Sunday, November 18, 2012

Gaza: who is George Washington and who George the Third in the Occupied Territories?


I went to the first demonstration Thursday at the State Capital in Denver about the Israeli occupation of and new violence in Gaza. About 70 people were down on the street with signs. Jewish Voice for Peace was there with its banner: Not in our Name. Palestinians flags and signs about the horror of the occupation were present. Adults and children, young and old…Some passersby honked.

These demonstrations, now spreading, as is the fine petition below, are a beginning. The movement to recognize the humanity of Palestinians is extending, for instance, in the demand of Protestant churches that US military aid to Israel be conditioned on Israel ceasing its violations of human rights and American law.

Though there are great powers including the Republican and most Democratic politicians arrayed aginst us, what is right will make itself heard…

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I and others in the Dorothy Cotton Institute delegation to Palestine in October have also written to the White House to urge intervening to stop Netanyahu’s provocations and attacks and using the violence, though in response, of Hamas and others to justify much more extreme violence in defense of an already violent Occupation.

I reprint below a story of Amira Hass on the carnage in Gaza. The government of Israel initially murdered a teenager and some rockets were fired from Palestine, and then Israel murdered quite a number of civilians plus a leader of Hamas who had been involved in the Shalit negotiations and was, sadly, a backdoor to negotiations and ensuring cease-fires with Israel. See the comments Gershon Bascom below, who was involved in the negotiations with Shalit from the New York Times (h/t Hilary Putnam for forwarding a more direct version).

This war is, in part, an electoral ploy for Netanyahu and also shows that the state of Israel – and sadly, the consensus mainstream politics there, though heroic groups like Meretz and many others oppose it – has only an interest in another transfer or genocide which is what I saw happening there, meticulously planned and horrific. The Netanyahu regime and its American supporters (note: all potential Republican Presidential nominees, except Ron Paul) have ceased to speak of a two state solution…

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One has a moral duty to help people who are hurt in this way. If one has a heart and is not blinded by racism, one must act, even if the great and powerful, some of whom are supported by people who were once victims of horrific racism, cry out, in anger, against you. One must be, with Thoreau, a majority of one.

I received a letter in response to one of my posts which I reprint below without the name because it expresses so powerfully – almost archetypally - the fear which still influences, to the detriment of most Jews in Israel as well as American Jews and others, quite a lot of Israeli opinion and pro-Israel opinion.

““Alan:

It’s taken me a while to consider your comments to my response to your story about Israel, and I’ve had trouble finding the words to describe what I’m thinking, feeling and what is in my heart. It is as much a responsibility of the Palestinians as well as the Israelis to treat each other as humans, the burden cannot be borne only by Israel. Following is an article written by Rabbi Black highlighting the ongoing malice by Arabs against Israel, aggression that hasn’t abated since 2004. I firmly believe as I said before that if the Arabs laid down their arms there would be peace. If Israel lays down her arms the Jews will be annihilated by the Arabs. And you’re right, a second ethnic cleansing is occurring. The Arabs are aggressively trying to kill the Jews.”

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During the visit of our delegation, Vincent Harding spoke eloquently of his connection with Jewish teachers, students and those who gave their lives, like Andy Goodman, my childhood friend, in the civil rights movement. Vincent had studied and taken in deeply the Holocaust (as had everyone in our group). Vincent spoke of the pain and sorrow which his ties to Jews who have given their lives for civil rights, who had taught him, who were his fellow students, who are his friends, gave him in seeing the way the Israeli government treats Palestinians. See here and listen here.

One of my companions and several of my friends have said this is heartbreaking. It is.

Everything we saw in the West Bank was reminiscent of the segregated South or of apartheid. Rabbi Brian Walt, a leader of our group, grew up in South Africa.

There was no person in the group who was not committed to nonviolence, who did not learn happily of the couragerous nonviolence of many Palestianisna and their international allies (the Solidarity and Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement). Hamas and others send off rockets which harm Israeli civilians and strengthen the Israeli government in its depraved policies and its appeals to fear, as the sentiments in the letter above show.

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But it is not true that the sides have the same moral standing. Israel has occupied – committed aggression – in the Territories That is left out of every BBC and American as well as Israeli report, as well as the letter from my friend. It is Palestinian “violence” and Israeli “violence” as if the two are on the same plane morally, or in fact, the Palestianians are the initiators.

But Palestinian violence, largely a response to Israel’s occupation and murder (the initiator of the violence even here which is misreported) is not the same as the oppressor’s violence.

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Being Jewish myself and having fought neo-Nazis and the Klan and their mainstream allies all my adult life (I listened to a powerful reading of Etty Hillesum's diary on NPR last night), I can understand some of the paranoia that extends from the European situation of pogroms and genocide to the generic, racist claims that Arab states all hate the Jews, that all Arabs hate jews, and that the Palestinians, whom Israelis treat with the violence, contempt and fear of Europeans toward Jews – I often refer to the Palestinians as the Jews of the occupied territories – are really just generic “Arabs,” seen through the Orientalism of fear. But this is all just racism.

The Israeli soldiers and the settler rabbis who are armed to the teeth and extraordinarily violent say that the Palestinians, mostly unarmed, including teenagers whom they arrest at 2AM in their houses, torture and sometimes murder are really the “violent” ones, that Palestinians have no rightful claim to exist or be treated with a minimum of decency or, in the word now rightly often said in Gaza, with dignity, that Palestinians are “generic” Arabs whom other Arabs must take in (there are already some 6.6 million refugees mostly in Jordan and Lebanon as well as 400,000 displaced persons in Israel, many in camps like Shatila, Sabra, and Daheishah).

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Of this last claim, was it not Hitler who said of the Americans when a ship of emigre Jews away in Cuba that the West does not want the Jews either? Consider Katherine Anne Porter, Ship of Fools and here.

The Israelis had no right to drive the Palestianians out by violence (see Ilan Pappe, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine). The ethnic cleansing was wrong in 1948 and it is not right today. Fantasies about Arabs do not justify, even slightly, any of the crimes against particular people – those who already lived in the territory which was supposedly “a land without people.”

The founding myth of Israel is nothing but...a myth. See my "Founding Myths: a view from below" here.

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Today, let us look more deeply into the issue of who has committed aggression, In the 1967 war, Israel seized the territories from Jordan – which included the Palestinians living in those territories, who were not Jordanians - and has annexed them. Ironically, it seems that these Palestinians were once forced out by Israel to live under Jordanian authority - as the racist wish is - until Israel seized the land.

But international law bars Israel from taking over the territories or moving its citizens there (see, for instance, the key article 2 section 4 of the United Nations Charter which bars the aggression and conquest of one people by a predator state as well as sections 41 and 42 of the Hague Treaty of 1907 here.*

Israel could have settled for its 1967 borders; a policy determinedly to ensure those borders would have been - would be - wise.

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Instead, it has set up 500 well to do settlements with 300,000 people illegally while it strives, in every way, to impoverish, humiliate and drive out the "permanent residents" who lived there. But go, as I did and look at the Wall, the heavily armed Israeli soldiers, the firing repeatedly on nonviolent demonstrators; go talk to the people whose olive trees have been stolen and set afire by settler hoodlums often from Brooklyn and New Jersey, go pick up the silver canisters made by Consolidated Systems Inc, the rubber bullets hard as stone...

No wonder that all of this is hidden behind a wall of silence in Israel and the United States just as the treatment of the Jews in Europe, was, once upon a time, hidden behind a wall of slience…

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The state of Israel’s occupation of the Territories has the same moral character as the British occupation of – and wars against – the American colonies. George III spoke of that murderous "banditti" George Washington. He sought to hang American colonists who rebelled against him. He blamed the colonists for every atrocity against British soldiers and Loyalist civilians.

In fact, the Patriots were particularly murderous toward black Loyalists, especially former slaves whom Lord Dunmore had freed.

That was the beginning of the era of anti-colonialism, America the “first new nation.”

Today we have, in many ways, come to the end of this era. The idea of colonialism reeks, rightly, because Britain was morally in the wrong in the most fundamental way in possessing the land and property of other people, and abusing them wantonly, including in Palestine. And of course, most of the people in America were white, though the racism toward the Irish and Scottish people, both in Britain and the early United States was striking. But it is blacks who have most in common with the Palestinians. See my Black Patriots and Loyalists and here.

Israel is both a settler state and, additionally, an Occupying Power…

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Thus, morally speaking, the Palestinians are right to resist, the Israeli state dead in the wrong. It is in the wrong also about the territories grabbed in 1967 – and in the original transfer. But the original transfer has an extenuation: this was the one place that Europe and America would allow the victims of the Holocaust to settle. Jews as well as Palestinians today live in the larger territory of Palestine and there has to be a decent settlement, one which upholds the rights of each person.

But it is the rights and dignity of Palestinians which today are being ruthlessly denied by the state of Israel and by the government of the United States.


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The wrongful dispalacement and brutalization of Palestinians is the reason why the Israeli state has historically pioneered in the flaunting of international law and in this respect, decency, why it murders by bomb or drone, leaders of the movement of resistance (see Glenn Greenwald here and here on how Obama has now imitated or pioneered this in American policy), why it tortures prisoners and despises, through so-called military courts, the rule of law.

For Jewish civilians, if arrested, are brought into civilian court within 24 hours, Palestinian teenagers, are arrested at night for throwing rocks at tanks or just for being Palestinian, tortured, held for 8 days before being brought before a military “court”, held again miserabley and often tortured for several months.

The Bush-Cheney regime inaugurated such policies as a public matter by the United States (the CIA has long presided over atrocities "in th dark"), though the detainees have also been held for many years in Guantanamo and Bagram.

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For Palestinians, it is, from a practical point of view, a terrible miscalucation tactically to fire rockets into Israel – most miss targets – and murder civilians. There is no difference between a Jewish child and a Palestinian child - they are each of infinite value, and every one killed cries out against you.

Killing civilians is a crime of war, simply murder, even if Israel is the aggressor, the Occupier, and comparatively speaking, a mass murderer and oppressor. This is not “revenge.” Through increasing racism and paranoia which provide the threadbare legitimacy of the Occupaton among supporters of Israel, it enables Netanyahu and Lieberman to further brutalize ordinary Palestinians.

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But one cannot, as the state of Israel does, impose apartheid on others, degrading and killing people, day by day, and not produce fury. Racist paranoia aside, there is no question about who is right and wrong here. Whatever the publicity in the BBC and the American press and hasbara in Israel, the Palestinians are as right to rebel as George Washington, and the Israeli state bears the evil of King George.

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During the first Gaza invasion, Steve Walt below did a thought experiment about what the attitude of the American state would be to Jews who had been driven out of the initial Israel and cordoned in Gaza by a strong Palestinian state (of course America would not have the economic and military ties to Israel then so it would have to be solely a moral response to the Holocaust...).

This thought experiment appeals to what John Rawls' called the original position. Put yourself today in the situation of the Palestinians, the least advantaged, allow them to be human, empathize with them (call them the Jews of the Occupied Territories as I sometimes do) and you will see the horror...

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That so many Palestinians have taken up nonviolence against this continuing nakba, underlines their heroism and effectiveness. It is mass nonviolent resistance which makes the brutality of Israel and its reliance overwhelmingly on big guns, militarism and bluster plain to the world.

In contrast, the few Hamas rockets, even in revenge for the murders of children, strengthen and call down much greater brutality.

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Palestinians do not have an airport or an army or any control over the goods they produce when sold abroad (the state of Israel steals a "tax" on each item of Palestinian trade).

Israel is one of the most highly armed states in the world, with $3 billion in military aid, that is American military products, every year and several hundred nuclear weapons.

In the West Bank in my two week visit, I saw lots of young men carrying and firing big guns, endless tear gas canisters and rubber bullets, and not one was Palestinian…

I had reason to fear violence and death from the army of Israel. We were escorted in Hebron by Nadav, a soldier from Breaking the Silence who described to us, in great detail, the aim of making Palestianians bow down with fear to the Occupier, the aim of rousting people at 2 in the morning, photographing them (Israel, as he realized when no one collected the photographs, had no interst in the surveillance beyond crushing the spirit of every Palestinian). See here.

I and others stand up for the spirit of those Jews, who stood up with Moses and opposed Pharaoh, of those Jews who stood up with blacks for civil rights, of those Jews who refuse to be the new minions of Pharoah.

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If one sees the crimes done by Israel now, the justification of Israel - as a settler state – also vanishes. That is the root of the blindness in the paranoia about "Arabs."

But the extenuation for setting up Israel was the genocide against Jews in Europe and the fact that this is where the European powers and America would allow a state for Jews to be founded. Europe had colonized other peoples and could care less, at that point, about the colonized, the Palestinians.

But the great anti-colonial movement has now changed this. And the human rights of each person are now internationally recognized, even if not yet protected.

Now the citizens of Israel need a place. So something like a two state solution, based on the 1967 borders is reasonable, honoring the rights of each person, if Israel has not deliberately destroyed the possibility through the settlements. In that case, a one state democracy upholding the human rights of each person is the only decent solution.

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But the Arab states do not recognize Israel’s right to exist, some would still reply. Is that not sufficient threat to extenuate some of Israel's policies?

No, it does not justify one act of degradation of Palestinians. The Israeli state which is trying for a second transfer must be stopped, in this respect, in its tracks.

Moreover, the attempt to have a greater Israel inspires the abhorrence of any decent person not under the grip of racist fantasies about “Arabs.” Subtract those fantasies and the Israeli occupation is horrific.

There has to be a real settlement between Jews and Palestianians which preserves the dignity of each person.

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What was done and has been done to Paelistianinas can be abated but not made wholly right (the same is true of the Jews in Europe). That was the point of Truth and Reconciliation in South Africa.

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The people in Gaza and the West Bank include a large group which was expelled from its homes in the creation of Israel by violence – look hard at the Deir Yassin massacre. The delegation I was part of went to a nearby park in what was once the village of Lifta where the homes left by people, in decay, are surrounded by trees planted by the Jewish National Fund – but one can still see them clearly. Their residents, still with the keys all these years later, were forced out, cannot come back.

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Some might be allowed back in a decent political settlement, others given reparations or allowed to integrate some of the settlements. The $3 billion American yearly aid could contribute to this instead of being an instrument of murder and oppression, and an economic incentive to American war companies and the war complex.

As Harriet Feinberg has suggested, Israel and Palestine, federated or as one state could be part of a larger Mediterrean economic federation in the middle of this century. See here, Taking a step back from the current militarism, such a country or countries could flourish.

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But doesn’t the hostility of the Arab states, the persistent critic might ask, at least extenuate Israel’s sometimes insane aggression and militarism?

The answer here is No, on two levels. First, The inhumanity of Israel toward the Palestinians makes new and great opponents, if not enemies of Israel, in everyone who takes it in. The calculated assassination of Palestinian leaders strengthens Hamas and others; it does not deter them.

No settlement generally is possible without a decisive effort to stop the murderousness of Israel. Listen to Eli Yishai, Israel's Interior Minister yesterday, blurting out the truth:

"The goal of the operation is to send Gaza back to the Middle Ages. Only then will Israel be calm for forty years."

How to make new opponents, moment by moment...

Talk about a silly, counterproductive goal with so much human life on the line...

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Resistance within the Territories will be strengthened by an international movement and by the utter isolation of Israel if it does not proceed toward a decent resolution - one which recognizes the humanity and dignity of each person - with the Palestinians.

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Second, Israel is the one power in the region armed to the teeth and has a powerful ally in the United States. It is for the strong, which Israel is, despite its small territory, to initiate the settlement. This is particularly true because it is committing oppression of the Palestinians, reminiscent of Europeans toward the Jews, daily and hourly, the repeated ravaging of Gaza, indignity just short of death and mass slaughters, melding into the murderousness as well as unnecessariness of the latest attack.

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In addition, the Arab states, even were they unified in the matter and in fact, they are very divided, could not wipe out Israel. If Iran launched a nuclear attack on Israel – another imaginary idea since there is as yet no evidence that Iran is trying to produce a nuclear weapon... - it would be destroyed.

The Soviets and the Americans had a nuclear standoff for forty years because a nuclear war would have led to the annihilation of both; the idea that this doesn’t apply to Iranian leaders - both from Israel and the United States - is as silly and as much of a projection, as that it did not apply to Soviet leaders. The Soviets were always treated in America as irrational monsters (perhaps, once again, a projection...).

But Israel can destroy itself. If Israel represents inhuman and calculating cruelty to Palestinians, and if most Israeli Jews and some of their powerful American supporters (and some ordinary American Jews) go along with this, Israel will eventually collapse from decadence and destruction of its original dreams - or since it does have nuclear weapons, do a lot to render the area and the earth uninhabitable for humans – or both.

The Israeli declaration of independence refers to a state which upholds the rights of each, regardless of ethnicity.

That is the promise that the state of Israel, from its inception, betrayed.

But a federation of Israel-Palestine or two states need to restore that promise in a new, economically flourishing Middle East. That is a hope. That is what each of us must fight for. But no such possibility exists with anything like the the oppression and the extraordinary militarism and violence practiced by the Israeli state.

We should exert – and a mass movement of civil disobedience – should exert every effort to stop the further slaughter by Israel in Gaza and end the occupation.


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17 Nov 2012 05:25 PM Andrew Sullivan The Daily Dish
Quote For The Day

"The goal of the operation is to send Gaza back to the Middle Ages. Only then will Israel be calm for forty years," - Eli Yishai, Israel's Interior Minister.

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US White House and State Department: Condemn Israeli Aggression in Gaza

Petition by
Bill Fletcher Jr.

African Americans for Justice in the Middle East and North Africa
Statement Regarding the Aggression Against Gaza

African Americans for Justice in the Middle East and North Africa (AAJMENA) strongly condemns Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people in Gaza. The arguments offered by the Israeli government for its attack on Gaza are nakedly cynical in both form and content. That a truce had been negotiated, with the assistance of the Egyptian government, between Israel and Hamas only to be broken by the Israeli assassination of Hamas military commander Ahmad Jabari clearly indicates that the Netanyahu government is not interested in peace. Israel is responsible for the escalating violence and for this epic breach of human rights.

This crisis underscores a stunning power imbalance. Nuclear-armed Israel, by far the most powerful military force in the Middle East (and among the mightiest in the world), has unleashed its immense war making capacity on Gaza’s captive population, mobilizing warships and tanks and launching more than 1,000 F-16 airstrikes since the attack began. The use of such weapons on civilians is a flagrant violation of the U.S. Arms Export Control Act.

The aggression against Gaza must be understood as the latest act in the decades-long oppression of the Palestinian people at the hands of the Israeli government. Blockaded Gaza has been plunged into misery by the Israeli-U.S. effort to thwart the democratic will of the Palestinian people as demonstrated in their 2006 legislative elections. When a coup was attempted against Hamas—and failed—the Israelis sealed Gaza, spinning events to make it appear that those not interested in peace were the Palestinians. As a result, Gaza is the largest open-air prison in the world, with 1.5 million people locked into a roughly 140-square-mile strip of land. This latest humanitarian crisis has caused the disproportionate death and suffering of Palestinians, but casualties on both sides will be the consequence of Israeli aggression.

Rather than taking a stand against Israeli’s onslaught and issuing an unambiguous demand for an end to the bloodshed, the Obama administration has condemned alleged Palestinian terrorism, repeating the dishonest line that this violent attack is merely in defense of Israel (a position reinforced by the one-sided coverage of the corporate news media). This represents a massive failure on the administration’s part. For all Obama’s denunciation of the Assad regime in Syria, it appears that his administration regards the outright slaughter of civilians in Palestine as acceptable. It is crucial that we recognize the extent of U.S. complicity in the bloodshed; our tax dollars ($8.5 million a day) enable Israeli militarism at a time when those funds are desperately needed to fill gaps in services and infrastructure back home.

As African Americans and people of African descent in the U.S. from academia, activism and various social movements, we cannot remain silent. We call upon all people of good will to:

1. Endorse this statement. Here is the link.

2. Communicate with the White House and the U.S. Department of State to request that President Obama demand that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu and the IDF cease the bombardment of Gaza and withdraw their armed forces immediately. Insist that the U.S. condition aid to Israel on compliance with U.S. and international law.

3. Contact the Israeli embassy in Washington, D.C. and demand that Israel withdraw its forces and end the blockade.

4. Send your local media outlet a “letter to the editor” expressing outrage against the provocative and murderous acts of the Israeli government.

5. Join protests against Israeli aggression.

6. Support Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (www.bdsmovement.net) and U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (www.usacbi.org), and back the efforts of labor unions and student groups to compel their employers and administrators to divest from companies that do business in Israel.

Signed,

Adisa Alkebulan

Ajamu Baraka

Carl Bloice

Christopher Cathcart

Felicia Eaves

Bill Fletcher, Jr.

Angela Gilliam

Rev. Graylan S. Hagler

Maurice Jackson

James Jennings

Robin D. G. Kelley

Mel King

Kalia Kuno

Leila McDowell

Premilla Nadasen

Christopher Pierson

Barbara Ransby

Russell J. Rickford

Lynn Roberts

Robyn C. Spencer

Roger Toussant

Johnny Eric Williams

To:
US White House
US State Department
I am writing to condemn Israeli aggression in Gaza.
Sincerely,
[Your name]

Recent signatures

Sam Seikaly OMAHA, NE

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Supporters

Reasons for signing

Brian Walt WEST TISBURY, MA about 1 hour ago
As a rabbi, I am just outraged by the brutal assault on a civilian population by a state that claims to be acting in the name of Jews. Not in our name! Justice justice shall you pursue!

Elena Schwolsky BROOKLYN, NY about 1 hour ago
As a global citizen and a Jew, I condemn Israel's occupation of Gaza and my own government's lack of action in opposing this latest violent onslaught against the Palestinian people.

Jonathan Rivas BRONX, NY about 2 hours ago
Diplomacy needs to have some sort of role in this affair. Murder and senseless bombing will not solve anything.

George Vlasits SILVER SPRING, MD about 2 hours ago
The rights, in fact the very existance, of the Palestinian people are threatened by the continuing aggression of Israel.

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Gaza: Netanyahu and Lieberman Wanted `a Quickie’…
by Rob Prince

Could it simply be a case of political blue balls? Unable - or restrained from - attacking Iran (or getting the United States to do so), Israel has turned its fire power on Gaza? As in 2008, Netanyahu an Lieberman waited until after the U.S. presidential elections were over, but before the new administration had been put into place and a clear U.S. policy towards Israel-Palestine in Obama's second term had been fleshed out. Did Netanyahu cut a deal with Washington? That is not clear at the moment, although it is implausible that there wasn't some kind of `consultation' and green light from Obama.

To think otherwise is to live in la-la land.

It is like that if Obama did approve Israeli military action it was on a somewhat limited basis with strict `red lines' that should not be crossed, among them, a sustained ground attack. It is more likely that administration - enthusiastically or grudgingly - agreed to a drone-like attack that would limit Israeli casualties and deflect world public opinion. The idea is to inflict maximum damage on the Palestinians in the shortest amount of time with minimum political and human negative impacts on Israel (and the U.S.A).

One thing seems certain.

This massive (to date) air assault on Gaza was not a spontaneous act. Every step of this offensive was carefully planned, stupid, as are most wars, but carefully planned. The Israeli military is trying to compensate for its two last military incursions: the 2006 Lebanon offensive in which Hezbollah gave an unsuspecting Israeli ground offensive a very bloody nose and the 2008 ground offensive into Gaza, the result of which Israel lost a great deal of public support. Their argument that the war was somehow defensive and that the Israeli army avoided civilian casualties flew in the face of the facts. Israel has yet to recover.

What is missing from all this - the Israeli have yet to learn it - is that military solutions will not solve their crisis with the Palestinians and that try as they might there is no way, none, to put makeup on the ugly face of Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. Whatever happens here, Israel will almost certain gain the upper hand militarily but lose this war politically - as happened in Lebanon in 2006 (where they didn't even win the fighting) and in Gaza in 2008. There is just no way to bomb their way to peace.

The plan - it is now public knowledge - was a quick but decisive air strike that would pulverize Hamas and by so weakening it make any serious peace initiative, once again, impossible. It is a model of warfare similar to what the U.S. is pursuing in Yemen, Pakistan, etc - an air war combined with targeted assassinations The U.S. does it with drones, the Israelis with F-16 and naval fire power both pounding Gaza to smitherines, once again. For the Gaza war to be a success it is essential it be short and dirty for a number of reasons, among them

- it prevents a sustained mobilization of world public opinion against Israel's actions.

- it cuts Israeli casualties

- it is meant to humiliate the regimes that have come to power through the Arab Spring by exposing their impotence to this crisis, thus creating more tensions in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, between the unstable governments and the people, etc.

- it permits the Middle East regimes - Egypt in the first place, but really all of those in the U.S. camp - to posture support of the Palestinians to their hearts delight without threatening their strategic commitments to U.S. policy. The longer the war continues, the more likely the Arab public will exert pressure on their regimes for more concerted action. In such situations, these unstable regimes could be in deep shit as they say.

- the longer the war, the more complicated things get for the Obama Administration's plans for the region. When Israel bombs, the whole region knows that most of the sophisticated weapons it is reigning down on Gaza have `made in USA' on them - as they have for decades. U.S. made cluster bombs, phosphorus bombs and high powered missiles undermine any suggestion that Washington is somehow `an honest broker' to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

But now the Israeli cabinet is debating whether to widen the war.

An all out offensive on Gaza is a horse of a different color for everyone concerned. A long drawn out full scale Gaza ground offensive not only compromises Israel's position, deepening its pariah status in much of the world, but it also considerably complicates the situation for the new Obama Administration, now facing yet another Middle East mess to deal with on top of domestic budget crisis.

So Netanyahu and Lieberman were banking on a quickie - so were those Arab regimes who feign support for the Palestinians but now `the landscape' has shifted as a result of the medium range missile attacks. A ground campaign, should Netanyahu decide to take that route, will be inevitably ugly and the modicum of good will that Israel has by spinning the war, will evaporate. At the time of this writing (Saturday, November 17, 2012) the cabinet cannot decide whether to launch a ground offensive. If the Palestinians have sophisticated medium range missiles, they must also have anti-tank rockets which can knock out Israeli tanks. Then things get very, very messy. Israeli casualties will soar and if 2006 Lebanon and the 2008 Gaza offensives are any indications, Israeli war crimes against the Palestinians, once again, are almost inevitable.

The Israeli cabinet has met 3-4 times over the past 24 hours. They cannot seem to make up their minds about a ground attack. Palestinian mastery of medium range missiles - even a few of them - that can hit Tel Aviv and Jerusalem have changed the equation of the offensive. It was supposed to be the massive bombing campaign it has been up until now, and then some kind of end to it. Netanyahu wanted to finish the job before world public opinion could get mobilized - the demonstrations are starting everywhere.

The Israeli cabinet doesn't seem to know how to proceed. Stop the air war or expand the war with a full scale ground assault.We'll see and rather soon. The usually conservative Herusalem post seems to be arguing against a ground incursion. As for me, I'm taking the sign I've had for the past 45 years out of the garage, dusting it off and heading, with my entire family downtown to join Friends of Sabeel, Jewish Voice for Peace and Occupy Denver. The old sign reads simply `End The Occupation'. I'd like to thrown it away but unfortunately, it still seems to strike a chord.

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Fear and loathing in Gaza as offensive continues

Rain of fire and destruction conjures up memories of Operation Cast Lead and fear for the future.

By Amira Hass | Nov.17, 2012 | 10:38 PM | 6

Five people were killed Saturday morning in an Israeli airstrike on Rafah, Palestinian sources said. Earlier, during an aerial attack Friday night, six Palestinians including one civilian were killed, a top source at the Health Ministry in Gaza claimed.

From the outset of Operation Pillar of Defense to Saturday morning, 37 Palestinians have died of whom at least 10 were civilians; Palestinian sources count 17 civilian deaths. Dozens more have been wounded.

Red Cross sources in Gaza say several medical centers, including the emergency facility in Jabaliya, suffered collateral damage from the strikes.

People living in the northern and eastern parts of the Gaza Strip began to flee their homes as of Friday as heavy fighting raged nearby. Talking with Haaretz, some described ceaseless attacks from sea, land and air only a few yards from them, "shaking the ground and the walls."

Among the people who fled are the Samouni family, who live in the eastern part of the Gaza neighborhood Zeitoun. During Operation Cast Lead in the winter of 2008-09, 21 members of the Samouni family were killed when commander of the Givati Brigade, Ilan Malka, ordered their home bombed. Based on photos from an unmanned drone, Malka concluded the building was sheltering armed Palestinians. One of the Samouni women says she and her children are now reliving the trauma of 2009.

The strike on the Hamas government Saturday morning was also watched warily by neighbors. On Thursday, a man living in the area told Haaretz that people were expecting Israeli jets to bomb the symbol of Hamas civil rule. In 2008 the government buildings were in the southern Gaza neighborhood Tel el-Hawa, and were destroyed in a series of strikes. About three to four months later, the government moved to a building in the northern Gaza neighborhood of Nasser.

"It was a very difficult night," S. told Haaretz. "The bombing didn't stop. At about five, I was preparing for prayer, when I heard an explosion nearby and figured it was the government building." Two hours later, he says, the Israel Air Force bombed another target on the IDF's list – the soccer stadium in Palestine Square. Less than 200 yards from a mosque that was packed at the time. S.'s 13-year-old son relates: "I was sleeping. The noise woke me up." The shockwave warped the neighbors' doors, he said. "We leave the windows open, so the glass didn't break, but the neighbors' windows broke. Shockwaves caused bricks to fall on cars and damaged them. One of them dented our car."

Everybody he knows felt heartened by Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Kandil's visit to Gaza, says S.: It made them more resilient. "Today the Tunisian foreign minister came and tomorrow other delegations will be coming form Egypt. When I watch Israeli television, I feel they don't understand the change that Egypt and Tunisia have undergone. They're still thinking in terms of despots dependent on the United States, and don't realize that the opinion of the Egyptian people plays an important role in Egyptian policy."

A number of medical centers were damaged during the fighting of the last three days, the organization Physicians for Human Rights said in a press release. Dr. Bashar Murad, director of the Red Crescent's Gaza emergency and rescue services, told the organization there were no direct strikes on emergency services or their centers. But some were close enough to strikes to have suffered severe damage, mainly in the open areas of the south such as the emergency center in Jabalya. It was hit by large, sharp shards and rubble, some weighing as much as ten pounds, he says: "We received no notice or request to evacuate before the attack."

Medical facilities in the Tel el-Hawa district were damaged, Murad says, including the al-Quds Hospital. "Most of the windows were shattered. Some of the roofs collapsed or were damaged from the shock of the bombings (not direct hits). The Jabalya emergency and rescue center was damaged." The patients are afraid in the very place they're supposed to feel cared for, he says.

"The damage to infrastructure, such as the roads, creates obstacles and delays in reaching the wounded. Sometimes roads are blocked by a bomb crater, or rubble from destroyed houses and ambulances can't get through," Murad says. "The paramedics have to go on foot and carry the injured risking their own lives, and naturally get to the injured later at a time when every minute can be the difference between life and death."

"One of the biggest dangers is when a place is bombed for a second time, when medical teams are already on their way," he continues. "There have been cases where the same place was bombed twice, with a few minutes to half an hour or an hour in between, which endangers rescue teams."

According to Palestinian health authorities, as of Saturday morning 13 civilians, six of which were children, had been killed since the start of the offensive. 37 have died since the campaign began, and as of Friday afternoon, the count of wounded had reached 257, of whom 253 are civilians, including 62 children and 42 women.

According to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, two children were killed on Thursday night in the town of Beit Hanun in northern Gaza, after a strike near their home: Udai Nasser, 15, and Fares el-Basiyuni, 8.

Earlier Thursday evening, in the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahia, Marwan al-Komsan, 52, a teacher employed by the United Nations refugee agency, was killed while visiting his brother. A mortar shell or explosive fell in a field near the brother’s home, seriously injuring the brother, who is 72.

In Zeitoun, a 10-month-old girl, Hanan Tafesh, died Thursday night of head injuries sustained in a strike the day before. Her mother and two others were wounded.

Camel Makat, 23, died Friday morning of a heart attack after a fighter jet bombed a field near his home in the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood in northwestern Gaza City. On Friday evening 2-year-old Walid al-Abdullah died of his injuries sustained the day before in a strike on the village of al-Kara, east of Khan Yunis.

In Israeli strikes on Zeitoun Wednesday, a 3-year-old girl, Ranin Arafat, was killed along with an 11-month-old boy, Amar Masharawi, and a pregnant 19-year-old woman, Hiba Masharawi-Turk. Also on Wednesday, a 61-year-old man, Mahmoud Hmad, was killed in a field in the Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza.

***

OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR
Israel’s Shortsighted Assassination
By GERSHON BASKIN
Published: November 16, 2012

JERUSALEM
AHMED AL-JABARI — the strongman of Hamas, the head of its military wing, the man responsible for the abduction of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit — was assassinated on Wednesday by Israeli missiles.

Why? Israel’s government has declared that the aim of the current strikes against Gaza is to rebuild deterrence so that no rockets will be fired on Israel. Israel’s targeted killings of Hamas leaders in the past sent the Hamas leadership underground and prevented rocket attacks on Israel temporarily. According to Israeli leaders, deterrence will be achieved once again by targeting and killing military and political leaders in Gaza and hitting hard at Hamas’s military infrastructure. But this policy has never been effective in the long term, even when the founder and spiritual leader of Hamas, Sheik Ahmed Yassin, was killed by Israel. Hamas didn’t lay down its guns then, and it won’t stop firing rockets at Israel now without a cease-fire agreement.

When we were negotiating with Hamas to release Mr. Shalit, members of the Israeli team believed that Mr. Jabari wouldn’t make a deal because holding Mr. Shalit was a kind of “life insurance policy.” As long as Mr. Jabari held Mr. Shalit, Israelis believed, the Hamas leader knew he was safe. The Israeli government had a freer hand to kill Mr. Jabari after Mr. Shalit was released in October 2011. His insurance policy was linked to their assessment of the value of keeping him alive. This week, that policy expired.

I believe that Israel made a grave and irresponsible strategic error by deciding to kill Mr. Jabari. No, Mr. Jabari was not a man of peace; he didn’t believe in peace with Israel and refused to have any direct contact with Israeli leaders and even nonofficials like me. My indirect dealings with Mr. Jabari were handled through my Hamas counterpart, Ghazi Hamad, the deputy foreign minister of Hamas, who had received Mr. Jabari’s authorization to deal directly with me. Since Mr. Jabari took over the military wing of Hamas, the only Israeli who spoke with him directly was Mr. Shalit, who was escorted out of Gaza by Mr. Jabari himself. (It is important to recall that Mr. Jabari not only abducted Mr. Shalit, but he also kept him alive and ensured that he was cared for during his captivity.)

Passing messages between the two sides, I was able to learn firsthand that Mr. Jabari wasn’t just interested in a long-term cease-fire; he was also the person responsible for enforcing previous cease-fire understandings brokered by the Egyptian intelligence agency. Mr. Jabari enforced those cease-fires only after confirming that Israel was prepared to stop its attacks on Gaza. On the morning that he was killed, Mr. Jabari received a draft proposal for an extended cease-fire with Israel, including mechanisms that would verify intentions and ensure compliance. This draft was agreed upon by me and Hamas’s deputy foreign minister, Mr. Hamad, when we met last week in Egypt.

The goal was to move beyond the patterns of the past. For years, it has been the same story: Israeli intelligence discovers information about an impending terrorist attack from Gaza. The Israeli Army takes pre-emptive action with an airstrike against the suspected terror cells, which are often made up of fighters from groups like Islamic Jihad, the Popular Resistance Committees or Salafi groups not under Hamas’s control but functioning within its territory. These cells launch rockets into Israeli towns near Gaza, and they often miss their targets. The Israeli Air Force responds swiftly. The typical result is between 10 and 25 casualties in Gaza, zero casualties in Israel and huge amounts of property damage on both sides.

Other key Hamas leaders and members of the Shura Council, its senior decision-making body, supported a new cease-fire effort because they, like Mr. Jabari, understood the futility of successive rocket attacks against Israel that left no real damage on Israel and dozens of casualties in Gaza. Mr. Jabari was not prepared to give up the strategy of “resistance,” meaning fighting Israel, but he saw the need for a new strategy and was prepared to agree to a long-term cease-fire.

This war is being presented in Israel, once again, as a war of “no choice.” The people of Israel are rallying around the flag as would be expected anywhere in the world. The United States government has voiced its support of the Israeli operation by stating, “Israel has the full right to defend itself and protect its citizens.” It certainly does, but we must ask whether there is another way to achieve the same goal without the use of force.

Israel has used targeted killings, ground invasions, drones, F-16s, economic siege and political boycott. The only thing it has not tried and tested is reaching an agreement (through third parties) for a long-term mutual cease-fire.

No government can tolerate having its civilian population attacked by rockets from a neighboring territory. And the firing of thousands of rockets from Gaza into Israel must end. There was a chance for a mutually agreed cease-fire. The difference between the proposal I drafted in cooperation with my Hamas counterpart and past proposals was that it included both a mechanism for dealing with impending terror threats and a clear definition of breaches. This draft was to be translated and shared with both Mr. Jabari and Israeli security officials, who were aware of our mediation efforts.

In the draft, which I understand Mr. Jabari saw hours before he was killed, it was proposed that Israeli intelligence information transmitted through the Egyptians would be delivered to Mr. Jabari so that he could take action aimed at preventing an attack against Israel. Mr. Jabari and his forces would have had an opportunity to prove that they were serious when they told Egyptian intelligence officials that they were not interested in escalation. If Mr. Jabari had agreed to the draft, then we could have prevented this new round of violence; if he had refused, then Israel would have likely attacked in much the same way as it is now.

The proposal was at least worth testing. Moreover, it included the understanding that if Israel were to take out a real ticking bomb — people imminently preparing to launch a rocket — such a strike would not be considered a breach of the cease-fire and would not lead to escalation.

Instead, Mr. Jabari is dead — and with him died the possibility of a long-term cease-fire. Israel may have also compromised the ability of Egyptian intelligence officials to mediate a short-term cease-fire and placed Israel’s peace treaty with Egypt at risk.

This was not inevitable, and cooler heads could have prevailed. Mr. Jabari’s assassination removes one of the more practical actors on the Hamas side.

Who will replace him? I am not convinced that Israel’s political and military leaders have adequately answered that question.

Gershon Baskin is a co-chairman of the Israel Palestine Center for Research and Information, a columnist for The Jerusalem Post and the initiator and negotiator of the secret back channel for the release of Gilad Shalit.

***

What if powerful Palestinians were bombing weak Israelis?
Posted By Stephen M. Walt Thursday, November 15, 2012 - 4:55 PM

I've been off the grid while in the air back from Dubai, so I'm only beginning to catch up on the depressingly familiar events in Gaza. I'll post additional thoughts tomorrow. But for now, two initial observations.

First, the similarities to Operation Cast Lead (the Israeli assault on Gaza in 2008-09) are of course obvious. In both cases, the attacks occurred shortly after a U.S. presidential election. In both cases, a period of rough truce was initially broken by Israel, triggering a Palestinian response, and then leading to an overwhelming Israeli counterattack justified by the need to "restore deterrence." In both cases there doesn't appear to be a clear Israeli strategy, in the sense of any justifiable political objectives.

Given these similarities, a good place to start weighing the moral dimensions here is Jerome Slater's recent article "Just War Philosophy and the 2008-09 War in Gaza," published in the Fall 2012 issue of International Security. Slater is distinguished research professor emeritus at SUNY-Buffalo, and an insightful commentator on Middle East affairs. His analysis of Cast Lead is sober but damning, and it applies with equal force to the events we are now witnessing.

Second, I cannot resist reposting one of my earliest blog entries, written back when Cast Lead was underway. It was a thought experiment that asked how Americans might feel and react if the situation between Israel and its neighbors were reversed, and if a sovereign Palestinian state were treating a defiant Jewish enclave in Gaza in the same way that Israel is now treating the Palestinians who live there. Here's the key passage:

"Imagine that Egypt, Jordan, and Syria had won the Six Day War, leading to a massive exodus of Jews from the territory of Israel. Imagine that the victorious Arab states had eventually decided to permit the Palestinians to establish a state of their own on the territory of the former Jewish state. (That's unlikely, of course, but this is a thought experiment). Imagine that a million or so Jews had ended up as stateless refugees confined to that narrow enclave known as the Gaza Strip. Then imagine that a group of hardline Orthodox Jews took over control of that territory and organized a resistance movement. They also steadfastly refused to recognize the new Palestinian state, arguing that its creation was illegal and that their expulsion from Israel was unjust. Imagine that they obtained backing from sympathizers around the world and that they began to smuggle weapons into the territory. Then imagine that they started firing at Palestinian towns and villages and refused to stop despite continued reprisals and civilian casualties.

Here's the question: would the United States be denouncing those Jews in Gaza as 'terrorists' and encouraging the Palestinian state to use overwhelming force against them?

Here's another: would the United States have even allowed such a situation to arise and persist in the first place?"

And please: The issue is not about whether Israel has the right to defend itself. Of course it does. But what it doesn't have is the right to use disproportionate force in order to maintain an unjustified and illegal occupation and the subjugation of millions of Palestinians, which is the taproot from which these events spring.

***

*"Laws and Customs of War on Land" (Hague IV); October 18, 1907: "Section III Military Authority over the territory of the hostile State.":

Art. 42.
Territory is considered occupied when it is actually placed under the authority of the hostile army.
The occupation extends only to the territory where such authority has been established and can be exercised.

Art. 43.
The authority of the legitimate power having in fact passed into the hands of the
occupant, the latter shall take all the measures in his power to restore, and ensure, as far as possible, public order and safety, while respecting, unless absolutely prevented, the laws in force in the country.

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