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Gaza massacre globally isolates Israeli settler state

Jan 29, 2009

Israel's savage assault on the civilian population of Gaza has aroused the greatest worldwide outrage ever against the U.S.-backed settler state. Perhaps nothing symbolized this more than the report of veteran anti-apartheid fighter Dennis Brutus leading a protest in Durban, South Africa, against Israeli Ambassador Dov Segev-Steinberg. Brutus was instrumental in the cultural boycott campaign against apartheid South Africa in the 1980s and 1990s.

After watching three weeks of a horrific war against a people, the world is on the verge of a campaign against the Israeli state similar to the one that helped weaken the apartheid South Africa regime in that earlier period. This is now known worldwide as the Campaign for Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions, or BDS, which would involve massive refusal to buy from or invest in the major corporations that operate in, support or provide repressive weapons to the Israeli state.

Lisbon, Portugal. Jan. 24.

Lisbon, Portugal. Jan. 24.

Nearly every group opposed to the Israeli occupation of Palestine or the latest massacre in Gaza has raised the BDS Campaign as a way to proceed with the struggle, from anti-globalization spokesperson Naomi Klein to the trade unions of South Africa.

Many individuals, organizations and even countries are also mobilizing to bring people-to-people aid to the Palestinians in Gaza on a humanitarian basis. Venezuela has sent a team of 20 doctors, for example.

Protests continue worldwide

Even as the Israeli regime announced a cease-fire and planned withdrawal from Gaza, some of the largest protests were taking place the weekend of Jan. 17. Tens of thousands gathered in Islamabad and Karachi, Pakistan, and burned both Israeli and U.S. flags. In almost every country there were protests that weekend. In Asia there were protests in Srinigar, Kashmir; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Jakarta, Indonesia; Islamabad, Pakistan; and even occupied Kabul, Afghanistan. In Ankara, Turkey, the people went to the U.S. Embassy where they denounced the U.S. as a partner in the Israeli crimes.

In Europe 200,000 people marched in Rome while tens of thousands took to the streets in London, Paris and Madrid, with other protests throughout the Spanish state, including 15,000 in Santiago de Compostela, the capital of Galicia, on Jan. 18. Other protests took place in the Scandinavian countries.

Protests Jan. 15 in Panama compared the killing of Palestinian civilians to the 1964 and 1989 U.S. assaults on Panamanian civilians. Demonstrations also took place in Chile and Brazil.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak cancelled his visit to Tel Aviv University on Jan. 19 after students called him a “murderer.” One war resisters’ organization in the Israeli state, Courage to Refuse, published a newspaper advertisement condemning the killing of hundreds of Palestinian civilians and calling on soldiers to refuse to fight in Gaza.

With the cease-fire holding, most demonstrations were smaller the weekend of Jan. 24 and aimed at specific targets to make a point. Some 1,500 people flew a Palestinian flag over Lisbon, Portugal.

One of the most telling actions was the protest at the BBC in London, after that media monopoly had refused to publicize an appeal for humanitarian aid to Gaza. Unions at the BBC and church organizations throughout Britain joined the ongoing protest against BBC’s management. Currently a broad section of the population is campaigning to return licenses to the BBC, a type of boycott campaign.

War crimes trials

There are attempts underway to bring charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity against the Israeli rulers and military. There are at least two initiatives on this. One is to bring charges through the International Criminal Court (to see petition, visit and click on Campaigns). A second is to attempt to have the United Nations General Assembly create a special tribunal that would hear the case against Israel (

Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights and B’tselem, the Israeli Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, have said Israel should be investigated for possible war crimes.

While there are many obstacles to bringing such charges—for example, neither the U. S. nor Israel recognizes the authority of the ICC—simply the idea of these charges has had results. Already Tel Aviv has appointed a team of international law experts, led by the Israeli justice minister, to defend its soldiers and officers against possible charges.

Although no charges have yet been brought against the U.S. government for its complicity with and arming of the Israeli military, protests worldwide have pointed at the U.S. role in the massacre.

While the U.S. veto power on the U.N. Security Council makes it unlikely any U.N. institution will put Israel on trial, there are still other legal possibilities. “Israeli officials with a direct chain of command to atrocities can be brought to national courts provided that they are physically present in that jurisdiction,” according to one international attorney giving an anonymous opinion. That means if, for example, an Israeli official were traveling in Spain, he or she might face arrest and trial under Spanish law. Such a thing happened to the Chilean fascist, Gen. Augusto Pinochet.

Some have raised the possibility of holding people’s tribunals. These are public presentations of testimony of war crimes that can politically condemn the Israeli officials and generals and their collaborators. While it cannot directly punish the guilty parties, a people’s tribunal has the advantage that it can also expose U.S. imperialism and the European Union states that supported Israel’s onslaught on Gaza.

Popular tribunals can be coordinated with plans for boycott, divestment and sanctions.


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UPDATED Feb 2, 2009 11:48 AM
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