The latest United Nations report on last year's lethal flotilla incident – in which nine people were killed and many injured by Israeli commandos on board a humanitarian ship bound for Gaza – was released at the beginning of September, and generated much controversy. On the one hand, the report makes clear that Israel's use of force on board the Mavi Marmara and in the treatment of those detained on the ship was excessive and unreasonable. It acknowledges that forensic evidence indicates at least seven were shot in the head or chest, five of them at close range, and recognises that Israel still refused to provide any accounting of how the nine people were killed. It calls on Tel Aviv to compensate the families of those killed, eight Turks and one American, and also those who were seriously injured during and after the incident, passengers roughed up while in Israeli custody and whose cameras, cell phones and other belongings were confiscated.

By Na'eem Jeenah and Heidi-Jane Esakov

A ceasefire agreement between Hamas and Israel, which was to come into effect on Tuesday night, was delayed at the last minute due to ‘Israeli requests’. Despite the imminence of a ceasefire, Israel intensified its assault on the tiny, battered coastal strip as part of its ‘Operation Pillar of Cloud’. In response, rockets continued to fly, somewhat ineffectually, from Gaza into Israel. The Palestinian death toll, currently at over 130, will undoubtedly climb as Israel’s ‘requests’ are wrangled over. Israel has the luxury to stall for time; it is the Gazans who have to bury their dead.

By Toufic Haddad

If the prisoner exchange deal announced on 11 October 2011 between Hamas and the Israeli government is fully implemented without major hitches, there is little question who 'won' this five-year war of wills: the deal will constitute a major victory for Hamas and the resistance-oriented political forces in Palestinian society, while simultaneously representing a significant retreat for Israel and its historical doctrines of forceful coercion and rejectionism vis-à-vis the Palestinian people and their rights.

By Saleh Naami

Israel’s current onslaught against Gaza is the third largest military confrontation between the Israel and Palestinian resistance movements in the enclave since Hamas became the sole ruler of the Gaza Strip in July 2007. The battle was launched in the aftermath of drastic transformations in the regional landscape, distinguishing it different from Israel’s November 2012 ‘Operation Pillar of Cloud’. This is likely to affect its outcomes.

The dispute over Palestine is a political one but it is conducted within a legal framework. From the outset – the notorious Partition Plan contained in General Assembly Resolution 181(II) - international law has played an important role in the dispute. Today, the dispute is probably more characterized by legal argument than at any time before. It is, therefore, appropriate to consider the dispute in legal terms, as we shall be doing in this Conference.

Since the declaration of the state of Israel over sixty years ago Israel has consistently been in violation of international law. Over the years it has violated – and is still violating- some of the most fundamental norms of international law. It has been held to be in violation of international law by the Security Council, the General Assembly, the Human Rights Council, human rights treaty monitoring bodies and the International Court of Justice. In this respect it resembles apartheid South Africa which for over forty years violated international law by practicing racial discrimination, engaging in political repression, manufacturing nuclear weapons and carrying out military offensives against its neighbours. But there the similarity ends.

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