Virginia State Bar Boycotts Jewish State

From The Weekly Standard

A member of the Virginia State Bar (VSB) passes along this email, sent along last night to the members by VSB president Kevin E. Martingayle:

Dear Fellow Members of the Virginia State Bar,

Certain members of the Virginia State Bar and other individuals have expressed objections to the VSB’s plan to take the Midyear Legal Seminar trip in November to Jerusalem. It was stated that there are some unacceptable discriminatory policies and practices pertaining to border security that affect travelers to the nation. Upon review of U.S. State Department advisories and other research, and after consultation with our leaders, it has been determined that there is enough legitimate concern to warrant cancellation of the Israel trip and exploration of alternative locations.

Undoubtedly, this news will disappoint some VSB members. But we are a state agency that strives for maximum inclusion and equality, and that explains this action. Fortunately, we still anticipate being able to find a suitable location for the November seminar trip, and we will send out further news very soon.

Finally, we are pleased that our members and citizens feel able to express concerns and look to us to protect rights. In the end, we are all part of the same team, and the VSB will continue to stay focused on advancing its primary objectives—public protection, access to justice, and improvement of the profession.

As always, I appreciate having the honor of serving as your president.

Best regards,

Kevin E. Martingayle

President, Virginia State Bar

The Virginia State Bar did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

But George Mason Law School professor David Bernstein comments:

(1) The American Bar Association has recently held meetings in Israel, for example here and here [update: along with hundreds of international conferences that are held in Israel every year, including, for example, a conference on Arabic literature with Muslim attendees from abroad.]  Virginia has a state agency called the Virginia Israel Advisory Board “that proactively serves as the bridge and facilitator between Israeli companies and the Commonwealth of Virginia.” The idea that either the state bar as an attorney organization or as a state agency has some obligation to avoid Israel is nonsense. Surely Martingayle and colleagues can’t be so naive and out-of-touch to think that the concerns raised are not part of the broader divestment, sanctions, and boycott movement meant to delegitimize Israel.

(2) If the Virginia State Bar is in effect boycotting Israel, I, and I suspect many others, will henceforth be boycotting the State Bar, in my case beyond what is necessary to assist my students, which is my professional obligation. I would hope that no Virginia attorneys who are supporters of Israel will attend whatever alternative venue the State Bar settles on.

Amnesty International: Hamas rocket attacks amounted to war crimes

Well this is a pleasant surprise.

Rocket and mortar attacks by Palestinian militant groups during last summer’s conflict in Gaza amounted to war crimes, Amnesty International says.

Militants displayed a “flagrant disregard” for the lives of civilians during the 50-day war, a report found.

Six civilians in Israel and 13 Palestinians are believed to have been killed as a result of such attacks.

Hamas, which dominates Gaza, said Amnesty’s report contained many inaccuracies and false allegations.

The conflict left a total of at least 2,189 Palestinians dead, including more than 1,486 civilians, according to the UN. On the Israeli side, 67 soldiers were killed along with the six civilians.

‘Circle of fear’

According to UN data, more than 4,800 rockets and 1,700 mortars were fired from Gaza towards Israel between 8 July and 26 August. Around 224 projectiles are believed to have struck Israeli residential areas.

Amnesty said that all the rockets used by Hamas and other militant groups, some of which have ranges of up to 160km (100 miles), were unguided projectiles which could not be accurately directed at specific targets and were “inherently indiscriminate”.

The majority of Israel’s 8.3 million people live within reach of the long-range rockets, and the report pointed out that as a result the “circle of fear has widened” in Israel.

Relatives mourn four-year-old Daniel Tregerman at his funeral in Israel
Daniel Tregerman was killed by shrapnel from a mortar shell that landed outside his home in Israel
Relatives mourn Palestinian children killed by explosion in Shati refugee camp, Gaza, on 28 July 2014
An independent expert told Amnesty that a rocket explosion killed 11 Palestinians in Gaza on 28 July

Mortars are also imprecise munitions which Amnesty said should never be used to attack military targets located in or near civilian areas.

Four-year-old Israeli Daniel Tregerman was killed when a mortar launched in Gaza by Hamas’ military wing, the Izz al-Din Qassam Brigades, struck a car parked outside his family’s home in Kibbutz Nahal Oz on 22 August and sent shrapnel flying.

Amnesty said rocket fire had also endangered Palestinian civilians.

The group said an independent munitions expert had concluded that a Palestinian rocket had exploded next to a supermarket in the al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza City on 28 July, killing 13 civilians, 11 of them children aged between seven and 14.

‘Unlawful attacks’

Some Israeli attacks during the conflict also amounted to war crimes, Amnesty added. The group has previously accused the Israeli military of killing scores of Palestinian civilians in attacks targeting houses full of families, and of destroying high-rise buildings with no justification.

“Palestinian armed groups, including the armed wing of Hamas, repeatedly launched unlawful attacks during the conflict,” said Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa director, Philip Luther.

“In launching these attacks, they displayed a flagrant disregard for international humanitarian law and for the consequences of their violations on civilians in both Israel and the Gaza Strip.

Palestinians walk past destroyed buildings in Gaza City's Shejaiya district (23 February 2015)
More than 16,000 homes in Gaza were destroyed or rendered uninhabitable by the fighting

“The devastating impact of Israeli attacks on Palestinian civilians during the conflict is undeniable, but violations by one side in a conflict can never justify violations by their opponents.”

Amnesty’s report also detailed other violations of international humanitarian law by Palestinian groups during the conflict, such as storing rockets and other munitions in civilian buildings, including UN schools, and cases where armed groups launched attacks or stored munitions very near locations where hundreds of civilians were sheltering.

Hamas spokesman Tahir al-Nounou told the BBC that the report was “based on the Israeli narrative”.

“It contains a lot of inaccuracies and false allegations,” he added. “The [Israeli] Occupation put troops in civilian areas and the [Palestinian] Resistance did not target the civilian population.”

An Israeli government spokesman said Israel welcomed Amnesty’s “highlighting of Hamas’s war crimes, including the deliberate targeting of Israel’s civilian population by thousands of rockets and mortars.

“Unlike Hamas, Israel is vigorously investigating its conduct, aiming to draw lessons and minimise civilian harm. Meanwhile, Hamas continues to incite terror attacks against Israeli civilians, boasts of building new cross-border assault tunnels and test-fires rockets, in preparation for further violence against Israelis,” the official said.

Report: Switzerland Will Pay Salaries to Hamas Operatives in Gaza

From the Algemeiner:

Switzerland has put together a plan to reconstruct the Gaza Strip which includes paying the salaries of Hamas operatives, according to Palestinian officials interviewed by Israel’s NRG website. The plan would also reestablish the status of the Hamas terrorist organization as the only authority in the Gaza Strip.Qatar Mashaal

In recent months, according to the report, Hamas has been faced with the danger of collapsing in Gaza, and turned to Swiss officials for help. Its relations with Egypt are at their worst ever, and funds intended to rehabilitate the coastal enclave after Israel’s Operation Protective Edge last summer have run out. Thousands of Hamas officials have not received their salaries for months, leading to weakening of Hamas’ legitimacy in Gaza, and raising the specter of protests against Hamas’ rule.

The Palestinian sources told NRG that the Swiss jumped into the fray and promised to pay the salaries of thousands of Hamas officials.

The issue of salary payments for Gaza based government employees has been the source of tensions between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas for some time.

The terms of the new Swiss program also reportedly include a resolution to this long-standing crisis between Hamas and the PA. Just last Sunday, a Swiss delegation arrived in the Gaza Strip with the goal of reconciling the parties.

Switzerland’s relations with Hamas have been warming for a number of years. In 2009, the Swiss government initiated an Israeli-Palestinian conference, which was attended by former Israeli parliamentarian Yossi Beilin and members of Hamas, in order to discuss the possibility of renewing the peace process. That same year, Switzerland hosted a Hamas delegation lead by co-founder Mahmoud Al-Zahar on its own territory. Micheline Calmy-Rey, the Swiss Foreign Minister at the time, explained her country’s decision, saying “Hamas is an important player in the Middle East conflict, and cannot be ignored.”

Diplomatic sources have noted that Switzerland’s policy towards Hamas is very forgiving, unlike the much sterner policy of EU-member States which consider it a terrorist organization and are forbidden from maintaining contacts with Hamas.