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What shoud have been Isreal’s bad day

Jun 30,2021 - Last updated at Jun 30,2021

Last Thursday should have been a bad day for Israel. Amnesty International blasted the Israeli police for attacking, arresting and abusing Palestinians demonstrating against Israel's 11-day onslaught on Gaza last month, while the UN slammed Israel for continuing illegal colonisation of the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Amnesty's June 24th report was particularly damaging. It is based on interviews with 11 witnesses and 45 videos and other digital material which documented Israeli police violations of Palestinian rights between May 9th and June 12th.

Amnesty wrote, "Israeli police have committed a catalogue of violations against Palestinians in Israel and occupied East Jerusalem, carrying out a discriminatory repressive campaign including sweeping mass arrests, using unlawful force against peaceful protesters, and subjecting detainees to torture and other ill treatment, during and after the armed hostilities in Israel and Gaza."

Amnesty also accused Israeli police, who are obliged to provide security to all Israelis, of failing to protect Palestinian citizens "from premeditated attacks by groups of armed Jewish supremacists, even when plans were publicised in advance and police knew or should have known of them".

The crackdown was in response to inter-communal violence in Israel between Palestinian and Jewish Israelis, during which one Palestinian and two Jewish citizens were killed, synagogues and Muslim cemeteries were vandalised, Palestinian cars destroyed, and rocks were thrown at Palestinian homes. In occupied East Jerusalem, Israeli settlers continued to harass Palestinian residents.

Amnesty wrote, "In response on 24 May, Israeli authorities launched 'Operation Law and Order' primarily targeting Palestinian protesters.  Israeli media said the operation aimed to 'settle scores with those involved and to 'deter' further demonstrations."

Amnesty quoted figures provided by Mossawa, a Palestinian rights group, revealing that 2,150 Palestinians had been arrested and 184 indictments have been issued against 285 accused, 90 per cent against Palestinian citizens or residents of East Jerusalem.  Only 30 Jewish citizens were indicted, according to another Palestinian rights group Adalah, citing a representative of the Israeli attorney general's office.

The Amnesty report referenced the Follow Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel which reported,  "Most Palestinians arrested were detained for offences such as 'insulting or assaulting a police officer' or 'taking part in an illegal gathering' rather than for violent attacks on people or property."

Saleh Higazi, deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty, summed up by saying, "This discriminatory crackdown was orchestrated as an act of retaliation and intimidation to crush pro-Palestinian demonstrations and silence those who speak out to condemn Israel’s institutionalised discrimination and systemic oppression of Palestinians.”

These are very harsh words coming from a respected international organisation which seeks to expose human rights abuses around the globe. More tough talk came from UN Mideast envoy Tor Wennesland when briefing the UN Security Council on the 12-page report submitted by his boss Secretary General Antonio Guterres. Wennesland focused on Israel's on-implementation of a landmark December 2016 Council resolution that ruled Israeli settlements have "no legal validity" and demanded a halt to settlement construction which is designed to pre-empt the establishment of a viable Palestinian state in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.

Wennesland said that he was "deeply troubled" by the approval of the new Israeli government of an additional 540 housing units to the massive Har Homa colony south of East Jerusalem and the continuing establishment of wildcat settlement outposts which are "illegal under Israeli law".

The government has plans for 31 Israeli construction projects in the occupied West Bank as well as changes in zoning regulations which will legalise these outlawed outposts.

He reminded the Council that "Israeli settlements constitute a flagrant violation of United Nations resolutions and international law. They are a major obstacle to the achievement of a two-state solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace. The advancement of all settlement activity must cease immediately".

He then switched to Israeli demolitions and seizures of Palestinian "structures, including humanitarian projects and schools" and called on Israel "to end the demolition of Palestinian property and the displacement of Palestinians, and to approve plans that would enable these communities to build legally and address their development needs”.

The 2016 resolution cited by Wennesland adopted by the Council could have been a turning point for longstanding US policy. The US normally vetoed resolutions critical of Israel. However, former President Barack Obama opted to abstain. At the outset of his first term, Obama entertained the curious notion that he could resolve the century-old "Palestine problem" by halting Israeli colonisation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem and promoting negotiations which would lead to the emergence of a viable Palestinian state.

Obama was defeated and nothing was done to implement the Council resolution which joined a host of others vetoed by the US and shelved among scores of others gathering dust in some UN archive.  As vice president, Joe Biden witnessed Obama's humiliation; as president, Biden says he supports the "two-state solution" but he is not prepared to exert pressure on Israel to permit the emergence of a Palestinian state.

Given the world's forever failure to stop Israel from abusing Palestinians and colonising their land, June 24 was not a particularly bad day for Israel. Consequently, it is surprising that a reliable organisation like Amnesty International would issue such a report and a UN official would adopt such a strong verbal stand against Israel. Their words should be taken seriously. Countries should be held accountable for violations of human rights and international law. Unfortunately, certain countries are immune from corrective sanctions even if, at least these days, they cannot escape censure.

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