Saturday, January 3, 2009
The petition was initiated by Ramsay Clark. Please add your name at the link and distribute widely.
An [Israeli] officer and a soldier were seriously wounded during the night-time fighting against Palestinian gunmen. They were evacuated to the Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer.
Two other soldiers sustained moderate injuries during the invasion, while nine others were mildly hurt. The troops were evacuated to the Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba for treatment. In total, 30 soldiers were wounded....
The army is preparing to enter the third phase of the operation, which is expected to be much broader in scope. In this framework tens of thousands of reserve soldiers will be heading to training bases in north and south Israel during the early hours of Sunday morning.
The reserve soldiers may take part in the third phase of the operation or be deployed in central and northern Israel in case of escalation on those fronts.
"Calling up the reserves and gearing them up will provide us the flexibility we need in case of any development, particularly if the operation in Gaza is expanded," an army official explained.
A third of the reserve soldiers will receive new equipment as part of a five-year plan initiated by the IDF Logistics Corps following the Second Lebanon War. Other troops will have to make due with outdated gear.
A military official told Ynet that troops were advancing in northern Gaza according to plan.
"For the time being, we are facing several hubs of resistance, yet we are not dealing with massive resistance," he said. "Since we entered there have been no unusual incidents, and the troops are operating in line with pre-determined objectives."
Meanwhile, IDF Central Command Chief Yoav Galant has ordered to expand the closed military zone in the Gaza vicinity region so that it will include all areas west of Sderot, Ofakim and Netivot.
Saturday night, the Palestinians reported that the IDF attacked a fuel depot in Beit Lahiya. Meanwhile, the IDF imposed a 30-kilometer (roughly 20 miles) naval blockade on Gaza. The move was approved by Defense Minister Barak and was meant to prevent foreign vessels from reaching the combat zone.
Earlier in the evening, large infantry, engineering and intelligence forces entered the Strip, accompanied by armored corps and artillery units. Navy vessels and Air Force gunships also played a role in the operation. The troops entered various areas in northern Gaza and fire exchanges were reported soon after....
Gaza pounded: Earlier in the day, artillery cannons started to shell targets in the Strip. The IDF said that by Saturday evening hundreds of shells had been fired at precise targets in Gaza. Much of Gaza was enveloped by darkness as night fell.
Meanwhile, Air Force aircraft continued to drop leaflets in Gaza, calling on residents to leave their homes in order to avoid injury. The leaflets dropped Saturday read: "Area resident, as result of the acts undertaken by terror activists in your area against Israel, the IDF is forced to respond immediately and operate in this area. For your own safety, you are asked to leave the area immediately." [Ed.: Gaza is a small completely sealed area and there is literally nowhere for them to go.]
"I would like to inform everyone that Paltel Infrastructure is severely damaged in Gaza. All means of communication with the Gaza Strip will be highly affected and may totally cut off. This will include PALTEL, Hadara, and Jawwal Mobile services.
We are experiencing loss of fuel, infrastructure damage by missiles, towers hit by rockets...
Our technical staff are unable to fix the damages due to the delicate situation especially after the death of 3 employees while on duty, and dozens hurt from shrapnel.
Our teams are working around the clock...
We hope that this nightmare will end, and we wish safety for everyone."
How much worse can it get? After a horrifying week, the Israelis have arrived once again at our doorstep. What now? Already we have experienced so much terror and want.
When the Israeli strikes first began, my wife and I were worrying about lentils. She said we could not have lentil soup for lunch because there were no lentils in the shops. Nor any rice or flour. Suddenly there was a deafening noise, followed by a succession of blasts the likes of which I had never experienced. Our house was rocking, the windows rattling in their panes....
The children suffer the most, I think. They see the fear in their mothers' eyes. The image of their fathers as a source of security is shattered. Their fathers could not provide them with food, and now they are unable to protect them. The rockets will eventually stop flying, I am certain, but it may be too late for these children. To me, the chances seem great that they will join Hamas as they search for a replacement for the father figure, someone to provide and protect. In this way, Israeli actions will only strengthen Hamas.
Wisdom tells us that violence can only breed violence. Israel's brutality guarantees that its people will not be secure. Israel may destroy much and kill many in Hamas, but that is not the solution. Hamas was born because of the occupation and won the democratic elections in 2006 because of false promises of peace and people's disillusionment with the Palestinian Authority. Israel and its allies should address Palestinian grievances instead of aggravating them by denying justice and security and by violating basic human rights. Most of the Palestinians in Gaza are here because they were expelled in 1948 when Israel was created. Since then, we have not had a day of freedom or of equal rights with Israelis. We can barely feed our children or provide them with medicine, because Israel controls everything that goes in and out. From where I sit, in the middle of this barrage of bombing, Israel looks to be increasingly living outside the norms of the world community and outside international law....
Eyad El-Sarraj, a psychiatrist, is the founder and president of the Gaza Community Mental Health Program (which sustained massive damage from Israeli shelling in recent days) and a commissioner of the Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights.
Lie #1: Israel is only targeting legitimate military sites and is seeking to protect innocent lives. Israel never targets civilians.
Lie #2: Hamas violated the cease-fire. The Israeli bombardment is a response to Palestinian rocket fire and is designed to end such rocket attacks.
Lie #3: Hamas is using human shields, a war crime.
Lie #4: Arab nations have not condemned Israel’s actions because they understand Israel’s justification for its assault.
Lie #5: Israel is not responsible for civilian deaths because it warned the Palestinians of Gaza to flee areas that might be targeted.
See the author's detailed arguments at the link.
Jeremy R. Hammond is the editor of (Foreign Policy Journal), a website dedicated to providing news, critical analysis, and opinion commentary on U.S. foreign policy from outside of the standard framework.
In the coming years it seems doubtful that a viable peace process will be sustained, that Palestinian unity will be achieved, or that Israel will be governed by a more moderate faction. In the mean time settlements will continue to expand faster than ever, and with them, the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. It will soon be quite impossible to separate these two peoples, whether the majorities want it or not.
This casualty could be counted double as: the death of the dream of Palestinian sovereign statehood, and the eventual death of the Jewish state.
We should continue focusing on, and loudly screaming about, the ongoing slaughter of the Gazan people. The senseless deaths of so many innocent civilians will only spur on the cycle of violence and the endless tit-for-TAT that characterizes this conflict.
However, we should also begin preparing for the new realities which have been created over the last few days. Because of the casualties listed above, we now live in a whole different world, with different facts, different opportunities and different consequences.
Those of us still alive that is…
Details of the author's identity were not provided in the original version.
Actions based on irrational premises inevitably fail in their purposes--they fail, and if the premises don't change, then the actions are inevitably repeated, in forms which are more and more grotesque. It is unbearable to think that the new American administration would begin with more American dollars being poured into what is unjustifiable. It is also unbearable to think that among the first words we would hear from our new, clearly rational president would be preposterous sentences trying to persuade us that Israeli policies which seem to be appalling are actually quite normal and acceptable. Certainly nothing our new president could do would be of greater value to the world--and greater value to the Jews--than to abruptly end the sickeningly patronizing habit of supporting an irrationality which was born in tragedy and will end in more tragedy.
Wallace Shawn is the author of The Designated Mourner and Four Plays (Farrar, Straus & Giroux).
It was impossible not to think about the tens of thousands of Gazan children who were hearing that sound at that moment, cringing with fright, paralyzed by fear, waiting for the bombs to fall.
* * *
“ISRAEL MUST defend itself against the rockets that are terrorizing our Southern towns,” the Israeli spokesmen explained. “Palestinians must respond to the killing of their fighters inside the Gaza Strip,” the Hamas spokesmen declared.
As a matter of fact, the cease-fire did not collapse, because there was no real cease-fire to start with. The main requirement for any cease-fire in the Gaza Strip must be the opening of the border crossings. There can be no life in Gaza without a steady flow of supplies. But the crossings were not opened, except for a few hours now and again. The blockade on land, on sea and in the air against a million and a half human beings is an act of war, as much as any dropping of bombs or launching of rockets. It paralyzes life in the Gaza Strip: eliminating most sources of employment, pushing hundreds of thousands to the brink of starvation, stopping most hospitals from functioning, disrupting the supply of electricity and water.
Those who decided to close the crossings – under whatever pretext – knew that there is no real cease-fire under these conditions.
That is the main thing. Then there came the small provocations which were designed to get Hamas to react. After several months, in which hardly any Qassam rockets were launched, an army unit was sent into the Strip “in order to destroy a tunnel that came close to the border fence”. From a purely military point of view, it would have made more sense to lay an ambush on our side of the fence. But the aim was to find a pretext for the termination of the cease-fire, in a way that made it plausible to put the blame on the Palestinians. And indeed, after several such small actions, in which Hamas fighters were killed, Hamas retaliated with a massive launch of rockets, and – lo and behold – the cease-fire was at an end. Everybody blamed Hamas.
CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr believes that Israel's use of American weapons against civilians "is becoming very problematic." She notes, for example, that the 2000 pound bomb which killed a Hamas leader and members of his family on Thursday "is part of the billions of dollars that Israel has spent buying weapons from the United States."
Israel's use of American-made weapons in attacking Gaza has been a matter of official concern for years. In 2002, the State Department announced it was monitoring possible violations of the Arms Export Control Act after the Israeli military used an American-made jet to drop a laser-guided bomb that killed a Hamas leader and 14 civilians in a crowded Gaza City neighborhood.
Just last September, Congress approved a $77 million dollar deal to sell a thousand Boeing GBU-39 bunker-buster "smart bombs" to Israel. The Jerusalem Post reported on Monday that these small, GPS-guided missiles have now been used on underground tunnels and launchers in Gaza.
"Precision guided bombs are only precision in that they hit the target they are aimed at," Starr explained. "We're getting these civilian casualties. These weapons are supposed to be used for a country's self-defense. Israel, obviously, believes this is its self-defense against Hamas, but you see these civilian casualties. That's not why the US sells weapons abroad -- for the killing of innocent civilians."
"The world community only is going to stand for this for so long," continued Starr. "It's this reason that you're seeing people look for a political settlement." She added that Israel now intends to launch a ground campaign in Gaza to "get rid of Hamas once and for all," but -- as the US has learned in Iraq and Afghanistan -- it is impossible to wipe out an insurgency by military force along without first getting the civilian population on your side.
Videotape of report available at the link.
Live Twitter feeds from blogger Laila al Haddad, whose family is in Gaza, every few minutes
ADC's Gaza Attacks Resource Center here
Haaretz video coverageC
Our self-righteous celebration of ourselves and our supposed virtue is as false as that of Israel. We have become monsters, militarized bullies, heartless and savage. We are a party to human slaughter, a flagrant war crime, and do nothing. We forget that the innocents who suffer and die in Gaza are a reflection of ourselves, of how we might have been should fate and time and geography have made the circumstances of our birth different. We forget that we are all absurd and vulnerable creatures. We all have the capacity to fear and hate and love. “Expose thyself to what wretches feel,” King Lear said, entering the mud and straw hovel of Poor Tom, “and show the heavens more just.”
Privilege and power, especially military power, is a dangerous narcotic. Violence destroys those who bear the brunt of its force, but also those who try to use it to become gods. Over 350 Palestinians have been killed, many of them civilians, and over 1,000 have been wounded since the air attacks began on Saturday. Ehud Barak, Israel’s defense minister, said Israel is engaged in a “war to the bitter end” against Hamas in Gaza. A war? Israel uses sophisticated attack jets and naval vessels to bomb densely crowded refugee camps and slums, to attack a population that has no air force, no air defense, no navy, no heavy weapons, no artillery units, no mechanized armor, no command and control, no army, and calls it a war. It is not a war. It is murder.
The U.N. special rapporteur for human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory, former Princeton University law professor Richard Falk, has labeled what Israel is doing to the 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza “a crime against humanity.” Falk, who is Jewish, has condemned the collective punishment of the Palestinians in Gaza as “a flagrant and massive violation of international humanitarian law as laid down in Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.” He has asked for “the International Criminal Court to investigate the situation, and determine whether the Israeli civilian leaders and military commanders responsible for the Gaza siege should be indicted and prosecuted for violations of international criminal law.” Falk’s unflinching honesty has enraged Israel. He was banned from entering the country on Dec. 14 during his attempt to visit Gaza and the West Bank....
Chris Hedges was the Mideast correspondent for The New York Times for seven years.
Huffington Post - The world isn't just watching the Israeli government commit a crime in Gaza; we are watching it self-harm. This morning, and tomorrow morning, and every morning until this punishment-beating ends, the young people of the Gaza Strip are going to be more filled with hate, and more determined to fight back, with stones or suicide-vests or rockets. Israel's leaders have convinced themselves the harder you beat the Palestinians, the softer they will become. But when this is over, the rage against Israelis will have hardened, and the same old compromises will still be waiting by the roadside of history, untended and unmade.To understand how frightening it is to be a Gazan this morning, you need to have stood in that small slab of concrete by the Mediterranean and smelled the claustrophobia. The Gaza Strip is smaller than the Isle of Wight, but it is crammed with 1.5 million people who can never leave. They live out their lives on top of each other in vast sagging tower blocks, jobless and hungry. From the top floor, you can often see the borders of their world: the Mediterranean Sea, and the Israeli barbed wire. When bombs begin to fall -- as they are doing now with more deadly force than on any day since 1967 -- there is nowhere to hide....
Why would Israel act this way? The Israeli government wants peace, but only one imposed on its own terms, based on the acceptance of defeat by the Palestinians. It means they can keep the slabs of the West Bank on 'their' side of the wall. It means they keep the largest settlements, and control of the water supply. And it means a divided Palestine, with responsibility for Gaza hived off to Egypt, and the broken-up West Bank standing alone. Negotiations threaten this vision: they would require Israel to give up more than it wants to. But an imposed peace will be no peace at all: it will not stop the rockets or the rage. For real safety, Israel will have to talk to the people it is blockading and bombing today - and compromise with them.
The sound of Gaza burning should be drowned out by the words of the Israeli writer Larry Derfner. He says: "Israel's war with Gaza has to be the most one-sided on earth.... If the point is to end it, or at least begin to end it, the ball is not in Hamas' court - it's in ours."
Johann Hari is a writer for the Independent newspaper. To read more of his articles, click here or here.
It is based first and foremost on sheer lies transmitted with a newspeak reminiscent of darker days in 1930s Europe. Every half an hour a news bulletin on the radio and television describes the victims of Gaza as terrorists and Israel's massive killings of them as an act of self-defense. Israel presents itself to its own people as the righteous victim that defends itself against a great evil. The academic world is recruited to explain how demonic and monstrous is the Palestinian struggle, if it is led by Hamas. These are the same scholars who demonized the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in an earlier era and delegitimized his Fatah movement during the second Palestinian intifada.
But the lies and distorted representations are not the worst part of it. It is the direct attack on the last vestiges of humanity and dignity of the Palestinian people that is most enraging. The Palestinians in Israel have shown their solidarity with the people of Gaza and are now branded as a fifth column in the Jewish state; their right to remain in their homeland cast as doubtful given their lack of support for the Israeli aggression. Those among them who agree -- wrongly, in my opinion -- to appear in the local media are interrogated, and not interviewed, as if they were inmates in the Shin Bet's prison. Their appearance is prefaced and followed by humiliating racist remarks and they are met with accusations of being a fifth column, an irrational and fanatical people. And yet this is not the basest practice. There are a few Palestinian children from the occupied territories treated for cancer in Israeli hospitals. God knows what price their families have paid for them to be admitted there. The Israel Radio daily goes to the hospital to demand the poor parents tell the Israeli audience how right Israel is in its attack and how evil is Hamas in its defense.
There are no boundaries to the hypocrisy that a righteous fury produces. The discourse of the generals and the politicians is moving erratically between self-compliments of the humanity the army displays in its "surgical" operations on the one hand, and the need to destroy Gaza for once and for all, in a humane way of course, on the other.
This righteous fury is a constant phenomenon in the Israeli, and before that Zionist, dispossession of Palestine. Every act whether it was ethnic cleansing, occupation, massacre or destruction was always portrayed as morally just and as a pure act of self-defense reluctantly perpetrated by Israel in its war against the worst kind of human beings. In his excellent volume The Returns of Zionism: Myths, Politics and Scholarship in Israel, Gabi Piterberg explores the ideological origins and historical progression of this righteous fury. Today in Israel, from Left to Right, from Likud to Kadima, from the academia to the media, one can hear this righteous fury of a state that is more busy than any other state in the world in destroying and dispossessing an indigenous population.
Ilan Pappe, an Israeli historian, is chair in the Department of History at the University of Exeter. He is the author of The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine.
KABOBfest blog, Thursday January 1, 2009 - In the 1967 war, the armies of Syria, Jordan and Egypt were destroyed by Israel in 6 days. Gaza, having endured 5 days of total Israel war, is no closer to caving in now than it was before this war started, and this is a territory of refugees that has endured 60 years of displacement, 40 years of occupation, 16 years of closure, two years of embargoes and one and a half years of siege.
The analogy with the Six Day War came to me as I was trying to understand the strength and morale of Gazans in the face of this merciless onslaught. It helped me understand why my elderly grandparents, while suffering like everybody else, were still doing their best to maintain their normal routine of life. My grandparents were ethnically cleansed from their village of al-Fallujah in 1949 by Israel forces, endured the 1956, 1967 and 1973 wars directly, and have gone through the first and second intifadas, with all the suffocating oppression of the former and the unlimited killing of the latter.
It helps me understand why a tiny strip of land, 30 miles long by 5 miles wide, surrounded on two sides by Israel, on one side by Egypt, and on the last side by the Mediterranean Sea, can take such heavy punishment and continue, decade after decade, being the soul and spark of Palestinian nationalism.
It helps me understand why the most densely populated place on earth, with a population density of 11,000 people per square mile, and one of the youngest regions in the world, where 45% of the population is under 14 years of age, gets the spirit to never acquiesce to Israel's demands and plans, and the confidence that in one of the most lopsided wars in history, a besieged refugee population will not be defeated by the worlds 5th strongest army.
Gaza-born KABOBfest blogger Mohammad, presently a student at Birzeit University, shares more about his family's experiences in this war and his reflections on the strength of Gaza's resistance in the full post - available at the link.
Friday, January 2, 2009
By radicalising the Palestinians, and by arousing great anger in the Arab and Muslim world, this savage war rules out the possibility of Israel's peaceful integration in the region for the foreseeable future. That may even be its cynical aim, since Israel wants dominance, not peaceful coexistence.
As the F-16s carry out their missions of death, the message to the world is that Israel will continue to live by the sword, as it has done for the past six decades, rather than risk the concessions and compromises which peace would require.
The war has, in fact, confirmed what had long been apparent, namely that Israel has no interest in a negotiated peace. Peace means retraction, it means ceding territory, whereas Israel is still bent on expansion. That is what the continued theft of West Bank land and the mushrooming settlements are all about, together with the demolition of Palestinian homes, the security wall, the settlers-only road network, the stifling of the Palestinian economy by over 600 checkpoints, and countless other cruel vexations.
Peace is, indeed, the main casualty of this war. It is as dead as the corpses in Gaza. The two-state solution has been dealt a deathblow. The tentative Israeli-Syrian talks have been firmly shut down. The Arab Peace Plan, which offered Israel peace and normal relations with all 22 Arab states if it withdrew to its 1967 borders, has been buried in a welter of blood and bomb wreckage.
One of Israel's war aims must surely have been to pre-empt any attempt by the incoming US administration of Barack Obama to re-launch the moribund peace process. Valuable months will now be lost clearing up the mess. As for the outgoing Bush administration, the blatant lies of Condoleezza Rice, who blamed the war solely on Hamas, must serve as the damning political epitaph of the most ineffectual U.S. Secretary of State of modern times.
Read the full article online.
The Guardian, January 3 - Last Saturday, the first day of massive air strikes on Gaza, I finally get through to my old friend Mohammed. We speak for a few moments, he reassures me he is OK, he asks about my now-delayed trip to Gaza, and suddenly I ask: "What is that noise?" It is a sort of distant keening, like the roar of approaching traffic, or a series of waves hitting a rocky shore. "I am at the cemetery, Karma", he says, "I am burying my family." He now sounds exhausted. He repeats, over and over again in his steady, tired voice as if it were a prayer: "This is our life. This is our life. This is our life."
I had just come off the phone with Jamal, who at that moment was in another cemetery in Jabaliya camp, burying three members of his own family. They included two of his nieces, one married to a police cadet. All were at the graduating ceremony in the crowded police station when F16s targeted them that Saturday morning, massacring more than 45 citizens in an instant, mortally wounding dozens more. Police stations across Gaza were similarly struck. Under the laws of war (or international humanitarian law as it is more commonly known), policemen, traffic cops, security guards: all are non-combatants, and classified as civilians under the Geneva conventions. But more to the point, Palestinian non-combatants are not mere civilians, but possess something more real, more alive, more sovereign than a distancing legal classification: the people in Gaza are citizens. Some work in the various civic institutions across the Strip, but most simply use them on a daily basis: their schools, police stations, hospitals, their ministries.
Later on that first day I finally reach Khalil, who runs a prisoners' human rights association in Gaza. He was trying to organise a press conference. It was chaotic: he was shouting, he couldn't finish his sentences or form words. When I told him what I had just heard, he told me that he too had just come from the cemetery. His cousin, Sharif Abu Shammala, 26 years old, had recently got a job as a guard at the university. He had been asked to go in that morning to sign his worksheet at the local police station; he had felt lucky to find the work.
For the one and a half million Palestinian citizens living in Gaza, ways to absorb and describe their daily predicament - these collective and individual experiences of extreme violence - had already been used up by the two years of siege that preceded this week's carnage. Hanging out with Mohammed at his office in Gaza City six months ago, mostly just watching him smoke one cigarette after another, he abruptly leant over his desk and said to me: "Everyone is dead. There is no life in Gaza. Capital has left. Ask someone passing by: where are you going? They will answer: I don't know. What are you doing? I don't know. Gaza today is a place of aimless roaming."
On this New Year's Day at his home in Sheikh Radwan, his walls tremble from the F16 aerial bombardment under way in his neighbourhood. The intensity of it courses down the line into my ear, his voice a cloud of smoke. His house is just next to the mosque. Earlier this week, his wife's cousin in Jabaliya refugee camp lost five of her children: they lived next to a mosque the Israeli air force had bombed. "So where can I sleep, my children sleep?" he asks down the phone. "I don't know how to tell you what this is like, as I have stopped sleeping, myself. We cannot go out, we cannot stay in: nowhere is safe. But I think I would rather die at home."
I first met international law professor Richard Falk when he was a member of the Seán MacBride commission of inquiry into the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982. The UN rapporteur of human rights to the Palestinian territories, he has studied massive bombardment of this type many times before. Yet he too struggled to put words on to the singular horror unfolding: "It is macabre ... I don't know of anything that exactly fits this situation. People have been referring to the Warsaw ghetto as the nearest analog in modern times." He says he cannot think of another occupation that endured for decades and involved this kind of oppressive circumstances: "The magnitude, the deliberateness, the violations of international humanitarian law ... warrant the characterisation of a crime against humanity."....
This week Palestinians have created an astonishing history with their stamina, their resilience, their unwillingness to surrender, their luminous humanity. Gaza was always a place representing cosmopolitan hybridity at its best. And the weight of its dense and beautiful history over thousands of years has, by its nature, revealed to those watching the uncivilised and cruel character of this high-tech bombardment against them. I tell each of my friends, in the hours of conversation, how the quality of their capacity as citizens inspires a response that honours this common humanity. From the start of the attack, Palestinians living in the cities and refugee camps across the West Bank and the Arab world took to the streets in their tens of thousands in a fierce demand for national unity. More than 100,000 people erupted on to the streets of Cairo; the same in Amman. Earlier this week I regaled my friend Ziad, who lives in Rafah refugee camp, with an account of how, at the demonstration in London on Sunday, a young man threw his shoe over the gates of the Israeli embassy. Rushed by police (who perhaps thought it was a bomb), the mass of British protesters poured off the pavement to envelop him. Ziad laughed for ages and then said quietly, "God only knows, he must be from Gaza."
Karma Nabulsi is an Oxford academic and a former PLO representative.
Full article available at the link.
Israeli Attacks Kill Over 310 in Gaza in One of Israel’s Bloodiest Attacks on Palestinians Since 1948
Dr. Moussa El-Haddad, retired physician in Gaza City. His daughter Laila El-Haddad is a journalist who writes the popular blog ‘Raising Yousef’
Fida Qishta, Freelance journalist and Gaza Strip Coordinator for the International Solidarity Movement
Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, independent Palestinian lawmaker and democracy activist
Gideon Levy, journalist with the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz
Ali Abunimah, author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse and co-founder of The Electronic Intifada. His latest piece is called ‘We Have No Words Left’ published today in London’sGuardian newspaper.
Full transcript of the report and interviews online.
|Gaza Rally Outside Israeli Consulate|
|by Patrick Keaney, Boston Indymedia, December 31, 2008|
AUDIO report by Sofia Jarrin about the protest at Israeli Consulate, broadcast on WMBR 88.1 FM program What's Left.
With strong winds blowing several large Palestinian flags into the cold night sky, a picket line formed across the street from the consulate’s office. As dozens pro-Israeli counter-demonstrators gathered in front of the door to the consulate, the pro-Palestinian group started chanting “Occupation is a crime, from Iraq to Palestine!” and “Not another nickel, not another dime! No more money for Israel’s crimes!” A large police presence was visible from the outset, separating the two groups.
On a day when the death toll in Gaza neared 400, and with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert declaring, “We are currently at the first stage of the operation,” it’s clear that a sustained campaign of resistance against Israel’s crimes is needed. Anyone interested in learning more about the issues and getting involved can visit http://bostonstandswithgaza.blogspot.com
An Opinion Editorial by Mustafa Barghouthi, Secretary General of the Palestinian National Initiative
Palestine Monitor, December 31, 2008
The Israeli campaign of ‘death from above’ began around 11 am, on Saturday morning and stretched straight through the night into this morning. The massacre continues as I write these words.
The bloodiest single day in Palestine since the War of 1967 is far from over following on Israel’s promised that this is ‘only the beginning’ of their campaign of state terror. At least 290 people have been murdered thus far, but the body count continues to rise at a dramatic pace as more mutilated bodies are pulled from the rubble, previous victims succumb to their wounds and new casualties are created by the minute.
What has and is occurring is nothing short of a war crime, yet the Israeli public relations machine is in full-swing, churning out lies by the minute.
Once and for all it is time to expose the myths that they have created.
1. Israelis have claimed to have ended the occupation of the Gaza Strip in 2005.
2. Israel claims that Hamas violated the cease-fire and pulled out of it unilaterally.
3. Israel claims to be pursuing peace with ‘peaceful Palestinians’.
4. Israel is acting in self-defense.
5. Israel claims to have struck military targets only.
6. Israel claims that it is attacking Hamas and not the Palestinian people.
7. Israel claims that Palestinians are the source of violence.
Read more on Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi's responses to these myths in the full article online...
The small boat, carrying McKinney, the Green Party's recent presidential candidate, other volunteers, and several tons of donated medical supplies, had been trying to reach the coast of Gaza when it was rammed by an Israeli gunboat in international waters.
But as more than 2,400 Palestinians have been killed or injured -- the majority civilians -- since Israel began its savage bombardment of Gaza on 27 December, Obama has maintained his silence. "There is only one president at a time," his spokesmen tell the media. This convenient excuse has not applied, say, to Obama's detailed interventions on the economy, or his condemnation of the "coordinated attacks on innocent civilians" in Mumbai in November.
The Mumbai attacks were a clear-cut case of innocent people being slaughtered. The situation in the Middle East however is seen as more "complicated" and so polite opinion accepts Obama's silence not as the approval for Israel's actions that it certainly is, but as responsible statesmanship.
It ought not to be difficult to condemn Israel's murder of civilians and bombing of civilian infrastructure including hundreds of private homes, universities, schools, mosques, civil police stations and ministries, and the building housing the only freely-elected Arab parliament.
It ought not to be risky or disruptive to US foreign policy to say that Israel has an unconditional obligation under the Fourth Geneva Convention to lift its lethal, months-old blockade preventing adequate food, fuel, surgical supplies, medications and other basic necessities from reaching Gaza.
But in the looking-glass world of American politics, Israel, with its powerful first-world army, is the victim, and Gaza -- the besieged and blockaded home to 1.5 million immiserated people, half of them children and 80% refugees -- is the aggressor against whom no cruelty is apparently too extreme.
While feigning restraint, Obama has telegraphed where he really stands; senior adviser David Axelrod told CBS on 28 December that Obama understood Israel's urge to "respond" to attacks on its citizens. Axelrod claimed that "this situation has become even more complicated in the last couple of days and weeks as Hamas began its shelling [and] Israel responded."
The truce Hamas had meticulously upheld was shattered when Israel attacked Gaza, killing six Palestinians, as The Guardian reported on 5 November. A blatant disregard for the facts, it seems, will not leave the White House with George W. Bush on 20 January.
Axelrod also recalled Obama's visit to Israel last July when he ignored Palestinians and visited the Israeli town of Sderot. There, Obama declared: "If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I'm going to do everything in my power to stop that. I would expect Israelis to do the same thing."
This should not surprise anyone. Despite pervasive wishful thinking that Obama would abandon America's pro-Israel bias, his approach has been almost indistinguishable from the Bush administration's.
Along with Tony Blair and George W. Bush, Obama staunchly supported Israel's war against Lebanon in July-August 2006, where it used cluster bombs on civilian areas, killing more than 1,000 people.
Obama's comments in Sderot echoed what he said in a speech to the powerful pro-Israel lobby, AIPAC, in March 2007. He recalled an earlier visit to the Israeli town of Kiryat Shmona near the border with Lebanon which he said reminded him of an American suburb. There, he could imagine the sounds of Israeli children at "joyful play just like my own daughters." He saw a home the Israelis told him was damaged by a Hizballah rocket (no one had been hurt in the incident).
Obama has identified his daughters repeatedly with Israeli children, while never having uttered a word about the thousands -- thousands -- of Palestinian and Lebanese children killed and permanently maimed by Israeli attacks just since 2006. This allegedly post-racial president appears fully invested in the racist worldview that considers Arab lives to be worth less than those of Israelis and in which Arabs are always "terrorists."
The problem is much wider than Obama: American liberals in general see no contradiction in espousing positions supporting Israel that they would deem extremist and racist in any other context. The cream of America's allegedly "progressive" Democratic party vanguard -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Howard Berman, New York Senator Charles Schumer, among others -- have all offered unequivocal support for Israel's massacres in Gaza, describing them as "self-defense."
And then there's Hillary Clinton, the incoming secretary of state and self-styled champion of women and the working classes, who won't let anyone outbid her anti-Palestinian positions.
Democrats are not simply indifferent to Palestinians. In the recent presidential election, their efforts to win swing states like Florida often involved espousing positions dehumanizing to Palestinians in particular and Arabs and Muslims in general. Many liberals know this is wrong but tolerate it silently as a price worth paying (though not to be paid by them) to see a Democrat in office.
Even those further to the left implicitly accept Israel's logic. Matthew Rothschild, editor of The Progressive, criticized Israel's attacks on Gaza as a "reckless" and "disproportionate response" to Hamas rocket attacks that he deemed "immoral." There are many others who do nothing to support nonviolent resistance to Israeli occupation and colonization, such as boycott, divestment and sanctions but who are quick to condemn any desperate Palestinian effort -- no matter how ineffectual and symbolic -- to resist Israel's relentless aggression.
Similarly, we can expect that the American university professors who have publicly opposed the academic boycott of Israel on grounds of protecting "academic freedom" will remain just as silent about Israel's bombing of the Islamic University of Gaza as they have about Israel's other attacks on Palestinian academic institutions.
There is no silver lining to Israel's slaughter in Gaza, but the reactions to it should at least serve as a wake-up call: when it comes to the struggle for peace and justice in Palestine, the American liberal elites who are about to assume power present as formidable an obstacle as the outgoing Bush administration and its neoconservative backers.
Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada, Ali Abunimah is author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse (Metropolitan Books, 2006). This essay was first published in The Guardian's Comment is Free.
STOP THE WAR IN GAZA!
Since Saturday December 27th, the Israeli Air Forces have been bombing the Gaza strip. Until now (Tuesday morning), more than 374 people were killed and over 800 were injured. The horror images from Gaza show blood, body parts and destruction everywhere. Hospitals are overflowing, while the Strip’s largest storage of medical supplies was bombarded. The Israeli government is threatening that this is to be only the beginning.
We, Jewish and Palestinian citizens of Israel, are horrified by the actions of the government and the army. We oppose this war and demand to end the suffering inflicted on the people of Gaza.
An immediate ceasefire and an end to all Israeli military operations
An immediate access to Gaza for ALL humanitarian aid and supplies
Permanent lifting of the siege and all restrictions on movement of people and goods to and from Gaza.
Mass bombardment and killing are not self-defense. The Israeli government’s actions represent the main threat to the residents of the south and of Gaza. Four Israeli citizens have already died in the south of Israel of missiles fired in response to this attack. We are all hostages of our government.
The Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and the entire conflict in the Middle East are fueled by international economical and political interests. This war, too, is backed by the silence of the European Union and the support of the USA in the Security Council of the UN. The blood is on their hands as well as on ours.
***We alone cannot stop this war and bloodshed. We call upon the international community and ask for your help.***
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Join us on the International Action Day to STOP THE WAR IN GAZA! Saturday, January 3rd, 2009.
- Organize a protest action in front of the Israeli embassy or consulate in your city.
- Contact your political representatives and demand their engagement in international efforts to end the war.
- Contact your Congressperson or representative in the Parliament of the European Union and demand they take a clear stand against these aggressions.
- Write letters to the Israeli leadership responsible for this war:
Ehud Olmert – Prime Minister
Address: Kaplan St. #3
Hakirya, building 3
Tzipi Livni – Foreign Minister
Address: Itzhak Rabin Blvd. #9
Ehud Barak – Minister of Defense
Address: Kaplan St.
It's not at all surprising, then, that Republican leaders...are unquestioning supporters of the Israeli attack. After all, they're expressing the core ideology of the overwhelming majority of their voters and audience.
Much more notable is the fact that Democratic Party leaders -- including Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi -- are just as lockstep in their blind, uncritical support for the Israeli attack, in their absolute refusal to utter a word of criticism of, or even reservations about, Israeli actions. While some Democratic politicians who are marginalized by the party's leadership are willing to express the views which Democratic voters overwhelmingly embrace, the suffocating, fully bipartisan orthodoxy which typically predominates in America when it comes to Israel -- thou shalt not speak ill of Israel, thou shalt support all actions it takes -- is in full force with this latest conflict. Is there any other significant issue in American political life, besides Israel, where (a) citizens split almost evenly in their views, yet (b) the leaders of both parties adopt identical lockstep positions which leave half of the citizenry with no real voice? More notably still, is there any other issue, besides Israel, where (a) a party's voters overwhelmingly embrace one position (Israel should not have attacked Gaza) but (b) that party's leadership unanimously embraces the exact opposite position (Israel was absolutely right to attack Gaza and the U.S. must support Israel unequivocally)?....
Ultimately, what is most notable about the "debate" in the U.S. over Israel-Gaza is that virtually all of it occurs from the perspective of Israeli interests but almost none of it is conducted from the perspective of American interests. There is endless debate over whether Israel's security is enhanced or undermined by the attack on Gaza and whether the 40-year-old Israeli occupation, expanding West Bank settlements and recent devastating blockade or Hamas militancy and attacks on Israeli civilians bear more of the blame. American opinion-making elites march forward to opine on the historical rights and wrongs of the endless Israeli-Palestinian territorial conflict with such fervor and fixation that it's often easy to forget that the U.S. is not actually a direct party to this dispute.
Though the ins-and-outs of Israeli grievances and strategic considerations are endlessly examined, there is virtually no debate over whether the U.S. should continue to play such an active, one-sided role in this dispute. It's the American taxpayer, with their incredibly consequential yet never-debated multi-billion-dollar aid packages to Israel, who are vital in funding this costly Israeli assault on Gaza. Just as was true for Israel's bombing of Lebanon, it's American bombs that -- with the whole world watching -- are blowing up children and mosques, along with Hamas militants, in Gaza. And it's the American veto power that, time and again, blocks any U.N. action to stop these wars.
For those reasons, the pervasive opposition and anger around the world from the Israeli assault on Gaza is not only directed to Israel but -- quite rationally and understandably -- to America as well. Virtually the entire world, other than large segments of the American public, see Israeli actions as American actions. The attack on Gaza thus harms not only Israel's reputation and credibility, but America's reputation and credibility as well.
And for what? Even for those Americans who, for whatever their reasons, want endlessly to fixate on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, who care deeply and passionately about whether the Israelis or the Palestinians control this or that West Bank hill or village and want to spend the rest of their days arguing about who did what to whom in 1948 and 1967, what possible interests do Americans generally have in any of that, sufficient to involve ourselves so directly and vigorously on one side, and thereby subject ourselves to the significant costs -- financial, reputational, diplomatic and security -- from doing so?
It's one thing to argue that Israel is being both wise and just by bombing the densely populated Gaza Strip. It's another thing entirely to argue that the U.S. should use all of its resources to support Israel as it does so. Those are two entirely separate questions. Arguments insisting that the Gaza attack is good and right for Israel don't mean that they are good and right for the U.S. Yet unstinting, unquestioning American support for whatever Israel does is just tacitly assumed in most of these discussions. The core assumption is that if it can be established that this is the right thing for Israel to do, then it must be the right thing for the U.S. to support it. The notion that the two countries may have separate interests -- that this may be good for Israel to do but not for the U.S. to support -- is the one issue that, above all else, may never be examined....
Glenn Greenwald is a former constitutional law and civil rights litigator who blogs at salon.com.
His remarks sounded familiar - I had already heard them before. Suddenly I remembered: About 10 years ago they were uttered by our defense minister, Ehud Barak. Haaretz journalist Gideon Levy had asked him then, as a candidate for prime minister, what he would do had he been born Palestinian and Barak replied frankly: "I would join a terror organization."
This is not my own answer; terrorism by individuals or organizations or states is always aimed at exacting casualties in a civilian population that has not drawn any blood. Not only is terror blind - consuming both the saint and the sinner - it also expands the circle of the hot-headed, whose blood rises to their brains: Our blood is on their heads, their blood is on our heads. And when an account of the blood of the innocent is opened, who can pay it in full, and when?
I hate all the terrorists in the world, whatever the purpose of their struggle. However, I support every active civil revolt against any occupation, and Israel too is among the despicable occupiers. Such revolt is both more just and more effective, and it does not extinguish one's spark of humanity. And perhaps I'm just too much of an old codger to be a terrorist....
Young people who have no future will easily give up their future, which they can't see on the horizon. Their past as guttersnipes and their present as cursed unemployed idlers lock the opening to their hope: Their death is better than their life, and their death is even better than our life, as their oppressors - that is how they feel. From the day they are born to the day they leave this earth, they see their land ahead, to which they will not come as free people.
There are no good and bad peoples; there are only leaderships that behave responsibly or insanely. And now we are fighting those whom a goodly number of us would be like, had we been in their place for 41 and a half years.
Yossi Sarid was a member of the Israeli Knesset from 1973-2006 and was the Founder and Former Head of Israel's Meretz party. Presently, he lives in Israel and works as a journalist and news commentator.
If Hamas cannot rule, if it cannot provide the people with what they need, if the leaders are in hiding, if anarchy reigns, then Hamas's legitimacy is delivered a major blow.
And this, to a large degree, explains Israel's targets. Jerusalem wants to hit Hamas's ability to rule, it wants to encourage anarchy that would threaten the organization.
Israel's opening of the Gaza crossings to allow in humanitarian aid contributes somewhat to this sense of anarchy, because it makes Hamas look unable to govern. If the Palestinians must rely on Israel's green light to let food aid in from third countries, then that undercuts Hamas's argument that it is able to serve its public.....
Bombing these institutions has nothing to do with isolating Hamas or weakening the resistance. The Israeli intent seems to be to create what US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called "creative anarchy." Indeed Israel has always wanted to keep Palestinians living a life of disorder. They want chaos to prevail in the Gaza Strip. They want to eliminate any legislative or judicial system and replace it with the law of the jungle that existed before Hamas took power.
Such a state of anarchy would be further perpetuated by keeping Palestinians in Gaza ignorant and illiterate. It is to advance this sinister policy that Israel is systematically destroying the education system, targeting universities, schools, and above all the Ministry of Education. As a colonial power, Israel has adopted this old colonial strategy to dominate the Palestinians. It is precisely the same strategy used by slaveholders and colonizers: keep the people you want to control in ignorance so they cannot rebel.
Israel's claims that Palestinians have been using their institutions as military sites or for hiding and manufacturing weapons are preposterous and ridiculous. These allegations are just like the fake claims about Iraqi weapons former US Secretary of State Colin Powell used to justify the invasion of Iraq.
Laying waste to the Gaza Strip is another way for the colonizers to "prove" that Palestinians are just disorderly, monstrous, barbarous terrorists who do not deserve a state of their own. Instead they should be in the fetters of occupation, they should always be oppressed and repressed so they cannot disturb those living in the Garden of Eden. What should Palestinians do in response to such oppression? Should they remain imprisoned in Gaza, the world's largest concentration camp? Should they acquiesce to the Israeli siege and pray to God, "imprison me to make me free"?
What is happening in Gaza today is really catastrophic. The systematic destruction of holy places, schools, universities and the killing of innocent Palestinians are war crimes whose perpetrators must be brought to justice. We Palestinians appreciate the efforts of everyone in the free and civilized world to do what you can to intervene to stop this aggression, and bring the war criminals to trial in an international court.
Dr. Akram Habeeb is Assistant Professor of American Literature at the Islamic University of Gaza.
Last week I was in Gaza. While I was there I met a group of 20 or so police officers who were undergoing a course in conflict management. They were eager to know whether foreigners felt safer since Hamas had taken over the Government? Indeed we did, we told them. Without doubt the past 18 months had seen a comparative calm on the streets of Gaza; no gunmen on the streets, no more kidnappings. They smiled with great pride and waved us goodbye.
Less than a week later all of these men were dead, killed by an Israeli rocket at a graduation ceremony. Were they “dangerous Hamas militant gunmen”? No, they were unarmed police officers, public servants killed not in a “militant training camp” but in the same police station in the middle of Gaza City that had been used by the British, the Israelis and Fatah during their periods of rule there.
This distinction is crucial because while the horrific scenes in Gaza and Israel play themselves out on our television screens, a war of words is being fought that is clouding our understanding of the realities on the ground.
Who or what is Hamas, the movement that Ehud Barak, the Israeli Defence Minister, would like to wipe out as though it were a virus? Why did it win the Palestinian elections and why does it allow rockets to be fired into Israel? The story of Hamas over the past three years reveals how the Israeli, US and UK governments' misunderstanding of this Islamist movement has led us to the brutal and desperate situation that we are in now....
In the five years that I have been visiting Gaza and the West Bank, I have met hundreds of Hamas politicians and supporters. None of them has professed the goal of Islamising Palestinian society, Taleban-style. Hamas relies on secular voters too much to do that. People still listen to pop music, watch television and women still choose whether to wear the veil or not.
The political leadership of Hamas is probably the most highly qualified in the world. Boasting more than 500 PhDs in its ranks, the majority are middle-class professionals - doctors, dentists, scientists and engineers. Most of its leadership have been educated in our universities and harbour no ideological hatred towards the West. It is a grievance-based movement, dedicated to addressing the injustice done to its people. It has consistently offered a ten-year ceasefire to give breathing space to resolve a conflict that has continued for more than 60 years.
The Bush-Blair response to the Hamas victory in 2006 is the key to today's horror. Instead of accepting the democratically elected Government, they funded an attempt to remove it by force; training and arming groups of Fatah fighters to unseat Hamas militarily and impose a new, unelected government on the Palestinians. Further, 45 Hamas MPs are still being held in Israeli jails.
Six months ago the Israeli Government agreed to an Egyptian- brokered ceasefire with Hamas. In return for a ceasefire, Israel agreed to open the crossing points and allow a free flow of essential supplies in and out of Gaza. The rocket barrages ended but the crossings never fully opened, and the people of Gaza began to starve. This crippling embargo was no reward for peace.
When Westerners ask what is in the mind of Hamas leaders when they order or allow rockets to be fired at Israel they fail to understand the Palestinian position. Two months ago the Israeli Defence Forces broke the ceasefire by entering Gaza and beginning the cycle of killing again. In the Palestinian narrative each round of rocket attacks is a response to Israeli attacks. In the Israeli narrative it is the other way round.
But what does it mean when Mr Barak talks of destroying Hamas? Does it mean killing the 42% of Palestinians who voted for it? Does it mean reoccupying the Gaza strip that Israel withdrew from so painfully three years ago? Or does it mean permanently separating the Palestinians of Gaza and the West Bank, politically and geographically? And for those whose mantra is Israeli security, what sort of threat do the three quarters of a million young people growing up in Gaza with an implacable hatred of those who starve and bomb them pose?...
William Sieghart is chairman of Forward Thinking, an independent conflict resolution agency.
Thursday, January 1, 2009
Opinion: The Work of a Friend is to Say No and No Again and Refuse to Give the Self-destruction Our Blessing - David Bromwich
There is a word for the straightforward killing of enemies by a superior force where the victims are sparsely equipped and the odds one-sided. Much of the world is calling Israel's actions in Gaza a massacre. By contrast the American press has been cleansed and euphemized. "3rd Day of Bombings," said the New York Times headline on December 30, "Takes Out Interior Ministry." Takes out. The Times paid an involuntary homage to George W. Bush: "I think it's a good thing for the world that we took out Saddam Hussein." Under that phrase are half a million Iraqis killed and a country destroyed. And for Israel in Gaza?
The U.S. and Israel share many things. A form of government, it is sometimes said; a set of ideals. But much more in the past ten years the U.S. and Israel have shared a fantasy. The fantasy says that the Arabs understand only force. It says we can end terrorism by killing all the terrorists. The neighbors of the terrorists will be overawed. No new terrorists will be created. Finally, when every face on the president's fifty-two card deck is crossed out and the known composition of Hamas is dead, we can "address the social conditions" that foster terrorism. But perhaps there are no such conditions. Do the terrorists not hate for hate's sake?....
But a fantasy is no wilder than methods it answers for; and Israel and the U.S. now hold as common property a whole school of counterinsurgency tactics. The citizen of Baghdad who said of the walls General Petraeus built to separate the good from the bad, "This reminds me of another wall," was only saying what many Arabs must have thought when they reflected on the "surge" in Iraq and its precursor in the West Bank. Israel has most often, these past few years, been the teacher and the United States the pupil. An article by Dexter Filkins in the New York Times on December 7, 2003 reported that the rules of engagement used by the U.S. in Iraq were modeled on the Israeli rules for Gaza and the West Bank. On the other hand, what is happening now in Gaza is plainly modeled on the American "shock and awe" in Iraq; it derives indirect permission from the fact that Americans never regretted that first stage of what we did to Iraq. Also, somewhere in back of the Israeli methods are usually American equipment and an American brand name. Apache helicopters and F-16s for the missiles and the bombs, and a Caterpillar bulldozer to reduce the house to rubble.
There is one art of peace that Israel might have learned from the United States: equal rights and citizenship for all the people of the country. But this, Israel has not learned, and in the nature of its constitution it cannot learn without a radical change of self-definition. The difference ought to be a fact of some interest to the first non-white president-elect of the United States; but the response of Barack Obama to the slaughter in Gaza has been a nerveless silence. "If somebody," he said last summer, "was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I'm going to do everything in my power to stop that, and I would expect Israelis to do the same thing." He has left it at that, for now, and made no comment on Israel's showing this week of the scale of obliteration that lies in its power.
Obama would not in fact do everything, he would not destroy a city of innocent people. But one may note the resonance of "everything," a word that crept into his usage once before and revealingly, in his AIPAC speech. There, Obama said three times that he would do everything to assist Israel against a threat from a nuclear Iran. When Israel is on the minds and the Israel Lobby script is in the mouths of American politicians, every statement takes on a quality at once categorical and unreal.
We have stopped thinking for long enough. We might start again with a definition. A terrorist is not a function X, the compacted essence of evil. A terrorist is someone who kills and approves the killing of undefended civilians to achieve political ends. Thus the Israeli commander who ordered the attack on the university in Gaza was an agent of state terror. The Hamas soldier who fired the missile that killed an Israeli woman yesterday was an agent of guerrilla terror. But terrorists, too, act from motives. To suppose their only instinct is a fevered hatred of everything we are is to yield to madness. Kill them all becomes the only imaginable policy then. Kill them, or else install a dependency so sweeping and abject that not a man in Gaza mounts a bicycle, not a woman crosses a street, not a child eats a morsel of food but by permission of the Israel Defense Forces. It is hard to see what else the current actions of Israel are looking toward.
The Democratic party grandee Ann Lewis said recently (as quoted in an excellent Salon column by Glenn Greenwald): "The role of the president of the United States is to support the decisions that are made by the people of Israel." The statement is absurd. No country ever gave another country so blind a endorsement. Such a pure identification of interests would amount to the signing away of the conscience of the nation that granted it. We cannot make our fidelity a pawn for another's injustice; and more than conscience forbids it. Prudence also does. Even in the depths of the Second World War the U.S. never said it would support every decision made by the people of Britain, nor did it say in the Cold War that it would do whatever the people of Formosa wanted, or what the people of West Germany wanted. Such a surrender of judgment, even if it were practicable, would be a curse that harms the receiver as much as the giver. To support without question the decisions of any person or any people, is to accept a standard of friendship or fealty above the standard of right and wrong. Do that, and you resign yourself to a world of injustice.
The eighteenth-century moral thinker Joseph Butler once gave us one of those sentences that are so true they earn a separate life for themselves. "Every thing," said Butler, "is what it is, and not another thing." Gaza is not Iraq then. Mumbai is not New York, and the contests against terrorists are not the War on Terror. Butler also asked once in passing: "Why might not whole communities and public bodies be seized with fits of insanity, as well as individuals?" We have seen it happen in our time. This surmise received vivid confirmation from the head of an IDF rocket unit in Lebanon who told the Haaretz reporter Meron Rappaport in a story published on December 9, 2006: "What we did was insane and monstrous, we covered entire towns in cluster bombs."
Israel and the United States have evolved, almost behind our backs, from the countries we read about in histories to militaristic societies widely seen as oppressors by those on the wrong end of our adventures abroad. Israel has the better excuse, driven half mad by threats and wars and the suicide bombings of the Second Intifada; but a series of queasy concessions to the fanatical colonists who are sometimes miscalled "settlers" have deformed its politics from within. The U.S. may now be the country with the stronger hope, and therefore the stronger partner. Anyway one thing is sure. When an allied nation goes out of itself, in the same sense in which a person may be out of himself, the work of a friend is to say no and no again and refuse to give the self-destruction our blessing. Perhaps there are no such conditions. Do the terrorists not hate for hate's sake?
David Bromwich teaches literature at Yale. He has written on politics and
culture for The New Republic, The Nation, The New York Review of Books, and other magazines. He is editor of Edmund Burke's selected writings On Empire, Liberty, and Reform and co-editor of the Yale University Press edition of On Liberty.
One Palestinian friend asked me, "Why did Israel attack when the children were leaving school and the women were in the markets?" There are reports that some parents cannot find their dead children and are desperately roaming overflowing hospitals.
As Jews celebrated the last night of Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights commemorating our resurgence as a people, I asked myself: How am I to celebrate my Jewishness while Palestinians are being killed?
The religious scholar Marc Ellis challenges us further by asking whether the Jewish covenant with God is present or absent in the face of Jewish oppression of Palestinians? Is the Jewish ethical tradition still available to us? Is the promise of holiness – so central to our existence – now beyond our ability to reclaim?
The lucky ones in Gaza are locked in their homes living lives that have long been suspended – hungry, thirsty, and without light but their children are alive.
Since Nov. 4, when Israel effectively broke the truce with Hamas by attacking Gaza on a scale then unprecedented – a fact now buried with Gaza's dead – the violence has escalated as Hamas responded by sending hundreds of rockets into Israel to kill Israeli civilians. It is reported that Israel's strategy is to hit Hamas military targets, but explain that difference to my Palestinian friends who must bury their children.
On Nov. 5, Israel sealed all crossing points into Gaza, vastly reducing and at times denying food supplies, medicines, fuel, cooking gas, and parts for water and sanitation systems. A colleague of mine in Jerusalem said, "this siege is in a league of its own. The Israelis have not done something like this before."
During November, an average of 4.6 trucks of food per day entered Gaza from Israel compared with an average of 123 trucks per day in October. Spare parts for the repair and maintenance of water-related equipment have been denied entry for over a year. The World Health Organization just reported that half of Gaza's ambulances are now out of order.
According to the Associated Press, the three-day death toll rose to at least 370 by Tuesday morning, with some 1,400 wounded. The UN said at least 62 of the dead were civilians. A Palestinian health official said that at least 22 children under age 16 were killed and more than 235 children have been wounded.
In nearly 25 years of involvement with Gaza and Palestinians, I have not had to confront the horrific image of burned children – until today.
Yet for Palestinians it is more than an image, it is a reality, and because of that I fear something profound has changed that will not easily be undone. For how, in the context of Gaza today, does one speak of reconciliation as a path to liberation, of sympathy as a source of understanding? Where does one find or even begin to create a common field of human undertaking (to borrow from the late, acclaimed Palestinian scholar, Edward Said) so essential to coexistence?
It is one thing to take an individual's land, his home, his livelihood, to denigrate his claims, or ignore his emotions. It is another to destroy his child. What happens to a society where renewal is denied and all possibility has ended?
And what will happen to Jews as a people whether we live in Israel or not? Why have we been unable to accept the fundamental humanity of Palestinians and include them within our moral boundaries? Rather, we reject any human connection with the people we are oppressing. Ultimately, our goal is to tribalize pain, narrowing the scope of human suffering to ourselves alone.
Our rejection of "the other" will undo us. We must incorporate Palestinians and other Arab peoples into the Jewish understanding of history, because they are a part of that history. We must question our own narrative and the one we have given others, rather than continue to cherish beliefs and sentiments that betray the Jewish ethical tradition.
Jewish intellectuals oppose racism, repression, and injustice almost everywhere in the world and yet it is still unacceptable – indeed, for some, it's an act of heresy – to oppose it when Israel is the oppressor. This double standard must end.
Israel's victories are pyrrhic and reveal the limits of Israeli power and our own limitations as a people: our inability to live a life without barriers. Are these the boundaries of our rebirth after the Holocaust?
As Jews in a post-Holocaust world empowered by a Jewish state, how do we as a people emerge from atrocity and abjection, empowered and also humane? How do we move beyond fear to envision something different, even if uncertain?
The answers will determine who we are and what, in the end, we become.
Sara Roy is a senior research scholar at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard University, and the author, most recently, of "Failing Peace: Gaza and the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict."
The escalated tension in the region is closely monitored by Turkey, who plays a proactive role in a solution of regional problems. The Turkish prime minister's top foreign policy advisor, Ahmet Davutoglu, sits at the center of such efforts. Davutoglu has recently been expressing his concerns that any rise in tensions in the Middle East could result in a "domino effect" which would impact on various regional issues and conflicts. The impact of the Israeli operations would not only be felt in but also in the wider Middle East as the region prepares to hold a series of elections. Here are some dates that would shape the region in 2009:
January 9: Palestine: The negotiation mandate of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas ends on Jan. 9. Abbas needs the approval of Hamas to extend the mandate.
February 10: Israel holds its general elections. Opinion polls show that the nationalist Likud Party is ahead of the Kadima. The recent operations show the hawkish camp has won regardless of who is in charge.
January 31: Iraqis go to the polls. The recent situation in Palestine would affect the elections in Iraq and strengthen the radical wing.
April: Parliamentary elections will be held in Lebanon. The Israeli operation would provide support to Hezbollah, eventually resulting in the radicalizing the politics in the country.
June: Iran holds its presidential elections. The recent situation is likely to boost Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has a tough rhetoric against Israel. Turkey's mediation efforts were built on the assumption that there would be no trigger for the domino effect.
The Israeli operation hampers Turkey's works to build an industrial zone in Gaza, ends the Syrian-Israeli talks, damages the sensitive balance in Lebanon, and reduces the chances of finding a peaceful solution to Iran.
Only about 20% of respondents support expanding the operation into a ground campaign - about the same proportion that supports an immediate cease-fire.
According to the survey, 52% of Israelis favor continuing the air assault against Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip, though just 19% say the Israel Defense Forces should launch an extensive ground incursion.
In contrast, 19% of respondents say the government should negotiate a cease-fire as soon as possible. Nine percent say they had no opinion or refused to answer.
The Labor Party has emerged the biggest political winner of the war against Hamas so far, according to the poll.
Labor and its head, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, have made significant gains, bringing the left-wing to a 60:60 draw against right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties....
Barak's personal fortunes improved sharply, with 53% of poll respondents expressing satisfaction with his performance (compared to just 34% about six months ago). A larger number, 38% are dissatisfied with him but that is nevertheless a significant improvement over the 52% disapproval rating of six months ago.
Olmert, too, has gotten a popularity boost, with a 33% popularity rating this week compared to an average of 14% since the Second Lebanon War, about two-and-a-half years ago.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu are also getting good grades from the public for their performances in recent days.
Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Is the incoming U.S. president, world-renowned for his eloquence, about to become better known for his silence?
Barack Obama may not have assumed office yet but a war is already being conducted in his name.
Israel’s defense minister, Ehud Barak, now says that Israel is engaged in a “war to the bitter end” against Hamas in Gaza. And in justifying this war to Israel’s state assembly, the Knesset, Barak said: “Obama said that if rockets were being fired at his home while his two daughters were sleeping, he would do everything he could to prevent it.”
Barak’s war has become Barack’s war — unless he breaks his silence.
Obama chooses his words carefully. He did so when speaking to the press in Sderot in southern Israel, during the presidential election campaign this summer. While he was clearly and shamelessly pandering to American Jewish voters, his statement expressed sympathy for the Israelis being targeted by Qassam rocket fire, but it also underlined that an effective response would focus on preventing further attacks — not merely the retaliatory and bellicose response with which Israelis are so familiar, that is, a military operation whose purpose is “to teach the Palestinians a lesson.”
If Obama continues to remain silent he will implicitly be sending a message to Israelis, Palestinians, and everyone else across the Arab world. His silence will be seen and will have the operational effect of providing an endorsement for Israel’s war on Gaza. His silence will set the tone for his whole approach to the Middle East. If his plan to give a major speech in a Muslim capital has not already been put on hold, it might as well now be scrapped.
But there is an alternative. This is what Obama can and should say:
I support the Israeli government in its goal of providing security for its citizens. However, I believe that the current operation in Gaza is unlikely to serve that goal and in the long run may further undermine Israel’s security.
What can Israel do now? Pull back its troops, offer to renew the truce and lift the siege.
The truce actually worked, as this graph from the Israeli Foreign Ministry clearly shows.
Rocket fire did not resume until Israel broke the truce on November 5.
What we now know, is that Israel did not view the truce as a means to bring calm to southern Israel but instead used it as an aid for gathering intelligence in preparation for war.
Had the Olmert government regarded the cessation of rocket fire as a foundation upon which it could build, it would have taken clear steps to lift the siege. (But to have pursued such a course would not however have provided the Palestinian body count upon which Israel’s next prime minister hopes to ride into office.)
Instead, what we now witness is a brutal spectacle in which, using the Orwellian language of war, Israel claims that it’s target is Hamas, not the residents of Gaza.
Obama is still in a position to exert influence, but the longer he waits, the less power he will have; the more likely he will be seen as the perpetuator of George Bush’s failed approach to the Middle East.
Paul Woodward is Editor of War in Context, where this Editorial was originally posted.
The disagreement is rooted in the antipathy that has taken hold among the major players on the Israeli side as well as the tense jockeying for votes. In addition, there remains much confusion in the decision-making process that is similar to that [seen]... during the Second Lebanon War.
There are many similarities to the Lebanese affair, only this time the differences of opinion are given greater public airing.... In the current situation, the argument centers on an exit strategy. The defense minister told Olmert and Livni on Tuesday night that Israel needs to consider a 48-hour cease-fire during which Hamas' willingness to cease its launching of rockets will be tested. Nonetheless, Barak is convinced that Israel should not take any unilateral measures. Rather, it should exploit one of the proposals, including that offered by French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, for a two-day lull in the fighting so as to address any pressing humanitarian issues.
Barak's recommendation comes against the backdrop of a possible ground incursion into Gaza. Over the course of the last two days, the troops have been concentrated near the border while absorbing mortar fire, all in difficult weather conditions. Hamas is using the poor visibility afforded by the clouds and rainfall to continue its rocket fire at Israel. More Israeli deaths on the home front are likely to augment the pressure on the government to give a green light to a ground operation before it can exploit the opportunity to exhaust diplomatic options to end the fighting.
According to this logic, the operation's main goal - which is to create a new deterrent balance vis-a-vis Hamas - has for the most part already been attained by way of the massive air campaign that killed 380 Palestinians. The chances of reaching a quick cease-fire are not good because an agreed-upon framework has yet to emerge, but it would behoove the government to give it a chance, thus enhancing the legitimacy of any renewed offensive in the event the lull were to break down.
Barak is certainly mindful of the possibility that Israel is approaching the ground operation stage, yet he is also aware of the price: considerable losses and the specter of an army being bogged down for months in the Gaza Strip.
Barak's stance, which was initially presented as "the position staked by the heads of the defense establishment," was widely reported in the news media on Tuesday afternoon. Aides to the prime minister dismissed the possibility of a cease-fire, telling the press that "the operation is not winding down. [We] need to prepare for as long as it takes and we are proceeding as planned."
The press reports prompted a wave of denials....In other words, this is an idea that is currently being mulled solely by the defense minister....
What is obvious is that none of the key decisionmakers would like to be portrayed at this stage as the individual advocating a quick conclusion to the war. One factor to consider is the balance of power vis-a-vis Hamas (establishing the threat of a ground assault), but it would be naive to think that the security of the state is the only consideration at play for the protagonists.
Tuesday's witch-hunt portends bleak developments for the future....