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Dec 242017

The behaviour of the US during the last week has been exceptionally dysfunctional and indeed puts it alongside rogue states. For those tuning in late, the US has recently announced that it is moving its embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Now there are all sorts of reasons why this is a dumb move and incredibly provocative in a part of the world that does not need any more provocation.

But here we are looking at the US and the UN rather than the move itself (however dumb it was).

The UN decided to call for a resolution that in effect says “We think this is a dumb move.” and the US reaction has been more or less along the lines of what you would expect a spoiled brat and a bully to react like.

Before the vote, the US spokesperson was grumbling about how its friends shouldn’t countenance such a resolution, that those who receive US aid should be careful, and how dare the UN put forward such a resolution when the US pays for the UN (hint: it doesn’t).

And afterwards, the US announces a party for its friends, and that nobody who voted in favour of the resolution was invited. So there!

Just like a spoiled child.

First of all, organisations like the UN need to be funded or they don’t exist. And the way that the UN is funded is based on every member’s ability to pay except that there is a ceiling on each individual’s level because the US threw a tantrum a while back. The US pays approximately 22% of the UN’s budget, so about $2 billion which is considerably less than the cumulative total of the countries that make up the EU (a roughly comparably sized block) which pays approximately 27% of the budget ($2.5 billion).

And a big chunk of that UN budget is spent within the US because the UN headquarters are in New York.

Frankly some of us are a little tired of hearing the US whinging about how much it pays.

Secondly the UN is there to do lots of things, but one of the most important is to allow countries collectively and formally tell another country that it is doing something dumb – and if a resolution passes with 129 countries voting for it, you can be pretty sure you’ve done something dumb. Sure that you are right despite that many votes against you? That’s a sign of overweening arrogance.

Threatening (“We’ll remember who are friends are”) people to vote in your favour is dangerous in the extreme. People remember bullies and the stench of it remains for a very long time.

Jul 202014

Last week we have seen two “incidents” where two rogue states attempted to pursue a political end via direct action, or action via a proxy. I’m going to concentrate on the deaths of children because then certain apologists won’t be able to say: “But they could have been terrorists” … or at least won’t have much in the way of credibility if they do.

In the first case, we have what appears to be a Russian-backed independence movement firing off a missile to bring down a commercial airliner (MH17) killing 80 children.

In the second case, we have the Israeli military trying to stomp on Hamas, and as a result of disproportionate military force and an inability to target accurately, have killed over 50 children.

It is interesting to compare the two to see what similarities and differences there are.

In terms of how accidental those deaths were, it’s fairly obvious that the downing of MH17 was an accident given that it appears that the Russian-backed separatists were boasting about shooting down a Ukrainian military transport plane at the time the airliner was downed. It’s also self-evidently not in the interests of Russia or the separatists to shoot down that plane.

In the case of Israel’s thugs (oops! I mean their military of course), it is probable that the children were not deliberately targeted, but you do have to wonder given Israel’s past and present behaviour (according to the Jewish Virtual Library, the total number of Israeli deaths since 1860 is 20,000 and the total number of Palestinian dead is nearly 100,000) whether Israelis regard Palestinians as sub-humans whose deaths don’t really count.

In terms of an individual, anyone who shoots at a legitimate target and misses, and “accidentally” kills a child instead is guilty of manslaughter. I see no reason why nation states, governments, and the military should not be held to the same standard.

If you cannot shoot without risking civilian casualties, then do not shoot.

The most interesting aspect of these two incidents has been the reactions to them. In the case of the deaths caused by the Israeli indiscriminate military action, it seems to be more or less: “Oh no, Not again!” whereas the reaction to the deaths of the aircraft passengers has been quite justified outrage at the actions of the Russian-backed separatists, and the denials from the Russian government.

Where is the condemnation of Israel’s military action? And where is the condemnation of the USA for backing a bunch of thugs?

It is true that Hamas are also a bunch of thugs who continue to target Israel with poorly targeted missiles, but these are in no way comparable to what Israel is doing – recall those earlier figures of 100,000 Palestinian dead and 20,000 Israeli dead. And yes, it is quite possible that Hamas is using human shields to “embarrass” Israel with civilian casualties.

Yet in all the time I’ve been watching this unending conflict I have yet to see Israel embarrassed by any Palestinian dead.

Even ignoring the morality of indiscriminate killing of civilians, it is about time Israel realised that this sort of thing doesn’t work as demonstrated by the fact that it is still happening today. Perhaps they could try something else more radical – like talking to Hamas.

Without any real expectation of something like this happen I would like to see :-

  • Israel admonished and sanctioned for indiscriminate killing of civilians.
  • USA admonished and sanctioned for it’s military support of a rogue nation state (yes that does mean Israel).
  • Russia admonished and sanctioned for thinking us foolish enough to believe it’s denial of involvement in the shooting down of MH17.
Sep 232011

As expected the Palestinian authority has asked the UN to recognise them as a state.

As expected the Israelis stood up to protest about the idea of giving statehood to the Palestinians and undoubtedly their tame lapdogs, the US government will veto the request.

But would it do any harm if the UN recognised Palestine as a state ? And would it actually help make things a little better ? Quite possibly. Although it would not do much in itself, it send a message to Israel that the world’s patience is limited and that it expects Israel to negotiate in good faith – which it appears unable to do so at the moment.

As an example, in his speech to the UN, the Israeli Prime Minister (Benjamin Netanyahu) kept going on about how Israel needed military security – to include the freedom to place Israeli forces inside Palestine, to demilitarise the Palestinian state, to keep control of the Palestinian air space.

The way that he put it sounded almost reasonable – well he’s a politician, so he should be able to make almost any position sound reasonable. But would Israel accept their own demilitarisation ? Or Palestinian forces being free to wander around Israel ? Or Palestinian control of the Israeli airspace ?

According to the number of casualties suffered by each side, Palestinians have far more to fear from Israeli forces than visa versa (although Israelis do have legitimate concerns) – according to the Wikipedia article on the conflict, there have been 7,978 Palestinian causalities since 1987 and 1,503 Israeli casualties. More than 5 times as many.

Recognising the state of Palestine is not going to bring peace; neither is ignoring the Palestinian request. But recognising the right of Palestine to be recognised as a state will send a signal that the world recognises their right to exist as a state – in the same way that the world recognises the right of Israel to exist as a state.

May 312010

So we all woke up this morning to find out that the Israeli thugs sorry, military have seized a ship containing “humanitarian” supplies for the Gaza strip. The ship itself was in international waters at the time, leaving Israel in a very precarious legal position given that ships in international waters are subject to the laws of the country in which they are registered. The only exception to that is where the ship or the crew of a ship are an “enemy of mankind” which is usually taken to be those guilty of piracy or slavery. Terrorism is not on the list. And aid workers aren’t either.

The Israelis are claiming that their soldiers only started shooting after those on board started firing; those on board claim the Israelis boarded whilst firing. Well making a careful, thoughtful assessment of the relative believability of both sides, I know who I believe (and it ain’t Israel). But it really does not matter: those on board ship were entitled to defend themselves in whatever way they felt appropriate when boarded illegally.

Israel is claiming that the “aid” on it’s way to Gaza was merely a cover for smuggling arms to Gaza. So what? It’s not as if Israel itself hasn’t done that. But to be honest, after the amount of distrust that Israel deserves, most people will think at worst that most of the ship’s cargo is in fact humanitarian aid. And from every report, Gaza needs all the humanitarian aid it can get, although Israel thinks it needs no more than 15,000 tons a week.

Israel needs to understand that the more it sticks a finger up to international opinion, the more condemnation and less belief it will get. In normal circumstances, a country that allowed it’s military forces to carry out an act that is effectively piracy even if there is a good reason behind it would get a good ticking off and then it would be forgotten about. Israel ?

Well they keep doing this shit. Year after year, and decade after decade. There are no signs that they are willing to compromise to move towards peace with the Palestinians; whatever they might say, their actions seem aimed to inflame opinion. Perhaps the Palestinians are also somewhat to blame, but frankly Israel is the bully in that little corner of the world.

Jan 172009

On a side matter, who the hell came up with this mealy-mouthed “collateral damage” phrase anyway ? Let us call a spade a spade and stop hiding an ugly truth behind a pretty phrase. It is “civilian casualties”.

Who is responsible for the civilian casualties in the current mess in the Gaza strip ? I should point out that I’m talking about the Winter 2009 mess seeing as there have been so many in the past and will probably be again.

Well Israel’s mealy-mouthed spokescritters will have you believe that it is all the fault of Hamas for fighting amongst civilians and stock-piling weapons amongst civilians, etc. There’s an element of truth to that, although one wonders whether if Israel were reduced in size to a territory the size of the Gaza Strip, would not their own army do pretty much the same thing ? Or at least the Zionist lunatic fringe.

But Hamas does not deserve all of the blame. Israel gets some too. Whether or not Israel is justified in using military force in trying to stop Hamas from attacking Israel, those dead cilivians in Gaza were killed by Israeli bombs, Israeli shells, and Israeli bullets. Israel has to bear the responsibility of those deaths and not just blame Hamas for them.

To claim otherwise is an insult to everyone’s intelligence and further damages Israel’s credibility. And Israel needs to spend a lot of time repairing their credibility. There are many ordinary people in Europe who are more likely to believe claims made by Hamas than claims made by Israel because of the lies and half-truths that Israel has told in the past.

There are many weapons used to fight terrorism. One of the most important is truth. One of the least important is military might.

Jan 162009

So various organisations claim that Israel is using white phosphorous munitions in Gaza, and Israel denies their use. Or to be more specific denies the use of “WP” which is military slang for white phosphorous munitions intended for uses other than smoke (i.e. set things burning which might not otherwise burn – like people).

But Israel is using white phosphorous munitions; tell-tale pictures of shell casing designed for use as smoke screens have been released, and they have admitted using smoke screens. This makes their denial of white phosphorous (or more specifically “WP”) considerably foolish.

Whilst a nit-picker could claim their denial is in fact true, their denial relies on people understanding the difference between “WP” munitions and smoke-screen munitions. It would be far better to say that their use of white phosphorous is compatible with the various laws of war (the Geneva conventions, etc.).

But is it ? A spokesperson for Israel is hardly in the position to know. They may well know there is a policy to only use white phosphorous smoke screens in areas where civilians may be, and they may not be used to target civilians, but they do not know that Israeli armed forces have stuck to those policies. It is easy to imagine that some artillery unit has noticed that their smoke screen shells when “accidentally” fired too low are quite effective at setting fire to things and to carry on having “accidents” without letting their senior commanders know.

Even if that is not happening, and Israel is sticking to the letter of the laws of war, they may not be sticking to the spirit of the laws of war. The use of white phosphorous munitions in cvilian areas is banned to prevent horrific injuries to civilians; the use of smoke-screen weapons in civilian areas that may cause such injuries sounds like it should also be forbidden.

White phosphorous is a terror weapon in much the same vein as chemical weapons … it is not classified as a chemical weapon because armed forces find the smoke screen effect so useful. It is worth pointing out that one of the first uses of white phosphorous was by a terrorist organisation in the 19th Century (the Fenians).

Jan 032009

Never has an overused phrase been more deserved as in the case of the Israeli government and the Hamas group in the latest chapter in the long running sorry story of violence between Palestinians and Israelis. Both sides should be mortally ashamed of their actions. Both sides are more interested in political posturing than in concern over the people they supposedly represent.

It also demonstrates that governments at best are only interested in paying lip service to serving “the people” and will spend far more resources looking after their own interests – retaining power. It is just that you rarely see governments lusting after power quite this much.

What does Hamas think it is doing with those pathetic rocket attacks against Israel ? They seem to serve little purpose other than to annoy Israel, and provide an ego boost to the Hamas militants. It is not as if they are very effective at killing innocent civilians.

And as for the Israeli response, you have tried this same thing before … over and over again for around 60 years. You have not managed to stop Palestinians military or terrorist actions in the past with this (over the long term), so why do you think it will work this time? All this indiscriminate killing will achieve is further evidence that Israel does not give two hoots for international law or for the lives of innocent (in many cases) Palestinians.

It is interesting to note that Israel does not permit journalists to enter Gaza. Almost as if they know what they are doing is wrong and just do not care. And of course as their ground offensive has started, perhaps they are trying to hide something ?

Israeli actions will drive Palestinians into being more accepting of extremists and will in the long term increase the amount of violence against Israeli civilians. Does that mean Israel should not respond to Hamas missile attacks ? No of course not, but the response must be proportionate (to be legal), and must go out of the way to avoid “collateral damage”. It may well be right that Hamas uses civilians as a shield for military purposes, but Hamas will not be blamed for those collateral casualities no matter what Israel claims.

Personally I do not really believe that those who govern Israel are so stupid as to believe these miltary attacks will accomplish anything. They are pandering to the Israeli fanatics frothing at the mouth who insist that something must be done, and the only reason they are doing it is to keep popularity so that they keep power when the next elections occur.

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