Human Rights Watch, Palestine Wall Protest, TIRANNT and Venezuela's Revolution

Edward S. Herman, David Peterson, and George Szamuely, “Human Rights Watch in Service to the War Party” was published by ZNet on February 25, 2007. It includes a review of “Weighing the Evidence: Lessons from the Slobodan Milosevic Trial”(Human Rights Watch, December, 2006) 'Human Rights Watch (HRW) came into existence in 1978 as the U.S. Helsinki Watch Committee,' write Herman et al. 'Early documents affirmed that its purpose was to “monitor domestic and international compliance with the human rights provisions of the Helsinki Final Act.” But though a private U.S.-based organization whose vice chairman once stated “You can't complain about other countries unless you put your own house in order,” its main focus was on Moscow. Thus its literature also affirmed that founding the Committee “was intended as a gesture of moral support for the activities of the beleaguered Helsinki monitors in the Soviet bloc,” and its early work was well geared to advance the U.S. government's policy of weakening the Soviet Union and loosening its ties to Eastern Europe. While the organization has broadened its horizons and grown enormously since its $400,000 seed money from the Ford Foundation, it has never sloughed off its close link to the Western establishment, as evidenced by its leadership’s affiliations, its funding, and its role over the years. Because of its institutional commitment to human rights and its broad purview, however, HRW has done a great deal of valuable work, as for example in helping to document the character and effects of the Reagan era wars across Central America, where its Americas Watch reports on the U.S. support for the Nicaragua Contras, the Salvadoran army and death squads, and Guatemalan state terror were eye-opening and led to intense hostility on the part of the Reaganites and Wall Street Journal editors. But despite these and countless other constructive efforts, the organization has at critical times and in critical theaters thrown its support behind the U.S. government’s agenda, sometimes even serving as a virtual public relations arm of the foreign policy establishment. Since the early 1990s this tendency has been especially marked in the organization’s focus on and treatment of some of the major contests in which the U.S. government itself has been engaged—perhaps none more clearly than Iraq and the Balkans. Here, its deep bias is well-illustrated in a March 2002 op-ed by HRW’s executive director, Kenneth Roth, published in the Wall Street Journal under the title “Indict Saddam.” The first thing to note about this commentary is its timing. It was published at a time when the United States and Britain were clearly planning an assault on Iraq with a “shock and awe” bombing campaign and ground invasion in violation of the UN Charter. But Roth doesn’t warn against launching an unprovoked war—though wars of aggression had been judged by the Nuremberg Tribunal to be the “supreme international crime” that “contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”On the contrary, Roth's focus was on Saddam’s crimes, and provided a valuable public relations gift to U.S. and British leaders, diverting attention from and putting an apologetic gloss on their prospective supreme international crime.' Read the rest at ">ZNet.
On Friday Feb 23, some 300 Israelis joined the weekly protest in Bil'in which for the last two years has offered non-violent resistance to the construction of a wall which will separate local Palestinian farmers from more than half of their land. The protesters, however, found the army prepared. For full report & video and photos go to Gush Shalom's website

In the UN Human Rights Council Report "Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories"
John Dugard summarises his findings as follows:

Gaza has again been the focus of violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). In response to the capture of Corporal Gilad Shalit by Palestinian militants on 25 June 2006, and the continued firing of Qassam rockets into Israel, Israel conducted two major military operations within Gaza - “Operation Summer Rains” and “Operation Autumn Clouds”. In the course of these operations, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) made repeated military incursions into Gaza, accompanied by heavy artillery shelling and air-to-surface missile attacks. Missiles, shells and bulldozers destroyed or damaged homes, schools, hospitals, mosques, public buildings, bridges, water pipelines and electricity networks. Agricultural lands were levelled by bulldozers. Beit Hanoun was the subject of particularly heavy attacks, and on 8 November 19 civilians were killed and 55 wounded in an artillery attack. Economic sanctions have had a major impact on Gaza. About 70 per cent of Gaza’s workforce is out of work or without pay and over 80 per cent of the population live below the official poverty line. The siege of Gaza is a form of collective punishment in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 12 August 1949. The indiscriminate use of military power against civilians and civilian targets has resulted in serious war crimes.

The West Bank has also experienced serious human rights violations resulting from frequent military incursions; the construction of the Wall; house demolitions and checkpoints. Over 500 checkpoints and roadblocks obstruct freedom of movement within the OPT. The Wall being built in East Jerusalem is an instrument of social engineering designed to achieve the Judaization of Jerusalem by reducing the number of Palestinians in the city.

The construction of settlements continues. Today there are some 460,000 settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. A study by an Israeli non-governmental organization (NGO) has shown that nearly 40 per cent of the land occupied by settlements in the West Bank is privately owned by Palestinians. It has become abundantly clear that the Wall and checkpoints are principally aimed at advancing the safety, convenience and comfort of settlers.

There are some 9,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. There are serious complaints about the treatment, trial and imprisonment of prisoners.

Since 2000, over 500 persons have been killed in targeted assassinations, including a substantial number of innocent civilians. In December 2006 the Israeli High Court failed to find that such assassinations were unlawful but held that they might only be carried out as a last resort and within the bounds of proportionality.

Israeli law and practice makes it impossible for thousands of Palestinian families to live together. A new practice of refusing visas to foreign residents in the OPT has aggravated this situation.

Discrimination against Palestinians occurs in many fields. Moreover, the 1973 International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid appears to be violated by many practices, particularly those denying freedom of movement to Palestinians.

There is a humanitarian crisis in the OPT resulting from the withholding of funds owed to the Palestinian Authority by the Government of Israel (estimated at about US$ 50 to 60 million per month) and from the economic isolation of the territory by the United States, the European Union (EU) and other States in response to the election of the Hamas Government. The Temporary International Mechanism set up by the EU to provide relief in certain sectors has gone some way towards reducing the crisis, but over 70 per cent of the Palestinian people live below the official poverty line. Health care and education have suffered as a result of a strike of workers in these sectors against the Palestinian Authority and the international community for the non-payment of salaries. In effect Israel and sections of the international community have imposed collective punishment on the Palestinian people.

Persons responsible for committing war crimes by the firing of shells and rockets into civilian areas without any apparent military advantage should be apprehended or prosecuted. This applies to Palestinians who fire Qassam rockets into Israel; and more so to members of the IDF who have committed such crimes on a much greater scale. While individual criminal accountability is important, the responsibility of the State of Israel for the violation of peremptory norms of international law in its actions against the Palestinian people should not be overlooked.

The international community has identified three regimes as inimical to human rights - colonialism, apartheid and foreign occupation. Israel is clearly in military occupation of the OPT. At the same time elements of the occupation constitute forms of colonialism and of apartheid, which are contrary to international law. What are the legal consequences of a regime of prolonged occupation with features of colonialism and apartheid for the occupied people, the occupying Power and third States? It is suggested that this question might appropriately be put to the International Court of Justice for a further advisory opinion.

The Occupied Palestinian Territory is the only instance of a developing country that is denied the right of self-determination and oppressed by a Western-affiliated State. The apparent failure of Western States to take steps to bring such a situation to an end places the future of the international protection of human rights in jeopardy as developing nations begin to question the commitment of Western States to human rights.

The full report has been put on line by VoltaireNet

'Code named by US military planners as TIRANNT, "Theater Iran Near Term" has identified several thousand targets inside Iran as part of a "Shock and Awe" Blitzkrieg, which is now in its final planning stages. According to the Kuwait-based Arab Times, an attack on Iran under TIRANNT could occur any time between late February and the end of April. This assessment, however, does not take into account the disarray of US ground forces in Iraq as well as the untimely withdrawal of several thousand British troops from the Iraq war theater, many of whom were stationed in Southern Iraq on the immediate border with Iran.' Read the rest of "Theater Iran Near Term" (TIRANNT) by Michel Chossudovsky at the website of Global Research
"These are dramatic examples of two nations going opposite ways. In Venezuela, Hugo Chavez supports free expression, social democracy, and using state revenues to insure and improve both. In the US, both parties support wealth and power, are jointly running a criminal enterprise masquerading as legitimately elected government, scorn the law and constitutional freedoms, are heading the country toward despotism in a national security police state conducting wars without end, and want to rule the world including its oil-rich parts inside Venezuela's borders." Two interesting articles on Venezuela's ongoing Bolivarian Revolution: the one from which the above quotation is taken is "Hugo Chavez's Social Democratic Agenda" by Stephen Lendman, while "Venezuela's Revolution: Giving Power to the Poor" by Stuart Munckton is on the website of our Australian friends at Green Left Weekly