Saturday, 7 February 2009
Friday, 6 February 2009
fonte: The Harvard Crimson; fotos:AP on Yahoo
A Context for Gaza
Published On Monday, February 02, 2009 12:02 AM
I hope that the recent war, occurring at the beginning of the Obama presidency, will lead to enough discussion of Israel and Palestine in the Harvard community so that more of us feel able to take positions. With that in mind, I will use my space to present a factual picture one would think controversial, but which surprisingly is a matter of consensus of “informed observers.”
The Israeli “new historian” Benny Morris—a strong Zionist—has documented the “Origins of the Palestine Refugee Problem.” During military operations in 1947 and 1948 against Palestinian resisters and Arab invading armies trying ineffectually to prevent the creation of a Jewish state, Jewish regular and irregular forces, sometimes using carefully calibrated terror tactics, drove somewhere between 600,000 and 800,000 Palestinian men, women and children from their villages, which they then leveled. After the war, they used force to prevent any of them from returning. Then the new state summarily confiscated their land and property for redistribution to Jews. The remaining Arab population of Israel—now about 20 percent—eventually received formal legal equality, but live in second-class citizen status similar to that of American blacks in the North before affirmative action and the rise of the new black bourgeoisie.
In 1967, Israel preemptively attacked Egypt, Jordan and Syria, and occupied the West Bank and Gaza, largely populated by refugees of 1948, as well as East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and Sinai (later returned to Egypt). This generated another approximately 200,000 Palestinian refugees who were also forbidden to return. Since 1973, Israeli governments have gradually moved about 400,000 Jewish settlers into the West Bank and another 200,000 into East Jerusalem, appropriating about 50 percent of the land (when roads and other infrastructure are taken into account), taking over the water, and alternately exploiting and starving the West Bank and Gaza economies to the point where the Arab population is overwhelmingly dependent on the international “donor community” for subsistence.
Palestinian non-violent and violent resistance to the military occupation is fully legal under international law. On the other hand, many of the specific tactics, especially airplane hijacking, suicide bombing targeting civilians, including children and old people, and indiscriminate rocket attacks, have been widely denounced as criminal.
The Israeli government justifies the wall, check points, the network of access roads, the discriminatory legal regime, the pass laws, arbitrary arrests, house demolitions, targeted assassinations, torture, and everyday military control as necessary for the security of the settlements (viewed as illegal everywhere but in Israel), and to protect against terrorism inside Israel. The international human rights NGOs such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the United Nations that have denounced Palestinian terror tactics have unanimously condemned Israel on many occasions for violating the human rights of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.
After Israel withdrew its settlers from Gaza in 2005, it retained full control of land and sea borders and of the air space. It periodically entered the territory with the goal of suppressing rocket fire aimed indiscriminately at southern Israeli towns. Over the four years before the December 2008 invasion, this rocket fire killed 13 Israeli civilians and made life miserable for tens of thousands of inhabitants of the towns targeted.
After Hamas won the Palestinian legislative elections in 2006, Israel and the U.S. set out to isolate Hamas by cutting off Gaza from the outside world. The justification was that Hamas was a terrorist organization “dedicated to the destruction of Israel.” Israel and its allies persisted in this strategy in spite of repeated indications, reported faithfully in the New York Times, that Hamas, like the Palestine Liberation Organization of Yasser Arafat before it, was looking for face-saving means to alter its position and accept a two-state solution.
The economic and financial sanctions, including stop-and-go electricity and fuel for the people and for institutions like hospitals, along with Israeli restrictions of the movement of goods and persons into and out of Gaza, destroyed what little productive capacity the occupation had left in Gaza. It turned the territory, according to the cliché, into a “prison camp,” where the inmates were dependent on charity and Israeli government whim to keep them precariously one step away from “full fledged humanitarian crisis.” When this did not cause a revolt against Hamas in Gaza, Israel and the U.S., according to an article in Vanity Fair not yet refuted, organized a PLO coup, which failed, and led Hamas to expel the PLO from Gaza. There was eventually a truce between Israel and Hamas.
The Hamas claim, which seems basically sound to me, is that Israel was mainly responsible for its ending: Hamas suppressed almost, but not all rocket fire; Israel retaliated for the residuum by refusing to open the borders, so that Gazan misery continued unabated or worsened, and then carried out an armed incursion in November 2008. When Hamas refused to renew the truce and recommenced rocket fire, Israel invaded.
Numerous observers have charged Israel with committing war crimes during the war. Without downplaying that aspect, I think it is important to understand the 1,300 Palestinian casualties, including 400 children as well as many, many women, versus 13 Israeli casualties, as typical of a particular kind of “police action” that Western colonial powers and Western “ethno-cratic settler regimes” like ours in the U.S., Canada, Australia, Serbia and particularly apartheid South Africa, have historically undertaken to convince resisting native populations that unless they stop resisting they will suffer unbearable death and deprivation. Not just in 1947 and 1948, but also in Lebanon in 1982 and 2006, Israel used similar tactics.
Causing horrific civilian deaths is often perfectly defensible under the laws of war, which favor conventional over unconventional forces in asymmetric warfare. The outright “crimes,” like the My Lai massacre, Abu Ghraib, or Russian massacres in Afghanistan and then in Chechnya, are less important for the civilian victims than the daily tactics of air assault, bombardment, and brutal door-to-door sweeps, meant to draw fire from the resisters that will justify leveling houses and the people in them.
Can this picture be right? If so, what is to be done? If not, what is to be done? If you are not already clear about what you think, it is crucial to try to find out for yourself. If the situation is as bad as I have painted, you might consider some small step, perhaps just a contribution to humanitarian relief for Gaza, or e-mailing the White House, or something more, like advocating for Harvard to divest.
Duncan Kennedy ’64 is the Carter Professor of General Jurisprudence at Harvard Law School.
Israel detains 548 Palestinians without trial: rights group
JERUSALEM (AFP) – A total of 548 Palestinians are detained without trial in Israel, including 42 who have been held for over two years, the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem said on Thursday.
Among thedetained without trail, two have been held for four and a half years, B'Tselem said in its annual report.
Six of those detained without trial in December were minors, including two girls, the report said.
It said a total of 7,904 Palestinians were in Israeli custody at the end of December.
The report also said that by December 26 Israeli security forces last year killed 455 Palestinians, including 87 minors. It said at least 175 of those killed did not take part in the hostilities. Eighteen Israeli civilians and 10 were killed by Palestinians in the same period, the report said. The figures do not include casualties from the 22-day military offensive Israel launched in Gaza on December 27, which left more than 1,300 Palestinians and 13 dead.
fonte: counterpunch; fotos: AP on Yahoo
The Story of Khaled Abd Rabo
By SAMEH A. HABEEB and JANET ZIMMERMAN
We began our journey and were barely able to reach the town of Abd Rabo. As we drove along, our car dipped to the right and to the left. The ground was rutted from the holes that the Israelis tore into the streets with their bombs, their bulldozing, and their fires. The land was also wounded. A once lush and tranquil neighborhood had been transformed into hell on earth. Our eyes were filled with nothing but devastation, and masses of people covered the place like flies.
Our car came to a halt and we walked down the street to Khaled's shattered home. And there was Khaled himself, sitting in the rubble of what was once a happier time.
"This house used to have four floors, and a nice garden. It brought us peace and tranquility," he began to tell us. "The Israeli army came to this house many times before, but the last was in March of 2008."
He explains how they invaded his home and investigated him and his family. "They found nothing. I am a police officer in the Ramallah government; I have nothing to do with Hamas.
"That day when they left us, they did not take anything or harm anyone," he continued. "I remember it was 12:50pm on the fourth day of the military ground invasion when the army took control of the region. A real battlefield was born and thousands of people were trapped. Nobody could leave due to the excessive fire from the Israelis, and the soldiers kept on coming, and coming, and coming.
"And then the tanks came. One of them was based only meters away from my house. There were twenty-five of us, and we were all told to leave," he said as his voice trembled and he began to cry. "The soldiers were eating chips and chocolate, and they were smiling when they killed my daughters.
"My mother, my wife, and my three daughters all held white flags when they tried to leave the house. We saw two of the soldiers get out of their tank, and we told them how we wanted to leave. We waited and waited for their response but were given no answer. Then, to our own surprise, a third soldier emerged and he opened fire on the children with insanity.
"Souad was only seven years old, Summer was three, and Amal was of only two years. My mother was shot as well, and I watched all that I loved fall to the ground. I screamed for them to stop! I ran into the house to call civil defense, ambulances, anyone who could help.
"For one hour the injured were bleeding, and two of my daughters were killed despite the so called ceasefire. No help was able to come to us in time. One of the ambulances tried, but the Israeli soldiers stopped the paramedic and forced him to remove his clothing. They then bombed the ambulance and it was buried in rubble. The paramedic fled naked while their fire surrounded him.
"I left the house with some of my family members," Khaled continued. "We carried my mother in a crib. I held Summer in my arms, and she was still breathing despite her gaping spinal wound. I thought to myself, 'no way can I leave little Summer, even if I end up dead like my other two daughters.' I passed her to my brother and then took the body of Souad in my hands, and my wife held Amal as we left the house.
"The soldiers were firing uncontrollably above their heads and everywhere around them. Many of the houses were demolished by their tanks. As we crossed one of the roads, there was a man and he tried to save us but the snipers saw this and killed both him and his horse. When we finally reached the town of Jabaliya, we saw that everyone had brought all of the injured citizens here. So shocked were we by what we saw that we threw our bodies to the ground, and for one hour we remained there unable to fathom what has become of our people."
We asked him why he thought they would kill his children. He replied, "I am certain they were drunk, or were given orders to kill everyone including the children. This was on Harets a couple of days ago, that many Israeli rabbis were giving orders to leave no one alive," he explained. "I don't know why my daughters were killed. They never committed any crimes, they were children! They did not fire rockets at Israel, although Israel claims to only aim at those who have first fired at them.
"We are a very peaceful people, we have nothing to do with fighting or rockets. I know if I go to the court about what has happened the Israeli army would create thousands of pretexts to make their soldiers appear innocent. They have done this with many other cases before," he went on.
"It was not a war between two immense armies. Obviously, it was a war between civilians and the fourth largest army in the world: Israel. But they do not call it a war. They call it an operation."
An operation where tens of thousands of Gazans were either killed or psychologically and physically wounded. The devastation did not only effect the people, but all you can imagine. Yet buildings can be repaired and the land will grow again, but Khaled's mayhem will never be alleviated. He will never hear the laughter of Saoud and Amal again, but he will hear the aching cries of Summer. She is now paraplegic due to her injuries. The only thing that functions is her mind. A mind that will forever be telling the nightmare of what happened to her life. Even during her first interview in the hospital, in every single detail, she narrated the story to Al-Jazeera as Khaled did to us.
Photos of Khaled and the scene of the crime.
Sameh Habeeb is a twenty-three year old journalist based in the Gaza Strip. He has been active for years to bring out the word of his people's suffering.Janet Zimmerman is a twenty-one year old journalist and an American citizen, determined to help after she had seen the horrendous crimes that perpetrated in Gaza by Israel. She crossed thousands of miles to evaluate the situation with her own eyes, her own mind, and her own heart. She stumbled across Sameh's work online, and it was not long before they became friends and united in the struggle to open the eyes of the world to the agonies in which they are so often closed
BBC's "impartiality" anything but
Muhammad Idrees Ahmad, The Electronic Intifada, 4 February 2009
|(Nidal El Khairy)|
"The BBC cannot be neutral in the struggle between truth and untruth, justice and injustice, freedom and slavery, compassion and cruelty, tolerance and intolerance." Thus read a 1972 internal document called Principles and Practice in News and Current Affairs laying out the guidelines for the BBC's coverage of conflicts. It appears to affirm that in cases of oppression and injustice to be neutral is to be complicit, because neutrality reinforces the status quo. This partiality to truth, justice, freedom, compassion and tolerance it deems "within the consensus about basic moral values." It is this consensus that the BBC spurned when it refused to broadcast the Disaster Emergency Committee (DEC)'s video appeal to help the people of Gaza.
The presumption that underlies the decision is that the BBC has always been impartial when it comes to Israel-Palestine. An exhaustive 2004 study by the Glasgow University Media Group, Bad News from Israel, shows that the BBC's coverage is systematically biased in favor of Israel. It excludes context and history to focus on day-to-day events; it invariably inverts reality to frame these as Palestinian "provocation" against Israeli "retaliation." The context is always Israeli "security," and in interviews the Israeli perspective predominates. There is also a marked difference in the language used to describe casualties on either side; and despite the far more numerous Palestinian victims, Israeli casualties receive more air time.
Many of these findings were subsequently confirmed in a 2006 independent review commissioned by the BBC's board of governors which found its coverage of the conflict "incomplete" and "misleading." The review highlighted in particular the BBC's selective use of the word "terrorism" and its failure "to convey adequately the disparity in the Israeli and Palestinian experience, reflecting the fact that one side is in control and the other lives under occupation."
These biases were once more evident in the corporation's coverage of the recent assault on Gaza. A false sense of balance was sustained by erasing from the narrative the root cause of the conflict: instead of occupier and occupied, we had a "war" or a "battle" -- as if between equals. In most stories the word occupation was not mentioned once. On the other hand the false Israeli claim that the occupation of Gaza ended in 2005 was frequently repeated, even though access to the strip's land, sea and airspace remain under Israeli control, and the United Nations still recognizes Israel as the occupying power. In accepting the spurious claims of one side over the judgment of the world's pre-eminent multilateral institution, the BBC has already forfeited its impartiality.
The BBC presented the assault as an Israeli war of self-defense, a narrative that could only be sustained by effacing the 1,250 Palestinians (including 222 children) killed by the Israeli military between 2005 and 2008. It downplayed the siege which denies Palestinians in Gaza access to fuel, food, water and medicine. It presented Hamas's ineffectual rockets as the cause of the conflict when it was Israel's breech of the six-month truce on 4 November which triggered hostilities. It described the massacre of refugees in an UN relief agency compound in the context of Israel's "objectives" and "security." The security needs of the Palestinians received scant attention. Selective indices were used to create an illusion of balance: instead of comparing Palestinian casualties to those suffered by Israel (more than 1300 to 13) the BBC chose to match them with the number of rockets fired by Hamas. No similar figures were produced for the tonnage of ordnance dropped on the Palestinians.
A parade of Israeli officials -- uniformed and otherwise -- were always at hand to explain away Israeli war crimes. The only Palestinians quoted were from the Palestinian Authority, a faction even the BBC's own Jeremy Paxman identified as collaborators, even though the assault was described invariably as an "Israel-Hamas" conflict, much as the 2006 Israeli invasion was framed as an "Israel-Hizballah" war. This despite the fact that Israel made no attempts to discriminate between the groups it was claiming to target and the wider population. As one Israeli military official bragged, Israel was "trying to hit the whole spectrum, because everything is connected and everything supports terrorism against Israel." Indeed, given the ratio of civilian to combatant deaths, it would have been far more accurate to describe the assaults as "Israeli army-Lebanon," and "Israeli army-Palestine" conflicts.
To be sure, Palestinian civilian deaths were mentioned, but only in terms of their "cost" to Israel's image. Where Israeli crimes were particularly atrocious, the BBC retreated to condemning "both sides." Israeli civilian deaths were elevated to headlines; Palestinians relegated to the bottom. The aforementioned massacre of Palestinian refugees received the same amount of coverage as the funeral of a single Israeli soldier. A hole in an Israeli roof from a Palestinian rocket often received the same attention as the destruction of a whole Gaza neighborhood. There was also no investigation of Israel's widely reported use of white phosphorus, and of the dense inert metal explosive (DIME) munitions. The coverage of the unprecedented worldwide protests was also minimal. Critical voices were by and large excluded.
If there were no occupier and occupied in the conflict; no oppressor and oppressed, no state and stateless; then clearly assisting victims on one side would compromise "impartiality." This view posits the Palestinian population as a whole as an adversary to the Israeli war machine. The BBC's decision not to acknowledge the victims of the conflict is a function of its biased coverage. When it spent three weeks providing a completely distorted image of the slaughter carried out by one of the world's mightiest militaries against a defenseless civilian population, it is unsurprising that it should fear viewers questioning how such a "balanced" conflict could produce so many victims. And if the Israelis are able to look after their own, why should the Palestinians need British assistance?
When there is no mention of the violent dispossession of the Palestinians, or of the occupation; no mention of the crippling siege, or of the daily torments of the oppressed, viewers would naturally find it hard to comprehend the reality. For if these truths were to be revealed, the policy of the British government would appear even less reasonable. As a state chartered body, however, the BBC is no more likely to antagonize the government as a politician in the government is to antagonize the Israel lobby. Indeed, the BBC's director general Mark Thompson can hardly be described as a disinterested party: in 2005 he made a trip to Jerusalem where he met with Ariel Sharon in what was seen in Israel as an attempt to "build bridges" and "a 'softening' to the corporation's unofficial editorial line on the Middle East." Thompson, "a deeply religious man," is "a Catholic, but his wife is Jewish, and he has a far greater regard for the Israeli cause than some of his predecessors" sources at the corporation told The Independent. Shortly afterwards Orla Guerin, an exceptionally courageous and honest journalist responsible for most of the corporation's rare probing and hard-hitting reports, was sacked as the BBC's Middle East correspondent and transferred to Africa in response to complaints from the Israeli government.
But this decision to refuse a charity appeal has consequences that go far beyond any of the BBC's earlier failings: as the respected British MP Tony Benn put it, "people will die because of the BBC decision." It is so blatantly unjust that the only question the BBC management might want to mull over is just how irreparable the damage from this controversy might be to its reputation. The organization that only days earlier was reporting with glee a letter by Chinese intellectuals boycotting their state media is today itself the subject of boycotts across Britain, not just by intellectuals, but by artists, scholars, citizens and even the International Atomic Energy Agency. Much like Pravda and Izvestia during the Cold War, today it is the BBC that has emerged as the most apposite metaphor for state propaganda.
Muhammad Idrees Ahmad is a member of Spinwatch.org, and the co-editor of Pulsemedia.org. He can be reached at email@example.com. This essay was originally appeared on Counterpunch and is republished with the author's permission.
foto: Egyptian blogger fonte:counterpunch;
Collusion, Complicity and Sheer Insanity
Gaza and the Crimes of Mubarak
By RANNIE AMIRI
As staggering as the statistics detailing Gaza’s destruction may be, they still do not present a complete picture of the unique travesties and tragedies suffered by individuals, families, neighborhoods and villages during Israel’s savage 22-day assault on the tiny territory. Yet, they bear repeating. From the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (www.pcbs.gov.ps) and various NGOs:
- 1,334 killed, one-third of them children (more children than ‘militants’ were killed)
- 5,450 injured, one-third of them children
- 100,000 displaced, 50,000 made homeless
- 4,100 residential homes and buildings destroyed, 17,000 damaged (together accounting for 14 percent of all buildings in Gaza)
- 29 destroyed educational institutions, including the American International School
- 92 destroyed or damaged mosques
- 1,500 destroyed shops, factories and other commercial facilities
- 20 destroyed ambulances
- 35-60% of agricultural land ruined
- $1.9 billion in total estimated damages
In the face of such massive devastation and hardship—and this after the crippling 18-month siege had already reduced Gazato a state of bare subsistence—the behavior and actions of the regime of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak remain as contemptible after the war as they were before.
On Dec. 25, just two days prior to the onset of the vicious aerial bombardment of Gaza, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni met with Mubarak in Cairo. It is understood that Egypt gave the green light for the attack in the hope that the ruling (and democratically-elected) Islamist group Hamas would be toppled and the more pliant Fatah faction, led by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, would supplant it.
Rafah crossing sealed
The reasons for Mubarak’s animus toward Hamas, and by extension, for his reprehensible decision to keep the vital Rafah border crossing with Gaza closed to humanitarian supplies was explained earlier.
Apologists for the dictator will say the 2005 agreement between Israel, the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the European Union (EU) that regulates movement across the border prohibits it from being opened in the absence of PA and EU observers.
It makes no mention, however, of barring critical humanitarian goods from reaching the territory, where conditions were becoming ever more desperate. Additionally, Egypt was a non-signatory to the treaty, which had already expired after one year and was never renewed.
If keeping the Rafah crossing—the only gateway to non-Israeli territory from Gaza—closed before and during the war was not a criminal act, doing so in its aftermath must surely be.
Preventing Gaza’s children from obtaining medical care
Reporting for The National, Jonathan Cook details four cases of children in Gaza who required urgent, life-saving surgery in France, but were denied entry into Egypt via Rafah. As the aunt of the one of the war’s child casualties remarked, “Each morning we arrived at the crossing and the Egyptian soldiers cursed us and told us to go away.”
Doctors accompanying the children were allowed to pass into Egypt, but the ambulances carrying them were not. Their exclusion was attributed to the Palestinian health ministry in Ramallah who did not authorize their exit, stating there was “no more reason to refer any more children for treatment abroad.” Egyptian authorities abided by their ruling, not wanting to create diplomatic trouble.
But that is no excuse.
First, Hamas, democratically elected to power in the 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections, is the legitimate governing authority. Second, the term of Mahmoud Abbas as president of the PA expired on Jan. 9. Finally, emergency medical situations always take precedent over (alleged) bureaucratic considerations. Those in control of the Rafah crossing must be held directly responsible.
Feeding Israeli soldiers, not Gaza’s people
In light of catastrophic circumstances due to lack of basic foodstuffs (75 percent of Gaza’s children are thought to be malnourished and 30 percent are stunted in growth), a recent report by the popular Egyptian weekly Al-Osboa was all the more shocking. It revealed that an Egyptian company was allowed to provide Israel Defense Force soldiers with food during the war while Gazans were starving.
Iranian Red Crescent ship kept offshore
An Iranian ship sent by the country’s Red Crescent Society carrying 2,000 tons of medical supplies and other humanitarian aid for Gaza continues to be anchored 15 miles off Gaza’s shore. It had already been intercepted and prevented by the Israeli navy from reaching Gaza. Now, it awaits permission to dock in the Egyptian port of Al-Areesh to unload its cargo. To date, permission has not been grated.
In light of the above, blistering criticism of the Egyptian regime’s behavior has come from Hezbollah leader Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah:
“[Egypt] told the Arab and Islamic world that the Rafah border was opened and it was not … The opening of the Rafah crossing is crucial to the Palestinian people, the Resistance and the living conditions there … its closure is one of the biggest crimes in history.”
The reply from the Egyptian government was all too predictable:
“Hassan Nasrallah's criticism of Egypt confirms once more that he is nothing more than an agent of the Iranian regime and takes his orders from Tehran.”
Irrespective of whether Nasrallah takes orders from Tehran or Tokyo, there were no substantive answers to his accusations. Instead, Egypt reverted to parroting tired anti-Iranian rhetoric which increasingly is falling on deaf ears.
Abetting the siege of Gaza, giving sanction to the Israeli onslaught and its crimes against humanity, and afterward, preventing aid from getting into the territory and the injured from getting out, are all egregious offenses.
Just as many call for Olmert, Barak, Livni and the generals and soldiers who participated in this war to be prosecuted for violating international law and committing war crimes, Mubarak’s own complicity makes him equally liable in facing similar charges.
Rannie Amiri is an independent commentator on the Middle East. He may be reached at: rbamiri at yahoo dot com.
fonte:counterpunch; fotos:AP on Yahoo news
Israel's Unjust War on Gaza
Self-Defense Against Peace
By MICHAEL MANDEL
Did self-defence justify Israel’s war on Gaza?
Objections have been raised to this claim on grounds of a lack of both proportionality and necessity. To kill over 1000 Palestinians in 3 weeks, hundreds of them children, and wound thousands more, in order to deter a threat from rockets that did not kill or injure anybody in Israel for the six months the truce was declared by both sides, or even before Israel launched its attack on December 27, is so disproportionate as to be intolerable in any ethical system that holds Palestinian lives equal in value to Israeli lives. It is also so disproportionate as to defy belief that defence against these rockets was the real motive of the war. To ignore the many diplomatic avenues available to avoid even this threat, such as lifting the suffocating 18-month siege, suggests the same thing.
A more fundamental objection, however, is the self-evident legal and moral principle that an aggressor cannot rely upon self-defence to justify violence against resistance to its own aggression. You can find this principle in domestic law and in the judgments of the Nuremberg tribunals.
To quote one Nuremberg judge:
On of the most amazing phenomena of this case which does not lack in startling features is the manner in which the aggressive war conducted by Germany against Russia has been treated by the defense as if it were the other way around. …If it is assumed that some of the resistance units in Russia or members of the population did commit acts which were in themselves unlawful under the rules of war, it would still have to be shown that these acts were not in legitimate defense against wrongs perpetrated upon them by the invader. Under International Law, as in Domestic Law, there can be no reprisal against reprisal. The assassin who is being repulsed by his intended victim may not slay him and then, in turn, plead self defense. (Trial of Otto Ohlendorf and others, Military Tribunal II-A, April 8, 1948)
So who was the aggressor here?
There would have been no question as to who was the aggressor had this attack taken place before Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza strip in 2005. At that point Israel had been committing a continuous aggression against Gaza for 38 years, in its illegal and violent occupation of it, along with the rest of the Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, after its conquest in 1967.
By 2005, the occupation had been condemned as illegal by the highest organs with jurisdiction over international law, most notably the International Court of Justice in its 2004 opinion on the separation barrier. A central illegality of the occupation for the International Court lay in Israel’s settlements, which violate the law against colonization, and which are central to the occupation. The fifteen judges of the International Court were unanimously of the opinion that the settlements were illegal and the wall itself was held by a majority of 13-2 to be illegal, partly because it was there to defend the settlements, and not Israel itself, and thus could not qualify as self-defence.
The rocket attacks from Gaza started in 2001 and took their first Israeli victim in 2004. Since then, there had been 14 Israeli victims prior to the current war. Tragic, indeed, but obviously paling in comparison to the 1700 Palestinians killed in Gaza during the same period. One death is indeed a tragedy, but many deaths are not just “a statistic”, as Stalin had it; they are the tragedy multiplied many times over. Given Israel’s illegal, aggressive and violent occupation, prior to the withdrawal, Gaza rockets could only be regarded as necessary and proportionate self-defence, or as reprisals against Israel’s aggression.
Did Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 change the situation?
It has been forcefully argued that the 18-month siege of Gaza, a major reason for Hamas’ refusal to extend the truce, was itself an act of aggression, giving rise to a right of self-defence.
But even more important, though usually ignored, is Israel’s continued illegal and aggressive occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem after the withdrawal from Gaza in 2005. Indeed, the withdrawal from Gaza was intended to strengthen the hold on the other territories and was accompanied by a greater increase in the number of settlers there than those removed from Gaza.
The occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem figured equally with Gaza in the condemnations of the World Court and the Security Council. Furthermore, in the Oslo Accords, Israel and the Palestinians agreed that “The two sides view the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as a single territorial unit, the integrity and status of which will be preserved during the interim period.” Indeed, when Hamas won the elections in 2006, elections declared impeccably fair and civil by all international observers, it won them for the whole of the Palestinian Authority, including the West Bank (it was not allowed by Israel to campaign in East Jerusalem). Many Hamas West Bank legislators remain in Israeli jails.
And the basic fact is that the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza are one people, however separated they are by walls and fences and check-points. Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from one part of that people’s land cannot turn that people into aggressors when they resist the illegal occupation of the rest.
So self-defense cannot justify this attack, or the siege that preceded it. What can? That Hamas is a “terrorist organization”? But terrorism is about deliberately killing civilians for illegal political ends, and in that enterprise, Israel has topped Hamas by many multiples. That Hamas does not recognize Israel’s “right to exist”? But Hamas has offered many times to make a long-term truce with Israel on the basis of the legal international borders, something it is clearly entitled to insist upon. Israel says that’s not good enough, that Hamas first has to recognize Israel’s legitimacy, in other words, it has to concede the legitimacy of the Jewish state and all it has meant to the Palestinians. In other words, as one Israeli journalist ironized, Israel is insisting that Hamas embrace Zionism as a condition of even talking peace with it.
These are not justifications for violence on this or any scale. Indeed, they point to the most plausible reason Israel is fighting Hamas (and the PLO before it): self-defence, if you will, not against rockets and mortars, but against having to make peace with the Palestinians on the basis of the pre-1967 borders as required by international law.
Michael Mandel is Professor of Law at Osgoode Hall Law School of York University in Toronto, where he teaches the Law of War. He is the author of How America Gets Away with Murder.
Eva Bartlett writing from the occupied Gaza Strip, Live from Lebanon, 5 February 2009
|Abu Qusay buried under the rubble. (Source unknown)|
Abu Qusay is in his 30s, is the father of six kids between the ages of four and 15, and has worked as a policeman and security guard for 14 years. When the late Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat was alive, Abu Qusay was a bodyguard for wife Suha Arafat.
In recent times, since the election of Hamas, he has continued in his role as security guard, these days accompanying VIPs as well as being the manager of security for international guests.
It was in this capacity that I met Abu Qusay and Hamza, a police officer who looked after internationals who came to Gaza on the Free Gaza Movement boats. Hamza was killed during the first attacks on 27 December 2008.
In one of Gaza's coastal hotel cafes, Mediterranean seascape in the background and F-16 flying overhead, Abu Qusay related his story. He is a survivor of the first attacks, during which an estimated 60 Israeli warplanes simultaneously targeted approximately 100 police stations, police training academies, civil and governmental offices and other security-related posts throughout the Gaza Strip.
"We had a meeting at the presidential compound. There were about 15 of us and we'd entered the third floor meeting room shortly after 11am. I was sitting two seats away from the manager at the head of the table, with a friend in between us and the other attendees spread around the table. The manager was speaking when the first strikes hit."
An F-16 flew low overhead, growling loudly. Abu Qusay stiffened, stopped speaking suddenly, resuming after a pause.
"The explosion itself was strange, unlike other bomb blasts. I felt an immense air pressure which pushed me to the ground. Then I heard the explosion of the buildings nearby. It was such a foreign sensation, I didn't know what was going on."
"I tried to open my eyes and found that I couldn't. The air was thick with dust which blinded me. I felt something running down my face. I tried many times to open my eyes but the dust stung them so much that it was impossible for a while. Finally, I was able to keep them open but I still couldn't see anything. Just a small hole of light. It seemed like I was facing a wall with a tiny break in it.
I felt someone's foot at my head and told the person to get their shoe away from my face. I was still disoriented, still had no idea what had happened. I tried to push the shoe away but found that my arms were pinned behind me, as if handcuffed. There was still liquid streaming down my face and I realized it was blood.
"I began to hear the screaming and moaning of people around me. Then I heard a woman's voice, which I recognized as one of my colleagues. Then Hamza's voice, telling us to be patient.
"I felt the crushing weight moving off of me and then realized I was being pulled out from what had been burying me: concrete blocks and the rubble of our building. I realized that the third floor room where we had been meeting was now on the ground floor. Three floors brought down to ground level.
"I woke up at al-Shifa hospital, realized I'd passed out at the bomb site. Around me, all around me, all I could see were bodies. Corpses and wounded were scattered on the floor of the emergency room. There were so many, too many for the beds. People with legs and arms amputated. People with hideous open wounds.
It was surreal: I had been in a meeting, then was buried under rubble, then was surrounded by so much death. I couldn't grasp it, couldn't understand what had happened.
"I forgot myself, I lost myself. I forgot my pain when I saw a child who had been at a school near the Montada. His head was pierced with wounds. I got up, was walking around looking at everyone. I was absorbed by it. Doctors and others were telling me to sit down, stay put. Where are you going, you're injured? they asked.
"Living in Gaza, we expect anything from Israel. Any attacks. We've lived through so many invasions and bombings. But I couldn't believe this, couldn't believe the scale of what they had done. And I didn't even know about the other areas of Gaza at the time."
More F-16s growled above as Abu Qusay continued his story.
"I used to drive ambulances. I'd learned how because I believe its important to broaden my skills, and I'm always trying to do so. But in all my days of driving ambulances, I'd never seen injuries and dead as horrific as what I saw that day. So many amputations, decapitations even.
"And I keep remembering that child, the one from the school nearby. Were there fighters in the school when Israel bombed nearby? What had that child done? What had any of us working for the government done? Could this ever happen to policemen in America, Canada or England? How can these criminals who would bomb in areas where there are civilians, children coming from school, who kill animals and uproot trees not be recognized as terrorists? They've committed massacres against us."
Abu Qusay is obviously among the lucky, having survived the bombing with limbs intact. Like so many Palestinians in Gaza, though, he lost a number of friends in the attacks. I try to imagine how it would be to lose more than one friend, say 10, or more than one family member, say seven, or like the Samouni family, 48. It's impossible to imagine.
Eva Bartlett is a Canadian human rights advocate and freelancer who spent eight months in 2007 living in West Bank communities and four months in Cairo and at the Rafah crossing. She is currently based in the Gaza Strip after having arrived with the third Free Gaza Movement boat in November. She has been working with the International Solidarity Movement in Gaza, accompanying ambulances while witnessing and documenting the ongoing Israeli air strikes and ground invasion of the Gaza Strip.
Thursday, 5 February 2009
Israeli army "subcontracted" by extremist settlers
Jonathan Cook, The Electronic Intifada, 4 February 2009
|An Israeli soldier inspects a wall of a mosque desecrated by suspected Jewish settlers, reading "Muhammad is a pig," West Bank city of Qalqiliya, December 2008. (Khaleel Reash/MaanImages)|
Extremist rabbis and their followers, bent on waging holy war against the Palestinians, are taking over the Israeli army by stealth, according to critics.
In a process one military historian has termed the rapid "theologization" of the Israeli army, there are now entire units of religious combat soldiers, many of them based in West Bank settlements. They answer to hardline rabbis who call for the establishment of a Greater Israel that includes the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
Their influence in shaping the army's goals and methods is starting to be felt, say observers, as more and more graduates from officer courses are also drawn from Israel's religious extremist population.
"We have reached the point where a critical mass of religious soldiers is trying to negotiate with the army about how and for what purpose military force is employed on the battlefield," said Yigal Levy, a political sociologist at the Open University who has written several books on the Israeli army.
The new atmosphere was evident in the "excessive force" used in the recent Gaza operation, Dr Levy said. More than 1,300 Palestinians were killed, a majority of them civilians, and thousands were injured as whole neighborhoods of Gaza were leveled.
"When soldiers, including secular ones, are imbued with theological ideas, it makes them less sensitive to human rights or the suffering of the other side."
The greater role of extremist religious groups in the army came to light last week when it emerged that the army rabbinate had handed out a booklet to soldiers preparing for the recent 22-day Gaza offensive.
Yesh Din, an Israeli human rights group, said the material contained messages "bordering on racist incitement against the Palestinian people" and might have encouraged soldiers to ignore international law.
The booklet quotes extensively from Shlomo Aviner, a far-right rabbi who heads a religious seminary in the Muslim quarter of East Jerusalem. He compares the Palestinians to the Philistines, the Biblical enemy of the Jews.
He advises: "When you show mercy to a cruel enemy, you are being cruel to pure and honest soldiers ... This is a war on murderers." He also cites a Biblical ban on "surrendering a single millimeter" of Greater Israel.
The booklet was approved by the army's chief rabbi, Brig Gen Avichai Ronsky, who is reportedly determined to improve the army's "combat values" after its failure to crush Hizballah in Lebanon in 2006.
Gen Ronsky was appointed three years ago in a move designed, according to the Israeli media, to placate hardline religious elements within the army and the settler community.
Gen Ronsky, himself a settler in the West Bank community of Itimar, near Nablus, is close to far-right groups. According to reports, he pays regular visits to jailed members of Jewish terror groups; he has offered his home to a settler who is under house arrest for wounding Palestinians; and he has introduced senior officers to a small group of extremist settlers who live among more than 150,000 Palestinians in Hebron.
He has also radically overhauled the rabbinate, which was originally founded to offer religious services and ensure religious soldiers were able to observe the sabbath and eat kosher meals in army canteens.
Over the past year the rabbinate has effectively taken over the role of the army's education corps through its Jewish Awareness Department, which co-ordinates its activities with Elad, a settler organization that is active in East Jerusalem.
In October, the Haaretz newspaper quoted an unnamed senior officer who accused the rabbinate of carrying out the religious and political "brainwashing" of troops.
Levy said the army rabbinate's power was growing as the ranks of religious soldiers swelled.
Breaking the Silence, a project run by soldiers seeking to expose the army's behavior against Palestinians, said the booklet handed out to troops in Gaza had originated among Hebron's settlers.
"The document has been around since at least 2003," said Mikhael Manekin, 29, one of the group's directors and himself religiously observant. "But what is new is that the army has been effectively subcontracted to promote the views of the extremist settlers to its soldiers."
The power of the religious right in the army reflected wider social trends inside Israel, Levy said. He pointed out that the rural cooperatives known as kibbutzim that were once home to Israel's secular middle classes and produced the bulk of its officer corps had been on the wane since the early 1980s.
"The vacuum left by their gradual retreat from the army was filled by religious youngsters and by the children of the settlements. They now dominate in many branches of the army."
According to figures cited in the Israeli media, more than one-third of all Israel's combat soldiers are religious, as are more than 40 percent of those graduating from officer courses.
The army has encouraged this trend by creating some two dozen hesder yeshivas, seminaries in which youths can combine Biblical studies with army service in separate religious units. Many of the yeshivas are based in the West Bank, where students are educated by the settlements' extremist rabbis.
Ehud Barak, the defense minister, has rapidly expanded the program, approving four yeshivas, three based in settlements, last summer. Another 10 are reportedly awaiting his approval.
Manekin, however, warned against blaming the violence inflicted on Gaza's civilians solely on the influence of religious extremists.
"The army is still run by the secular elites in Israel and they have always been reckless with regard to the safety of civilians when they wage war. Jewish nationalism that justifies Palestinian deaths is just as dangerous as religious extremism."
Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East (Pluto Press) and Disappearing Palestine: Israel's Experiments in Human Despair (Zed Books). His website is www.jkcook.net.
A version of this article originally appeared in The National, published in Abu Dhabi.
Israel and the politics of friendship
Joseph Massad, The Electronic Intifada, 3 February 2009
|Palestinians in the West Bank city of Hebron gather around the body of a protester after he was killed by Israeli troops during a rally by Hamas supporters against Israel's military operation in Gaza, 16 January 2009. (Mamoun Wazwaz/MaanImages)|
The status of Israel as the enemy of the Arabs has largely depended in the last six decades on its enmity or alliance with Arab regimes and not with the Arab peoples. Insofar as Israel threatened Arab regimes, it was depicted by them as the enemy, insofar as it did not, it was welcomed as a friend.
This was certainly the case in Israel's ambivalent position toward the Jordanian regime with which it has allied itself since the 1920s while at the same time working to undermine the regime when some of its strategies changed. This in turn explains why the Jordanian regime was historically ambivalent about whether Israel was an enemy or an ally. In 1967, some in Israel contemplated unseating King Hussein from the throne while in 1970 Israel sought to extend its military assistance to buttress his throne. While King Hussein became convinced that Israel's ambivalence had been resolved by the early 1990s in favor of an alliance, many Jordanian nationalists as well as Jordanian chauvinists were not. It is in this context that many anti-Palestinian Jordanian nationalists opposed the peace agreement that Jordan signed with Israel in 1994 and pointed to the continuing Israeli ambivalence towards Jordan. They correctly observed that Israel would sacrifice the regime in favor of establishing a Palestinian state in Jordan after expelling all West Bank Palestinians to the country, a project that Ariel Sharon had been proposing since the 1970s and that retains support among key people in the Labor Party. Indeed, Sharon wanted Israel to support the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1970 against King Hussein.
The recent indecisiveness of the Jordanian government regarding the best response to Israel's carnage in Gaza was on account of the regime's uncertainty of where Israel's strategy lies at present. At the outset of the carnage, Jordanian intelligence chief Muhammad al-Dhahabi, who reopened talks with Hamas a few months ago, was dismissed from his job, while at the same time the government allowed massive demonstrations across the country with limited but evident police repression. But US, Saudi, and Egyptian pressure on Jordan have clearly won the day, especially in their insistence that Jordan return its ambassador to Tel Aviv whom it had recalled for a few days in protest. These developments show that the Jordanian government has a different set of priorities and worries than its Egyptian and Saudi counterparts, but that it hopes and prefers that Israel remain a friend and not become an enemy.
The Egyptian regime, which considers Israel its most important ally in the region after the United States, believes correctly that Israel is not trying to undermine it, which is why Israel has not been an enemy of Egypt since the mid 1970s. The days when Israel tried to destroy the Arab nationalist regime of Gamal Abdel Nasser are over, and since his successor Anwar Sadat's capitulationist overtures, Israel has been a sure supporter of the Egyptian regime, which supports Israel in turn, sometimes as many have recently speculated, to the regime's own detriment.
Since the Reagan years, Israel has also become the friend of the Saudi regime and later the rest of the Gulf monarchies, not to mention its longstanding friendship with the Moroccan kings. The Tunisian regime of Habib Bourguiba also refused to consider Israel an enemy since the 1960s as had fascist Christian forces in Lebanon which considered it and still consider it a friend. Most important in this context is how the Palestinian Authority (PA) under Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas no longer considered Israel an enemy, except briefly under Arafat before he died and when he realized that Israel was out to unseat him. Otherwise, both Arafat and Abbas, whose term as PA president expired on 9 January, could not and cannot get enough hugs and kisses from Israel's war criminal leaders.
This is a far cry from the 1950s when the Shah's Iran, Turkey, and Haile Selassie's Ethiopia were key allies of Israel and the US and the first two sought alliances then with the Hashemite regimes in Iraq and Jordan. The Arab regimes consensus then was that the alliance between Turkey, Iran, Ethiopia and Israel was a pro-imperialist anti-Arab alliance. The fact that today it is Iran and Turkey's political leadership that are the only regional forces insisting on regional and local sovereignty against imperial invasions and occupations has reversed this trend.
It is now Arab regimes that push for imperial and colonial sovereignty in Palestine, Iraq and Iran, while Iran and Turkey are in the forefront of resisting it. That popular forces across Arab countries and in Iran and Turkey continue to oppose US imperialism passionately leaves most Arab regimes as the major pro-imperial forces in the region. It is in this context that Saudi-, Egyptian-, Jordanian-, and even the Palestinian Authority-sponsored anti-Iranian and anti-Shiite chauvinism (launched at the behest of Israel and the US) have failed to sway the Arab masses from their anti-imperial and anti-colonial position. The entry of Turkey into the camp that supports local and regional sovereignty has complicated the hate-mongering of the Arab regimes allied to the US, on account of Turkey's Sunnism, or at least its non-Shiism. As a result, the only regime that Israel continues to threaten openly is the Syrian regime, despite its ongoing secret negotiations with it. This is why Israel remains an official enemy of Syria.
The most dangerous enemy for any Arab regime today is any local opposition that seeks regime change while offering the range of services to the US that the current regime offers. This is why the Muslim Brothers are considered the biggest threat to the Egyptian regime. The regime would have been unperturbed had the Muslim Brothers been anti-imperialist and were they to refuse to provide services to the US. The regime, in fact, would have loved for them to be more radical, as this would have proved to the US that the current regime is the only one that could offer obedient services to its imperial white, or in the case of Obama, half-white master.
That the Muslim Brothers are willing to serve the US is precisely where their danger to the regime lies, as the US could easily abandon the current regime if it becomes a liability and switch support to the Brothers. Herein lies the enmity that the regime has shown and continues to show toward Hamas, and why regime allies in Egypt, including liberals and leftists, support it in its hostility to Hamas, which they see as an extension of the Brothers. The problem here is that in conjunction with Hizballah in Lebanon, Hamas, unlike the Brothers, is the biggest opponent of Israeli colonialism and US imperialism. In the Palestinian context, it is the PA under Arafat and Abbas that established an alliance with Israel and the US and not Hamas. Indeed, the competition between Hamas and the PA is not over services to the US but rather over serving the interests of the Palestinian people. By contrast, the sometimes tense relationships between the PA and Egypt or the PA and Jordan have been based on precisely the former chipping away at some of the latter's role in serving US interests and in wanting a piece of the pie.
West Bank-based Palestinian intellectuals, like their liberal counterparts across the Arab world, have been active in the last several years in demonizing Hamas as the force of darkness in the region. These intellectuals (among whom liberal secular Christians, sometimes referred to derisively in Ramallah circles as "the Christian Democratic Party," are disproportionately represented) are mostly horrified that if Hamas came to power, it would ban alcohol. Assuming Hamas would enact such a regulation on the entire population were it to rule a liberated Palestine in some undetermined future, these intellectuals are the kind of intellectuals who prefer an assured collaborating dictatorship with a glass of scotch to a potentially resisting democracy without. This is not to say that Hamas will institute democratic governance necessarily; but if democratically elected, as it has been, it must be given the chance to demonstrate its commitments to democratic rule, which it now promises -- something all these comprador intellectuals were willing to give to Fatah, and continue to extend to the movement after it established a dictatorship. Indeed, much of the repression that took place in the West Bank during the carnage in Gaza had been legitimized by the ongoing efforts of these intellectuals just as they previously legitimized the "peace process" launched by the Oslo Accords and during which Israel continued its massive colonization of Palestinian land while the PA suppressed any resistance. The scene in the West Bank, except for Hebron, was indeed a scandal. Arab capitals like Amman and Beirut, not to mention Palestinian cities and towns inside Israel, saw massive demonstrations that were at least a hundred times more numerous than the couple of thousands who tried to march in Ramallah but were beaten up by the goons of the Palestinian Collaborationist Authority (PCA).
Palestinians in the West Bank were watching Al-Jazeera instead of demonstrating in solidarity and refused to challenge Israel's PCA agents who rule them. While the repression by the PCA and the Israeli occupation army is an important factor, the quiescence of the West Bank was also on account of the psychological warfare of demonizing Hamas to which the PCA and its cadre of comprador intellectuals have subjected the population for years. Moreover, the fact that a quarter of a million West Bankers work in the bureaucratic and security apparatus of the PCA and receive salaries which feed another three quarters of a million West Bankers, makes them fully dependent on the continuation of PCA rule to ensure their continued livelihood. This structural and material factor is indeed paramount in assessing the contemptible quiescence of West Bankers during the recent carnage in Gaza. Indeed, some of the staged Fatah participation in demonstrations in Ramallah (where the PCA women's police beat up Hamas women demonstrators) included people who openly suggested that the demonstrators march by the Egyptian embassy in Ramallah to show support for Egyptian policies toward Gaza and Hamas.
The journey of West Bank liberal intellectuals, it seems has finally come to this: after being instrumental in selling out the rights of Palestinians in Israel to full equal citizenship by acquiescing to Israel's demand to be recognized as a racist Jewish state, and the rights of the diaspora and refugees to return, they have now sold out the rights of Palestinians in Gaza to food and electricity, and all of this so that the West Bank can be ruled by a collaborationist authority that allows them open access to Johnny Walker Black Label (their drink of choice, although some have switched to Chivas more recently). In this context, how could Israel be anything but a friend and ally who is making sure Hamas will never get to ban whiskey?
In the meantime, the coming Israeli elections are being awaited with much trepidation. PCA strategies will be of course different depending on who wins. If Netanyahu wins, and he was the spoiler of PA rule and the Oslo understanding in 1996, Abbas can try to sound more nationalist in opposing Israeli practices in the hope that the Obama administration would support him against the Israeli right wing. The PCA hopes that Obama can put pressure on Netanyahu that he would not be able to in case Labor Party leader Ehud Barak wins. If Barak wins, then the PCA would be happy as they can go back to business as usual. As a close friend of the corrupt Clintons, Barak will also be a friend of his namesake in the Oval office, and Hillary Clinton will make sure that no pressure goes his way. Of course as far as the Palestinian people are concerned, it makes no difference who is at the helm of Israeli politics, a right-wing war criminal or a left-wing war criminal. As for those who still have hope in the Israeli public, the latter's overwhelming support for the carnage in Gaza should put this to rest. If Germans spent the day on the beach when the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939, and Americans cheered in bars and at home the fireworks light show the US military put up over Baghdad while slaughtering hundreds of thousands of Iraqis in 1991 and in 2003, Israeli Jews insisted on having front row seats on hills overlooking Gaza for a live show, cracking open champagne bottles and cheering the murder and maiming of thousands of civilians, more than half of whom were women and children.
The Obama government as well as the Israelis and the Arab regimes have only one game they are willing to play, and it is hardly original. Ignoring and delegitimizing Hamas is a repetition of the delegitimization of the PLO when it represented Palestinian interests in the 1960s, 1970s, and part of the 1980s. At the time, the Jordanian regime was entrusted by the Israelis and the Americans with speaking on behalf of West Bank Palestinians until the PLO pledged to be a servant of Israel and US interests and began to view both as friends, and not as enemies. While this strategy has worked superbly in ending the enmity between most Arab regimes and Israel, it has failed miserably in convincing most Arabs that Israel is not their enemy. Israel's recent military victory in slaughtering defenseless Palestinian civilians and its losing the war against Hamas by failing to realize any of its military objectives have hardly endeared it or its Arab supporters to the Arab peoples at large or to Muslim regional powers who are not fully subservient to the US. The Israeli settler-colony might have become the friend of oppressive regimes across the region, but in doing so it has ensured the enmity of the majority of the peoples in whose midst it has chosen to implant itself.
Joseph Massad is Associate Professor of modern Arab politics and intellectual history at Columbia University in New York. He is the author of The Persistence of the Palestinian Question (Routledge, 2006).
|Israeli forces seize Gaza aid ship|
The Israeli navy has captured and diverted a ship from Lebanon carrying more than 60 tonnes of aid to the Gaza Strip.
Al Jazeera's correspondent aboard the Al-Ikhwa (The Brotherhood) ship said the navy first opened fire, then five Israeli soldiers boarded the ship, beating and threatening the passengers.
"They are pointing guns against us - they are kicking us and beating us. They are threatening our lives," Al Jazeera's Salam Khoder said.
Communications with the ship broke off shortly thereafter.
According to the owner of the vessel, the Israelis destroyed its communication equipment and confiscated the phones of those on board.
The Israeli military told Al Jazeera it had captured the Lebanese vessel and taken it to Ashdod, where authorities were examining its cargo. The passengers and crew, meanwhile, were being questioned by police.
In a statement, the Israeli military said it had warned the ship on Wednesday night against entering Gaza's coastal waters.
"During today's morning hours, the cargo ship changed its bearing, and began heading towards the Gaza Strip .... disregarding all warnings made," it said.
Maan Bashour, an aid co-ordinator for the group End the Blockade of Gaza, said the ship was carrying medical equipment, food supplies and books, toys and milk for small children.
"This ship was searched in Cyprus and in Lebanon," Bashour told Al Jazeera in Beirut, Lebanon. "And we were very eager to let it be searched by Lebanese and Cypriot authorities in order that there be no reason for the Israelis to prevent it from going to Gaza."
Foud Siniora, Lebanon's president, condemned the attack on Al-Ikhwa, emphasising that it was on a humanitarian mission to Gaza.
"It is no surprise for Israel to perpetrate such an action as it has been accustomed to ignoring all international resolutions and values," he said during a speech in Beirut.
"I made a number of necessary phone calls with international parties in order to exert pressures on Israel which is violating laws. I hold Israel responsible for the safety of the ship and passengers. "
Israel: Attack that killed Gaza girls ‘reasonable’
Officials say 'suspicious figures' were spotted at Palestinian doctor's home
JERUSALEM - The Palestinian doctor became a symbol of the Gaza offensive after he captivated Israeli TV viewers with a sobbing live report on the death of his three daughters in Israeli shelling.
On Wednesday, Israel's military said its troops were fired on from nearby and called the mistaken identification of people in his house as combatants "reasonable."
The report said screams from the shelled building led soldiers to stop firing.The military expressed sadness at the deaths but did not admit to a mistake in identification.
Israel is pursuing a number of investigations into Gaza deaths in the three-week offensive that ended last month. The offensive killed 1,300 people, about half of them civilians, according to Palestinian figures.
Dr. Ezzeldeen Abu al-Aish has denied there were any militants in his house.
Voice of Palestinian suffering
The 55-year-old gynecologist is a rarity among Palestinians, a Hebrew speaker who trained in Israeli hospitals.
Throughout the war, he brought accounts of war's tragedy to Israeli living rooms through TV interviews, making him for many the voice of Palestinian suffering. He often spoke of his fears for his eight children.
But on Jan. 16, he answered his cell phone, crying, and told Channel 10 that his house in the northern Gaza strip town of Jebalia had been hit by Israeli shells and his daughters, ages 22, 15 and 14, were killed.
Abu al-Aish is a known peace activist and an academic who studied the effects of war on Gazan and Israeli children.
Days after the deaths, he said he wanted to meet with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak to hear firsthand why his children were killed.The military's inquiry found that troops fired two shells at Abu al-Aish's home after militants fired from a nearby building. The inquiry showed troops identified suspicious figures on the upper level of his house.
"Suspicious figures were identified in the upper level of Dr. Abu al-Aish's house and were thought to be spotters who directed the Hamas sniper and mortar fire," the report said.
The environment of cramped Gaza, where 1.4 million people are squeezed into an area six miles wide and 25 miles long, appeared to contribute to the incident.
"Considering the constraints of the battle scene, the amount of threats that endangered the force, and the intensity of fighting in the area," the report said, "the forces' action and the decision to fire toward the building were reasonable."
US arms shipments to Israel are questionable under American law. It should reconsider sending military aidIan Williams . The guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 4 February 2009
As they were still reassembling dog-eaten cadavers of kids in Gaza, an envelope from Aipac dropped in my mailbox. The self-proclaimed most powerful lobby in Washington had sent me a pre-printed post card to sign and mail to my congressman, urging him to support increased military aid to the Israel over the next decade.
To compound it, just before Barack Obama's inauguration, Condoleezza Rice had signed an agreement, probably written on a fig leaf, to show that Tzipi Livni and Ehud Barak had got something out of their rampage across the strip. Dangerously, it implied that the US navy is going to intercept neutral ships on the high seas looking for alleged contraband being shipped to the elected authorities in Gaza. This was of course the casus belli of the 1812 war, which the US declared against Britain for stopping American ships trading with Napoleon. The memorandum does not explain what international law is being invoked for this, although it does have shades of Kennedy threatening to do the same to Soviet ships going to Cuba.
British and European governments, in a spirit of me-tooism, rushed to offer to join in.
In welcome contrast, Peter Kilfoyle, the British Labour MP, took David Miliband, the foreign secretary, to task: "On armaments for Israel, he said just a moment ago that he would very much like to see the prevention of arms going to terrorist organisations. That is the case for everybody in this House, and on the basis of what we have just heard and what he himself just said, will he undertake to ensure that no arms at all go to Israel at the moment, given that it is guilty in many people's eyes of state-sponsored terrorism with its activities in the Gaza strip?"
Perhaps an even stronger reaction was that of another MP, Sir Gerard Kaufman, who asked the Miliband "to clarify the logic whereby we can send the Royal Navy to enforce an arms ban on Hamas while continuing to sell arms to Israel, after a conflict in which 1,200 Palestinians were slaughtered and four Israelis were killed by Hamas rockets? That is an exchange rate of one Israeli life for 300 Palestinian lives." A few days earlier he had provided background: "My grandmother did not die to provide cover for Israeli soldiers murdering Palestinian grandmothers in Gaza. The current Israeli government ruthlessly and cynically exploit the continuing guilt among gentiles over the slaughter of Jews in the holocaust as justification for their murder of Palestinians. The implication is that Jewish lives are precious, but the lives of Palestinians do not count."
Amnesty International and other human rights NGOs who had seen the devastation at first hand echoed the call for an arms embargo, detailing the massive and continuing arms shipments to Israel – at a time when the country was defying UN security council resolution 1860 calling for an immediate ceasefire.
But while parliamentarians in other countries are taking their governments to task for selling arms to Israel, the case is superficially simpler for the US. It just has to stop giving them. Israel gets $3bn a year in military aid from the US, the highest figure in the world. Perhaps a telling contrast is the other alleged special relationship. In December 2006 the UK finally paid off the bill to the US for all the weapons it had to pay for to defeat Hitler in the second world war.
Uniquely Israel can use a quarter of its aid to buy the produce of its own arms factories, which leads to the perennial question of Israeli sales of US military technology to China, which has upset even the most complaisant Pentagon officials in the past.
Even more uniquely, much of what could be justified as a stimulus to American arms producers has been spent on buying refined fuel from the US, during a period when Americans were suffering from high oil prices and low supplies.
In Congress, aid to Israel is sacrosanct, regardless of what Israel does with it. No one ever complains about earmarks, pork-barrelling or ungrateful foreign aid recipients in this context. However, the arms shipments to Israel are questionable under American law on several levels as well being the equivalent of subsidising German car production to compete with Detroit.
Firstly, the weaponry is supposed to be for defence – and it really is a stretch to suggest that American-made phosphorous munitions dropping in UN schools and warehouses is defensive.
This has, of course, happened before. For example, the use of anti-personnel cluster weapons in the various incursions into Lebanon has been called into question, only to have the question shelved in embarrassment by Washington, even when the casings with US markings have been produced. Ironically, conservative hero Ronald Reagan actually stopped sales of cluster munitions to Israel in 1982 after clear evidence that Israel had breached agreements on their use.
Under US law, arms shipments should not be used to violate human rights – which suggests that Congress does not read its own state department reports on conditions in the occupied territories.
US law on arms sales also has non-proliferation elements. If Israel were to go public about its 200 or so nuclear weapons that the US so persistently ignores, arms shipments would be illegal.
Perhaps more tellingly is that the weaponry being sent may be about to put US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan in grave danger by supporting an act of naked aggression against Iran. The Israeli ambassador to Australia last week described the Gaza debacle as a "pre-introduction" for an assault on Iran and certainly the chances are that Bibi Netanyahu's election would make this even more likely.
In any case, Netanyahu supports assassinations of Palestinian leaders, refuses to countenance a Palestinian state and wants to expand settlements. In short he will be more in violation of the "road map" conditions than Hamas. Following its own logic, Washington should refuse to talk to him, let alone arm him.
Under these circumstances, in any rational world, Obama's administration should use its considerable leverage to let Israel know that there is no free lunch. If Israeli leaders want to go it alone, then they should face the risk of being on their own. There is no reason for credit-crunched American taxpayers to subsidise what rational Israeli leaders have proclaimed to be suicidal polices.
So back to the Aipac post card. I forwarded it to my congressman with "not" interposed before all the relevant verbs. But alas, Kilfoyles and Kaufmans are thin on the ground on Capitol Hill.
fotos:AP on Yahoo