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Justice and accountability after the Holocaust

Justice and accountability after the Holocaust

“Justice and accountability after the Holocaust” was New Zealand's theme for its observance of United Nations Holocaust Remembrance Day, 27 January 2012. Whatever else Holocaust remembrance signifies, it should be supported by a determination to learn the lessons of history and uncompromising opposition to the commission of further ideologically-driven crimes of inhumanity – whoever the perpetrators may be. The death on 22 January of a young girl from the effects of white phosphorus, illegally used by Israel in its murderous Cast Lead offensive in the Gaza Strip three years ago, is a stark reminder that, for Palestinians, justice is totally denied while an indulgent world continues to protect Israel from all accountability.

January also saw the publication, by the United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Occupied Palestinian territory, of its report: “Demolitions and forced displacement in the Occupied West Bank”. The report on conditions for Palestinians under belligerent Israeli military occupation reminds us, for instance, that “almost 1100 Palestinians”, over half of them children, “were displaced due to home demolitions by Israeli forces in 2011, over 80% more than in 2010.” New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key has declared that he believes New Zealand could “learn a lot from Israel” and our Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully has enthusiastically supported the occupying power's application for membership of the OECD. John Key perhaps admires Israel's capacity to garner foreign aid for its economy, especially from the US.

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Israel's behaviour is determined by its founding ideology of Zionism. The Zionist state claims to represent all Jews and thereby attempts to implicate all Jews in its justification of its war crimes. Many Jewish people strongly resent this, including those who adhere to pre-Zionist Judaism. The US-based organisation Jewish Voice for Peace, for instance, reminds us in a statement ( that a large part of US military aid to Israel goes to purchase tanks, helicopter gunships, machine-guns and bullets that are used against Palestinian civilians. “Our tax dollars have been used to destroy homes; uproot trees and crops; seize land from its lawful owners; close all access to food, medicine, and the outside world for small towns in the West Bank and Gaza; staff checkpoints that cut off ambulances and other civilian traffic; and carry out assassinations that kill children in addition to summarily executing political leaders . . .” Israel continues to demolish Palestinian family homes and destroy agriculture and industry throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Earlier this month, Israel's Supreme Court upheld a law passed in 2003 that denies Palestinians from the West Bank or Gaza Strip who are the spouses of Israeli citizens any right to citizenship or residency. Palestinian citizens of Israel, who form 20% of the population, have citizenship but do not enjoy Israeli nationality. Israel's 1950 Law of Return welcomes any Jew immigrating to Israel. But Palestinian refugees are denied their right of return to homes from which they were driven. That right of Palestinian return is enshrined in UN Resolution 194. Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the UN in 1948, states: (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state, and (2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country. Israel denies these rights to Palestinians.

The 1995 European Union-Israel Association Agreement declares as its purpose the promotion of (1) peace and security, (2) shared prosperity through, for example, economic co-operation, free trade and free movement of capital, and (3) cross-cultural rapprochement. That agreement also applied to Israel's relations with the EU’s other Mediterranean partners – including the Palestinian National Authority. Israel continues to enjoy “favoured nation” trading terms with the EU. The failure by the European Union-Israel Association and the OECD to suspend association and membership until Israel complies with international humanitarian law amounts to complicity in the Zionist State's violations. The US also could bring enormous pressure to bear upon Israel by denying aid. And so, with impunity, Israel continues its population transfers, territorial aggrandisement and ethnically discriminatory legislation both within Israel and in territories it occupies.

Progress towards ending state-sponsored human rights violations depends partly upon restraining the perpetrators and an uncompromising requirement upon them to observe tragically hard-won international laws. The world community's failure to render Israel accountable to justice in this regard is an affront to both United Nations Holocaust Remembrance Day and the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Leslie Bravery – 28 January 2012 - Palestine Human Rights Campaign


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