The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) announced May 18 that the Israeli bombardment has resulted in over 58,000 Palestinians being displaced from their homes in the Gaza Strip. Of these, 47,000 are currently seeking shelter in facilities run by UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees. The bombardment has also led to the destruction of health infrastructure such as COVID-19 testing labs and clinics. The destruction exacerbates privation imposed by the ongoing blockade of the Strip.
In Episode 72 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg repudiates the propaganda line that "Israel has a right to defend itself," exposing this as justification of war crimes, and obfuscation of the reality of apartheid both sides of the Green Line. He also examines the United Nations definition of "genocide" to ask whether Israel's war on Gaza may now be crossing the "genocidal threshold" that Israeli society has long been approaching, in both rhetoric and action that dehumanize the Palestinians. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
Individuals involved in the new outbreak of Israeli-Palestinian fighting may be targeted by an International Criminal Court investigation now underway into possible war crimes in earlier eruptions of the conflict, top prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said in an interview with Reuters May 13. Bensouda said she would press ahead with her inquiry even without the cooperation of Israel, which rejects the ICC's jurisdiction. "These are events that we are looking at very seriously," Bensouda told Reuters. "We are monitoring very closely and I remind that an investigation has opened..." She also warned in a tweet of the "possible commission of crimes under the Rome Statue."
Some 200 Palestinians as well as a handful of Israeli police officers were hurt in clashes at al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem the night of May 7, the latest outburst in a series of confrontations in the city throughout the current month of Ramadan. Police fired rubber bullets and stun grenades as Palestinians threw stones and bottles. For weeks, East Jerusalem has seen nightly protests over the impending eviction of hundreds of Palestinian families in the Sheikh Jarrah district. So far, 12 Palestinian families in the neighborhood have received eviction orders issued by the Israeli courts. Four of the families have filed a petition with the Supreme Court, which is expected to rule in their cases next week.
Human Rights Watch on April 27 issued a report accusing Israeli authorities of crimes against humanity, specifically those of apartheid and persecution, targeting the Palestinian people. The report charges that there is "an overarching Israeli government policy" to mitigate what authorities have openly described as a "demographic threat" from Palestinians. The 213-page report, A Threshold Crossed: Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution, cites the 1973 International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid and the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
US-mediated talks opened Oct. 14 between Israel and Lebanon, aimed at resolving the long-standing maritime border dispute between the two countries. At issue in the talks, held in Lebanon's coastal border town of Naqoura, is an 860-square-kilometer patch of the Mediterranean Sea where each side lays territorial claim. The conflict stems from differing demarcation methods: Israel marks the border as being at a 90-degree angle to the land border, while Lebanon marks it as a continuation of the land borderline. The issue grew more pressing with the discovery of abundant hydrocarbon reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean's Levant Basin. Lebanon, which sought to pursue gas drilling off its coast, submitted its demarcation of the maritime borders to the UN a decade ago, claiming this area as within its Exclusive Economic Zone. Israel called this an infringement of its rights, and submitted its own version of the border demarcation to the UN.
On a visit to Baghdad this week, Gen. Frank McKenzie, chief of the Pentagon's Central Command, announced that US forces in Iraq will be reduced in the coming weeks from some 5,200 troops to about 3,000. McKenzie later told reporters that troop levels in Afghanistan will drop from the current 8,600 to 4,500. All of this is to happen by "late October," he said. How convenient. (AP, Politico) This all smells more of politics that strategy. There are still more than 10,000 ISIS fighters remaining across Iraq and Syria, according to a UN estimate from August. So, as Defense One comments, "any 'mission accomplished' moment remains elusive to clear-eyed observers of ISIS and the Middle East."
Trump's Israel-Palestine "peace" plan (sic), unveiled at the White House Jan. 29 in a joint press conference with Benjamin Netanyahu, has been anointed by the media with the very Trumpian epithet "Deal of the Century"—although he appears not to have used that actual phrase. Trump boasted the plan, officially dubbed "Peace to Prosperity: A Vision to Improve the Lives of the Palestinian and Israeli People," as a "win-win solution for both sides" and a "realistic two-state solution." With typical bluster, he said: "Today, Israel takes a big step towards peace. I was not elected to do small things or shy away from big problems." Netanyahu went on Fox & Friends the next day to hail the scheme as an "opportunity of a lifetime for Israel and the Palestinians and for peace."