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Genevieve Cora Fraser: Israeli Arms Embargo Urged

Israeli Arms Embargo Urged as Operation Rainbow Continues under the Black Flag of Illegality

By Genevieve Cora Fraser

One day after the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution condemning Israel for killing Palestinian civilians and demolishing houses in Rafah, a United Nations Human Rights official expressed his horror and concern regarding Israel's military actions and recommended that Israel be dealt with as Apartheid South Africa was in 1977. Throughout the world comparisons are being made between the 1976 killing of demonstrators in Soweto, South Africa to Israel's Operation Rainbow where tank shells fired into a crowd of unarmed Palestinian demonstrators killing 10, most of whom were children. The incident at Soweto triggered economic sanctions including a mandatory arms embargo which eventually brought about the collapse of South African Apartheid rule.

On May 20, John Dugard, the Special Rapporteur of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in the Palestinian territory occupied by Israel since 1967, charged that Israel's actions constitute war crimes amounting to collective punishment in violation of both humanitarian law and international human rights law. Refusing to accept the Israeli argument that their actions are justified by military necessity, Dugard insisted, "On the contrary, in the language of Article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, they are carried out unlawfully and wantonly." Dugard, a South African, is a professor of international law at the University of Leiden, Netherlands.

The Special Rapporteur called on the Security Council to take appropriate action to stop the violence, if necessary by the imposition of a mandatory arms embargo on Israel of the kind that was imposed on South Africa in 1977. In a pointed reference to the United States, Dugard cited the tendency of some Member States to use the veto in all action affecting Israel. "In this respect, they repeat the behavior of Permanent Members in respect of South Africa before 1977," he said.

The disparities created by South Africa's apartheid policies imposed on the native black population had gained such notoriety that in 1963, the United Nations Security Council established a voluntary arms embargo against the country, but tensions continued to escalate. In June 1976, the eyes of the world were focused on black high-school students in Soweto protesting for better education as police responded with teargas and live bullets. In the wake of the Soweto uprising and the brutal South African government response, on November 4, 1977 the Security Council adopted a mandatory arms embargo along with other economic sanctions against the Apartheid government.

Prior to the embargo, Israel had a small but flourishing arms export industry which relied on trade to the South African military. Four years after the embargo was imposed Ariel Sharon, Israel's Defense minister at the time argued against the embargo stating that South Africa needed more modern weapons to fight successfully against Soviet-supplied troops to the region.

But apartheid was a genuine threat to peace as evidenced by South Africa's continued illegal occupation of Namibia and military invasions of the Front Line States, especially Angola, according to a 2001 report by Richard Knight. "African governments were demanding that the Carter administration do something. In the U.S. there was a dramatic increase in the anti-apartheid movement, especially on college campuses," Knight stated. Consequently the Carter administration voted in favor of the arms embargo against South Africa.

In April 2002, widespread damage and destruction were caused by the Israeli Armed Forces in its re-occupation of the Palestinian towns of Nablus, Bethlehem, Ramallah and the refugee camp at Jenin. The crush of tanks and bulldozers nearly leveled the Palestinian Authority Headquarters in Ramallah as IDF incursions leveled courts, jails and other administrative buildings throughout Palestine. In response the European Union threatened an arms embargo against Israel but Britain acted.

Ha'aretz reported that Britain embargoed a variety of materials because Israel had broken a pledge not to use British equipment against the Palestinian Authority. Israeli military equipment purchases in Britain at that time were about about $50 million a year. But the move fell short of the blanket arms embargo demanded by some Labour MPs and by July 2002 a variety of news agencies were reporting that the UK was bypassing its own arms embargo by selling military arms to Israel via the United States. In addition, the Guardian reported, "Britain and the US are already planning a £100 billion joint strike fighter project."

Nine months prior to the re-occupation Stephen Zunes, an Associate Professor of Politics and Chair of the Peace and Justice Studies Program at San Francisco University stated that though Israel is an advanced, industrialized, technologically sophisticated country, it receives more U.S. aid per capita annually than the total annual Gross Domestic Product per capita of several Arab states. "Approximately a third of the entire U.S. foreign aid budget goes to Israel, even though Israel comprises just one-thousandth of the world's total population, and already has one of the world's higher per capita incomes." This aid is little more than an American subsidy to U.S. arms manufacturers, Matti Peled, former Israeli major general and Knesset member, told Zunes. The majority of military aid to Israel is used to buy weapons from the United States. On average US taxpayers fork over 4 billion in grants and $14 to 16 billion in loans to Israel that are never repaid except through military purchases.

Latest reports of Israel's Operation Rainbow killings refer to between 42 to 57 deaths, including a 3 ½ year old who was attacked by IDF snipers as she walked to a nearby shop to buy herself a treat. According to the BBC, as Peter Hansen, the chief of the UN's agency for Palestinian refugees surveyed the damage he stated, "One thing that strikes you is that so many people said they had their homes bulldozed while they were in the houses. I've heard the Israelis deny this, but to me it was quite striking the consistency of the reports that I was getting." The United Nations has established that 1,650 people have been made homeless in Rafah over the last two weeks. Water and sewer infrastructure and roads have also been gutted by the IDF incursion. Prior to Operation Rainbow Israel had destroyed 2,018 houses in Gaza since the year 2000, leaving 18,382 people homeless.

Israeli's Maariv International news reported that the destruction of homes within the Rafah refugee camp prompted Israeli Justice Minister Tommy Lapid, a Holocaust survivor, to call a cabinet meeting to end the demolitions. Amid the angry reaction of cabinet members Lapid compared the demolition to scenes of the Holocaust. "When I saw (on TV) an old woman in the middle of the debris of her house looking for her medication I thought of my grandmother," he told the cabinet.

"The destruction of homes must stop because it is inhuman, un-Jewish, and causes us great harm around the world," Lapid said. "In the end we'll be kicked out of the UN, we'll be put on trial in The Hague, and no one will want to have anything to do with us. It's simply unreasonable to pick up the paper and read about plans to destroy 2,000-3,000 homes in order to widen the Philadelphi route. It's clear that after the first 100 homes the world will stop us."

Maariv International also reported a statement made by the president of the World Bank, American James Wolfensohn, "Israel's military operations pertaining to the demolitions of thousands of homes in Rafah are reckless, and leaves tens of thousands of people without a roof over their heads. As a Jew, I am ashamed of this kind of treatment of people." Wolfensohn added that World Bank experts are currently reviewing a proposal submitted to them on behalf of Israel. However, in the current mood Israel should not expect any positive response from the World Bank.

Meanwhile the Israeli military is rounding up males 16 years old and older in Rafah neighborhoods under attack and has opened a new detention camp on the border between the southern Gaza town of Rafah and Egypt where doctors and nurses are said to be among those detained. In the midst of the mayhem only one tunnel has been discovered.

Against this backdrop Israeli settlement and outposts continue to expand along with Israeli only roads, the racist Apartheid Wall, the electric razor wire fence and hundreds upon hundreds of roadblocks and checkpoints that restrict the movement of Palestinians within Palestine. Trade and business activities in the PA area are also restricted. Due to security zones the area had been divided into 63 parts which in practical terms amounts to 63 separate entities, Palestinian sociologist Salim Tamari remarked in a report published by The Nation. Tamari is the Director of the Institute of Jerusalem Studies.

In calling for the arms embargo against Israel, Special Rapporteur Dugard requested that all Member States of the Security Council behave responsibly, in accordance with their international obligations, and not allow domestic political considerations to undermine their international obligations. He reminded Members of the Security Council in general and the Permanent Members of the Security Council in particular of their obligations to take action to restore international peace and security in the region.


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