you can buy your new model fascist, painted every colour you like except brown

A Gantz-led government will keep alive the peace process charade
Omar Karmi, Electronic Intifada, Sep 18 2019

Palestinians waiting to vote at a polling station in Jaffa. Photo: Heidi Levine/SIPA

With almost all votes counted at the time of writing, Israel is facing another hung parliament. This could lead to a third election in a year. Or we could see the advent of a grand coalition of three secular parties. Whether such a government would include Netanyahu is not clear. For some 6.7 million Jewish Israelis, the possibility that far too many years of Netanyahu rule may come to an ignoble end with charges brought for corruption is significant. The prospect that extremist religious parties will not be part of the government for the first time in years is also significant. That is also important, if less so, to 1.6 million Palestinian citizens of Israel, upon whom Netanyahu had poured all his derisory bigotry during an ill-tempered reelection campaign. But nothing is clear yet. Netanyahu, ever the survivor, may entice Avigdor Liberman into another right-wing coalition. Or Benny Gantz, the former chief of staff who oversaw Israel’s hi-tech slaughter in Gaza in 2014, might form a coalition without Likud, or without Lieberman. For now, the balance of probabilities suggests Gantz will lead any new government. But there are plenty of possibilities in the current deadlock and only one certainty: Israel’s typically confused election result will mean practically nothing for some 5 million Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip who cannot vote but are also ruled by whatever government eventually emerges.

Netanyahu had promised to annex large swathes of occupied territory if he formed the next government. None of the other main parties have made such promises, which might suggest that they would be more amenable to reviving a long comatose peace process with the Palestinian Authority. That, however, is not the case. If Netanyahu had promised to turn off the life support, Gantz and his ilk are merely prepared to keep the power flowing. Kahol Lavan is run by three former generals, Gantz, Ashkenazi and Yaalon, and journalist Yair Lapid. None of them will make the territorial concessions that any kind of workable two-state solution demands. None of them will pull a single settler from occupied territory, thereby reversing a war crime the military men among them were instrumental in creating. And none of them will accept to divide Jerusalem or even walk back on the Golan annexation now that it has US presidential approval. There will, in other words, be absolutely no change when it comes to the political situation with the Palestinians or the wider region. All a Kahol Lavan government means is that donor countries, who have paid so much to help Israel maintain its occupation for so long, will now find a reason to prolong that charade for a couple more years. Netanyahu’s promise to annex more territory was of course morally abhorrent. It would have amounted to a naked land grab. But at least it was honest. And it would have left those who claim there is still a possibility for a negotiated two-state solution that is somehow just to Palestinians, that could somehow result in a viable, free and sovereign Palestinian state, with nowhere to hide. Unfortunately, a Gantz-led government will provide them all a figleaf for a while longer.

The biggest story out of the election so far is the success of the Joint List, a coalition of parties led by and catering to Israel’s Palestinian citizens. Famously fractured, these political parties long failed to stir the passions of a deeply despondent demographic. Their despondency was a natural consequence of decades of oppression. Palestinians in Israel spent nearly 20 years under military rule before being “allowed” the vote. They are institutionally discriminated against by a state that explicitly excludes them by defining itself as one in which the right to self-determination is restricted to Jews. They are second-class citizens who are constantly demonized as a fifth column. In this most recent election campaign, Netanyahu called them people who “glorify bloodthirsty terrorists” and “want to destroy us.” Nevertheless, they are a growing force. And to its credit, the Joint List succeeded not only to unite the vote but galvanize it. Palestinian voter turnout was at 60%, up a massive 10% from the April vote. That made the Joint List the third-largest political party in Israel. Much of the impetus for the Palestinian turnout seems to have been the very racism meant to intimidate them to stay away. The Joint List will not be invited into any coalition government, nor would it want to be, but depending on the makeup of any new government, the Joint List may well have a crucial role to play in parliament, a significant bloc of votes to be courted. That, at least, is a portent of potential positive change, some counterweight to the outright racism of much of Israel’s polity.

Dutch court hears war crimes accusations against Gantz
Adri Nieuwhof, Electronic Intifada, Sep 18 2019

As Israelis went to the polls on Tuesday, one of the leading candidates for prime minister was fending off war crimes accusations in a court in The Hague. Palestinian-Dutch citizen Ismail Ziada is seeking justice for Israel’s killing of six members of his family during its 2014 assault on Gaza. Ziada holds Gantz, then IOF chief, and Eshel, then IAF chief, responsible for the decision to bomb his family’s home in al-Bureij refugee camp. The Jul 20 bombing that year reduced the three-floor building to rubble, killing Ziada’s 70-year-old mother Muftia Ziada, his brothers Jamil, Yousif and Omar, sister-in-law Bayan, and 12-year-old nephew Shaban. A seventh person visiting the family was also killed. Ziada is suing the Israeli generals for more than $600k in damages plus court costs. In Tuesday’s session, the Dutch court heard arguments about whether it has jurisdiction over the case. Lawyers for Gantz and Eshel tried to frame Ziada’s legal action as part of “an anti-Israel campaign.” Earlier this year, Israel urged the Dutch court to dismiss the war crimes case against Gantz.

In the run-up to the hearing, Ziada’s family faced tremendous pressure. The brakes of the family car were sabotaged last December, but a police investigation provided no leads. A few months later, Ziada’s wife Angélique Eijpe was publicly attacked by the Israel lobby organization CIDI. She was falsely accused of seeking to “end Jewish democracy” in her work for the One State Foundation. CIDI also parroted Israeli claims that the bombing of the Ziada family house was justified. Shortly before the hearing, Twitter suspended the account of the Palestine Justice Campaign, which supports Ziada’s legal action. The social media company alleged an unspecified “breach of rules.” Twitter did not respond to requests for clarification from the campaign. Many journalists, friends and supporters of Ziada attended the court hearing. The Israeli generals were not present, but were represented by lawyers. The Ziada house was attacked during Israel’s 51-day assault on Gaza which killed 2,251 Palestinians, including 1,462 civilians, among them 551 children, according to an independent investigation commissioned by the UNHRC. More than 11,000 Palestinians were injured, the majority women and children. Ziada’s lawyers, human rights and war crimes experts Liesbeth Zegveld and Lisa-Marie Komp, argue that the attack on the Ziada home was part of Israel’s “policy to bomb civilian residential buildings” in “breach of international humanitarian law.” Gantz and Eshel were among the top leaders who “designed the policy of bombing residential buildings” and are “fully responsible for the decision to bomb the Ziada family residence,” they allege in the complaint. The independent UN investigation supports Zegveld and Komp’s view. On Tuesday, Ziada’s lawyers showed the court Gantz’s election campaign video bragging about how much killing and destruction he perpetrated in Gaza. The court must decide whether Ziada’s case is admissible after the generals’ lawyers claimed last November that their clients enjoy immunity. They also assert that the Dutch court has no jurisdiction, because they claim that Ziada could seek justice in Israel.

Gantz and Eshel were represented by a team by five lawyers, an indication that Israel will spare no expense trying to shield its generals from accountability.While the Israeli government is paying the generals’ legal fees, Ziada’s supporters donated money via a crowdfunding campaign to support his case. The generals’ brief argues that Ziada’s case is an effort to put Israel’s judicial system in the “suspect’s bench.” They assert that the case “seems to be primarily a means of creating a stage for an anti-Israel campaign,” a standard Israeli government talking point. But Ziada’s lawyers provided many examples to support their claim that the Dutch court has jurisdiction over the case. The law in the Netherlands allows the country’s courts to exercise universal jurisdiction over genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes perpetrated elsewhere when a Dutch national cannot obtain justice in the country where the crimes were committed. Gantz and Eshel’s lawyers dismissed the evidence offered by Zegveld about how Israel’s legal system discriminates against Palestinians. They asserted that UN investigations should be taken with “a pinch of salt.” Rather than address substance, they blasted the UNHRC as “notoriously anti-Israel.” The lawyers also warned the court that acceptance of jurisdiction may have “diplomatic consequences,” likely a warning of Israeli retaliation. But Dutch courts are independent and should not take political considerations and attempts at intimidation into account. In his statement to the court, Ziada provided the context of his quest for justice. He emphasized the lack of accountability for Israel’s crimes. Ziada told the court that his experience with Israeli violence started long before 2014. While still a child he was shot in the head at close range with a rubber-coated metal bullet and in the leg with live ammunition. He also witnessed another child being shot dead with a bullet to his head. This video shows part of Ziada’s statement in court:

Hussein Abu Hussein, a Palestinian lawyer who has defended many Palestinians in Israeli courts, testified at the hearing. He told the court that practical and legal obstacles make it impossible for Ziada to seek justice in Israel. In 2014, Israel declared the Gaza Strip “enemy territory” and its residents “enemy subjects.” As a result, Israel denies liability for harm it causes to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, Abu Hussein explained. If Ziada tried to claim damages in an Israeli court, he would be seen as a representative of the family in Gaza and thus as an “enemy subject” despite his Dutch nationality, Abu Hussein added. Amendments to Israeli law also expand the immunity Israel claims for damages caused during “wartime action.” Ziada told the court that he compares his fight for justice with the parable of David and Goliath. “Those on the other end representing Goliath, and me, David – holding my head high and convinced of doing the right thing.”
The court will announce its ruling on whether the case can proceed in January. In the meantime, Ziada and his supporters will be hoping that the Netherlands provides a path to justice that has so far been denied.

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