Tag Archives: Israel

Is Israel exempt from international law?

This week has seen a startling series of events redefine the way the UK acts on international law, and the way British governments understand the power of the courts. Under the principal of Universal Jurisdiction, an arrest warrant was issued by Westminster magistrates court for former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni, accused of war crimes during the most recent invasion of Gaza. As soon as this information reached the Israel, its government reacted furiously (which was to be expected). Israel’s ambassador to the UK, Ron Prosor, said in a statement:

“The current situation is absurd and unacceptable in equal measure. Israelis cannot continually be held hostage by fringe groups of anti-Israel extremists, preventing politicians, businessmen and officers from visiting the UK.”

While Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu described the situation as an “absurdity”.

What happened next was that the British government leaped into action, apologising to Israel and promising to better control the way international law is applied to Israeli officials in Britain. Gordon Brown and David Miliband both rushed to condemn the warrant, assuring Israel that it’ll never happen again.

So why is it that a senior Israeli politician can’t be arrested in the UK for alleged war crimes? The answer, as usual, is that British government ministers have acted entirely out of personal self interest. The precedent that would be set by arresting Livni would make it far more likely that British officials could be arrested for their own war crimes. And that just wouldn’t do.

The way international law is applied currently suggests that the only people who can ever face it are either (a) a few of the operators in the Yugoslavian war of the 90s and (b) Africans. Israeli and British and other ‘western’ government officers are effectively exempt not because of any weakness in the law, but because every single time an arrest warrant is issued, or an arrest is attempted, the move will be swiftly quashed by politicians. Who aren’t supposed to have that much sway when it comes to the courts.

One of Livni’s statements was particularly telling:

“I have no problem with the world wanting to judge Israel. A problem arises the moment [Israeli Defence Forces] soldiers are compared to terrorists.”

By ‘terrorists’, she’s obviously referring to Hamas (the political organisation of which, the UK does not designate to be a terrorist group). Well I don’t have such a problem with that comparison, Ms. Livni. But it seems that as ever, uniformed soldiers are seen by Britain as being naturally better than rag-tag freedom fighters. Unless they’re our rag-tag freedom fighters, of course.

Israel invades Gaza… again

Sadly, it seems that the Guardian’s predictions were accurate: the invasion was obviously going to happen. As usual, the leading liberal democracies are backing an illegal invasion (quietly in public, slavishly, no doubt, in private).

I wish I could attend one of the demonstrations going on around the world but it doesn’t look likely. If anyone has any reports from the demos, I’d love to hear them.

[Written on highly expensive Internet access from monsoonal Darwin]

Israel ‘considering’ Gaza invasion?

I’ve been pretty much completely without Internet access for about 12 days and checked the Guardian today to see that Harold Pinter had died and Israel has killed hundreds more civilians in Gaza. The Guardian reports that they may be about to invade the Palestinian territory.

I can’t write much now but I will note that Israel seems to have learned from the US invasion of Iraq:  starve your enemy to death for months or years, all the while attacking them with air strikes and then you get the ground troops in. So much easier that way.

Let’s hope that the hundreds of Palestinians killed in the last 48 hours will go some way to repaying the FIFTEEN dead EVER from the Qassam rocket attacks they are supposed to be preventing.

Oh and don’t forget that the political wing of Hamas is not a proscribed terrorist group in the UK… just a political party.

My nation is strong, your nation is shit

It has been a while since I touched on anything connected to the political/cultural temperature around here. I do have one pet theory that I’ve been chewing over for a few months now. It’s not a particularly original idea so any of you who know the proper cultural studies term for it should let me know. I decided to write this after seeing the hilariously tragic TeleMadrid video over at South of Watford.

I’ll start off by reiterating that I’m not a Catalan nationalist. I oppose nationalism in general as it doesn’t really fit with any of my other beliefs and often seems to be a divisive concept. In this way, I also oppose Spanish, French and British nationalism. At the same time, I do not like the idea of a mono-cultured, mono-linguistic world where people’s cultural differences are erased in the name of ‘peace’. It wouldn’t work and we’d lose a lot of what makes humanity so interesting.

Anyway, my theory is pretty simple. People who come from dominant, mono-cultured, mono-linguistic nation states are generally less sympathetic to the culture and ‘nationality’ of smaller, less dominant regions and countries.

At the same time, the most strident opponents of nationalism are nearly always from countries with very strong and safe nationalisms*. Example: John at Iberian Notes. He’s an intelligent guy who sees absolutely no contradiction in slamming any and all movements which seek to promote Catalan culture, identity or autonomy… while at the same time being an extremely noisy cheerleader for American imperialism. His opposition to nationalism seems to go as far as La Franja (and takes in the Basque Country too). When looking at his own country, he seems completely oblivious of the fact that he strongly supports American nationalism. In the past, he has also expressed strong support for Israel (a highly nationalist society) but condemns Palestinian nationalism as dangerous (or ‘terrorist’). And he’s not alone: these are standard and accepted positions.**

Similarly, domestic opposition to Catalan nationalism is nearly always couched in the language of Spanish nationalism. There can be few arguments less logical than ‘down with Catalan nationalism: one language for all Spaniards’, a political movement which is being actively promoted by some Spanish politicians, El Mundo and various Spanish and ex-pat (i.e. British and American) bloggers.

Actually, it is often the ex-pats who are the most strident opponents of Catalan autonomy and culture. In my experience, people born in other areas of Spain who live and work here (often married to a Catalan), speak the language and generally support at least the status quo, and sometimes even the push for further autonomy. It has always been my German, French and British colleagues who find Catalans to be ‘stupid’, ‘silly’, ‘pathetic’ or ‘dangerous’ for insisting on speaking the language they feel most comfortable with. It is no coincidence that the British, French and German states are the world’s most important historical nation-states.

In the end, what it comes down to is the perceived relative strength of one nation against another. If Catalonia were still the great nation it was for about 40 years, they might be the dominant nation-state, mocking the English for not speaking French, or those regionalist losers in Andalucia. They’d probably be just as bad as the British, the French and the Germans are now. And the British, the French and the Germans would no doubt feel the same indignation at being told they should speak another language in the shops on their own street, just to ‘make things easier’.

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*This is not to say that just because someone’s English, she cannot oppose nationalism.

**So, one man’s nation is another man’s region.

Why does everyone hate the BBC?

There is a widespread trend in the so-called ‘blogosphere’ which consists of bashing the BBC for an alleged bias behind their coverage of home and international news. Sites like ‘Biased BBC’, ‘Busting BBC Bias’, and several others are dedicated to highlighting a perceived anti-conservative or more often anti-Israeli agenda.

Analysis of state-run news agencies is important. I have witnessed plenty of occasions when the BBC has taken up its ‘public service – unite the people’ mantle with a bit too much enthusiasm. Golden Jubilees and other uninteresting royal events leap to mind.

However, I have never detected anything in their coverage of the Israel-Palestine or Israel-Lebanon which amounted to anti-Israeli bias. Every news report I’ve watched over the last few weeks has matched Fox News for the amount of content broadcast from the Israeli side of the frontier, spending plenty of time talking to Israeli civilians in shelters, inspecting damage to houses and shops, asking for the opinions of shoppers and holidaymakers in Tel Aviv. All of this was done in a sensitive, humane way with absolutely no hint of malice or put-downs on the part of the BBC.

Of course, the BBC also showed images of devastation in southern Lebanon. Blocks of flats which had collapsed, two-storey-deep holes in Beirut, dead women and children. Several times, it was noted that the BBC weren’t allowed to enter Hezbollah-controlled zones. It was made clear at these times that this might have been because Hezbollah had ‘command and control bunkers’ or ‘armed fighters’ on the streets. Continue reading Why does everyone hate the BBC?