Tag Archives: chemical weapons

Israel Faces Increased Criticism Following EU “Diplomat Scuffle”

On the 20th September EU diplomats were attacked by Israeli Defense Forces while delivering humanitarian aid to a destroyed village in the West Bank occupied territories.

The Khirbet Al-Makhul settlement was destroyed by IDF personnel. There had once been a village there and Palestinian attempted to resettle the area but were banned by Israeli authorities.

The IDF attacked the EU trucks and confiscated them and their cargo. French diplomat Marion Fesneau-Castaing attempted to prevent confiscation of the aid but was pulled from the truck and forced onto the ground.

Israeli soldiers carry French diplomat Marion Castaing after removing her from her truck containing emergency aid (Reuters / Abed Omar Qusini)

Stun grenades were thrown directly at EU diplomats, humanitarian aid workers and civilians, according to Reuters, because “stones were thrown” at security forces.

The EU ambassador to Israel called on Foreign Ministry Deputy Director-General for Europe, Rafi Shutz, to explain the actions of the IDF.

“What was done there by the European diplomats was a provocation,” Shutz was quoted as saying by Haaretz. He claimed the EU officials had“abused their diplomatic privileges” and that forced was used against French diplomat Marion Castaing as she slapped one of the soldiers who attempted to confiscate her truck.

The soldiers who were carrying machine guns, it should be pointed out. An outright attack on unarmed EU diplomats by any country other than Israel would most likely have been met with a far more serious reaction.

This incident follows a deterioration of EU-Israel relations this summer after the EU stated in July that would end all financial assistance to Israeli organisations operating in the occupied territories beginning in 2014. PM Netanyahu retaliated by blocking the EU from aiding the tens of thousands of Palestinians in the West Bank.

Israeli authorities are accused of taking Palestinian grazing lands to use for the military or as settlements. Israel and Palestine and begun direct peace negotiations for the first time in 3 years though, according to Reuters “Palestinian officials have expressed serious doubts about the prospects of a breakthrough”.

An unnamed EU diplomat also said to Reuters that: “What the Israelis are doing is not helpful to the negotiations. Under any circumstances, talks or not, they’re obligated to respect international law,”.

This comes on the heels of greater attention being paid to Israel’s stores of chemical weapons and nuclear weapons. With so much international conversation over the disarmament of Syria’s chemical weapons it has opened discussion into the Israeli military that had before remained taboo.

Israel has not signed the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention nor did it sign the 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty. This followed the release of a CIA report suggesting that Israel had created a sizable cache of chemical weapons by the 1980s. There was a recent New York Times editorial piece on the taboo surrounding open discussion of Israel’s nuclear arsenal.

A Haaretz editorial also called Israel’s refusal to ratify the chemical weapons convention with Syria “a short sighted position of dubious usefulness”. It also claimed that changing it policy would show Israel as “doing its part in the general effort to rid the region of weapons of mass destruction”.

With a more critical international eye on Israel than ever, Netanyahu may have chosen the wrong time to enter a political wrestling match with the EU.

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World News Roundup: 12/Sep/2013

Why are chemical weapons the “red line” of intervention?

Just over a year ago at a White House press conference, American President Barrack Obama stated that:

a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized,” the president said a year ago last week. “That would change my calculus. That would change my equation.”

Now that the use of chemical weapons has come up many feel that the president has trapped himself into responding. But the original comment does not promise military intervention and a question some journalists are asking is why were chemical weapons the ‘red line’ to begin with?

UN Photo/Marco Castro

Over 100,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began over two years ago with bullets and bombs. Conventional weapons are just as capable of mass death as chemical ones so why this line in the sand?

Obama defended this distinction to CNN last week:

“When you start seeing chemical weapons used on a large scale… that starts getting to some core national interests that the United States has, both in terms of us making sure that weapons of mass destruction are not proliferating, as well as needing to protect our allies, our bases in the region.”

Phrases such as “National interests”, “protect our allies” and  especially “weapons of mass destruction” cannot help but call some of Bush’s rhetoric to mind.

But Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon official argues that chemical attacks if proven, must be taken more seriously than conventional attacks because chemical agents disperse to affect large numbers of people and “can produce horror for a lifetime.” He goes on to say that “it’s a slippery slope”, if a chemical weapons attack goes unchecked, what about some other form of weapon of mass destruction – a biological or nuclear attack?

But it can hardly be said that cluster munition or drone strikes are somehow less devastating or that they could not just as easily lead to weapons escalation.

Arguments could equally be made that intervention increases the likelihood of retaliation. Al Jazeera’s White House correspondent, Patty Culhane, questions the Obama administration’s assumptions. She writes:

“The administration says the US National Security is threatened by the possibility that the Assad regime will use chemical weapons on allies or US bases – do you have any evidence that they plan to take that step? You’ve warned chemical weapons could be given to “terrorist groups that would harm the US” – how does a military intervention make that less likely and not more?”

The US are not the only country saber rattling in the direction of Syria. British PM David Cameron however lost his parliamentary vote on military intervention. France is also threatening a military role. French PM Jean-Marc Ayrault said “France is determined to punish use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime.”

The Arab League however issued a statement that they believed that no intervention should take place that is not UN led.

A question that should also be asked at this point is whether a military intervention by US or France or any nation’s army would reduce the suffering of the people of Syria or even reduce the risk of chemical weapons being used again.

Also another question that is not being ask is what would the US government do if it was discovered that the rebels were responsible? Will the US military still intervene in the country? Will they intervene on behalf of the government?

That seems unlikely.

“There are few things more bizarre than watching people advocate that another country be bombed even while acknowledging that it will achieve no good outcomes other than safeguarding the “credibility” of those doing the bombing. Relatedly, it’s hard to imagine a more potent sign of a weak, declining empire than having one’s national “credibility” depend upon periodically bombing other countries.”
   —  Glenn Greenwald