We must pressure our government to cancel our arms export licence to Israel, which was worth £180m in the period 2008-2012.Recent UK military exports to Israel include F16 fighter jet components, assault rifles, armoured vehicles and ammunition. 31 different UK companies export arms to Israel.
The UK government issued military export licenses to Israel worth £7.8bn in 2013, although this figure is much higher than previous years due export of equipment that the Israeli government claims is for Israeli civilian infrastructure.
Tell our government to ‘Stop Arming Israel’, sign the petition to hand in to Hugh Robertson, Minister for Middle East.
Human rights and corporate responsibility prompt a US church to divest from companies doing business with Israel.
The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which aims to pressure Israel to comply with international law and end its military occupation of Palestinian territories, has garnered significant institutional and governmental support in recent years.
Much of its growth has been in Europe, but the BDS movement is also gaining momentum in mainstream USA.
The Presbyterian Church (USA) voted in June to divest from three companies doing business with Israel: Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions, and Hewlett-Packard.
The three were targeted for selling equipment used to facilitate Israel’s illegal activities on occupied land, highlighting yet again the question of corporate responsibility regarding international law and human rights.
Crushed to death
In 2003, when student activist Rachel Corrie was crushed to death in Gaza as she tried to prevent the razing of a Palestinian home, much attention was directed to the manufacturer of the Israeli bulldozer that killed her.
Caterpillar Inc, the Illinois-based company whose equipment had been used worldwide for over eight decades to build dams, highways, and pipelines and assist in disaster recovery efforts, was now seen by some as complicit in Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.
Israel had been buying and “weaponising” Caterpillar bulldozers then using them to demolish Palestinian homes, build settlements and the separation wall, clear land to build Jewish-only roads, uproot olive and fruit trees, and carry out military operations.
Corrie’s parents later brought a federal lawsuit against Caterpillar, charging the company with “…aiding and abetting war crimes and other serious human rights violations on the grounds that the company provided bulldozers to the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) knowing that they would be used unlawfully to demolish homes and endanger civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT).”
The court ultimately decided that considering the case “would intrude upon the executive branch’s foreign policy decisions”.
But, it was Corrie’s tragic death that brought Caterpillar to the attention of the Presbyterian Church (USA) Committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investment.
Since that time, the committee has pursued “progressive engagement” with Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions, and Hewlett-Packard to discuss their accountability regarding “non-peaceful pursuits” in the region.
After years of correspondence, dialogues, proxy voting, and filing shareholder resolutions, however, the committee concluded that the three companies were not in compliance with church policy. On June 20, the Church voted to divest.
Two years earlier, Morgan Stanley Capital International, a leading evaluator of corporations based on various criteria – downgraded Caterpillar’s Environmental, Social and Governance rating, thereby removing it from several of its indices.
This prompted the retirement benefits leader Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America-College Retirement Equities Fund to divest its holdings from Caterpillar, which the growing BDS movement hailed as a big victory.
In 2012, two more religious groups – the United Methodist Church and the Quaker Friends Fiduciary Corporation – passed resolutions regarding BDS, the former supporting the boycott of products made in Israeli settlements, with the latter divesting its stockholdings in Caterpillar, HP, and Veolia Environnement, a French water, waste and transport management company whose services many say buttress Israel’s discriminatory policies.
A year later, several Methodist regional conferences also voted to divest, and the Mennonite Central Committee board voted not to invest knowingly “in companies that benefit from products or services used to perpetrate acts of violence against Palestinians, Israelis and other people groups”.
Business and human rights
Nahida Halaby Gordon, who serves on the steering committee of the Israel Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (USA), places responsibility squarely on Caterpillar, HP and Motorola.
“If they see that a given customer is using their products in a regular and inhumane manner … then it is their responsibility to do everything they can to stop such behaviour, and if they cannot, then to stop selling to such customers. This can be clearly done in the case of Israeli occupation forces,” she said.
In a statement provided to Al Jazeera, the company states that, “Caterpillar cannot monitor the use of every piece of its equipment around the world.”
The company goes on to say, “… we recognise the responsibility companies have to encourage the constructive use of their products.”
Faris Natour, Director of Human Rights at Business for Social Responsibility, a global nonprofit network that blends business with justice and sustainability, said that this idea comes from the United Nations’ 2011 document, Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which provides the framework for the concept of corporations’ responsibility to operate with respect for international law and human rights.
Although they are nonbinding, adopting these principles is good for business, avoids negative attention, and is simply the “right thing to do,” said Natour.
Motorola Solutions offered a brief statement to Al Jazeera which referred to the company’s human rights policy, found in the 2013 Corporate Responsibility Report: “Motorola Solutions has a comprehensive set of policies and procedures that addresses human rights, which is designed to ensure that our operations worldwide are conducted using the highest standards of integrity and ethical business conduct applied uniformly and consistently.”
However, reading Motorola’s human rights policy shows that the company only addresses internal employee issues such as a safe work place and fair wages and working hours.
The products Motorola sells to Israel include a communications network and a surveillance system for the army as well as electronic bomb fuzes.
Indeed, in their investigation of Israel’s use of drones fitted with missiles in the Gaza war of 2008-2009, Human Rights Watch found debris and missile components with labels from Motorola.
Hewlett-Packard presented the following brief statement regarding the Presbyterian Church (USA) divestment decision: “Respecting human rights is a core value at HP and is embedded in the way we do business. We have strong policies that promote regular human rights risk assessments, provide access to independent grievance mechanisms, prompt investigations of credible allegations and encourage transparent reporting.”
These are precisely the policies that Pastor Geoff Browning, a former HP employee and now a Presbyterian campus minister with Progressive Christians @ Stanford University, calls potential ” window dressing”.
“At this last shareholders’ meeting,” in 2014, he and others criticised the company’s “continued sales and collaboration with the IDF [as] contrary to HP’s commitment to social responsibility and human rights. Companies need to be aware that the sales of their products are not neutral or value-less, but are part of and affect their brand”, Browning told Al Jazeera.
“Hewlett-Packard provides bio-scanners that are used to racially profile Palestinians and to track and control their movement,” explained Anna Baltzer, national organiser for the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, a national coalition that has mobilised support for boycott and divestment efforts.
“It is no overstatement to say that many of these campaigns have dramatically shifted the discourse around Israel/Palestine – in the mainstream media, on university campuses, in the church pews, and beyond – in an unprecedented way,” she added.
The UN’s Guiding Principles state that the “responsibility to respect human rights requires that business enterprises… Seek to prevent or mitigate adverse human rights impacts that are directly linked to their operations, products or services by their business relationships, even if they have not contributed to those impacts.”
The document also places some responsibility on the shoulders of the “home” states of transnational corporations.
The United States’ Foreign Military Financing and arms sales to Israel add up to $3.1bn annually, with generous financing terms; this amount provides nearly a quarter of Israel’s overall military budget.
Although, in an unprecedented measure, Washington granted Tel Aviv the benefit to purchase equipment from Israeli contractors, Israel also procures a significant amount from US-based defence companies, a fact that solidifies the connection between US foreign policy and business agendas.
If the US government considers Israel a strategic partner and provides it with massive amounts of military aid, yet is unwilling to hold it accountable for human rights violations, then why should US businesses be held accountable for US policy?
“Corporations, like any entities, have a responsibility to abide by the law, ethical standards, and international norms. They are not immune,” says Baltzer.
Indeed, putting pressure on them is one of many efforts under way to influence US policy in the Middle East.
Gaza health ministry says bombardment killed at least 15 people and injured 200 in a UN-run school in Beit Hanoun.
At least 15 people have been reported killed and 150 injured in the bombardment of a UN school in northern Gaza used to shelter civilians from fierce clashes on the streets outside.
Al Jazeera’s correspondent Nicole Johnston, reporting from Gaza, said the school in Beit Hanoun came under fire on Thursday.
The Gaza health ministry told the Reuters news agency that Israeli fire had killed at least 15, and 150 injured.
An Israeli military source however told Al Jazeera that Palestinian rocket fire had been detected in the area and that it might have fallen short and hit the shelter.
Al Jazeera’s correspondent Stefanie Dekker said that she was unable to reach the school after the attack due to heavy Israeli shelling. No one she had spoken to in Gaza believed the deaths were caused by a Palestinian rocket.
In an interview with Al Jazeera, Chris Gunness, the spokesman for UNRWA, the UN’s humanitarian organisation in Gaza, said his organisation had been in contact with Israeli forces as fighting closed in on the shelter.
“We gave the Israelis the precise GPS coordinates of the Beit Hanoun shelter. We were trying to coordinate a window [for evacuation] and that was never granted,” he said.
He said he could neither confirm nor deny that Hamas fighters were near the building, but said Israel and Hamas “must respect the inviolability of UN premises, and humanitarian law”.
He called the attack “tragic and appalling”.
Robert Turner, the director for UNRWA told Al Jazeera there was no warning from the Israelis before the shells landed.
“This is a designated emergency shelter. The location was conveyed to the Israelis,” he said. “This was an installation we were managing, that was monitored [to ensure] that our neutrality was maintained.”
“We always call on all parties to ensure that civilians are not harmed.”
Israel has attacked UN schools before, saying that they were being used as safe havens for the armed Palestinians.
The UN has also previously criticised the Palestinian groups for using UN schools to hide fighters and weapons.
‘No fighters at school’
A witness who arrived at the Kamal Adwan hospital after the bombardment told Al Jazeera: “We were sitting in the school, because we were told it is safe.
“By God, there was not a single fighter, not a single shot was fired from the school. Why did they shoot at the school? Why? Can someone explain that to me? Why would they shell the school?”
Thursday’s strike is the fourth time a UN facility has been hit in the 17 days of Israeli bombardment of Gaza.
At least 800 Palestinians have been killed and more than 5,250 injured in the Israeli assault.
Two Israeli civilians have been killed by fire from Gaza since the offensive began.
The total number of Israeli soldiers killed since the start of the military assault stands at 32. One more soldier has been listed as missing and is believed to be dead.
Israeli police shoot dead two Palestinians and injure scores of others in Qalandia during massive protests over Gaza.
Israeli police have shot dead at least two Palestinians during a massive protest in the occupied West Bank, just north of Jerusalem, in support of those under siege in Gaza.
Palestinian security and medical officials named one of the men as Mohammed Al-Aaraj, 25, who was among thousands of people clashing with soldiers and border police in Qalandia, between Jerusalem and Ramallah.
Scores of people have been reported injured, several of whom were shot.
The protesters say they also want to reach the Al-Aqsa Mosque, to mark Laylat al-Qadr, or Night of Destiny, when Muslims pray through the night as the holy month of Ramadan nears its end.
“There are thousands of rioters there,” an Israeli army spokeswoman told the AFP news agency.
“They are rolling burning tyres and throwing molotov cocktails and fireworks at soldiers and border police.
“The soldiers are responding with riot disposal means,” she added, a term used to cover less-than-lethal weapons such as rubber bullets and tear gas.
Doctors in the main Ramallah hospital said they had received dozens of live fire victims and appealed for blood donors.
Earlier, Israeli police had said that due to fears of violent protest over the deadly Israeli military campaign in the Gaza Strip, they would bar men under the age of 50 from Jerusalem’s flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque for what are usually packed prayers on the last Friday of Ramadan.
Large numbers of police deployed throughout the city on Thursday night and the police said in a statement that two officers were injured by stone throwers in the vicinity of the mosque.
Police said that 20 protesters were arrested in various violent disturbances in Palestinian areas of the city.
At least 800 Palestinians have been killed and more than 5,250 injured during Israel’s offensive against Gaza.
Two Israeli civilians have been killed by fire from Gaza since the offensive began.
The total number of Israeli soldiers killed since the start of the military assault stands at 32. One more soldier has been listed as missing and is believed to be dead.
So far 29 Israeli soldiers have died in the offensive on Gaza [EPA]
The war hasn’t ended and already the criticism over Israel’s military adventure in Gaza is mounting as the Islamist movement, Hamas, continues to surprise the “invaders”.
Leading and, presumably, respected media commentators have blamed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his hastiness, Israel’s Security Service – the Shabak – for its ignorance and the military for its poor performance.
Israel might claim technological superiority and tactical victory, but, as one expert concluded, strategically, it’s been defeated.
Needless to say, there are many ways by which one takes stock of the ongoing war. But after three military adventures in six years, Hamas remains a formidable force in Palestine. And Israel has little to show for its military prowess and technological edge aside from the terrible devastation wrought across the Gaza Strip – home to 1.8 million Palestinians living impoverished lives in the world’s longest-standing refugee camp.
Prime Minister Netanyahu has boasted of Israel’s moral standing and condemned Hamas for targeting civilians. But in the last few days, it’s the Israeli military that has suffered hundreds of casualties, including 29 soldiers killed, thus far. While on the Palestinian side, Israel’s bombings led to thousands of civilian casualties. It takes chutzpah to take pride in such a dreadful record.
At any rate, if it doesn’t cool down its aggression on the population of Gaza, Israel might increasingly face another uprising in the West Bank as the Palestinians open another front against their occupiers. And if the early indicators are anything to go by, it shows signs of turning violent and bloody.
Israel, a fast learner
It’s smart to learn from one’s own mistakes; wise to learn from others’ mistakes. What lessons has Netanyahu learnt, if any?
There is no doubt that Israel is a quick learner. It learned much from its own operational and even strategic mistakes in past wars, and no less, from the war experiences of other nations.
The last century witnessed countless wars, including civil wars, proxy wars, wars driven by nationalism, racism and greed, and two destructive world wars.
Israel has had its share of these wars – 14 in six decades – and the Middle East region that makes up some five percent of the world population, accounts for 20 percent of its conflicts; a percentage that probably skyrocketed in recent years.
Their motivations varied, but self-defence has generally been the excuse for aggression. Underlining its lack of strategic depth, Israel has long boasted of its pre-emptive doctrine to hit first when needing to defend itself.
Israel has also relied on the United States for lessons of war. And in recent times, it taught its patron a few lessons it’s learned itself in Lebanon and Palestine, for fighting in Iraq – a reason why the Israelis were stunned this week to hear former Secretary of State Madeline Albright speak of Israel’s “disproportionate” military response in Gaza, when she justified the US blockade on Iraq even when it led to the death of half a million children.
Israel is hardly the first to invoke self-defence to justify aggression – Lebanon being the best example – or protecting civilians to kill civilians. It has learnt the art of victimhood like no other. Its ultimate chutzpah goes along the lines of: “We won’t forgive you for forcing us to kill you.”
So yes, Israel has learned many lessons, and has institutionalised these lessons and is making money out of these lessons through training other nations’ military and security forces. Indeed, Israel arms sales have rocketed to $7.5bn in 2012, arms that are war-tested, as Israel so frequently vaunts.
But the more important question is: Has Israel learnt the most important lesson of all about its type of colonial asymmetrical wars?
The predictable war
Unlike conventional wars, the longest and most legitimate wars of all have been the people’s fight for independence from colonialism.
Israel is in the midst of such a fight against a people’s struggle for freedom and independence and it makes similar, if not identical claims, to those made by other colonial powers of the past.
But not one foreign power big or small was able to win a single asymmetrical war against a people resisting colonialism throughout the entire 20th century.
This definite and paradoxical conclusion – the most instructive, and yet ignored of all lessons of war is categorical: Not one great power possessing superior firepower has won against a weaker, less organised and less professional resistance against occupation.
Not the French, not the English, not the Belgians, the Dutch, the Spanish, the Portuguese, the Italians, the Soviets, the Chinese, the Afrikaners, etc. Not one! In the end, they all lose. And if they don’t, then it’s not the end.
In each and every case, the indigenous population was designated terrorist, or fanatic, extremist, destructive, insensitive, or all of the above when they stood up to their occupier. Similar if not identical to the stuff we hear from Israelis nowadays.
Yet, despite all their military domination, political mechanisation, and superior moral pretentions, they eventually lose the battle of wills and are compelled to leave – defeated or humiliated.
While there are exceptions, such as in the case of India, the cost is generally high in death and destruction especially for those at the receiving end of aggression. But don’t depend on those who can keep a record to do so for their victims.
During the Algerian war for independence that lasted a decade, almost 30,000 Frenchmen, and we are told half a million to a million Algerians, were killed – give or take a couple of hundred thousand deaths.
Like today’s Israel, those colonial powers also justified their wars as last resort, and explained the high casualties as “War sucks”, “We’ve got to do whatever we need to protect ourselves”, or “The terrorists are hiding among the population”, and “using them as human shields” etc.
And so the fog of war and propaganda continues to blur the lines between right and wrong, occupied from occupier, defence and aggression. But when the dust settles, Israel will find itself where it was before its latest and past adventures, but with weaker deterrence, less credibility and hardened enemies.
Yes, it could continue to justify its military adventures under the pretext of combating terrorists, destroying rocket-launchers and tunnels. But whatever its justifications, these are the by-products of its own colonialism and war.
In the final analysis, if Israel doesn’t start packing and leaving the occupied territories sooner, many Israelis will start leaving it later because conditions are bound to get much worse.
Late is better than never learning the primary lesson from this conflict: It’s the occupation, stupid.
Marwan Bishara is the senior political analyst at Al Jazeera.
I’ve never understood the people who don’t watch or read the news. Obviously, I believe what we do is important, so I’ve always been a bit baffled. I get it now. I have been so overwhelmed with emotion watching the Gaza conflict unfold that it has in many ways consumed me from thousands of miles away.
That means I’ve been doing a lot of walking around D.C. to try and get the pictures out of my head at least temporarily. I was struck by a couple of things during my walks. First, there are a lot of tourists in this town. Second, they are here to see some very beautiful memorials. And then I realized the old memorials here in Washington are all to war and to President’s that are associated with war.
That made me ask myself, is war at the heart of the American identity? Much of what is left of this country’s manufacturing base is to make tools of war, the planes, the bombs and the ships that carry them. The United States spends more on defense than the next 13 countries combined. At the heart of America’s foreign policy are weapons, they allow some to buy them and pay for others to have them as well. The video game industry survives on make believe war and Hollywood benefits from it as well. The one place you would be hard pressed to find graphic images of war – on television news.
I’ve been watching the domestic coverage very carefully. I’ve written about the bias that I see in some of the reporting. It’s been fairly blatant in many cases, but there is a subtler form of bias and that is in choosing what pictures to show.
No dead or dying
I watched the 3 network evening broadcasts the other night. One talked to injured children but no one showed any of the dead or dying. They showed bombs from far away, toppled buildings, most didn’t show close ups of mourning and not once did I hear the death toll.
I’m not saying this is being done on purpose although that is always a possibility. I was brought up in American television and quite frankly I never really questioned the practice of not showing graphic images. In local news if a murder victim wasn’t covered up with a white sheet, you usually didn’t even take video of it until the coroner arrived. It just isn’t what is done. I remember when I first came to Al Jazeera English; I was very surprised, even mildly shocked, to see the footage we aired. We are always careful to not cross that hard to define line, but we don’t censor ourselves the way the American media does. In essence, we don’t sanitize the scene for our viewers to a point that it distorts the reality.
The images of the grief in Gaza and Israel are just powerful. The video of the dead, the grieving and destruction stays with you. The Pentagon knows this, which is why for years no one was allowed to take any video of the caskets of fallen soldiers being returned home. The loss becomes real. War becomes real.
I just watched video of a father being told his baby girl was dead. And his pain seared my heart. In many ways I wish I had never seen that, but to me, turning away would in some ways insult her memory. I have to watch this to really know what is happening. Information that makes us more empathetic humans cannot be a bad thing, even if it is so terribly hard at times.
With this heavy heart, I think I might take another walk. This time, I might go see the newest memorial; it honors the life of Martin Luther King Junior. He spent his life in the search for justice through the use of non-violent resistance. It will be good to be in the one place here where non-violence is held up as something worth honoring, something worth remembering.