The International Committee of the Red Cross has declared for the first time Israel’s blockade of Gaza to be illegal under the Geneva Conventions. In a statement, the Red Cross said, "The whole of Gaza’s civilian population is being punished for acts for which they bear no responsibility. The closure therefore constitutes a collective punishment imposed in clear violation of Israel’s obligations under international humanitarian law." The Red Cross said more than 100 essential medicines and many basic medical supplies are no longer available in Gaza due to the blockade. A new report by the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem says the blockade has led to economic collapse in Gaza: 95 percent of Gaza’s factories have closed, 98 percent of residents suffer from blackouts, and 93 percent of Gaza’s water is polluted. On Sunday, Arab League chief Amr Moussa visited the Gaza Strip and called for an end to Israel’s blockade of the Palestinian territory.
Amr Moussa: "Taking the mayonnaise and tomato sauce and shaving cream out of the list is no relaxation. This is trivial, and it leads to many of us laughing during the day about this kind of attitude, which we do not consider serious or serious enough to have us deal with such a relaxation. Relaxation means a totally different thing, and relaxation should be on the road or as a step towards the total lifting of the siege."
Here in the United States, Democratic Senator Charles Schumer praised Israel’s efforts to economically strangle the people of Gaza.
Sen. Schumer: “And to me, since the Palestinians in Gaza elected Hamas, while certainly there should be humanitarian aid, people not starving to death, to strangle them economically until they see that that’s not the way to go makes sense."
In related news, the Israeli cabinet has approved plans to set up a three-person panel to conduct an internal investigation into the deadly raid on a flotilla of humanitarian aid ships bound for Gaza. The attack left eight Turks and one Turkish American dead. The panel will be led by a former Israeli Supreme Court judge. The other two members are a retired major-general in the Israeli military and an Israeli professor of international law.
Turkey’s foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, criticized Israel for rejecting calls for an international probe. Davutoglu said, "We have no trust at all that Israel, a country that has carried out such an attack on a civilian convoy in international waters, will conduct an impartial investigation."
Israel’s internal investigation has also been criticized by several newspapers. An editorial in the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz says Israel’s investigation seems "more and more like a farce." The editors of the New York Times have questioned whether Israel’s probe would be impartial, credible and transparent. The Obama administration, however, has openly endorsed the Israeli probe. Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the United Nations, discussed the issue on Fox News Sunday.
Susan Rice: "We said from the outset that we believe Israel has the will and the capacity to conduct such a credible and impartial investigation. We’ve been working very closely with Israel over the course of the last two weeks as they think through how they plan to constitute such an investigation. And that is what we support and what we think is necessary to address this challenge."
Meanwhile, critics of the Israeli blockade of Gaza are continuing to send aid ships to Gaza in defiance of Israel. The Iranian government announced an aid ship bound for Gaza left Iran yesterday. Another Iranian ship is expected to leave later this week. The boats are said to be loaded with food, construction material and toys. One Iranian official said, "Until the end of the Gaza blockade, Iran will continue to ship aid."
In other news on Israel, a suspected Mossad agent has been arrested in Poland in connection to the January assassination of a Hamas chief in Dubai. The agent, Uri Brodsky, was arrested on suspicion of obtaining a German passport by fraudulent means. Brodsky is the first person known to be arrested in the killing of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh.
The New York Times is reporting the United States has discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan, including huge amounts of copper, cobalt, gold and lithium. US officials say the find could alter the Afghan war and make Afghanistan one of the most important mining centers in the world. An internal Pentagon memo states that Afghanistan could become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium,” a key raw material in the manufacture of batteries for laptops and cell phones. The value of mineral deposits dwarfs the size of Afghanistan’s existing economy. Afghanistan’s gross domestic product is only about $12 billion. American geologists have been studying the potential for mining since at least 2004. The timing of the New York Times article has been questioned by some because it is being published at a time when the Obama administration has little good news to report on Afghanistan. On Saturday the Times reported Afghan President Hamid Karzai had lost faith in the United States and NATO to prevail in Afghanistan. Karzai has reportedly been involved with secret negotiations with the Taliban outside the purview of American and NATO officials. Meanwhile, a new report from the London School of Economics includes new evidence that Pakistan’s main spy agency, the ISI, continues to arm and train the Taliban. The report states, "Without a change in Pakistani behavior it will be difficult, if not impossible, for international forces and the Afghan government to make progress against the insurgency."
President Obama is heading to the Gulf of Mexico today on his fourth visit to the region since the BP oil spill began on April 20th. On Tuesday night, the President will give a rare prime-time address from the White House to discuss his administration’s response to the crisis. On Wednesday Obama will meet with BP executives. President Obama is expected to push for the creation of a BP-funded escrow account that will pay for damage claims to Gulf residents who lost jobs or income due to the spill. Obama’s senior adviser David Axelrod appeared Sunday on Meet the Press.
David Axelrod: "We want to make sure that money is escrowed for the legitimate claims that are going to be made, and are being made, by businesses down in the Gulf, people who have been damaged by this. And we want to make sure that that money is independently administered so that they won’t be slow walked on these claims. There are people there who live from week to week and whose livelihoods have been taken away from them here, and we want to make sure that they can get through this."
The state of Utah is battling its own oil spill. A ruptured Chevron pipeline has spilled as much as 21,000 gallons of oil into Red Butte Creek and Liberty Park Pond in Salt Lake City. While the leak has stopped, authorities are now attempting to prevent the oil from reaching the Great Salt Lake.
Republicans in the state of Arizona are considering introducing legislation that would deny birth certificates to children born in Arizona to parents who are not legal US citizens. Such legislation would appear to violate the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, which states that all persons born in the United States are citizens of the United States. The chief supporter of denying birth certificates to the children of immigrants is Republican lawmaker Russell Pearce. He recently helped draft Arizona’s new anti-immigrant law that orders police officers to stop and interrogate anyone they suspect is an undocumented immigrant.
A federal grand jury has indicted three current and two former New Orleans police officers in the death of an African American man shortly after Hurricane Katrina. For years, the New Orleans Police Department attempted to cover up the death of Henry Glover, but an article by investigative reporter A.C. Thompson in The Nation magazine and ProPublica prompted a federal investigation. A.C. Thompson appeared on Democracy Now! earlier this year and described the killing of Henry Glover.
A.C. Thompson: "And on September 2nd, 2005, somebody, we believe probably a New Orleans police officer, shot him a single time in the chest. He was rescued by a Good Samaritan who drove him, ironically, to a place where police were camped out, thinking that the police could help him, give him medical aid, and save his life. But according to three different witnesses that I’ve interviewed, the police didn’t offer any assistance. What they instead did was they let Henry Glover bleed to death in the backseat of the car, and they physically assaulted the men that he was with, including the Good Samaritan."
On Friday, federal agents arrested former New Orleans police officer David Warren, who was charged with shooting Henry Glover with an assault rifle. Two other officers have been charged with burning Glover’s body and assaulting the Good Samaritan who came to Glover’s aid. The probe into Glover’s death is one of at least eight ongoing federal civil rights investigations into the New Orleans Police Department, most involving police actions in the days after Hurricane Katrina.
Member states of the International Criminal Court have agreed to add aggression to the list of the court’s prosecutable offenses beginning in 2017. Under the agreement, the UN Security Council will hold primary responsibility for determining whether an act of aggression has occurred. In cases when the UN Security Council has not determined an act of aggression has occurred, the ICC could pursue prosecution on its own, but the court’s power would be limited because ICC states can simply exempt themselves from jurisdiction. Citizens of countries not party to the court will also be immune from prosecution.
And in Washington, twenty-seven human rights activists are going on trial today after being arrested at the US Capitol in January while protesting President Obama’s failure to close the Guantánamo prison. The protest was organized by the group Witness Against Torture.