if we stop throwing them life-rings; boarding a rickety boat in Libya will remain a seemingly rational decision if you’re running for your life and your country is in flames. The only outcome of withdrawing help will be to witness more people needlessly and shamefully dying on Europe’s doorstep.
“The answer isn’t to build the walls of fortress Europe higher, it’s to provide more safe and legal channels for people to access protection.”
Tony Bunyan, director of Statewatch, which documents European justice and home affairs policies, added: “The government’s justification for not participating in Triton is cynical and an abdication of responsibility by saying that not helping to rescue people fleeing from war, persecution and poverty who are likely to perish is an acceptable way to discourage immigration.”
Amnesty International wrote to the home secretary last month criticising the woeful response from European countries to the unacceptable scale of the loss of life from the influx of refugees and migrants on boats across the Mediterranean.

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/oct/27/uk-mediterranean-migrant-rescue-plan

Manus Island asylum seeker writes to UN in bid to access healthcare;

October 29th, 2014

Melissa Davey; 27/10/14

Asylum seeker says he will lose an eye injured in detention centre unrest and is being kept from specialist care. The president of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Gillian Triggs, says delayed medical treatment is a “persistent complaint” among asylum seekers.
An asylum seeker who had an eye gouged and lost several teeth during unrest at Manus Island detention centre in February has written to the United Nations in a desperate plea to receive proper medical care.
There are growing concerns from human rights experts about the lengthy delays for medical treatment asylum seekers held in offshore processing centres face, even when suffering from serious conditions.
In the letter sent on Monday, the asylum seeker described how he could no longer concentrate or sleep at night because of his pain. The asylum seeker, who is from Iraq, wrote that after he was injured in the protests he was taken to Port Moresby, where a consultant ophthalmologist referred him to a specialist on the Australian mainland because she did not have the equipment needed to assess him.
The specialist said his right eye was irreparable and would need to be removed. “He told me to see him again after 20 days,” the asylum seeker wrote. “Before I saw him again I was taken by force and brought back to Manus Island. Right now, I cannot attend any class, cannot sleep at all during [the] day and night and I cannot see anything with my right eye because I lost sight completely.”
The asylum seeker wrote that he wants to go back to the specialist to have his treatment completed, nearly nine months after he was first injured. He also suffers from diabetes and relies on painkillers to get by.
He described how he was injured, writing he had been in his room and was not taking part in the protests when Papua New Guinean police and officers from the security firm G4S stormed his room. “I was taken from under my bed and was beaten severely,” he wrote. “As a result I lost my sight because they hit [a] big wooden stick on my right eye and … on my mouth and I lost two teeth.”
Prof Gillian Triggs, president of the Australian Human Rights Commission, said delayed medical treatment was a “persistent complaint” among those held in Australia’s offshore processing centres. “We have to be careful about these allegations until proven true, but there were many incidents we found where the facts stood up to scrutiny,” she said.
“There was one case where a baby had a huge lump under its chin and if that occurred in suburban Australia, that baby would have been rushed to hospital immediately. This baby didn’t get attention for 10 days, and only because a medical officer travelling with me made an issue out of it, as did I.”
The Australian government had an especially high duty of care to those in offshore detention, Triggs said. “The point we make is when you put people on islands hours away from medical care, you have an even higher duty of care to them than elsewhere because you’ve put them in harm’s way, and that harm almost inevitably happens.”
Hamid Kehazaei, a detainee at Manus island detention centre who died after waiting weeks for medical treatment for a foot infection, was not scheduled to be seen by a doctor until three weeks after his death. In August, Kehazaei, an Iranian, asked to see a doctor on the offshore processing centre after cutting his foot and experiencing extreme pain.
But he did not immediately get an appointment and weeks later, he was evacuated to a Brisbane hospital suffering from severe septicaemia. On 5 September he was declared brain dead and his life support was switched off.
A schedule of doctor appointments at the detention centre revealed to Guardian Australia shows Kehazaei was to be seen on September 27 at 9.45am, almost two months after first requesting an appointment.
Ben Pynt, director of Human Rights Advocacy, said denying people medical treatment amounted to torture under international humanitarian law. “We’re seeing hundreds of people whose medical treatment has been delayed or denied,” Pynt said. “Sometimes when we alert the Department of Immigration about such cases they do take action, which suggests they don’t know what’s going on or have been unwilling to find out.” Guardian Australia has contacted the department for comment.
Pynt said asylum seekers needing urgent medical care should immediately be brought to Australia for treatment. “There is no other option because treatment on Manus is insufficient,” he said. “Most asylum seekers are left waiting days or weeks before they can see a doctor, and on Manus 87 people are on the specialist treatment waiting list. This is just so common.” There were also 150 people on the dental waiting list at Manus, Pynt said.
In another letter sent in early October, an asylum seeker, also detained on Manus Island, wrote he had been waiting 14 months to see a dentist. “There’s no remedy available for us,” the letter said. “Only Panadol and water. We are waiting for dentist during last year. I have toothache too. I lost [two] teeth.”
In August, the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and the Australian Medical Association called for the establishment of an independent medical advisory body to audit the treatment of asylum seekers in detention.
A spokeswoman from International Health and Medical Services, contracted by the Australian government to manage healthcare on offshore processing centres, said a triage system was used to assess patients, the same as would be used for treating patients in a hospital environment.
“There is no impediment to transferees seeking immediate medical attention for any matter from the 24/7 services that are available, either via a medical request form or by an unscheduled visit,” she said.

Do you know more? melissa.davey@theguardian[email protected]

http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2014/oct/27/manus-island-asylum-seeker-writes-to-un-in-bid-to-access-healthcareand

UN told of allegations of torture in Australia’s child welfare system

October 29th, 2014

Bridie Jabour; theguardian.com, 27/10/14
A submission to the UN includes an account of electric shocks being used as punishment at Victoria’s Box Hill Boys’ Home. Allegations of electric shocks and other forms of torture in orphanages and foster homes within Australia’s child welfare system have been detailed in a submission to the United Nations.
Care Leavers Australia Network (Clan) will send a delegation to meet with the UN committee against torture in Geneva next week after submitting a report into the torture, sexual and physical abuse, malnourishment and forced labour of children in orphanages, foster homes, children homes and other institutions over the past century.
The submission alleges belts, straps, horse whips, canes, switches, wet towels, keys, fists, pieces of wood and even rosary beads were used as weapons against children. The most recent allegations are from the late 1990s.
“Another way of punishing children was to physically torture them. This differed to blatant corporal punishment and assault. Instead it was often designed to slowly cause intense pain or injury,” the submission says. “For example, there have been some accounts of children being made to walk from post to post in the blazing hot sun with bare feet, not only to tire them out but to cause severe sunburn and blisters which would leave them in pain for days. As a result, many [of those affected] now suffer from skin cancer.
“In some orphanages and homes children were made to cut large sections of grass using basic stationery scissors, causing them to break down psychologically and physically.”
The submission has dozens of first-hand accounts from children detailing their suffering in Australia’s welfare system.
An account from a Clan member who was at the W R Black Home for Girls in Queensland describes the punishment for wetting the bed: “We had to go to the matron’s room and tell her. She would pull us back to our bed by our hair, rub our nose in the wet sheet, flog us, make us stand to have our meals.
“After dinner we had to stand facing the wall with our arms straight above our head. When our arms drooped she would hit them with a ruler or a cane … we also had our mattress taken away for several nights. We had to sleep on the bare wire base (summer and winter) with only a pillow and a blanket. She would get us up to the toilet and keep hitting us saying ‘do it, do it’.”
The report says there are also accounts of electric shocks being used in homes as a form of punishment and cites in particular a testimony from a man who grew up in the Box Hill Boys’ Home in Victoria.
“[A carer] used to make a group of us boys stand around and hold hands and he would attach an electric current to us. He would keep turning the current up. Not only was this extremely painful, but we were also scared stiff that he would go too far and we would die of electrocution. There was no point in saying no. Any protest would just be met with a bashing.”
Another care leaver says in the report that it would be called torture by the international community if it had happened in a war prisoner’s camp.
Clan has fought for a national reparations scheme for years to help children abused in the system and to also reimburse children who were used as unpaid labour in some of the homes.
The advocacy group has assisted care leavers in coming forward with evidence to the royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse. Clan represents thousands of former residents of homes and orphanages, many of which have been examined by the royal commission and found to have been places of horrendous abuse over decades.
The rape and malnourishment of children in care have also been detailed to the UN with accounts of children being forced to eat their own vomit if they threw up after eating the rotting food which was given them. “Furthermore whilst many children recall eating horrendous food, they also recall seeing those who worked in the homes enjoy food they would have deemed a luxury,” the report says.
It cites an account from a care leaver of what staff at their home ate: “Staff took their meals at the same time and sat at tables covered with crisp white starched tablecloths and napkins, silver cutlery and serviette rings. We would sit and drool at their food. They had chicken, meat, bacon and eggs, toast with real butter, scones with fresh cream and jam.”
Clan have been engaged with the UN’s committee against torture for years and will travel to Geneva next week for further talks on the submission.

http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/oct/28/un-told-allegations-torture-australia-child-welfare-system

Israel, Palestine, and Netanyahu’s Agenda

October 27th, 2014

Robert Fantana; 24/10/14

As the United States continues to babble about a negotiated settlement to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Israeli Prime Murderer Benjamin Netanyahu has clarified for the world what the U.S., and any thinking person, has known for years: Israel simply isn’t interested. On July 11, as Israel was using U.S-provided weaponry to massacre Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, Mr. Netanyahu said this: “I think the Israeli people understand now what I always say: that there cannot be a situation, under any agreement, in which we relinquish security control of the territory west of the River Jordan.”
So, if the Israeli people always understood this, is it likely that that U.S. was somehow confused about it? When Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, hardly a great statesman by any measure, says that Palestine doesn’t have a negotiating partner, does the U.S. not understand his point?
Mr. Netanyahu’s statement is interesting only in how it again enables him to slap the U.S. in the face. He boldly proclaims that the negotiations, which the U.S. has oh-so-helpfully arranged over the years, are simply a farce, political theatre designed to appease the world, but without any substance whatever.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, a hapless figurehead simply doing Israel’s bidding, was unsuccessful in drafting a framework for discussions that was acceptable to Israel. Of course he was. If his ‘framework’ mentioned even the remote possibility of Israel adhering to international law and ending the occupation of the West Bank, this cannot be acceptable to Israel’s leader who will not, under any agreement, ‘relinquish security control’ over the West Bank.
This is nothing new. Even former President Richard Nixon, who left office in August of 1974, in his memoirs, described Israel thusly: “…[A]n attitude of total intransigence on negotiating any peace agreement that would involve the return of any of the territories they had occupied.”
But Mr. Nixon was the anomaly; U.S. presidents have, since Israel’s catastrophic establishment, gone out of their way in its service. President George H. W. Bush was very active in the pro-Israeli cause during his four-year administration.
Among his ‘accomplishments’:
# Blocking the PLO from membership in multiple international organizations;
# Complete disregard of unspeakable human rights violations committed by Israel against Palestinians living in the occupied territories;
# A vision of peace based solely on Israel’s terms;
# Opposition to U.N. resolutions addressing Israel’s violations of international law in crimes committed against the Palestinians;
# Support for massive Jewish immigration to the occupied territories, and
# Increasing financial assistance to Israel, despite that country’s pursuit of policies that contradicted U.S. principles.
– So what is the U.S. to do today?
The Israeli lobby in the U.S. very generously supports candidates who do Israel’s bidding.
– And just what do international law, justice and human rights have to do with election campaigns?
– So what if Israel spits on the United Nations, which has issued more resolutions condemning it than it has of all other nations combined?
– So what if international law demands that Israel retreat to its pre-1967 borders?
– Who cares if over 500 innocence Palestinian children, some as young as infants, were blown to bloody bits by IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) terrorists, with bombs provided by the U.S., just three months ago?
– What does it matter if press vehicles were bombed by Israel, along with hospitals, U.N. refugee centers, schools and mosques, all in violation of international laws, laws the United States has signed?
– What difference does it make if Israel prevents desperately needed supplies and building materials from entering the Gaza Strip?
Heaven forbid anything be done that might offend AIPAC (American Israel Political Affairs Committee), and cause it to withhold some of its largesse from candidates and elected officials who dance to its bloody tune.
Recent polls in Israel indicate that most Israelis are perfectly fine with the brutal occupation that their nation perpetrates. South Africa, a generation ago, was able to make a fairly peaceful transition to some semblance of democracy, but its apartheid practices didn’t have the overwhelming support that Israel’s apartheid practices appear to have today.
– So, what can be done?
The U.S. knows, and has long known, that Israel isn’t serious about negotiations, but its hands are tied by AIPAC’s purse strings. The United Nations has proved itself ineffectual in this (and many other) human rights tragedies, so no real help can be found there.
Sadly, the Palestinian people must look to their own weak, corrupt leader, President Abbas. He took the brave step three years ago when Palestine applied for ‘Non-Member Observer State’ status within the U.N., a move that was passed overwhelmingly. However, he has done little since then, other than assisting Israel in oppressing peaceful protest in the West Bank.
Despite the unspeakable crimes Israel committed in July of this year, he has yet to petition the International Criminal Court for redress. Nor has he submitted applications to join the countless other United Nations agencies of which Palestine is now eligible (when Palestine joined UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the U.S. and Israel stopped paying dues, thus losing voting rights in that organization).
Certainly, there are risks. Israel collects taxes that Palestine needs to pay workers, and when Palestine displeases its cruel master, that revenue is withheld. Home demolitions, the cost of which Palestinians are actually charged for, increase when the mood to do so strikes Israel. Surely, Palestine’s membership on the International Criminal Court would trigger a huge increase in home demolitions and settlement building, both of which are illegal.
But Palestinians have been suffering for decades under a cruel occupation; it must be stopped, and Mr. Abbas is perhaps the only one who can stop it.
Yes, Palestinians will have to endure more suffering during the process, because the international community, led by the United States, will continue to support Israel’s criminal, unspeakable violations of the human rights of the Palestinians, but they have proven their resiliency time and again; they will get through this, too.
Mr. Abbas is the leader of Palestine, albeit a weak, corrupt one.
If he wishes history to see him differently, he must make difficult choices on behalf of his people.

http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/10/24/israel-palestine-and-netanyahus-agenda/

Robert Fantina’s latest book is Empire, Racism and Genocide: a History of US Foreign Policy (Red Pill Press).

Noam Chomsky at United Nations: It Would Be Nice if the United States Lived up to International Law

October 27th, 2014

22/10/14; Democracy Now!

Renowned intellectual spoke at event sponsored by the United Nations Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People
After world-renowned scholar Noam Chomsky gave a major address on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the hall of the United Nations General Assembly last week, Amy Goodman interviewed the world-renowned linguist and dissident before an audience of 800 people.
Chomsky spoke at an event sponsored by the United Nations Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. “One important action that the United States could take is to live up to its own laws.
Of course it would be nice if it lived up to international law, but maybe that’s too much to ask,” Chomsky said.

http://www.democracynow.org/

Australia: Israeli land appropriation ‘not useful’ and ‘unsuitable’

October 27th, 2014

13/9/
The Australian government has asked the Israeli authorities to withdraw their decision to confiscate Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank, particularly the latest appropriation of 4,000 dunams in Hebron near the Israeli settlement of Etzion.
In a telephone call Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop expressed to her Israeli counterpart Avigdor Leiberman the concerns of her country regarding the reports.
Bishop said it might undermine the possibility of a two-state solution through negotiations, where a Palestinian state with recognised borders lives safely and securely side by side with Israel. This is the goal Australia is seeking to achieve.
The head of the Australian foreign policy called for Israel to review this decision, which she described as “not useful” and coming at an “unsuitable” time after the Israeli war on Gaza. She noted that the priority today is for the immediate implementation of the terms agreed upon in the latest ceasefire deal.

https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/48-asia/14104-australia-israeli-land-appropriation-not-useful-and-unsuitable

Israel bans Palestinians from settlers’ buses in West Bank (2)

October 27th, 2014

26/10/14

Israeli authorities have bowed to pressure from Jewish settlers and ordered a ban on Palestinians from using Israeli-run buses in the West Bank, Israeli daily Haaretz reported Sunday.
According to the paper, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon has issued instructions to the civil administration in the Israeli army to ban Palestinian workers from traveling by Israeli-run buses upon their return from their work places inside Israel to the West Bank.
The ban will go into effect at the beginning of next month, the paper said, noting that it came following intensive pressures from the settlers in the northern West Bank. The paper said the settlers sought for the past year to prevent Palestinians from travelling in their buses for security reasons.
It noted that the decision contradicts the stance of the Israeli army leadership which asserted that the Palestinian workers do not pose any security risk because they already go through a security check before being given permits to enter Israel.
Palestinians in northern West Bank who works inside Israel need to pass through the Eyal checkpoint near Qalqilya city, where they are subject to security screening.
“Every day in the morning, we pass through Eyal checkpoint for security check, which takes more than two hours,” Ahmad al-Toor, 44, told Anadolu Agency. “Upon our return, we use settlers’ buses in the West Bank, which pass near our villages,” he added.
“During our return trips, we are subject to frequent harassments by the settlers,” he added. “But standing for additional two hours under security pretexts when we return is too exhausting.”
The Israeli authorities has issued permits to nearly 150,000 Palestinian workers from the West Bank to work inside Israel.
About 500,000 Israelis now live in more than one hundred Jewish-only settlements built since Israel occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem in 1967. The Palestinians want these areas, along with the Gaza Strip, to establish their future state.
International law views the West Bank and East Jerusalem as “occupied territories,” considering all Jewish settlement building on the land illegal.

https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/14881-israel-bans-palestinians-from-settlers-buses-in-west-bank

Why Do Media Value Israeli Children’s Lives More Than Those of Palestinian Kids? (1)

October 27th, 2014

Rania Khalek;26/10/14

A young Palestinian man named Abd al-Rahman al-Shaludi rammed his car into pedestrians exiting the Ammunition Hill light rail station in northern Jerusalem on Wednesday, killing three-month-old Haya Zissel Brown and injuring at least seven others.
Israeli officials instantly labeled the crash a terrorist attack, which US media outlets have parroted without question even though the intent of the driver remains unclear. Given that Israeli police shot and killed al-Shaludi immediately after he exited the vehicle, whether the crash was deliberate may never be certain.
His family insists it was an accident, telling reporters that al-Shaludi, 21 years old, suffered from mental illness as a result of being tortured in Israeli prison.
“We believe that he was shot and killed in cold blood and there was no attempt to question him, and hear his side of the story,” his cousin, Abed al-Shaludi, told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
Al-Shaludi had been jailed by Israel three times since September 2012 for allegedly hurling stones and molotov cocktails at Israeli settlers and their property in Silwan, his neighborhood in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem. The Israeli press is using this to cast al-Shaludi as a career criminal with a history of “anti-Jewish” violence.
According to his mother, al-Shaludi’s metal health began to deteriorate after a three-week-long interrogation at the hands of the Shin Bet (Israel’s secret police) in the Jerusalem Russian Compound jail, a notorious site of abuse and torture of Palestinians.
This context has of course been missing or buried in most US media accounts, of which there are many. Israel and Palestine-related news is currently saturated with headlines about a Palestinian man killing an Israeli baby.
Meanwhile, these same outlets have either whitewashed or completely ignored the ongoing abuse and killings of Palestinian children by the Israeli military and settlers.
Gaza children still dying
The same day that al-Shaludi killed an Israeli infant with his car, an unexploded Israeli bomb took the life of four-year-old Muhammad Sami Abu Jrad in Beit Hanoun, a city in northern Gaza that was decimated by Israel’s merciless summertime bombing campaign, which killed nearly 2,200 Palestinians, most of them civilians, including more than 500 children.
According to the Ma’an News Agency, Jrad is the tenth person killed by unexploded Israeli munitions, most of which have yet to be cleared because the Israeli-imposed, Egypt-enforced blockade hampers access to the robotic and protective equipment needed to neutralize the leftover ordnance.
Unlike the tragic death of three-month-old Haya Zissel Brown, Muhammad Jrad’s killing elicited only silence from the American press corps, as did that of another Palestinian child run over by an Israeli settler earlier this week.
Children run down
On Sunday, a man reportedly from the Jewish-only settlement of Yitzhar ran over Palestinian schoolchildren as they made their way towards their mothers after exiting a school bus in the West Bank town of Sinjil.
Five-year-old Inas Khalil died of her wounds shortly thereafter and another girl, also hit, was left in critical condition.
Instead of stopping to check on the children or calling for help, the man kept driving until he reached a nearby Jewish settlement, at which point he says he called the police.
Residents accused the settler of ramming the children deliberately, but Israeli police ruled the hit-and-run an accident, siding with the settler, who claims he fled out of fear of being hurt by the Palestinian crowd which gathered around the girls he maimed.
Raed al-Jabari, a 35-year-old Palestinian father and husband, was not so lucky when he hit Israeli settlers with his car in the Gush Etzion settlement bloc in late July. Al-Jabari insisted it was an accident and turned himself in to the police, reported Ma’an News Agency. But unlike the settler who killed Inas Khalil, al-Jabari was jailed for two months and ultimately died under suspicious circumstances.
Israeli authorities claim al-Jabari hanged himself in the bathroom at Israel’s Eshel prison, but the autopsy suggests the man was tortured to death, according to Palestinian officials. Either way, the disparity in treatment of the settler who killed Khalil versus that of al-Jabari is the essence of Israel’s apartheid regime that affords different, unequal rights to those under its rule.
Palestinian Ambassador to the United Nations Riyad Mansour responded to the latest settler hit-and-run by filing a complaint with the UN Security Council, accusing “extremist terrorist settlers” of launching intentional hit-and-run attacks against Palestinians in recent months.
Indeed, settlers slamming their vehicles into Palestinians in the occupied West Bank is a common occurrence that is routinely overlooked by the Israeli authorities as well as western media outlets.
In September, a six-year-old Palestinian girl was run over by a settler driver south of the occupied West Bank city of Hebron. In August, an eight-year-old Palestinian girl was hit by a settler vehicle in the southern West Bank, an act witnesses described as a deliberate attack. A week later, a 23-year-old Palestinian man was run over and killed by a settler vehicle in the central West Bank.
As far as this writer can tell, none of the perpetrators have been labeled “terrorists” nor have any been held accountable. But such is the nature of apartheid.
Meanwhile, Khalil’s killing received a mention of two sentences in The New York Times, buried near the end of an article about Wednesday’s Jerusalem incident.
The Associated Press, one of the only US media outlets to cover Khalil’s death, devoted just five sentences to the hit-and-run, framing it as nothing more than an unproven accusation by Palestinians against an unnamed Israeli settler.
“The Palestinians are accusing an Israeli settler of running over two schoolgirls, killing one of them, and speeding away,” reads the article’s opening line.
In stark contrast, here is the opening sentence to the Associated Press article on the Jerusalem car crash: “A Palestinian motorist with a history of anti-Israel violence slammed his car into a crowded train station in Jerusalem on Wednesday, killing a three-month-old baby girl and wounding eight people in what police called a terror attack.”
Boy shot dead
On Thursday, 16 October, Israeli soldiers shot Bahaa Samir Badir, 13, in the chest at close range in Beit Laqiya, a village northwest of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank. He was pronounced dead shortly thereafter at the Palestine Medical Complex in Ramallah.
Like Khalil’s death, Badir’s killing elicited a mere five sentences from the Associated Press.
The Israeli army excused the killing, saying its soldiers were simply responding to firebombs directed at their jeeps as they were leaving the village. Live fire, an Israeli army spokesperson said, was an appropriate response to stones and Molotov cocktails, a troubling narrative that went largely unchallenged in the US media outlets which bothered to report on Badir’s death.
The US press showed even less interest in the video that surfaced this week that shows Israeli soldiers blindfolding, handcuffing and abusing an eleven-year-old developmentally disabled Palestinian boy in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron as a crowd of settlers and their children laughed, cheered and shouted racist slurs.
The abuse and wanton killing of Palestinian children by the Israeli war machine is not an exception, but rather a norm that US media outlets are complicit in enabling through omission or obfuscation, and, like Israel, they are guilty of valuing some children’s lives more than others.

http://www.commondreams.org/views/2014/10/26/why-do-media-value-israeli-childrens-lives-more-those-palestinian-kids; Rania Khalek is an independent journalist reporting on the underclass and marginalized. Her work has appeared at Common Dreams, Salon, The Nation, In These Times, Citizen Radio and more. To ee more of Rania’s work visit her blog Dispatches from the Underclass and follow her on twitter @RaniaKhalek. Copyright 2014 Electronic Intifada

Scott Morrison ignored departmental advice on visas for boat arrivals

October 27th, 2014

Ben Doherty; theguardian.com, 26/10/14

Immigration minister took no notice when told refusing permanent visas for refugees was illegal
Scott Morrison ignored his department’s advice that it was illegal for him to refuse permanent visas for boat arrivals found to be refugees, and defied warnings from bureaucrats that the move would be challenged in the high court and he would lose.
The minister for immigration personally ordered protection visa numbers be capped for 2014 – to avoid granting permanent protection to any boat arrivals – before his action was ruled unlawful by the full bench of the high court.
Overruled by the judiciary, Morrison has since employed a previously unused “national interest” clause in the Migration Act to issue unchallengeable “conclusive certificates” to refuse visas, but this is also being contested in court. Lawyers for the minister are back in court in December.
Documents before the high court show Morrison was told on 15 January, in a brief from his department, that his policy objective of never granting permanent protection to boat arrivals could not be achieved “in the medium to long term” but that he could “delay being forced to grant” visas in the short term.
The departmental brief is confidential, but sections of it are reproduced in submissions before the high court.
The brief gave Morrison five strategies “to delay being forced to grant a permanent protection visa in the absence of a new temporary visa”, but conceded “each of these strategies is likely to be short lived as a consequence of decisions taken in parliament to overturn them or in the courts to invalidate them”.
The first strategy was to reintroduce temporary protection visas by regulation. This was done but then disallowed by the Senate. Another of the strategies proposed, and ultimately undertaken by Morrison, was to unilaterally cap the number of permanent protection visas so that no more could be granted to boat arrivals.
In June the full bench of the high court unanimously ruled that Morrison “did not have the power … to limit the number of protection visas that may be granted”. The department brief had warned him six months earlier it was illegal, and a court challenge could be “expected to be lodged almost immediately”.
But the move would buy Morrison some time, the brief said. “Any decision by the high court that use of the cap was invalid would then be some months away,” it said.
The brief even included a flow-chart which indicated how long the obligation to grant visas could be delayed by each strategy.
In one synopsis, the department hoped the high court would defy expectations and rule Morrison’s actions were legal: “Possible temporary protection visa disallowance responses; best case scenario – high court may do the unexpected.”
The high court case in December concerns a Pakistani boat arrival who has been in immigration detention on Christmas Island since May 2012. He is an ethnic Hazara and a Shia Muslim. Australia has found he is a refugee, with a well-founded fear of persecution by Sunni extremists in his home country. He has passed all security and character checks.
It is illegal for Australia to send the man back to Pakistan. Immigration authorities are obliged to grant him a visa, the high court said. The man was initially allowed to apply for a visa, but legislative changes and Morrison’s imposed cap on visa numbers have stalled the process.
After the high court ruled the government was “bound to … grant him a protection visa”, Morrison issued a “conclusive certificate” – which cannot be appealed – ruling it was not in the “national interest” for him to have a visa. The man remains in immigration detention.
“The issue at the heart of this proceeding is whether the minister may achieve by administrative fiat the outcome presently denied to the minister through the parliament,” Stephen Lloyd, acting for the Pakistani man, told the high court. “The minister seeks to use mechanisms under the Migration Act to attain an unlawful end.”
Stephen Donaghue, for the government, told the high court Morrison did have the power to limit the number of visas to be granted, and that the government must keep “unlawful non-citizens” in detention while a visa determination was made.
Donaghue told the court there was “no duty” on Morrison to grant a visa to a person found to be a refugee and requiring Australia’s protection. Morrison was able to insist upon additional criteria to be met before granting a visa, he said.
Morrison’s office has not yet responded to queries from Guardian Australia.

http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2014/oct/27/scott-morrison-ignored-department-advice-on-visas-for-boat-arrivals

What does Jesus really say about marriage and divorce?

October 27th, 2014

Nicholas Collura; 24/10/14

In the aftermath of this month’s synod, I find myself wondering whether Matthew 19:1-9, the Scripture passage most often cited by opponents of Cardinal Walter Kasper’s proposal on divorce and remarriage, is as clear-cut as it appears.
First of all, the Pharisees ask whether divorce is licit “for any and every reason.” Jesus is not addressing pastorally complicated situations, but “no fault divorce,” which none of the synod’s progressives were trying to defend.
Second, Jesus speaks of the decision to remarry but says nothing of what to do later on, after contrition has run its course, children have been born, love has grown, and abandoning the second marriage would become an act of violence itself.
Third, Jesus doesn’t answer the Pharisees’ question with a clear yes or no; he adverts not to the law but to the spiritual meaning of marriage, derived from Scripture. His pastoral approach invites us to set legalism aside and consider the vision of the human person that underlies the Gospels’ whole moral praxis.
Fourth, Jesus makes an exception for marriages that are “unlawful.” This seems to provide the basis for the Catholic idea of the annulment — although Jesus has in mind cases of porneia (sexual immorality), which is generally not among the reasons the church allows for annulment. It is the traditionalists, then, who have already gone beyond Jesus’ (ambiguous) specifications, not progressives.
Yet it is a fifth and final observation that has really held my attention.
After Jesus asks the disciples what Moses taught, they have the presence of mind to ask why Moses taught it: It is because of the “hardness” of the Israelites’ hearts, Jesus says. We too should ask why Jesus answers as he does. Besides divorce, is hardness of heart an implicit target of Jesus’ instruction here?
The other day, I saw a bizarre recruitment video for the diocesan priesthood in which athletic seminarians compare the toughness of professional athletes with the heroism required of priests. The video strains this improbable analogy to the point of self-parody. Would any of us really want our pastors looking at us like the seminarian does here?
(On the other hand, this lovely homage to the priesthood produced by the Boston archdiocese seems to get it right.)
The basketball video reminds me of a conversation I had with a marvelous priest overflowing with warmth, sincerity and hospitality. He said just one thing that bewildered me so much, I didn’t have the wherewithal to question it.
“Our next generation of priests,” he said, “must be manly priests. We want real men. We want John Wayne in a clerical collar.”
There are other images of the priesthood, like that of Kasper, known as “the smiling cardinal” for his omnipresent grin. (Although the cardinal has been known to quip, “Believe me, I am not smiling at everything!”) Why, then, valorize machismo, which so often goes hand in hand with intransigency regarding doctrine (and which underlies the homosexuality taboo Kasper observed, rightly or wrongly, in Africa)?
I don’t doubt the sincerity of people’s beliefs, but all beliefs are tied up with desires, and I think that some conservative Catholics truly desire heroism. They want to prove they are strong enough to shoulder the demands of faith, and when they see other people getting away with what looks like moral laxity, it threatens the meaning and value of their own self-sacrificing rigors.
Yet these fears reveal a misunderstanding of what it means to be strong. Christianity is about paradox, and Christian toughness, paradoxically, is about softness, about sensitivity. For it is actually very hard to get through life without becoming calloused by the blows and violence of the world. It is actually very hard to deal with moral ambiguities.
In the words of Archbishop Bruno Forte, the primary author of the controversial passages on homosexuality last week: “Rejecting something is easy, but recognizing and giving value to all that is positive, even when dealing with [ambiguous] experiences, is an exercise in intellectual honesty and spiritual charity.”
Perhaps Moses allowed divorce because people were too tough to try gentleness with their spouses, to face the fate of infertility, to accept the decline of physical beauty, to imagine after so many obstacles that their marriages still held hope of flourishing. In a culture riven by divorce, and where separation may not be a mutual decision, married people may long for the church to affirm the possibility and worth of lifelong commitment – to decry the hardness of hearts. This is the church, and the Gospel, that I love.
But life is complex, and it also takes heroic humility to admit that not everything is black and white. It takes heroic compassion to share the pain of people whose marriages, despite their best efforts, have fallen out of sync with our own great ideals. It takes heroic sensitivity to get over the narrow vision of masculinity and femininity our culture enforces, and to excavate whatever it is in our psyche that makes us uncomfortable with alternative sexualities.
This, at least, is what comes to mind as I reflect on Jesus’ words about hardness of heart.

– Readers, what emerges in your prayer?

http://ncronline.org/blogs/ncr-today/what-does-jesus-really-say-about-marriage-and-divorce

Whitlam and Australia’s forgotten coup

October 27th, 2014

John Pilger; 23/10/14

John Pilger marks the death of former Australian prime minister Gough Whitlam with the one story missing from the ‘tributes’ to a man whose extraordinary political demise is one of America’s dirtiest secrets.
Across the political and media elite in Australia, a silence has descended on the memory of the great, reforming prime minister Gough Whitlam, who has died. His achievements are recognised, if grudgingly, his mistakes noted in false sorrow. But a critical reason for his extraordinary political demise will, they hope, be buried with him.
Australia briefly became an independent state during the Whitlam years, 1972-75. An American commentator wrote that no country had “reversed its posture in international affairs so totally without going through a domestic revolution”. Whitlam ended his nation’s colonial servility. He abolished Royal patronage, moved Australia towards the Non-Aligned Movement, supported “zones of peace” and opposed nuclear weapons testing.
Although not regarded as on the left of the Labor Party, Whitlam was a maverick social democrat of principle, pride and propriety. He believed that a foreign power should not control his country’s resources and dictate its economic and foreign policies. He proposed to “buy back the farm”.
In drafting the first Aboriginal lands rights legislation, his government raised the ghost of the greatest land grab in human history, Britain’s colonisation of Australia, and the question of who owned the island-continent’s vast natural wealth.
Latin Americans will recognise the audacity and danger of this “breaking free” in a country whose establishment was welded to great, external power. Australians had served every British imperial adventure since the Boxer rebellion was crushed in China. In the 1960s, Australia pleaded to join the US in its invasion of Vietnam, then provided “black teams” to be run by the CIA. US diplomatic cables published last year by WikiLeaks disclose the names of leading figures in both main parties, including a future prime minister and foreign minister, as Washington’s informants during the Whitlam years.
Whitlam knew the risk he was taking.
The day after his election, he ordered that his staff should not be “vetted or harassed” by the Australian security organisation, ASIO – then, as now, tied to Anglo-American intelligence. When his ministers publicly condemned the US bombing of Vietnam as “corrupt and barbaric”, a CIA station officer in Saigon said: “We were told the Australians might as well be regarded as North Vietnamese collaborators.”
Whitlam demanded to know if and why the CIA was running a spy base at Pine Gap near Alice Springs, a giant vacuum cleaner which, as Edward Snowden revealed recently, allows the US to spy on everyone. “Try to screw us or bounce us,” the prime minister warned the US ambassador, “[and Pine Gap] will become a matter of contention”.
Victor Marchetti, the CIA officer who had helped set up Pine Gap, later told me, “This threat to close Pine Gap caused apoplexy in the White House. … a kind of Chile [coup] was set in motion.”
Pine Gap’s top-secret messages were de-coded by a CIA contractor, TRW. One of the de-coders was Christopher Boyce, a young man troubled by the “deception and betrayal of an ally”. Boyce revealed that the CIA had infiltrated the Australian political and trade union elite and referred to the Governor-General of Australia, Sir John Kerr, as “our man Kerr”.
Kerr was not only the Queen’s man, he had long-standing ties to Anglo-American intelligence. He was an enthusiastic member of the Australian Association for Cultural Freedom, described by Jonathan Kwitny of the Wall Street Journal in his book, ‘The Crimes of Patriots’, as, “an elite, invitation-only group… exposed in Congress as being founded, funded and generally run by the CIA”. The CIA “paid for Kerr’s travel, built his prestige… Kerr continued to go to the CIA for money”.
When Whitlam was re-elected for a second term, in 1974, the White House sent Marshall Green to Canberra as ambassador. Green was an imperious, sinister figure who worked in the shadows of America’s “deep state”. Known as the “coupmaster”, he had played a central role in the 1965 coup against President Sukarno in Indonesia – which cost up to a million lives. One of his first speeches in Australia was to the Australian Institute of Directors – described by an alarmed member of the audience as “an incitement to the country’s business leaders to rise against the government”.
The Americans and British worked together. In 1975, Whitlam discovered that Britain’s MI6 was operating against his government. “The Brits were actually de-coding secret messages coming into my foreign affairs office,” he said later. One of his ministers, Clyde Cameron, told me, “We knew MI6 was bugging Cabinet meetings for the Americans.” In the 1980s, senior CIA officers revealed that the “Whitlam problem” had been discussed “with urgency” by the CIA’s director, William Colby, and the head of MI6, Sir Maurice Oldfield. A deputy director of the CIA said: “Kerr did what he was told to do.”
On 10 November, 1975, Whitlam was shown a top secret telex message sourced to Theodore Shackley, the notorious head of the CIA’s East Asia Division, who had helped run the coup against Salvador Allende in Chile two years earlier.
Shackley’s message was read to Whitlam. It said that the prime minister of Australia was a security risk in his own country. The day before, Kerr had visited the headquarters of the Defence Signals Directorate, Australia’s NSA where he was briefed on the “security crisis”.
On 11 November – the day Whitlam was to inform Parliament about the secret CIA presence in Australia – he was summoned by Kerr. Invoking archaic vice-regal “reserve powers”, Kerr sacked the democratically elected prime minister. The “Whitlam problem” was solved, and Australian politics never recovered, nor the nation its true independence.

http://atimes.com/atimes/World/WOR-01-231014.html\ johnpilger.com. (Copyright 2014 John Pilger)

Palestinian options at the United Nations and the International Court of Justice

October 27th, 2014

Victor Kattan; 23/10/14

At last, it appears that the United Nations General Assembly’s (UNGA) 138-9 majority vote in November 2012 to accord Palestine observer state status might finally be bearing fruit.
Sweden’s announcement that it will recognise Palestine, the House of Commons 274-12 majority vote calling on the British government to recognise the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel, the decision by Spanish lawmakers to hold a similar vote on recognising Palestine in their parliament, and France’s announcement that it will recognise Palestine if negotiations with Israel fail are all steps in this direction.
Unable to end Israel’s 47-year occupation through negotiations, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas took the first incremental steps towards asserting Palestinian statehood in the international arena by acceding to more than a dozen treaties on human rights and humanitarian law, steps that only states can take. He also took steps to reunify the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as a single political entity under one rule of law, a process that is still underway.
After Israel’s 51-day assault on the Gaza Strip this summer, President Abbas announced a plan to end the occupation. In his UN speech, he said that Palestine and the Arab Group at the UN had started to prepare a draft UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution that would set a timetable for Israel to end the occupation that would be linked “to the immediate resumption of negotiations between Palestine and Israel to demarcate the borders, reach a detailed and comprehensive agreement, and draft a peace treaty between them”.
There is no guarantee that the UNSC will move to a vote.
In the case that it does, the United States has indicated that it will veto the resolution.
If this happens, President Abbas has threatened to apply for membership in UN agencies and join the International Criminal Court (ICC). An application by Palestine for membership in UN Agencies and the ICC, however, would result in the loss of much needed Congressional funds, not to mention US political support. Israel could also retaliate in myriad ways. Moreover, membership in the ICC could involve delays and legal complications.
Does President Abbas have any other options?
He does.
Instead of submitting applications to UN agencies and the ICC in the event of a US veto, President Abbas might consider delaying these moves and ask the UNGA to discuss the steps that member states can take to help end Israel’s occupation of Palestine.
Should Israel ignore a call from the UNGA to end the occupation, Palestine and the Arab Group could then ask the UNGA to request an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the legal responsibilities of states and international organisations to end the occupation.
It will be recalled that when the US vetoed a draft UNSC resolution that condemned Israel’s decision to construct the wall in the West Bank in 2003, the UNGA requested an advisory opinion from the ICJ on the legal consequences of its construction. In July 2004, this lead to 14 of the 15 judges to declare in their advisory opinion that the settlements, the wall, and their associated regime are contrary to international law.
The court also called on states not to aid or assist Israel in the wall’s construction. But because the question addressed to the court in 2003 specifically concerned the wall, the court could not address the larger issue of ending the occupation. In 2003 it was not clear whether a Palestinian state had emerged, and moreover the First Intifada was still underway.
In light of the developments that have taken place in the last decade, President Abbas could ask the UNGA to request a new advisory opinion from the ICJ in the event of a US veto. This time, however, consideration could be given to drafting a question for the UNGA that would:
1) inquire into the legal consequences of Israel’s continued occupation and settlement activity in the state of Palestine in light of the UNGA resolution that accorded Palestine observer state status;
and 2) provide guidance to the UNGA on the responsibilities of states and international organisations to bring to an end the occupation and Israel’s settlement activity.
The question could make reference to the 134 states that have already recognised Palestine, relevant UN resolutions, applicable treaties, and customary international law.
Unlike in 2004, this time the court would have its previous advisory opinion to take into account, Palestine’s application for membership in the UN, its membership in the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, and the UN resolution that accorded Palestine observer state status. The court would also have to hand a plethora of UN reports, including the report of the UN Fact-Finding Mission on Israeli Settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
There have been a number of legal developments since 2004 as well. In addition to the International Law Commission’s Articles on the Responsibility of States for Internationally
– Wrongful Acts, the International Law Commission has drafted Articles on the Responsibility of International Organizations.
– Furthermore, the court would be expected to make reference to the treaties that Palestine acceded to in April 2014. In addition to the 1907 Hague Regulations, the four Geneva Conventions, and Additional Protocol 1, these treaties include the Human Rights Covenants, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and the Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid.
Of course, the question rendered to the court would have to be carefully framed, preferably by lawyers with legal experience and expertise at the ICJ. The emphasis of a question that focuses on legal consequences, the occupation, and Palestine’s statehood would be to inquire into the legality of a prolonged occupation that has prevented the Palestinian people from exercising their right to self-determination.
The hope is that the court would call for an end to the occupation as a matter of international law in order to enable the Palestinian people to exercise their right to self-determination within their own state. The question formulated for the court could be linked to President Abbas’s plan to end the occupation.
There are several advantages of going back to the ICJ as opposed to lodging another application at the ICC. The Palestinians have a good track record at the ICJ. They do not have a good track record at the ICC, which rejected their attempt to grant that court jurisdiction after Operation Cast Lead in January 2009. Although the ICC prosecutor has indicated that the ICC would accept a new application submitted by Palestine to join the court, the final ruling on whether the ICC has jurisdiction would be left up to the judges.
Furthermore, the ICC has a mixed record of carrying out investigations or preliminary examinations quickly. Not only would it have to check whether Israel is investigating the crimes that took place in Gaza, it may have to wait for the Israeli legal process to run its course, which would also take time.
Additionally, because Israel is not a party to the Rome Statute, it has no obligation to co-operate with the ICC; without Israeli co-operation, the process could take even longer. And finally, even if the prosecutor decides to open a full investigation, she would then have to charge and issue arrest warrants for Israelis and Palestinians implicated in crimes under the statute. Yet Israel would be unlikely to hand over any of its nationals to the ICC. With so many possibilities for a stalemate, the ICC route is unlikely to produce the desired results.
In contrast, an ICJ advisory opinion could be produced in a matter of months. The 9 July 2004 advisory opinion on the wall only took the court five months to deliver after it heard the oral pleadings in February 2004. Admittedly, a question on the legal consequences of Israel’s continued occupation of Palestine, in light of its new statehood status, would raise more intricate legal issues and might take more time. Even so, it would still be a quicker process than anything at the ICC.
Another advantage that the ICJ has over the ICC is that there is no Congressional legislation that would require the US to withhold funds from the Palestinian Authority in the event that the UNGA requests an advisory opinion from the ICJ, because it is not Palestine that would request the opinion but the UNGA. Moreover, the Palestinians and the Arab Group at the UN would have more control over the question that is formulated for the ICJ, because an advisory opinion is a response to a question that has been rendered to it from the UNGA, which Palestine and the Arab Group can influence.
An opinion that addresses Palestine’s legal status and the territories over which Palestine is entitled to exercise sovereignty could help future applications to join the ICC, UN Agencies, and other international institutions. It would also be an opportunity for the court to offer clear guidance on the extent to which Israel is still the occupying power in Gaza (which Israel has disputed since it redeployed its troops in 2005) and provide guidance on the manner in which the Palestinian state came into being in light of the UNGA resolution that accorded Palestine observer state status despite Israel’s continuing occupation.
Israel and its allies would find it more difficult to object to a question to the ICJ from the UNGA than a Palestinian application to the ICC. Unlike the ICC, the ICJ cannot try individuals or heads of states for crimes. An appeal to the ICJ could therefore be portrayed as being consistent with a diplomatic effort to reach a negotiated two-state solution by linking it to a need to end the occupation and to stop Israel from building more settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
In the event that the UNGA requests an advisory opinion from the ICJ, member states would be invited to give written statements and make oral submissions to the court. As part of this process, member states would have to clarify their legal positions with respect to Palestine’s statehood, including explaining what steps the UNGA could take to bring an end to Israel’s occupation and settlement activity. Some states may make reference to the manner in which Israel has violated the territorial integrity of the Palestinian state through its construction of the wall in defiance of the court’s previous opinion and through its establishment of settlements and by-pass roads.
They may also suggest to the court that states and international organisations have a responsibility not to aid or assist Israel in maintaining the occupation and its annexation of Jerusalem, possibly even calling on states and international organisations to consider suspending economic, cultural, and trade agreements with Israel to the extent that these agreements apply to the territories that comprise the Palestinian state.
Although advisory opinions are not legally binding in the sense that states are not obliged to comply with them (unless the UNSC determines otherwise), in formulating its opinion, the court would be stating what the law is, which would be binding on states irrespective of the legal status of the advisory opinion.
A favourable and cogent opinion from the ICJ could help shift world public opinion further in favour of Palestinian rights to have a state of their own next to, and at peace with, the state of Israel. At the same time, an advisory opinion may give impetus to Israeli and Palestinian leaders to sit down and negotiate a final status agreement to establish a democratic, contiguous, and independent Palestinian state along the lines of the phased plan to end the occupation that President Abbas plans to present to the UNSC.
In the event that Israel ignores the court and chooses to defy the international community by further entrenching the occupation and building more settlements, those states and organisations sitting on the side-lines would be given a reason and an opportunity to take the moral high ground and insist that Israel respects the court’s opinion and the right of the Palestinian people to exercise independence in their own state alongside the state of Israel or face consequences in the form of countermeasures. At that stage, President Abbas could then take steps to join the ICC and UN Agencies.

This article was first published by the European Council on Foreign Relations
https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/europe/14837-palestinian-options-at-the-united-nations-and-the-international-court-of-justice Victor Kattan is a post-doctoral fellow at the Law Faculty of the National University of Singapore and a policy advisor to Al-Shabaka, The Palestinian Policy Network. He was previously a legal adviser to the Palestinian Negotiations Support Project in Ramallah on secondment from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Jerusalem. Kattan is the author of From Coexistence to Conquest: International Law and the Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict 1891-1949 (London: Pluto Press, 2009) and is the editor of The Palestine Question in International Law (London: The British Institute of International and Comparative Law, 2008).

Lawsuit Aims to Break Arizona’s Secrecy Over Experimental Lethal Injections

October 27th, 2014

Sarah Lazare, staff writer; 25/10/14; Common Dreams

Major media organizations have levied a federal lawsuit to force Arizona to break its secrecy around lethal injections by revealing the drugs and processes used to kill people, because the public has the “right” to know.
“By withholding information about the source, composition, and quality of the drugs it uses for lethal injection executions, as well as the qualifications of those chosen to administer the drugs, the State of Arizona has closed critical governmental proceedings that have historically been open to the public and undermined the public’s ability to ensure the positive functioning of government,” reads the complaint, which was filed on behalf of the Guardian, the Associated Press, and major Arizona news outlets—the Arizona Republic, KPNX-TV Channel 12, KPHO Broadcasting Corporation, and the Arizona Daily Star.
The legal challenge, reported Friday, is not the first targeting Arizona state secrecy surrounding lethal injections, and it follows similar lawsuits in Missouri, Pennsylvania, and Oklahoma. Arizona is one of several U.S. states that have turned to experimental drug cocktails, cloaked in secrecy, to execute people on death row, in response to a European ban on providing supplies for U.S. executions.
On July 23, when Arizona executed Joseph R. Wood, authorities used more than 15 injections of an experimental combination of the drugs midazolam and hydromorphone, which took over two hours to kill him. Witnesses reported a prolonged and seemingly painful death, in which the man gulped and gasped more than 600 times. Before the execution, the state refused to disclose full information about the lethal injection drugs, and the lawsuit notes, “The public still does not know where the drugs came from, how potent they were, or how their quality was assured.”
“In tune with many other death penalty states, Arizona has gone to great lengths to hide the provenance and nature of the medical drugs it uses to execute prisoners,” writes Ed Pilkington for the Guardian.
The execution of Wood, which was denounced as “cruel and unusual,” is not an isolated case. Numerous states have stand accused of cruel executions, and experimental use of midazolam has been implicated in similarly gruesome executions in Florida, Ohio, and Oklahoma.
The suit, filed in district court in Phoenix, names Arizona’s director of corrections, Charles Ryan, and attorney general, Thomas Horne, as defendants. The Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic at Yale law school, with the assistance of Ballard Spahr LLP in Phoenix, is representing the plaintiffs.

http://www.commondreams.org/news/2014/10/25/lawsuit-aims-break-arizonas-secrecy-over-experimental-lethal-injections

From the editor’s desk – Married couples are the experts (2)

October 27th, 2014

23/10/14 October 2014

The Extraordinary Synod of Bishops in Rome ended with a superb exposition of Catholic teaching on marriage and family life by Pope Francis, which rightly received a standing ovation. That was a much clearer demonstration of a consensus around fundamental principles than the voting on the various clauses of the final report.
Those concerning homosexuality and divorce gained only a simple majority but failed to reach a two-thirds one. That was despite the fact that the text had already been amended in an attempt to make it more acceptable to the more conservative bishops.
The Pope’s sermon needs to be widely disseminated, partly because it sets the context in which to move forward on the issues not yet resolved, but more importantly because it could inspire the whole Church to a positive evaluation of marriage and family life and the role that sexuality plays in it according to God’s design. It is a change of tone to an optimistic, compassionate and realistic language that will lift the spirits of families and their pastors everywhere. They will see that the Pope understands them and stands with them both in their joys and their tribulations.

That is all the more necessary as some of what went on at the synod did not convey any such message. The suggestion emerged, for instance, that couples in a second marriage after divorce might be allowed to receive Holy Communion at Mass after they had undergone what has been called “a very demanding and long penitential pathway”. It sounded as if the Church was being urged to impose further suffering on those who had already suffered much – divorce is a well-known trigger of mental illness and a major factor in suicide.
– And married couples invited to follow that pathway might question why it is not also being required of murderers, rapists, bank robbers and child abusers.
– Furthermore, they might ask, is not the entire Christian spiritual life, Lent especially, meant to be one very demanding penitential pathway?
This illustrates the danger of failing to start with the reality of everyday life and reflecting on it in the light of the Gospel, but instead starting from first principles and trying to apply them to circumstances where they do not fit. The way to avoid this is to make sure married lay people, women especially, are intimately involved in the next stage of the process leading up to the synod to be held next autumn. And women include, of course, mothers of gay men and women.
One of the most telling moments of the last fortnight was when a couple addressing the synod described how they knew of a gay man who was welcomed home with his partner by his loving Catholic family which embraced him warmly because “He is our son”.
That the Catholic Church has not yet reached the point where it can say that officially to gay people is a measure of how far it has still to travel. On that journey there needs to be much greater participation from the whole Church, and much more trust in married lay opinion.
The married laity – more than the bishops, it has to be said – are the Church’s own experts on marriage and family life. After all, that is where they live.

http://www.thetablet.co.uk/editors-desk/1/3691/married-couples-are-the-experts

Rome, Synod

What does Jesus really say about marriage and divorce? (1)

October 27th, 2014

Nicholas Collura; Oct. 24, 2014

In the aftermath of this month’s synod, I find myself wondering whether Matthew 19:1-9, the Scripture passage most often cited by opponents of Cardinal Walter Kasper’s proposal on divorce and remarriage, is as clear-cut as it appears.
First of all, the Pharisees ask whether divorce is licit “for any and every reason.” Jesus is not addressing pastorally complicated situations, but “no fault divorce,” which none of the synod’s progressives were trying to defend.
Second, Jesus speaks of the decision to remarry but says nothing of what to do later on, after contrition has run its course, children have been born, love has grown, and abandoning the second marriage would become an act of violence itself.
Third, Jesus doesn’t answer the Pharisees’ question with a clear yes or no; he adverts not to the law but to the spiritual meaning of marriage, derived from Scripture. His pastoral approach invites us to set legalism aside and consider the vision of the human person that underlies the Gospels’ whole moral praxis.
Fourth, Jesus makes an exception for marriages that are “unlawful.” This seems to provide the basis for the Catholic idea of the annulment — although Jesus has in mind cases of porneia (sexual immorality), which is generally not among the reasons the church allows for annulment.
It is the traditionalists, then, who have already gone beyond Jesus’ (ambiguous) specifications, not progressives.
Yet it is a fifth and final observation that has really held my attention.
After Jesus asks the disciples what Moses taught, they have the presence of mind to ask why Moses taught it: It is because of the “hardness” of the Israelites’ hearts, Jesus says. We too should ask why Jesus answers as he does.
– Besides divorce, is hardness of heart an implicit target of Jesus’ instruction here?
The other day, I saw a bizarre recruitment video for the diocesan priesthood in which athletic seminarians compare the toughness of professional athletes with the heroism required of priests. The video strains this improbable analogy to the point of self-parody.
– Would any of us really want our pastors looking at us like the seminarian does here?
(On the other hand, this lovely homage to the priesthood produced by the Boston archdiocese seems to get it right.)
The basketball video reminds me of a conversation I had with a marvelous priest overflowing with warmth, sincerity and hospitality.
He said just one thing that bewildered me so much, I didn’t have the wherewithal to question it.
“Our next generation of priests,” he said, “must be manly priests. We want real men. We want John Wayne in a clerical collar.”
There are other images of the priesthood, like that of Kasper, known as “the smiling cardinal” for his omnipresent grin. (Although the cardinal has been known to quip, “Believe me, I am not smiling at everything!”)
– Why, then, valorize machismo, which so often goes hand in hand with intransigency regarding doctrine (and which underlies the homosexuality taboo Kasper observed, rightly or wrongly, in Africa)?
I don’t doubt the sincerity of people’s beliefs, but all beliefs are tied up with desires, and I think that some conservative Catholics truly desire heroism. They want to prove they are strong enough to shoulder the demands of faith, and when they see other people getting away with what looks like moral laxity, it threatens the meaning and value of their own self-sacrificing rigors.
Yet these fears reveal a misunderstanding of what it means to be strong. Christianity is about paradox, and Christian toughness, paradoxically, is about softness, about sensitivity. For it is actually very hard to get through life without becoming calloused by the blows and violence of the world. It is actually very hard to deal with moral ambiguities.
In the words of Archbishop Bruno Forte, the primary author of the controversial passages on homosexuality last week: “Rejecting something is easy, but recognizing and giving value to all that is positive, even when dealing with [ambiguous] experiences, is an exercise in intellectual honesty and spiritual charity.”
Perhaps Moses allowed divorce because people were too tough to try gentleness with their spouses, to face the fate of infertility, to accept the decline of physical beauty, to imagine after so many obstacles that their marriages still held hope of flourishing. In a culture riven by divorce, and where separation may not be a mutual decision, married people may long for the church to affirm the possibility and worth of lifelong commitment – to decry the hardness of hearts.
This is the church, and the Gospel, that I love.
But life is complex, and it also takes heroic humility to admit that not everything is black and white. It takes heroic compassion to share the pain of people whose marriages, despite their best efforts, have fallen out of sync with our own great ideals. It takes heroic sensitivity to get over the narrow vision of masculinity and femininity our culture enforces, and to excavate whatever it is in our psyche that makes us uncomfortable with alternative sexualities.
This, at least, is what comes to mind as I reflect on Jesus’ words about hardness of heart. Readers, what emerges in your prayer?

http://ncronline.org/blogs/ncr-today/what-does-jesus-really-say-about-marriage-and-divorce