ICC prosecutor: No probe on Gaza war crimes because Palestine not a state


The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague said the court cannot open an investigation into cases related to the 2008-09 Gaza war because Palestine is not a state.

Jose Luis Moreno Ocampo said on April 3 in a statement that it is up to the United Nations or the states that make up the court to determine whether the Palestinian Authority (PA) can be a signatory to the 1998 Rome Statute, the ICC’s founding treaty. According to the statute, only internationally recognized states can join the international court.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that while Israel welcomes the decision on the lack of ICC jurisdiction, “It has reservations regarding some of the legal pronouncements and assumptions in the Prosecutor’s statement.”

The ICC’s decision came in response to a January 2009 request by the PA that the court direct its war crimes tribunal to investigate war crimes cases against Israeli officials stemming from the month-long Gaza war that began in late December 2008. The request was in the form of a letter filed with the court in which the PA unilaterally accepted the ICC’s jurisdiction.

NGO Monitor had filed a legal brief on the case arguing that the court does not have jurisdiction over the PA because it is not a state.

Israel cuts contact with U.N. rights body over probe


Israel said on Monday it has severed contact with the U.N. Human Rights Council after its launch last week of an international investigation into Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.

The decision, announced by a Foreign Ministry spokesman, meant that the fact-finding team the council planned to send to the West Bank will not be allowed to enter the territory or Israel, said the spokesman, Yigal Palmor.

“We are not working with them any more,” Palmor said about the Geneva-based forum. “We had been participating in meetings, discussions, arranging visits to Israel. All that is over.”

The international investigation was launched on Thursday, with the United States isolated in voting against the initiative brought by the Palestinian Authority.

Israeli leaders swiftly condemned the U.N. body, saying it was hypocritical and biased toward Israel.

“They systematically and serially make all kinds of decisions and condemnations against Israel without even symbolically considering our positions,” Palmor said.

He said Israel would continue to cooperate with other U.N. bodies.

The president of the U.N. Human Rights Council Laura Dupuy Lasserre said she had seen media reports of Israel’s reaction and, if confirmed, it would be “most regrettable”.

“I have no doubt that it is in the interest of Israel to cooperate with the Human Rights Council on this investigative mission, not least so that it can explain its own policies and actions to the independent commissioners once they are appointed,” she said in a statement.

Asked by Reuters to comment further, she said recent history showed Israel would not stop the fact-finding mission from gathering information by deciding not to cooperate with it, even if it could not physically gain access to the West Bank or Israel.

“The most recent example of refusal to cooperate is Syria, which did not permit either the Human Rights Council mandated Fact-finding Mission or the Commission of Inquiry to enter the country.

“On the other hand, in the case of the other two Commissions of Inquiry that took place in 2011, both Libya and Cote d’Ivoire did cooperate, and allowed the Commissioners to visit.”

As in the Syrian mission, the investigation would have to resort to other sources of information if denied access.

“Unfortunately, the image of Israel would be damaged in a moment of high expectations in the peace negotiations,” she said. “I can’t emphasise strongly enough that it is my hope and wish we won’t come to that path.”

The U.N. Human Rights Council condemned Israel’s planned construction of new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, saying they undermined the peace process and posed a threat to the two-state solution and the creation of a contiguous and independent Palestinian state.

About 500,000 Israeli settlers and 2.5 million Palestinians live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, areas Israel captured in a 1967 war. Palestinians want the territory for an independent state along with the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

Palestinians say settlements, considered illegal by the International Court of Justice, the highest U.N. legal body for disputes, would deny them a viable state.

Israel cites historical and Biblical links to the West Bank and says the status of settlements should be decided in peace negotiations.

Writing by Maayan Lubell; additional reporting by Tom Miles in GENEVA; Editing by Toby Chopra

Lieberman: Israel might withdraw from U.N. Human Rights Council


Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman reportedly said he might recall Israel’s ambassador to the U.N. Human Rights Council after the council voted 36-1 to investigate the effects of Jewish settlements on Palestinians.

Lieberman also said Israel would not cooperate with the fact-finding mission established by the council to probe settlements, the Jerusalem Post reported.

On Thursday, the council passed a resolution, with 10 abstentions, to investigate how Israeli settlement construction affects Palestinian human rights. The United States was the only country to vote against the resolution.

“This is a hypocritical council with an automatic majority against Israel,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday. “This council ought to be ashamed of itself.”

The Israeli leader noted that the council has made 91 decisions, 39 of which dealt with Israel, three with Syria and one with Iran.

“One only had to hear the Syrian representative speak today about human rights in order to understand how detached from reality the council is,” he said.

The decision requires the council to “dispatch an independent international fact-finding mission, to be appointed by the President of the Human Rights Council, to investigate the implications of the Israeli settlements on the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Palestinian people throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.” The mission will generate a report for the council.

The council on Thursday approved five resolutions critical of Israel, including implementing the Goldstone report on the Gaza war and criticizing Israel’s occupation of the Golan Heights.

The resolution on the settlements, which calls on Israel to cooperate in the investigation, also called on Israel to prevent settler violence against Palestinians in the West Bank.

A U.S. representative to the council said the U.S. is “deeply troubled by this council’s bias against Israel.”

UN rights body launches probe into Israeli settlements


The United Nations launched an international investigation on Thursday into Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories, with the United States isolated in voting against the initiative brought by the Palestinian Authority.

The U.N. Human Rights Council condemned Israel’s planned construction of new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, saying they undermined the peace process and posed a threat to the two-state solution and the creation of a contiguous and independent Palestinian state.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu swiftly dismissed the Geneva forum on Thursday evening as “hypocritical” and having an “automatic majority against Israel”.

A source in Netanyahu’s office said Israel would not cooperate with the investigation which he described as biased, adding that Israel did not want to give it legitimacy.

The 47-member forum adopted the resolution to launch a probe by a vote of 36 states in favour, including China and Russia, with one against (the United States). Ten abstained, including European Union members Italy and Spain.

[RELATED: Netanyahu calls Human Rights Council decision ‘hypocritical’]

The text was introduced by Pakistan on behalf of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and co-sponsored by states including Cuba and Venezuela.

“In violation of international humanitarian and human rights law, Israel is continuing construction of illegal settlements in the occupied territories including East Jerusalem,” Pakistan’s ambassador Zamir Akram told the talks.

The Council’s resolution called on Israel to take serious measures to prevent settler violence “including confiscation of arms and enforcement of criminal sanctions”, and protection of Palestinian civilians and property in the territories.

The three investigators are to be named at a later date.

About 500,000 Israelis and 2.5 million Palestinians live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, areas Israel captured in a 1967 war. Palestinians want the territory for an independent state along with the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

Palestinians say settlements, considered illegal by the International Court of Justice, the highest U.N. legal body for disputes, would deny them a viable state. Israel cites historical and Biblical links to the West Bank and says the status of settlements should be decided in peace negotiations.

“DOUBLE STANDARDS”

“This is a council that should be ashamed of itself. The U.N. Human Rights Council has no connection to human rights,” Netanyahu said.

“It was enough to hear the Syrian delegate today talking about human rights to understand how far the Council is detached from reality.”

In Geneva, Israel’s Ambassador Aharon Leshno-Yaar denounced “the level of hypocrisy and double standards” in the Council, which adopted other resolutions on Thursday on Syria’s Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and the right of Palestinians to self-determination.

“The resolutions are unjustified and counterproductive. They will add tension and bitterness to an already explosive situation. This Council, by its own doing, is adding fuel to a fire which it is our duty to try to extinguish,” Leshno-Yaar said.

Israel is strongly committed to a two-state solution and wants to see the resumption of direct bilateral talks without preconditions with the Palestinians, he told the talks.

The United States said it continued to be “deeply troubled by this Council’s biased and disproportionate focus on Israel, as exemplified by the creation of another one-sided United Nations mechanism related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”.

It was inappropriate to prejudge final status issues that could only be resolved through bilateral negotiations between Israel and Palestine, U.S. political counsellor Charles O. Blaha told the Council.

“The U.S. position on settlements is clear and has not changed: we do not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity. The status quo is not sustainable for either the Israelis or the Palestinians,” Blaha said.

But Washington could not back a “one-sided resolution that launches an international investigation of Israel,” he said. (Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva and Ori Lewis in Jerusalem; editing by Tim Pearce)

Netanyahu calls Human Rights Council decision ‘hypocritical’


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lashed out at a U.N. Human Rights Council decision to investigate Jewish settlements, calling it “hypocritical” and detached from reality.

On Thursday, the council passed a resolution by a vote of 36 to 1, with 10 abstentions, to investigate how Israeli settlement construction affects Palestinian human rights. The United States was the only country to vote against the resolution.

“This is a hypocritical council with an automatic majority against Israel,” Netanyahu said. “This council ought to be ashamed of itself.”

The Israeli leader noted that the council has made 91 decisions, 39 of which dealt with Israel, three with Syria and one with Iran.

“One only had to hear the Syrian representative speak today about human rights in order to understand how detached from reality the council is,” he said.

The decision requires the council to “dispatch an independent international fact-finding mission, to be appointed by the President of the Human Rights Council, to investigate the implications of the Israeli settlements on the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Palestinian people throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.” The mission will generate a report for the council.

The council on Thursday approved five resolutions critical of Israel, including implementing the Goldstone report on the Gaza war and criticizing Israel’s occupation of the Golan Heights.

The resolution on the settlements, which calls on Israel to cooperate in the investigation, also called on Israel to prevent settler violence against Palestinians in the West Bank.

A U.S. representative to the council said the U.S. is “deeply troubled by this council’s bias against Israel.”

Outpost evacuation handled appropriately, Israeli probe finds


Israeli police forces acted appropriately and proportionately in evacuating a West Bank outpost, a police investigation found.

The investigation released Sunday found that last week’s demolition of three illegal structures at the Gilad Farm outpost in the northern West Bank, which led to settler protests throughout the West Bank and Jerusalem, was carried out in a “proportional, restrained and professional” manner, according to reports.

Settlers said that police used unnecessary force, including rubber bullets and tear gas, in the evacuation; eight settlers were arrested and 15 wounded as the result of clashes with police.

Israeli Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch acknowledged later that police, fearing for their safety, had used plastic bullets—the first time they had been used against Israelis.

The investigation said the police used paintball guns.

Rubashkin son arrested, Agriprocessors fined $10 million in kosher slaughterhouse probe


POSTVILLE, IOWA (JTA) — The former manager of Agriprocessors was arrested today on charges related to the hiring of illegal workers.

Sholom Rubashkin, 49, was arrested by immigration officials and was due to appear in federal court later today.

Documents filed with the court allege that Rubashkin conspired to harbor illegal immigrants at the Agriprocessors meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa. They further charge that he aided and abetted in the use of fake identification documents and identity theft.

Rubashkin is the highest-ranking Agriprocessors official to face criminal charges stemming from the May 12 federal immigration raid at the company’s Postville meatpacking plant. More than one-third of the company’s workforce was arrested.

According to the criminal complaint filed Thursday, Rubashkin provided funds that were used to purchase new identification for workers at Agriprocessors who were found to have bad papers. The complaint further alleges that Rubashkin asked a human resources officer to come in on a Sunday to process the new employment applications of several such workers.

Company representatives did not immediately respond to requests for comment. But Nathan Lewin, an attorney who represents Rubashkin’s father and the company owner Aaron Rubashkin, dismissed the arrest as unnecessary and motivated by federal law enforcement’s desire for good publicity.

“The arrest of Mr. Sholom Rubashkin today was a wholly unnecessary and gratuitous act by federal prosecutors apparently engaged in an unseemly competition with State of Iowa officials to capture headlines in a vendetta against Agriprocessors,” Lewin said.

Rubashkin’s arrest comes a day after Iowa Workforce Development announced it would levy nearly $10 million in fines against the company for alleged labor infractions.

In response to the action by the state labor agency, Agriprocessors CEO Bernard Feldman told The New York Times that he had “grave doubts as to the appropriateness of the claimed violations, and we also take issue with the intended sanction imposed per claim.”

Iowa Workforce Development, the state’s labor regulation agency, levied $9,988,200 in civil penalties against the kosher meat producer in Postville for four categories of infraction. The largest is for charging employees for frocks — the regulation agency claims the company is guilty of more than 90,000 such incidents, assessed at $100 per infraction.

“Once again, Agriprocessors has demonstrated a complete disregard for Iowa law,” said Dave Neil, the state’s labor commissioner. “This continued course of violations is a black mark on Iowa’s business community.”

According to Iowa Workforce Development, the company has 30 days to contest the penalties in writing before they become finalized. The department has an additional wage investigation under way that could lead to further penalties.
The fines are the latest challenge to Agriprocessors, once the nation’s largest producer of kosher meat before a massive federal immigration raid on May 12 resulted in the arrest of more than one-third of its workforce.

With its reputation taking a drubbing and concerns mounting that the company could lose its kosher certification, Agriprocessors hired a compliance officer and installed a new chief executive.

Company representatives did not immediately respond to JTA’s request for comment.

Congress OKs bill barring military chaplains from mentioning Jesus in official prayers


Congress OKs bill barring military chaplains from mentioning Jesus in official prayers
 
The U.S. Congress rescinded language in Pentagon orders that allowed military chaplains to mention Jesus in official prayers. Controversy over including similar language in the Defense Authorization Act, a critical spending bill, dogged attempts to pull the bill out of a Senate-House conference committee before Congress recessed for midterm elections.
 
The conferees ultimately decided to strike the language and order the Pentagon to rescind its earlier instructions. Mikey Weinstein, a former U.S. Air Force officer who led the battle to remove the language, applauded the decision.”We welcome the opportunity Congress has afforded to discuss the appropriate role of religion and chaplains in the military,” Weinstein, who is Jewish, said last week in a statement issued by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, which he founded. “The passage of this bill will be a victory for those of us who have been fighting so assiduously to protect both the rights of the men and women in our armed forces and the United States Constitution.”
 

Austrian extremists gain in elections
 
Two far-right parties with a history of anti-Jewish rhetoric made gains in Austrian elections. National elections held over the weekend saw a 50 percent rise since 2002 elections in the percentage of votes for the Freedom Party and the Alliance for Austria’s Future. Members of both parties have expressed antipathy toward Israel and are known for their campaigns against Muslims living in Austria.
 
The left-leaning Social Democrats won the election with nearly 36 percent of the vote, followed by the center-right People’s Party with 34 percent. The Freedom Party came in third with 11 percent, and the Alliance for Austria’s Future, run by right-wing extremist Jorg Haider, received 4 percent of the vote. The Social Democrats and People’s Party are expected to form a governing coalition.
 
Federal legislation Includes grant for Federation model elderly care program
 
A Jewish federation model to facilitate care for the elderly in their home communities will be included in federal grant legislation. The United Jewish Communities, the umbrella body for North American federations, launched the “Aging in Place” initiative in 2002, helping 40 communities in 25 states obtain federal dollars for naturally occurring retirement communities.The model was featured in a U.S. Senate hearing this year to consider re-authorization of the Older Americans Act. As a result, a federal grant program for the retirement communities is included in language agreed to by House-Senate conferees.
 
Swiss stage pro-Israel rally
 
Approximately 3,000 demonstrators held a pro-Israel rally in the Swiss capital. Saturday’s rally in Bern called for the Swiss government to support Israel’s right to exist and show solidarity with the Jewish state’s fight against terrorism. Twenty organizations signed a resolution urging the government to refuse negotiations with terrorist groups that reject the existence of the Israeli state.
 

British House of Lords member faces probe by party over Israel lobby remarks
 
A member of Britain’s House of Lords will be investigated by her party for comments about the “pro-Israel lobby.” Liberal Democrat Party members have announced that Baroness Jenny Tonge’s position in the party will be reviewed in response to her public remarks.
 
In a speech that recently aired on BBC Radio, Tonge said, “The pro-Israeli lobby has got its [financial] grips on the Western world. I think they’ve probably got a certain grip on our party.”
 
More than 20 of her peers in the House of Lords wrote a letter to the Times condemning Tonge’s comments, stating, “Baroness Tonge evoked a classic anti-Jewish conspiracy theory,” and that her language “as a member of the House of Lords, was irresponsible and inappropriate.”
 
In early 2004, she was fired from her position as Liberal Democrat spokeswoman on international development for saying she could understand why a Palestinian would become a suicide bomber and also that she would consider becoming one were she a Palestinian.
 
Remains of Czech Jewish graveyard found
 
Evidence of a medieval Jewish cemetery was discovered in the Czech Republic.Researchers from a preservationist organization in the city of Pilsen say they found documents in the city archive revealing details of what they believe was one of the largest Jewish cemeteries in Czech lands in the 14th century.
 
The cemetery’s existence was already known, said archaeologist Radek Siroky of the West Bohemian Institute for Heritage Conservation and Documentation, but the new documents reveal more specifics about its location.
 
He said that only excavations, approved by religious authorities, could provide more details about the cemetery’s size and the nature of the Jewish community there.
 
Briefs courtesy of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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