Vinoth Ramachandra

Business and War Crimes

Posted on: July 28, 2014

The chilling pictures of Israeli civilians watching and cheering from a hilltop the heart-rending massacre of people in Gaza by tanks and aircraft invite comparison with the worst Nazi horrors. Gaza is neither a state nor a country. It has no army. Sandwiched between Egypt on one side and the Israeli army on the other, the mostly defenceless Palestinians have been slaughtered in more than two weeks of relentless bombing by one of the most powerful militaries on earth, armed to its teeth by the United States and its European allies.

Disgracefully, the U.S was the only state that voted against a recent UN Human Rights Commission resolution calling for an international investigation into war crimes committed by Israeli forces in Gaza. Several EU states abstained. The typical Orwellian Newspeak of “Israel has the right to defend itself” flounders in the face of the horrendous statistics: more than a thousand Palestinians killed while the number of Israeli civilians killed by Hamas rockets is counted as less than a dozen!

This is the way Israel has fought its wars in recent decades- showing contempt for international laws and the rules of military engagement. (For the disproportionate figures in recent conflicts in Gaza, see http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-28439404) I have often enough commented on this Blog of the hypocrisy and double standards of U.S administrations when it comes to human rights, a hypocrisy that undermines the efforts of all of us who seek to hold our own governments accountable for crimes against humanity.

If the U.S government and its timid European allies cannot be pressured into defending human persons in Palestine, to whom should we turn?

The Israeli military machine is dependent on Western business corporations. This raises the question of corporate responsibility regarding international law and human rights.

Israel procures a significant amount of its military hardware from US-based defence companies, a fact that solidifies the connection between US foreign policy and business agendas.

I am glad, therefore, to learn that the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted in June to divest from three companies (Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions, and Hewlett-Packard) that sold equipment to Israel that facilitated illegal activities such as the bulldozing of Palestinian homes, building an apartheid-like wall of separation, and the use of military drones in heavily civilian areas.

“Hewlett-Packard provides bio-scanners that are used to racially profile Palestinians and to track and control their movement,” explained Anna Baltzer, national organizer for the “US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation”, a national coalition that has mobilized support for boycott and divestment efforts. “It is no overstatement to say that many of these campaigns have dramatically shifted the discourse around Israel/Palestine – in the mainstream media, on university campuses, in the church pews, and beyond – in an unprecedented way,” she added.

In 2012, the United Methodist Church passed resolutions supporting the boycott of products made in Israeli settlements; and the Quaker Friends Fiduciary Corporation divested its stockholdings in Caterpillar, HP, and Veolia Environnement, a French water, waste and transport management company involved in the construction of a tram system being built by French engineering companies on occupied Palestinian land. A year later, several Methodist regional conferences also voted to divest, and the Mennonite Central Committee board of directors unanimously decided that MCC (U.S) will not “knowingly invest in companies that benefit from products or services used to perpetrate acts of violence against Palestinians, Israelis and other people groups.”

These are, admittedly, small steps. But several small steps can precipitate a social avalanche.

Corporations with internationally renowned brand names (such as the three above) are quick to respond to criticism with pious pronouncements about their ethical policies and commitments to respecting rights. However, reading Motorola’s human rights policy shows that the company only addresses internal employee issues such as safety in the workplace and fair working hours.

Of course it is not fair to blame business corporations for the use to which their products may be put by their buyers. But shouldn’t they be more discerning in their sales? Wouldn’t we be right to blame somebody who knowingly sold alcohol to an alcoholic or cigarettes to a schoolboy?

The 2011 United Nation’s “Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights” calls on business enterprise to “seek to prevent or mitigate adverse human rights impacts that are directly linked to their operations, products or services by their business relationships, even if they have not contributed to those impacts.” The document also calls on them to understand the “concerns of potentially affected stakeholders by consulting them directly… In situations where such consultation is not possible, business enterprises should consider reasonable alternatives such as consulting credible, independent expert resources, including human rights defenders and others from civil society.”

Ignorance of the Bible (especially the Old Testament) was largely the reason for the shocking complicity of many European Christians in Europe’s centuries-long maltreatment of the Jews. Today it is still ignorance of the Bible (especially the New Testament), coupled with ignorance of the 20th-century history of Palestine, which has led to the shocking betrayal by many American Christians of their brothers and sisters in Gaza and the West Bank.

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23 Responses to "Business and War Crimes"

it is an atrocity that Israel has so indiscriminately destroyed communities. They have clearly lost the will to police/prosecute the lawless with appropriate force and tactics.

But is it obscene to see people who are sniped at, rocketed and kidnapped/murdered, celebrate the recompense afforded their ‘attackers’?

Though Gaza is not a country, it is a stronghold of hostile enemy forces set against the destruction of Israel. (Israel military actually announce that they are coming and people have the choice to leave the area before the military arrive)

Evoking ‘Nazi is cheap, rubbish propaganda.

‘The term ‘occupied territory’ refers to land taken in the 1967 war, where every nation around Israel mustered for attack to destroy and murder every Jew in Israel; and were soundly defeated.

Israel annexed territory and offered the residents citizenship and a say in their governance. If the people of Gaza and west Bank laid-down their weapons, Israel would be a Palestinian state in two generations by mere birth statistics! The hatred of Israel drives this conflict.

I see we are on to post-colonial argument here. Remember, Palestinians and all Arabs have vowed to drive Jews into the sea. Do you think that was a joke? You know how it feels when someone sends you even the mildest of threats. It is not going to help matters for the person making the threats to later say it was all done in affection. What would you have done if you found yourself out-numbered and surrounded by hostile neighbors? How could you have missed the fact that Europe [especially Britain] is in fact brazenly anti-Semitic?

It is true that Israel does face threats against her very existence as a nation and against her people. The tragic irony is that Israel, after centuries of having to fight the monstrous evil of anti-Semitism, has morphed into the same oppressive monster she fought against. It is also ironic that the most vocal ones who arrogate to themselves the right to teach the world about justice, peace and freedom are the ones armed with the nukes and a sickening tendency to use military muscularity in conflict resolution against appallingly weaker states.

Well written article. You have helped us to focus on the unseen part of Israel-Gaza clash: Business ethics and Christian response to it.

Tim: where do you read such utter nonsense as “Palestinians and all Arabs have vowed to drive Jews into the sea”? Can you tell me how many Palestinians and Arabs you actually know?

When, after 9/11, Donald Rumsfeld publicly vowed to “nuke Afghanistan off the face of the earth”, how did Afghans react? How did you react? Why is one comment a joke and the other taken so seriously that it warrants wiping out entire populations? And who are these “hostile neighbours”?

Also, how come “anti-Semitic” is used as a synonym for “anti-Jewish”? Most Jews in Israel have European ancestry. The latter have never lived in the Middle East. Wouldn’t it be more appropriate to call “anti-Arab” sentiment “anti-Semitic”?

David Fraser:

You say “people have the choice to leave the area before the military arrive”. Can you tell me where they are supposed to go?

Please read the statistics before you make comments about people who are “sniped at, rocketed, etc”. You need to pay attention to facts. As for “celebrating the recompense afforded their attackers”, isn’t this exactly why some Muslims celebrated the 9/11 attacks? I take it you didn’t consider that obscene (or even objectionable).

Finally, why is evoking comparisons with Nazis “cheap, rubbish propaganda”? The dehumanization of Palestinians by Netanyahu and other Israel “hawks” is exactly the mirror-image of the dehumanization of the Jews and other non-Aryans by the Nazis. It is only because Palestinian children are considered “sub-human” that people can cheer when missiles obliterate them in front of their parents. And this is also what Israeli human rights campaigners and peace activists have had the courage to say (unlike foreign “defenders of Israel” like yourself). Are these Israelis also driven by “hatred of Israel”?

The tragic irony here is that Israel’s repugnant deployment of disproportionate violence is now generating a repugnant upsurge in European anti-Semitism – and I mean the real and loathsome kind of anti-Semitism, not the shut-down smear that is indiscriminately lobbed at critics of Israeli policy and actions in the West Bank and Gaza, some of which – yet another tragic irony – are themselves no doubt racist.

Thank you Vinoth for the article, as usual you hit the bulls eye.
To be frank I’m not surprised from many of the comments of Frazer, tim and others, this is the western view of the Arab – Israeli conflict
1- We need to distinguish between Jews and Zionists ( Religion – Politics).
2- Human Rights ( Are all people ( different colours, ethics, relions…etc) Humans??? It is only because Palestinian children are considered “sub-human” that people can cheer when missiles obliterate them in front of their parents. (vinoth)
3- Are we called to be pro or against countries?? I don’t believe that the Bible encourages us to do that, but we are called to be the voice of Justice in the midst of a falling world.
4- I’m not with Hamas…. I don’t think that they are doing something right or the moral values that they hold are right (although many people still see the bright side – mercy and love in their religion)….
5- I don’t see that US Policyies in the world are making it better, Ira- Syria-Lybia, West Bank , Afghanistan …. And many others.
6- Nothing happened in Mosel after emptying this city from the Christians… but people ( mostly westerns) are defending Israel giving it the right to defend herself ???
7- I live in a country that more than 40% of it’s population are refuges Palestinians/ 20% Syrians…

Vinoth, I am semitic – born and raised among Arabs. I was simply sharing the sentiments from the streets [and what leaders say when no outsider is around]. I don’t know what you mean by “read” or why my statement is “utter nonsense”. I understand siding with the “underdog” is [no matter what] often mistaken for seeking truth. Do I say Israeli policy is faultless? Not at all. As you well know we live in sin-stained world of imperfect persons/cultures. Such things are bound to happen. The real issue is always how to bring a semblance of resolution.

Let me ask you this. How would you explain the failure/inability of the late-Yasir Arafat to come to terms with Ehud Barak’s offer in 2000 at the Camp David Summit brokered by Bill Clinton?

[…] [1] Vinoth Ramachandra en su blog estos días escribió: “Ignorance of the Bible (especially the Old Testament) was largely the reason for the shocking complicity of many European Christians in Europe’s centuries-long maltreatment of the Jews. Today it is still ignorance of the Bible (especially the New Testament), coupled with ignorance of the 20th-century history of Palestine, which has led to the shocking betrayal by many American Christians of their brothers and sisters in Gaza and the West Bank.” http://vinothramachandra.wordpress.com/2014/07/28/business-and-war-crimes/ […]

For all of you who want the facts behind Israel’s bogus “self-defence” argument, please read:

http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2014/7/gaza-israel-internationalpoliticsunicc.html

(John Dugard is Emeritus Professor of International Law at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands and former U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory).

Until Christian Zionists (mainly conservative evangelical Americans) who embrace a premillenial dispensationalist theology and who accept any and all actions by the modern State of Israel as being in line with biblical prophecy, I´m afraid we will continue to see “much of the same” in the region.

Before someone accuses me of being anti-semitic or against Israel, let me be clear:

— I love the Jewish people
— I believe the Jews have a right to be in the land
— I do not condone rockets being fired into Israel´s territory

That said … I can no longer turn a blind eye to how Israel deals with its neighbors. In many cases it simply seems very unjust and not at all in line with the teachings of Jesus Christ nor the teachings of the Old Testament with regard to the treatment of the alien, the stranger, etc. in the land.

What if the premillenial dispensationalists are wrong? What if their theology is faulty? If it is … then conservative evangelicals around the world (but especially in the U.S.) who support this paradigm have a lot of work to do. If the theology does indeed hold water (and I am suspicious of this myself), does that necessarily translate into Israel being able to do whatever it wants against its weaker, smaller neighbor(s)? I suppose the answer might lie in the kind of fast God talks about in Isaiah 58:6.

Matthew-

I would go further than you….

What does “love for the Jewish people” mean? The Jewish people extend beyond the state of Israel and the ideology of political Zionism. The two cannot be equated. In fact, many Jews were opposed to the creation of the state of Israel, and are now fearless critics of its discriminatory policies and brutal militarism.

Israel is an apartheid state, not a democracy. Nearly 25 percent of Israel’s population is not Jewish, and most of those are Palestinian, though some are Bedouins. The law does not apply equally to all who live within its borders. The 1950 Law of Return grants automatic citizenship rights to Jews from anywhere in the world upon request, while denying that same right to Palestinians who were forcibly dispossessed of their homes in 1948 or subsequently as the result of illegal settlements and redrawn borders. The new loyalty oath requires that anyone who wishes to become a citizen pledge allegiance to Israel as Jewish.

Secondly, what does “right to the land” mean? Even for Old Testament Israel (which has absolutely nothing to do with the post-1948 secular Israeli state), remaining in the land was conditional on the people obeying God’s moral law. They did not enjoy any unconditional “right”- and the prophets consistently warned Israel that God would judge them more severely than other nations that had not received his revelation.

So, what is this “biblical prophecy” that fundamentlaist churches invoke? Why are those Christians who are so fervently committed to the modern state of Israel not saying what the Biblical prophets (and Jesus himself!) actually said about God throwing them out of the land for the violence and idolatries they practised?

As I say in my main post, isn’t it ignorance of these facts- biblical as well as recent history- that fuels the mindless Christian Zionism in the US “Bible Belt” and some European churches, and makes our Palestinian brethren feel utterly betrayed?

Finally, why can’t Hamas build tunnels or fire rockets? Under the Geneva Conventions, imprisoned populations have right to seek to escape from their imprisonment, including building tunnels to the world beyond their prisons. And why does Israel have a “right to self-defence” but not the Palestinians?

O.K. … so let´s argue for a moment that quite possibly the modern state of Israel has no biblical or religious justification. What then? The Jews in the land are not going anywhere and some might even argue that “to the victor goes the spoils” (speaking of Israel´s 1967 military victory as an example) — hence through military victory Israel has established itself as a sovereign state.

Frankly, I´m interested in a solution to the conflict … not the never ending arguments both sides seem to get involved in nearly all the time justifying their positions. How can these people live side by side peacefully in a region both call home? How can they reconcile? How can they stop the madness? Aren´t these the kind of questions peacemaking Christians should be attempting to answer in the midst of two parties basically at war in what looks like a never ending conflict?

Surely “peacemaking Christians” should begin by seriously studying history, and preferably not written by just one side.

My point in questioning your language was to show the inherent bias that even well-meaning Christians betray. Nobody can speak of “Israel’s right to the land” without simultaneously affirming the Palestinians’ equal right to self-determination. Nobody should talk of Hamas “terrorism” without simultaneously speaking of Israeli “terrorism”. The same for “self-defence”, etc. There are just political solutions (either Israel becomes a genuinely pluralist democracy, or accepts an independent Palestinian state – but the current regime in Tel Aviv will never accept either of these).

I think it rather presumptuous of American/British evangelical Christians if they think they can be “peacemakers” in the Middle East when they have been part of the problem for so long. We should say to them, “Physician, heal thyself!”

This article tells us how the original inhabitants of Palestine are overwhelmed by new Jewish immigrants over the past decades.

Certainly, it’s not going to be fun to be displaced from your own land by an outsider, just because the kin of the outsider has better firepower.

http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/178540/luttwak-zionism-history?all=1

Btw the article is not an anti Israel rant.

Thanks for the added input Vinoth. You make some very good points well worth pondering … points that I had not considered.

However … even if the Palestinians were openly allowed total self-determination, even if “terrorism” on both sides ended, even if the conflict totally stopped and an independent Palestinian state emerged or a genuinely pluralist democracy was created — do you think that would end extremism?

I suppose what I´m really asking is if the current political state of affairs is the main cause for the mess, or does it come down to religious ideology? If the latter, then I don´t see either an independent state or a genuine pluralist democracy solving the problem. It seems that some Muslims and some Jews (as well as some Christians) are driven by tremendous religious zeal in their engagement with the conflict — a zeal that politics itself may not be able to quench.

[Sigh] there you go again, making sweeping judgements…. Tell me a country without “extremists”.

Vinoth proposed that Israel becomes a genuinely pluralist democracy or accepts an independent Palestinian which Mathew seems to disagree. I’d like to know what Mathew would suggest to bring both short term and long solutions.

@aazhoni

I´m certainly no expert and I struggle with this situation a lot personally. My viewpoint is developing almost daily. Admittedly I am a product of
my religious upbringing since becoming a believer (conservative American evangelical that is) — so for a long time I supported Israel with no exceptions. Quite honestly I wasn´t even thinking about the Palestinians and the suffering they go through daily. Thankfully that has changed. I want a solution that is a balanced one and best respects the values, history, culture, etc. of each group as well as their individual claims to the land.

I´m not against a genuine pluralist democracy — per se — I´m just wondering how one would really look practically. Can these people really live together peacefully together, side by side, in one country, one land? Is the idea not too “pie in the sky”?

In terms of an independent Palestinian state — I also have to think about that one more closely. I mean even if the Palestinians had their own state that the international community fully recognized — would that stop the bombing, the rockets, the strife between both groups? Would we simply have another war on our hands?

I suppose the real solution starts with winning one heart at a time for the genuine Gospel of Jesus Christ — not theological paradigms, not political dogma, not premillenial dispensationalism, not replacement theology, etc., etc., etc.

I´m not sure if I answered your question aazhoni in the way you wanted me to. Like I said … I´m a work in progress as far as this topic is concerned. Oh yeah … Vinoth … I really need to watch out for those sweeping generalizations. Thanks for the reminder :-)!

Thank you Mathew for your kind response. I do not have any particular way in which I wanted an answer although I believe Vinoth’s proposal is in the right direction. It would be interesting to hear a radically different proposal as well.
[I live in a corner of the world where the situation is not very different from middle east (although not as turbulent) and could one day spiral into a similar situation.]
I agree genuine Gospel of Jesus Christ is where the solution lies. But isn’t it that confronting wrong ‘theological paradigms’ and ‘political dogmas’ part of proclaiming the Gospel?

Yes aazhoni. I think you are correct. The problem is that when many people become believers in Jesus Christ they also embrace a theological paradigm, a political dogma, etc. that normally has little to do with the kingdom of God that Jesus preached. From experience I can tell you that when I became a believer in Jesus Christ I came into the kingdom through a particular church, a particular theology, a particular worldview. It´s one of the main reasons I embraced Israel and its claims so fervently. With the help of this blog and other resources I am beginning to see and study the other side of things. It´s been an extremely wonderful journey — and a humbling one as well.

Matthew, i have followed your comments and discern a willingness to listen to other voices even though they may have disconcerting truths to share. I respect you for recognizing diversity and even the possibility that there is much to learn from others. We all are on this journey of learning and living the kingdom of God. God bless you my brother.

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