Weekend long read

1) At the INSS Assaf Orion analyses the ‘Report of the UN Secretary-General on Resolution 1701, November 2019’.

“The UN Security Council recently published its periodic report on Resolution 1701 (2006). Against the backdrop of severe security incidents and political challenges in Lebanon, and alongside traditional formulations, there are some salient new elements in this report: extensive and relatively detailed attention to the restriction on freedom of movement and access of UNIFIL forces in South Lebanon; exposure of the active role played by the Lebanese government and military in violating 1701 and impeding the implementation of the UN force’s mandate; Lebanon’s neglect of its obligation as a host country to protect UNIFIL soldiers from harassment and harm; and some features of the campaign conducted by Hezbollah to paralyze and blind UNIFIL: the operational role of the ”environmental organization” Green Without Borders in the service of Hezbollah, and the sweeping use by all elements in Lebanon of “private property” as grounds for blocking illicit military sites to UNIFIL.”

2) The ITIC takes a look at ‘Initial Palestinian reactions to the killing of Qassem Soleimani’.

“So far the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Fatah have not issued an official reaction. Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), on the other hand, and the heads of their military terrorist wings, which receive military and financial support from Iran, were quick to express sorrow at Soleimani’s death. The mourning notices issued by Hamas and the PIJ stressed the aid and support Qassem Soleimani gave the Palestinian “resistance” in general and their military wings in the Gaza Strip in particular. […]

Isma’il Haniyeh, head of Hamas’ political bureau, led a Hamas delegation to Tehran to participate in the funeral. Members of the delegation included Haniyeh’s deputy Saleh al- ‘Arouri, Izzat al-Rishq and Musa Abu Marzouq. While in Iran the delegation can be expected to meet with the Iranian leadership. A PIJ delegation headed by organization leader Ziyad al-Nakhalah and his deputy Ikram al-Ajouri also arrived in Tehran to participate in the funeral.”

3) At the JCPA Shimon Shapira and Michael Segall document Soleimani’s record.

“Qasem Soleimani knew how to connect all the dots of Iran’s military, terrorist, and political strategies to make connections. He trained, armed, and provided funds to terror organizations and groups in the Middle East. He provided Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) with rockets, anti-tank missiles, and sniper rifles, and formed the groups into what is known as the “Resistance Front.” He accomplished this by taking advantage of the unstable circumstances of the Arab Spring, the Second Gulf War, and the war against ISIS.

Soleimani, who had forged solid bonds with Hizbullah’s Hassan Nasrallah and Imad Mughniyeh, gradually transformed Lebanese Hizbullah into a role model Iran sought to implement – using the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guards and Hizbullah instructors – in various areas of conflict where Iran had an interest to further its religious (Shia revival), military, and political goals.”

4) The IDI provides a backgrounder concerning the ICC investigation against Israel.

“In her submission to the ICC, the Chief Prosecutor writes that on the basis of her preliminary investigation she believes that Israelis and Palestinians committed the following crimes:

Israelis: The transfer of civilian populations to occupied territory after 2014 (the activity to expand Israeli settlements on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem); deliberate or disproportional attacks on civilians and on civilian and medical targets during Operation Protective Edge. In addition, it is possible that sufficient information may be collected in the future pointing to the use of disproportionate force to disperse demonstrations along the Gaza border fence, beginning in 2018, to the point where that constitutes an international crime.

Palestinians: Deliberate attacks by Hamas and other Palestinian factions in Gaza against Israeli civilians, the use of human shields, depriving protected persons of the rights of fair and regular trial and willful killing and torture or inhuman treatment and/or outrages upon personal dignity.”

Weekend long read

1) The ITIC provides some background to the news that the ‘Great Return March’ will take on a different format in the new year.

“Hamas and other terrorist organizations participating in the return marches have recently been discussing whether or not to continue the marches, and ideas for new formats have been raised. Apparently after almost two years and 85 return marches, Hamas has come to the conclusion that the marches and their inherent violence have exhausted themselves. That is because Hamas is interested in achieving a short-term, minimalist arrangement in which there is no need to continue the marches in their current format. Moreover, the Gazans are showing signs of becoming tired of the marches (and Hamas is obliged to consider the public and its hardships).”

2) At the INSS Pnina Sharvit Baruch analyses last week’s announcement by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

“Notwithstanding pressure that will undoubtedly be applied on the Court, the Court is more than likely to adopt the Prosecutor’s position that its jurisdiction covers all of the “Occupied Palestinian Territories.” The Pre-Trial Chamber bench is fixed, such that these are the same judges who ruled in November 2018 that the Prosecutor must review her decision not to launch an investigation in the Marmara flotilla affair, and which in July 2018 instructed, in unprecedented fashion, that the Court Registry set up an information and outreach mechanism for victims in Palestine while the preliminary examination was still under way. In other words, this is a bench whose attitude toward Israel is, to say the least, unfriendly.”

3) MEMRI’s translation of an interview with Saeb Erekat provides more background to the ICC story.

“Saeb Erekat, Secretary-General of the PLO Executive Committee, was interviewed on Palestine TV on December 21, 2019. In the interview, he said that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas appointed a committee that would pursue legal action against Israel in the International Criminal Court (ICC).  He added that the committee includes members from Hamas as well as “all Palestinian political factions”, such as PFLP and DFLP. Erekat thanked Qatar for providing financial aid to cover the legal fees.”

4) At the Jewish Review of Books, Matti Friedman reviews a new work.

“The ship, SS Kedmah, was the very first vessel belonging to the Zionist movement’s new shipping company, ZIM. It was sailing for the Land of Israel, still under British control, where its arrival was occasion for a national celebration in the Jewish home. […]

As usual, the story—as told in Kobi Cohen-Hattab’s excellent new history, Zionism’s Maritime Revolution—wasn’t that simple. The new Zionist ship was, in fact, a refurbished English vessel with 20 years of rough service behind her, including the wartime evacuation of Singapore in 1941. She nearly broke down in the Mediterranean en route to the Yishuv. Saltwater got into the internal systems, the refrigerators didn’t refrigerate, the ovens didn’t cook, and the lights went out. The crewmen, who were Jewish, couldn’t stand the officers, who were British. The feeling was mutual, and eventually there was—inevitably, in those times of proletarian consciousness—a strike.”

 

BBC Radio 4 reporting on the ICC prosecutor’s statement

Listeners to the December 20th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘The World Tonight’ heard the following (from 06:01 here) in the opening news bulletin read by Luke Tuddenham. [emphasis in italics in the original]

Tuddenham: “The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor says she will launch a full investigation into alleged war crimes in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories at the earliest opportunity. Fatou Bensouda says she believes serious offences have been committed but Israel has questioned whether she has the jurisdiction to open an inquiry. Our Middle East analyst Alan Johnston reports.”

Johnston: “The ICC prosecutor has conducted a preliminary investigation of Palestinian complaints regarding the situation in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. Now she says she’s satisfied that war crimes have indeed been committed there. But she’s asked the court to confirm that it has jurisdiction over these areas before she launches a full investigation. Israel has vigorously denied that the ICC has any legal authority in the Palestinian territories and says the case should have been thrown out. If Ms Bensouda does proceed with her investigation charges might be filed against Israelis and Palestinians.”

A couple of hours later those listening to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Midnight News’ heard this portrayal of the same story (from 19:57 here).

Newsreader: “The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor says she will launch a full investigation into alleged war crimes in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories at the earliest opportunity. Fatou Bensouda believes serious offences have been committed and has asked the court to confirm that it has jurisdiction over the areas in which she wants to conduct an investigation: the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the ICC had no authority in these areas.”

Obviously neither of those items provided the BBC’s domestic audience with even the minimum of background information needed to properly understand the story. The BBC’s blanket portrayal of “the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza” as “Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories” – despite the fact that Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip over 14 years ago and agreements signed by the Palestinians place parts of Judea & Samaria under Israeli control and define the final status of those areas as well as parts of Jerusalem as being subject to negotiation – obviously muddied the picture.

Listeners heard no explanation as to why “Israel has vigorously denied that the ICC has any legal authority” in the said areas or what sort of ‘war crimes’ the prosecutor claims have been committed. Neither was it clarified why charges “might be filed against Israelis and Palestinians” and the relevant issue of the “principle of complementarity” was not mentioned at all. 

What these two superficial reports do promote to domestic BBC audiences, however, is the take away messaging that an international legal body is “satisfied that war crimes have indeed been committed” by Israelis.

Related Articles:

Superficial and one-sided BBC reporting on ICC statement

Superficial and one-sided BBC reporting on ICC statement

A report headlined “ICC wants to open ‘war crimes’ investigation in West Bank and Gaza” was published on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page on the afternoon of December 20th.

Readers were told that:

“The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor says she wants to open an investigation into alleged war crimes in the Palestinian Territories.

Fatou Bensouda said “war crimes” had been or were being committed in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip, and asked for a ruling on the court’s territorial jurisdiction.”

And – linking to the statement put out on the same day by the ICC:

“In her ruling, Ms Bensouda said a preliminary examination had gathered enough information to meet all criteria to open an investigation, and that she was “satisfied that there [was] a reasonable basis to proceed” with an inquiry.

“[T]here are no substantial reasons to believe that an investigation would not serve the interests of justice,” she said, adding that she had filed a request with judges to rule on what territory a future inquiry would cover because of the contested legal and factual issues of the territories.”

No further explanation was provided concerning those “contested legal and factual issues” which are the background to that request for “a jurisdictional ruling” and so readers would be ill equipped to understand the context to the Israeli reactions quoted in the report.

“Israel said the ICC move was baseless.

In a statement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the ICC, of which Israel is not a member, had “no jurisdiction in this case”, and that the decision had turned the Hague-based court into a “political tool to delegitimize the State of Israel”. Israel occupied the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war. […]

Mr Netanyahu described the announcement as an “outrageous decision”, saying: “The ICC only has jurisdiction over petitions submitted by sovereign states. But there has never been a Palestinian state.”

Earlier, Israel’s attorney general said the ICC had no jurisdiction in the West Bank or Gaza. Israel also considers East Jerusalem, which it regards as its sovereign territory, as outside the court’s mandate.”

The BBC did not bother to provide readers with a link to the statement issued on the same day by the Attorney General’s office which concludes:

“…the necessary precondition to the Court’s jurisdiction under Article 12(2) of the Rome Statute, which requires there to be a sovereign State that has delegated to the Court criminal jurisdiction over its territory and nationals, cannot be met by virtue of the simple fact that no sovereign Palestinian State is in existence. The events surrounding the purely technical act of the purported accession of “Palestine” to the Rome Statute, or the Palestinian purported Article 12(3) declaration, neither alter this conclusion nor substitute for the substantive inquiry required for the establishment of the Court’s jurisdiction. Moreover, even if a conclusion is erroneously reached that a sovereign Palestinian State exists, the scope of the territory concerned is indeterminate and is clearly not for an international criminal court to define; and if the Rome Statute is misinterpreted to allow for non-sovereign entities to confer jurisdiction upon the Court, the latter would still lack jurisdiction over Area C and Jerusalem as well as Israeli nationals.”

Readers of the original version of the BBC’s report were told that:

“Ms Bensouda did not specify the perpetrators of the alleged crimes but it is understood that in her preliminary inquiries she has been focused on issues like Israel’s building of settlements and its military operations in Gaza, BBC Middle East analyst Alan Johnston reports.”

That section was later amended to read: [emphasis added]

“Ms Bensouda did not specify the perpetrators of the alleged crimes but, if she proceeds with her investigation, charges might be filed against Israelis and Palestinians, BBC Middle East analyst Alan Johnston reports.

It is understood that she focused her preliminary inquiries, in a case the Palestinians brought under the State of Palestine, on issues like Israel’s building of settlements and its military operations in Gaza, our correspondent adds.”

The BBC did not clarify to readers that the relevant document published by the ICC also states (section 94) that:

“…there is a reasonable basis to believe that members of Hamas and Palestinian armed groups (“PAGs”) committed the war crimes of: intentionally directing attacks against civilians and civilian objects (articles 8(2)(b)(i)-(ii), or 8(2)(e)(i)); using protected persons as shields (article 8(2)(b)(xxiii)); wilfully depriving protected persons of the rights of fair and regular trial (articles 8(2)(a)(vi) or 8(2)(c)(iv)) and wilful killing (articles 8(2)(a)(i), or 8(2)(c)(i)); and torture or inhuman treatment (article 8(2)(a)(ii), or 8(2)(c)(i)) and/or outrages upon personal dignity (articles 8(2)(b)(xxi), or 8(2)(c)(ii)).”

Quoting casualty figures that the BBC has never bothered to independently verify, the report informed readers that:

“The ICC has been examining what they say are war crimes committed by Israel since June 2014, one month before a war between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza. In the fighting, 2,251 Palestinians, including 1,462 civilians, were killed while 67 soldiers and six civilians were killed on the Israeli side.”

Despite having previously acknowledged in 2015 that “the date chosen by the Palestinians as the starting point for the ICC to investigate requires explanation as it is clearly not arbitrary”, this report makes no effort to inform audiences why the ‘start date’ of June 13th 2014 – which deliberately excludes the abductions and murders of three Israeli civilians by members of a Hamas terror cell – was selected by the Palestinians.

The BBC’s report promotes reactions from the Palestinian Authority and a political NGO also engaged in lawfare against Israel.

“In a statement, the Palestinian Authority said: “Palestine welcomes this step as a long overdue step to move the process forward towards an investigation, after nearly five long and difficult years of preliminary examination.”

Reacting to the ICC decision, B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights group, said: “Israel’s legal acrobatics in an attempt to whitewash its crimes must not be allowed to stop international legal efforts to, at long last, hold it to account.””

It closes with promotion of the BBC’s standard but partial mantra concerning ‘international law’.

“There are some 140 Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which most of the international community consider illegal under international law. Israel disputes this, and last month the US reversed its position and declared it no longer considered the settlements invalid.”

At the bottom of the article readers are told that they “may also find interesting” an embedded video dating from August 2019 which features as one of its main interviewees the director of another political NGO – Addameer – which is linked to a Palestinian terrorist organisation.

Although the BBC acknowledged years ago that the Palestinian decision to join the ICC and pursue this suit is part of what it has described as “a new strategy to put pressure on Israel“, that information is completely absent from this latest report. 

Related Articles:

Why isn’t the BBC telling its audiences all about the PA’s ‘lawfare’ strategy?

Superficial BBC News report on PA application to join ICC

BBC WS ‘Newsday’ flouts corporation’s guidance on use of term Palestine

BBC World Service or Palestinian Authority radio station?

On the BBC News ICC Q&A

The part of the ICC preliminary investigation story the BBC decided not to tell

BBC amends ICC Q&A following reader complaint

 

 

Another chapter in a story the BBC stopped reporting in 2014

Back in May 2013 a BBC News website headline claimed that the International Criminal Court (ICC) had launched an inquiry “into Israeli raid on Gaza flotilla”.

BBC sensationalises routine obligatory inquiry

In November 2014 the BBC News website published a report headlined “Gaza flotilla raid: No Israel charges over Mavi Marmara”.

BBC News misleads audiences on ICC Mavi Marmara statement

That story did not however end there, as the Times of Israel reports:

“In November 2014, [Fatou] Bensouda, the [ICC] chief prosecutor, decided that there was “no reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation” on the matter. […]

The Comoros appealed her decision a few weeks later, asking the court’s pre-trial judges to order her to reconsider. Bensouda asked them to dismiss the appeal.

On July 16, 2015, the three judges of the pre-trial chamber requested that she reconsider her decision not to initiate an investigation into the matter, ruling that she had “committed material errors” in her assessment of the case’s gravity.

Bensouda did not give up. Eleven days later, she appealed the judges’ decision. But on November 6, 2015, the Appeals Chamber dismissed the prosecutor’s appeal based on an interpretation article 82(1)(a) of the Rome Statute, the ICC’s founding document, and Bensouda had to review the case for a second time.

Two years later, on November 29, 2017, Bensouda handed down what she hoped would be her “final decision” on the flotilla incident, stating that she “remains of the view that there is no reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation,” and that the preliminary examination “must be closed.”

The Comoros in February 2018 applied to the Appeals Chamber for a “Judicial Review,” of the prosecutor’s repeated decisions to close the case, citing “discernable [sic] errors in each of them.”

Bensouda, in turn, argued that the Appeals Chamber may not have jurisdiction to rule in the case, suggesting that it dismiss the Comoros’ requests.

Many other requests and appeals were filed by both sides, arguing about jurisdiction and timetables, until November 2018, when the pre-trial chamber ruled that the prosecutor’s ostensible “final decision” from November 2017 “cannot be considered to be final” and asked her to consider the case for a third time.

In September 2019, the court’s Appeals Chamber also ordered Bensouda to reconsider the case, with Presiding Judge Solomy Bossa giving her a December 2 deadline. 

On December 3rd another chapter in that saga came to an end.

“The chief prosecutor of International Criminal Court on Monday refused for the third time to open an investigation into the 2010 Gaza flotilla incident, saying any crimes allegedly committed during the raid were not severe enough to merit such a probe.

Fatou Bensouda reiterated her position that there is no reason to launch an investigation into the matter “because there is no potential case arising from this situation that is sufficiently grave, to reconsider a case that she had repeatedly sought to close due to lack of gravity,” her office stated.”

When the BBC News website last reported on the story in November 2014 it informed audiences that:

“…lawyers representing the Comoros vowed to appeal against the decision, saying it was a “struggle for justice, humanity and honour”.

“Our struggle is not over. We will appeal to a higher court for a review and hopefully achieve a favourable result,” attorney Ramazan Ariturk said.”

Insofar as we aware, the BBC News website did not produce any follow-up reporting relating to that story throughout the last five years. Nevertheless, in a backgrounder published in June 2016, it once again chose to promote the notion of “war crimes” – despite no investigation having been carried out by the ICC.

“In November 2014, a preliminary examination by the International Criminal Court’s Chief Prosecutor concluded that it should not take further action despite a “reasonable basis to believe that war crimes… were committed”, because it had to prioritise war crimes on a larger scale.”

Although that backgrounder remains available online, the BBC has not made any effort to date to update it with the news that the case has so far been rejected by the ICC three times.

Another chapter in a story ignored by the BBC for two years

Since the summer of 2017 we have periodically documented the absence of BBC coverage of a story concerning Palestinian citizens which falls outside the corporation’s usual framing.

BBC News ignores an unusual legal story from Israel

Story of PA torture continues to be side-lined by BBC

PA torture case still being ignored by the BBC

Last week the Jerusalem Post reported that the Palestinian citizens who won a legal battle against the Palestinian Authority in Israeli courts are to ask the ICC to take up their case.

“A group of over 50 Palestinians is expected to request that the International Criminal Court probe the Palestinian Authority for war crimes of torturing them.

Represented by Uri Morad, director of International Law at the Jerusalem Institute for Justice (JIJ), and lawyer Barak Kedem of the law firm Arbus, Kedem and Tzur, the group of Palestinians is trying to capitalize on legal judgments they have already won in Israeli civil courts on the issue.

The JIJ issued a statement on Sunday that they would file their complaint with the ICC in The Hague on Monday. […]

In the first case of its kind, an Israeli court in July 2017 ruled that 51 Palestinians who were tortured by the PA for cooperating with Israel could sue the Authority for damages.

That 1,860-page ruling, based on dozens of witnesses over several years, was one of the most bizarre in years, as it involved Palestinian citizens coming before the courts of the Israeli “occupation” to get justice for their mistreatment by their own Palestinian law enforcement.”

Israel HaYom added:

“On Monday, the filmed testimonies of the former prisoners are slated to be shown at the International Criminal Court. Attorney Uri Morad, head of the international law department at the JIJ, explained that “In February, we contacted the ICC at The Hague and asked for a criminal probe into PA President Mahmoud Abbas on suspicion of crimes he [allegedly] perpetrated against his own people, including an ongoing and extensive spree of murder, torture, and illegal imprisonments against the Palestinian population.

“The testimonies that will be presented tomorrow [Monday] demonstrate a well-oiled system that uses violent means to oppress the civilian population,” Morad said.”

Notwithstanding the BBC News website’s publication eight months ago of a recycled version of a report published by an external organisation on arbitrary arrests and torture by Palestinian forces, BBC audiences continue to be denied serious, original BBC reporting on this story as well as on other aspects of internal Palestinian affairs.

 

 

Weekend long read

1) The ITIC has published an assessment of “The impact of the withdrawal of the American troops from Syria on the campaign against ISIS“.

“From a military perspective, the end of American activity in Syria is liable to be detrimental to the campaign currently being waged by the Kurdish forces east of the Euphrates against last important ISIS-controlled area in Syria. The blow is expected to be particularly hard if America stops its aerial support to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). However, in ITIC assessment, the most serious impact of the American pullout is expected to be its influence on morale and the political situation: the Kurds, who control extensive areas in the northeastern part of the country, feel betrayed and their cohesiveness may be harmed. Thus they can be expected to look for new strategic support, especially from the Syrian regime and Russia. The Kurds’ motivation to continue fighting ISIS may be reduced and they may retreat to the heart of their area of control in northeastern Syria and stop clearing the lower Euphrates Valley of ISIS fighters.”

2) Jonathan Spyer takes a look at the Turkish aspect of the withdrawal of US forces from Syria.

“The contradiction between the western attempt to appease Turkey, and the tentatively emergent strategy vis-a-vis Syria had been apparent for some months. It now looked set to be resolved – one way or the other.

If the US indeed now follows through with the rapid withdrawal of the American military presence in Syria in its entirety, as a number of news outlets have reported and the President appears to have confirmed, then we have an answer. It means that the US has indeed blinked first, and is set on reversing course in Syria – by embarking on a hurried exit from the country. This will be interpreted by all sides as a strategic defeat, an abandonment under pressure of allies, and a debacle.”

3) MEMRI reports on recent criticism of Hizballah in Lebanon.

“Since the parliamentary elections in May 2018, Lebanese Prime Minister and Al-Mustaqbal movement leader Sa’d Al-Hariri has been trying to form a national unity government incorporating all the major political forces in Lebanon, including Hizbullah. His efforts have so far been unsuccessful, however, partly due to steep conditions presented by Hizbullah regarding the government’s makeup, mainly its demand to appoint a Sunni minister from the March 8 Forces, the faction led by Hizbullah. […]

This political crisis, which has been ongoing for over six months, has evoked furious responses from Lebanese politicians and columnists, who accuse Hizbullah of serving Iranian interests at the expense of Lebanon’s, and also of using its weapons to take over Lebanon and of subordinating it to Iranian patronage. The bleak political climate even cast a pall over Lebanon’s 75th Independence Day, marked on November 22, with some calling not to celebrate it because Lebanon is not truly independent. Criticism was also directed at President Michel ‘Aoun and at his son-in-law, Foreign Minister Gebral Bassil, both of them Hizbullah allies, for allowing Hizbullah to effectively control the country.”

4) At the JCPA Amb. Alan Baker discusses “Electing the Palestinian Attorney-General to the ICC Nominations Committee for Judges“.

“The election of the Palestinian Attorney-General, Dr. Ahmad Barrak, to serve as a member of the “Advisory Committee on Nominations” of judges of the International Criminal Court, if it were not so serious, could be seen as comical. It cannot but invoke the ancient Latin maxim “ovem lupo commitere,” or in its literal and colloquial version “to set the wolf to guard the sheep.”

This perhaps sums up the acute absurdity to which respected international institutions in the international community, and particularly the United Nations and the International Criminal Court, have descended. Sadly, they have permitted themselves to be abused and manipulated by an irresponsible Palestinian leadership, intent on hijacking international organizations for obvious and blatant political purposes. 

However, the election of a Palestinian representative to the judges’ Nominations Committee, as unwise and ill-advised as it may be, is indicative of a far wider and more serious problem facing the International Criminal Court, with the admission of what purports to be “The State of Palestine” as a party to its Statute.”

 

Weekend long read

1) At the Times of Israel Professor Avi Bell asks “Is ‘East Jerusalem’ Palestinian Territory?“.

“Logic, it seems, is not the currency of a successful legal strategy in international courts. The politicized ICJ may bow to Palestinian demands to call Jerusalem a “corpus separatum” even as the politicized ICC bows to Palestinian demands to recognize “East Jerusalem” as “occupied Palestinian territory.” Experience teaches that Palestinian claims need not persuade or even be logically consistent to succeed, as long as they aim at disadvantaging Israel. The tragedy is that the ICC and ICJ are now joining hands in helping the PLO make a mockery of international law.”

2) The ITIC discusses “Security Council Resolution 1701 and Its Systematic Violation by Hezbollah and Iran“.

“The key paragraphs of Resolution 1701 and the security arrangements relating to the area of Lebanon south of the Litani River have not been enforced during the twelve years since the Second Lebanon War. The Lebanese government is not the sole sovereign in Lebanon as determined by the resolution, and the weapons of the Lebanese army are not the only weapons south of the Litani River (or in all Lebanon). Hezbollah’s military infrastructure, which is deployed in south Lebanon and in the north, was reconstructed and upgraded after the Second Lebanon War. The tunnels recently exposed on the Israeli border are further manifestations of the lack of the resolution’s enforcement. The area south of the Litani River was not demilitarized. Hezbollah continues as its main military power, despite the routine security activities in south Lebanon of the Lebanese army, supported by UNIFIL. Iran continues smuggling weapons into Lebanon by air, by sea and overland, and the Lebanese government makes no real attempt to stop it.”

3) At the INSS Raz Zimmt assesses “A Year of Protests in Iran“.

“The wave of protests that erupted in December 2017-January 2018 in dozens of cities in Iran ebbed after about two weeks, but continued – albeit with less intensity and on a smaller scale – throughout the year. The continuation of the protests reflects the intensity of public frustration that has grown against the background of a deteriorating economic situation and the widening gap between the public and the regime; it is further fed by the citizens’ growing distrust of the political establishment and its failure to provide solutions for their distress. Looking ahead, the deterioration of the economic situation, together with the fundamental problems of the Islamic Republic, contain potential for a future protest movement. However, whether such a movement will become a real threat to stability depends on the regime’s ability to overcome its basic weaknesses, to unite the middle class with the workers, to improve organization at a national level, and to raise political demands that undermine the very existence of the Islamic regime. Iran has faced considerable economic challenges in the past. Over the years the public has been able to adjust to difficult situations, and the regime still has the means to suppress any protests that show signs of spreading. At this stage, it appears that the regime is unable to prevent the continuation of protest, but at the same time, the demonstrators are unable to undermine the foundations of the regime.”

4) Col. Richard Kemp’s submission on behalf of the High Level Military Group to the ‘United Nations Commission of Inquiry on the 2018 Protests in the Occupied Palestinian Territory’ (the ‘Great Return March’) is available here.

“The terms of this mandate are self-evidently biased against the State of Israel and the IDF. The context cited: ‘the military assaults on the large-scale civilian protests’ make clear that the UNHRC either failed to understand what was happening on the ground or deliberately misrepresented the reality. In addition, the Commission’s mandate terms the Gaza Strip ‘Occupied Palestinian Territories’, which it is not. This gives us cause for concern that the COI which has accepted this biased mandate will fail to produce a fair and objective report into these events. This concern is reinforced by the history of anti-Israel bias by the UNHRC and previous COIs into violence in Gaza.”

Context lacking, inaccuracies let slide in BBC WS coverage of PLO mission closure

Previously we saw how a BBC News website report on the US decision to close the PLO office in Washington DC failed to provide readers with an adequate explanation of both the legal background to that decision and the fact that the same Palestinian officials now protesting it have had nearly three years in which to study the requirements for keeping that mission open.

The September 10th evening edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ closed with an item on the same story which was introduced by presenter Julian Marshall (from 45:05 here) with the following framing:

[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Marshall: “The Trump administration is piling the pressure on the Palestinians. It’s already ended bilateral funding and also funding to the UN agency which looks after Palestinian refugees. President Trump says they’re ungrateful and should return to the negotiating table with Israel. And today the US ordered the closure of the office of the Palestine Liberation Organisation in Washington. The US State Department said the Palestinians were refusing to engage with the US over peace efforts. US National Security Advisor John Bolton also touched on the topic in his speech excoriating the International Criminal Court. He said the US decision to close the mission in Washington was a result of the court’s insistence on investigating Israel for its actions in the West Bank and Gaza.”

In contrast to Marshall’s claim, the ICC’s preliminary investigations in fact came as a result of actions by the Palestinian Authority beginning in January 2015. Listeners then heard a recording of John Bolton speaking on the same day.

Recording Bolton: “The United States will always stand with our friend and ally Israel. And today, reflecting Congressional concerns with Palestinian attempts to prompt an ICC investigation of Israel, the Department of State will announce the closure of the Palestine Liberation Organisation office here in Washington DC and the Trump administration will not keep the office open when the Palestinians refuse to take steps to start direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel. The United States supports a direct and robust peace process and we will not allow the ICC or any other organisation to constrain Israel’s right to self-defence.”

Marshall: “So why is Mr Bolton conflating two issues: the ICC and the Palestinians? Our State Department correspondent again, Barbara Plett-Usher.

While it is obvious that Barbara Plett-Usher is aware of the history and legal background to this story, BBC World Service listeners did not hear a lucid explanation. Despite the BBC having itself reported on Palestinian petitions to the ICC – including as recently as in May – Plett-Usher disingenuously portrayed that topic as though it were a claim dreamed up by John Bolton.

Plett-Usher: “Well that’s because Congress conflated them. Congress put some conditions on the ability of the PLO to open an office in Washington, one of which was that the Palestinians could not be going after Israel in the ICC and you heard there Mr Bolton saying they were in fact trying to do that. But even then, even if the Palestinians had made such moves, the PLO office could still be allowed to operate here if the Palestinians were engaging in peace talks with the Israelis, which they are not. They’re boycotting the US attempts to revive negotiations because they see them as blatantly favouring the Israelis on core issues. But the administration used these two arguments, these two conditions put down by Congress, to close down the mission.”

Marshall: “And has this mission in Washington been useful for the Palestinians?”

Misrepresenting the title of the PLO envoy to Washington and giving a partisan interpretation of the Oslo Accords Declaration of Principles, Plett-Usher replied:

Plett-Usher: “I think it’s been more useful at some times than at others but by and large what it was, it was set up after the Oslo Accords were negotiated in ’93-’94 and this was the sort of point man point in Washington to liaise with the US administration on efforts to implement those accords which of course were supposed to result in a Palestinian state and never did. More recently the diplomats here have engaged in direct outreach to Americans – to churches, civil organisations, students and the like – trying to build support for the Palestinians, to take advantage of a decrease in support for the Israeli government policies among Americans but also including American Jews. In fact the PLO ambassador claims that that was one reason they were shut down.”

Plett-Usher refrained from mentioning reports that the PLO mission in Washington had been funding campus activity of the anti-Israel BDS campaign in the US.

Marshall then went on to introduce his second contributor, failing to clarify to listeners that Hanan Ashrawi is a member of the PLO’s executive committee.

Marshall: “[…] and earlier I spoke to Hanan Ashrawi, a senior Palestinian legislator and former negotiator. What’s her reaction to Mr Bolton’s remarks?”

[48:23] Ashrawi: “This is not an act that happened in isolation. It’s part of a concerted American assault on Palestinian rights, on the chances of peace [laughs] and on any semblance of justice, on legality and solving the Palestinian-Israeli issue. And it seems to me the US is certainly doing Israel’s bidding and is trying to resolve all issues by bashing the Palestinians, by punishing the Palestinians – who are already under occupation – and by rewarding Israel and granting it full immunity to act outside the law with full impunity.”

Marshall: “The United States says it’s doing this because the Palestinians are not supporting peace talks with Israel.”

Ashrawi: [laughs] That’s extremely ironic. There are no talks. There are no plans. There is no negotiating table to invite us back to: the US has smashed it into smithereens. It has decided unilaterally to give away Jerusalem to Israel which is illegal because Jerusalem is occupied territory – it is Palestinian land. It has decided single-handedly to redefine Palestinian refugees and to stop funding UNRWA which is an international organisation specifically set up to serve and protect the Palestinian refugees. It has unilaterally decided that the settlements are not illegal, that it doesn’t want the ’67 boundaries or the two-state solution. So what does it want? Right now it is busy telling the Palestinians if you do not surrender to our dictates, if you do not accept all these steps then you are going to be punished again and Israel is rewarded. So it’s extremely ironic. It’s really disingenuous to talk about peace. Actually now we are being punished because we dared ask the International Criminal Court to speed up its investigation of Israeli war crimes and as you know, settlements are a war crime by international definition according to the Rome Statute.”

Making no effort whatsoever to challenge Ashrawi’s egregious portrayal of Jerusalem as “Palestinian land”, her “war crimes” smear or her partisan interpretation of Article 8 of the Rome Statute, Marshall changed the subject.

Marshall: “Do you have any idea what the US peace plan is? Because the Trump administration says that the Palestinian leadership has condemned that plan that they haven’t even seen [Ashrawi laughs] and refused to engage the US government with respect to peace efforts in other words.”

Ashrawi: “Yes of course we refuse because we don’t need to talk about a plan; they’re implementing it. I mean anybody who has any sense – any sight – would see that the US is busy dismantling every single component or requirement of peace. These issues are very clear. So it’s not that we [laughs] are not talking peace. We have been talking peace for decades and we’ve negotiated with numerous American administrations. It’s this one that has…I think it has lost its mind. I think in this mad, hysterical defence of Israel, they just don’t make sense. They have lost their balance and it’s really serious because they’re creating a situation of tremendous volatility.”

Marshall: “How do the Palestinians now though gain their independent state? You’ve rejected the United States as a mediator; you’re not prepared at the moment to sit down with Israel. How do you achieve your political objectives?”

Ashrawi: “Well the president Mahmoud Abbas last year declared or announced an initiative about convening an international conference about the requirements of peace. There is a plan but obviously when the US has taken sides so blatantly and I think now it’s up to the international community that has to take up its responsibility to protect the Palestinians and to hold Israel to account and now to hold the US to account.”

Failing to inform listeners that Abbas’ ‘international conference’ was supposed to have taken place “by mid-2018“, Marshall closed the item there, once again neglecting to clarify Ashrawi’s PLO links.

As we see, once again BBC audiences were not given an adequate account of the legislative background crucial to proper understanding of the US decision to close the PLO mission in Washington. They did, however, hear Hanan Ashrawi’s political talking points, inaccuracies and distortions go completely unchallenged for four straight minutes in this one-sided presentation of the story.

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BBC News report on US closure of PLO mission fails to adequately inform

On September 10th a story that has been brewing for a long time was reported on the BBC News website under the headline “US to shut Palestinian mission in Washington“.

Nearly 22% of the 578-word article was used to tell readers “How have the Palestinians responded?” and over 31% of its word count was given over to descriptions of US cuts to donations – including the already widely covered UNRWA story – under the sub-heading “What other steps has the US taken?”.

The background ostensibly intended to enable readers to understand the story was presented in 138 words under the sub-heading “Why is the Palestinian mission being closed?” and began by quoting parts of the relevant statement from the US State Department.

“The PLO has not taken steps to advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel,” the state department said on Monday.

“To the contrary, the PLO leadership has condemned a US peace plan they have not yet seen and refused to engage with the US government with respect to peace efforts and otherwise.”

The statement also cited Palestinian efforts to get the ICC to prosecute Israelis for alleged violations of international laws and norms regarding the treatment of people and property in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.”

Readers were next provided with links to two previous BBC reports: the first dating from November 18th 2017 and the other from May 22nd 2018.

Last year the US state department warned the mission that under US law it faced closure if Palestinian leaders continued to do so.

But in May, the Palestinian foreign minister formally asked the ICC’s chief prosecutor to launch a full investigation, saying he had “ample and insurmountable evidence”.”

In order to understand the relevance of “US law” to the current story, readers would have had to click on that first link, where they would find the following:

“US officials say the PLO could be breaking a legal condition for it to operate in the US.

The US law says Palestinian authorities must not pressure the International Criminal Court to investigate Israelis.

The PLO, which is seen by the international community as representing all Palestinians, opened an office in DC in 1994.

It is the first time that the State Department has declined to reissue a six-monthly operating licence for it.

A state department official cited “certain statements made by Palestinian leaders” about the International Criminal Court (ICC) as the reason behind the non-renewal.

Obviously that account does not provide readers unfamiliar with the story with a full and clear explanation of its background. An article published by the Times of Israel around the same time however does.

“In 1987, Congress sought to rid US soil of any PLO institutions, which included a United Nations mission located in New York City and a Palestinian information bureau in DC. At the time, the PLO was a US-designated terror organization, backing attacks against Israelis. […]

Despite the bill becoming law, ultimately the US couldn’t close the Palestinian mission to the UN because this would have violated international law. The DC information office, however, was closed.

Fast-forward to 1993. Israel and the PLO have just signed the Oslo Peace Accords. The Palestinians have sworn to end decades of terror attacks against Israel and are slated to receive their own state in the coming years. At this historic occasion, the US Congress allowed the president to suspend all sanctions against the PLO as long as the Palestinians stay faithful to commitments made in the accords. The suspension would have to be renewed every six months. This act by Congress allowed the PLO to open up a diplomatic mission in DC.

In 1997, Congress made it easier for the president to waive the sanctions against the PLO: The president would now just have to say the waiver was in the US’s national security interest with no explanation needed. Again, a waiver would have to be signed every six months.

This was the case until 2011, when the Palestinians joined UNESCO and declared they wanted full-membership status in the UN.

In response, Congress slipped in a new provision into the annual State and Foreign Operations Bill […]

Now, if the Palestinians obtained full membership status in the United Nations outside of an agreement with Israel, the president would be unable to waive sanctions against the PLO, unless “the Palestinians have entered into direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel.” […]

After the Palestinians joined the ICC in 2015, Congress, without any public debate or headlines, slipped in a similar provision into the December 2015 foreign ops bill […]

The provision calls for the waiver to be revoked should the Palestinians “initiate an International Criminal Court (ICC) judicially authorized investigation, or actively support such an investigation” against Israel.”

In other words, when Mahmoud Abbas told the UN General Assembly on September 20th 2017 that “[w]e have called on the International Criminal Court to open an investigation and to prosecute Israeli officials for their involvement in settlement activities and aggressions against our people” he was no doubt aware of the potential consequences under the terms of the legislation passed by the US Congress nearly two years earlier under the Obama administration. And yet despite the US State Department having issued that warning in November 2017, in May 2018 the PA’s foreign minister nevertheless chose to present a referral to the ICC.

Nevertheless, as was reported in November 2017, the PLO mission in Washington could have remained open.

“The declaration does not automatically mean the mission will close. US President Donald Trump now has a 90-day window to decide whether “the Palestinians have entered into direct, meaningful negotiations with Israel” — in which case he can waive the requirement to shutter the office.”

However, the Palestinians have of course done no such thing and – as the BBC has itself reported on numerous occasions over the past ten months – Palestinian officials have repeatedly made it abundantly clear that they have no intention of even considering a US peace plan.

In summary, while readers of this BBC report found an unsatisfactory 48 word ‘explanation’ of the legislative background crucial to proper understanding of this story, they saw 127 words of PLO condemnations of the US administration decision – but no clarification of how the Palestinians could have prevented that decision from being taken.  

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