Saturday, January 10, 2009
Hamas, as I remarked last week, has been greatly strengthened by the current attack and the status of President Abbas reaffirmed as a spineless collaborator with Israel; Mubarak likewise; Syria and Turkey alienated from Western designs; Hezbollah and Iran vindicated by the world condemnation of Israel’s barbarous conduct. For months Israel besieged Gaza, starving its civilian inhabitants of essential supplies with no effective international reproach. It’s hard to take dramatic photographs of an empty medicine bottle, but easy to film a bombed out girl’s dorm or a Palestinian mother weeping over the bodies of her five dead daughters, featured on the front page of the Washington Post two weeks ago. Efforts to keep reporters out of Gaza have not been entirely successful, and both UN and Red Cross workers on the ground have sent outraged reports denouncing Israel’s barbarities. They have also been fierce State Department memos from USAID workers.
Alexander Cockburn is the Editor of Counterpunch and a columnist for The Nation, the LA Times, and the First Post.
From the point of view of the population, the Hamas fighters are not a foreign body, but the sons of every family in the Strip and the other Palestinian regions. They do not “hide behind the population”, the population views them as their only defenders.
Therefore, the whole operation is based on erroneous assumptions. Turning life into living hell does not cause the population to rise up against Hamas, but on the contrary, it unites behind Hamas and reinforces its determination not to surrender. The population of Leningrad did not rise up against Stalin, any more than the Londoners rose up against Churchill.
He who gives the order for such a war with such methods in a densely populated area knows that it will cause dreadful slaughter of civilians. Apparently that did not touch him [Defense Minister Barak]. Or he believed that “they will change their ways” and “it will sear their consciousness”, so that in future they will not dare to resist Israel.
A top priority for the planners was the need to minimize casualties among the soldiers, knowing that the mood of a large part of the pro-war public would change if reports of such casualties came in. That is what happened in Lebanon Wars I and II.
This consideration played an especially important role because the entire war is a part of the election campaign. Ehud Barak, who gained in the polls in the first days of the war, knew that his ratings would collapse if pictures of dead soldiers filled the TV screens.
Therefore, a new doctrine was applied: to avoid losses among our soldiers by the total destruction of everything in their path. The planners were not only ready to kill 80 Palestinians to save one Israeli soldier, as has happened, but also 800. The avoidance of casualties on our side is the overriding commandment, which is causing record numbers of civilian casualties on the other side.
That means the conscious choice of an especially cruel kind of warfare – and that has been its Achilles heel....
The failure to grasp the nature of Hamas has caused a failure to grasp the predictable results. Not only is Israel unable to win the war, Hamas cannot lose it.
Even if the Israeli army were to succeed in killing every Hamas fighter to the last man, even then Hamas would win. The Hamas fighters would be seen as the paragons of the Arab nation, the heroes of the Palestinian people, models for emulation by every youngster in the Arab world. The West Bank would fall into the hands of Hamas like a ripe fruit, Fatah would drown in a sea of contempt, the Arab regimes would be threatened with collapse.
If the war ends with Hamas still standing, bloodied but unvanquished, in face of the mighty Israeli military machine, it will look like a fantastic victory, a victory of mind over matter.
What will be seared into the consciousness of the world will be the image of Israel as a blood-stained monster, ready at any moment to commit war crimes and not prepared to abide by any moral restraints. This will have severe consequences for our long-term future, our standing in the world, our chance of achieving peace and quiet.
In the end, this war is a crime against ourselves too, a crime against the State of Israel.
Uri Avneri is an Israeli journalist and former Knesset Member. He founded Gush Shalom (Peace Bloc) in 1993.
"They used a bulldozer to pile up the bodies of the dead. There were bodies of many fighters," said the man, who was released by the Israelis after five days of detention and allowed to return to Gaza.
An Israeli army spokesman said he had no knowledge of such an incident.
The Palestinian gave his name as Eyad and said he saw the bodies in Beit Lahiya, a town in north Gaza that was an early objective in the ground offensive launched by Israel last Saturday after its aircraft had bombed Gaza targets for a week.
Hamas has not revealed how many Gaza fighters have been killed or wounded. The Israeli army said three days ago it had killed more than 130 since ground combat started.
Israeli forces arrested hundreds of Palestinians as they advanced into the Gaza Strip on an operation the government said was intended to crush Hamas and stop the firing of rockets into Israel.
Of about 200 held in Beit Lahiya, 75 were set free on Friday. They looked pale and exhausted and were barefoot. They crossed back into the Gaza Strip via Israel's fortified Erez crossing in the north.
Eyad said they were first held as "human shields" inside military positions established by the army, then moved to a prison in Israel....
"In the first day (of the ground offensive) special forces stormed Beit Lahiya. Maybe a thousand soldiers landed on rooftops then began arresting people," he said.
"They also demolished houses they said were used to fire rockets from, or to hide tunnels."
Once in detention, Palestinians were interrogated to find out "who was firing rockets and who dug tunnels".
"They used us as human shields in military positions they established inside Gaza Strip before they drove us to a prison in Beersheba," he said. "They made us sleep on gravel, or on the sand. They stripped us of our clothes."
During his five days in detention, new captives were being brought in every day, the man said....
Israel appeared to be using white phosphorus as an “obscurant” (a chemical used to hide military operations), a permissible use in principle under international humanitarian law (the laws of war). However, white phosphorus has a significant, incidental, incendiary effect that can severely burn people and set structures, fields, and other civilian objects in the vicinity on fire. The potential for harm to civilians is magnified by Gaza’s high population density, among the highest in the world.
“White phosphorous can burn down houses and cause horrific burns when it touches the skin,” said Marc Garlasco, senior military analyst at Human Rights Watch. “Israel should not use it in Gaza’s densely populated areas.”....
The IDF told both Human Rights Watch and news reporters that it is not using white phosphorus in Gaza. On January 7, an IDF spokesman told CNN, “I can tell you with certainty that white phosphorus is absolutely not being used.”
Haaretz, January 10, 2009 - The United Nations is claiming Israeli military officers have admitted there was no Palestinian gunfire emanating from inside an UNRWA school in Gaza which was shelled by an IDF tank.
Dozens of Palestinians were killed in the shelling.
In addition, UNRWA Thursday announced it will cease activities in the Strip due to the death of an UNRWA staffer in an IDF shelling during Thursday morning's humanitarian hiatus.
UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness told Haaretz yesterday that the army had conceded wrongdoing.
"In briefings senior [Israel Defense Forces] officers conducted for foreign diplomats, they admitted the shelling to which IDF forces in Jabalya were responding did not originate from the school," Gunness said. "The IDF admitted in that briefing that the attack on the UN site was unintentional."
He noted that all the footage [initially] released by the IDF [in an attempt to excuse the bombing - Ed] of militants firing from inside the school was from 2007 and not from the incident itself.
"There are no up-to-date photos," Gunness said. "In 2007, we abandoned the site and only then did the militants take it over."
The UNRWA is now demanding an objective investigation into whether the school shelling constituted a violation of international humanitarian law, and if so, that those responsible stand trial.
Shulamit Aloni is an Israeli Knesset Member who was formerly Minister of Education.
The Israel Air Force has dropped leaflets on the Gaza Strip warning residents that it plans to escalate its two-week-old offensive.
The army says it has dropped the fliers throughout Gaza. It says the notices are meant as a "general warning."
The notice says Israel is about to begin a "new phase in the war on terror." It says it will "escalate" an operation that already has killed more than 800 Palestinians.
Translated text of one leaflet (sent to gaza siege):
Hamas is facing the Israeli army power for more than a week.
The IDF has even more powerful ways for dealing with Hamas in case we use these ways the attacks will be so painful!!!
IDF will continue working strongly and with all its power against Hamas and its leaders wherever they are and in all the possible ways as long as necessary, Until we achieve our all targets and missions.
For your safety we ask you to live your living areas and head to city centres.
The leadership of the IDF
Report: Main population centers in Gaza are surrounded by Israeli Military
Israeli Cabinet approves callup of "unlimited" number of reserves
100 Survivors Pulled from Ruins in Gaza City - Israel Had Barred the Red Cross from Reaching Area for Four Days
Relief agencies said they feared more people remained in the rubble of several shattered houses in the Zaytoun neighborhood. Red Cross officials said that they began receiving distress calls from people in the houses late Saturday but that they were blocked by the Israeli military from reaching the area until Wednesday.
"There are still people under demolished houses -- we are sure of it," said Khaled Abuzaid, an ambulance driver for the Red Cross who treated survivors at the site Wednesday and Thursday. "But without water or electricity, we are sure they will die." ....
He said Israeli soldiers told the crew of Red Cross and Palestinian Red Crescent workers in advance that they were forbidden to take cameras, radios or cellphones to the site. It is standard practice for crews to carry such equipment on rescue missions.
A triage specialist, Gilbert has had extensive experience working in conflict zones such as Beirut during the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, and more recently Afghanistan. He says the situation in Gaza is the worst he’s ever seen.
'Closest you come to a massacre'
Gilbert and another Norwegian doctor, Erik Fosse, are part of a volunteer medical aid organization NORWAC – Norwegian Aid Committee. They arrived in Gaza on December 30, 3 days after Israel began its assault on the Strip to help Palestinian doctors at the overcrowded Al-Shifa hospital.
According to Gilbert, the Israeli offensive in such a densely populated place has created “massacres” because civilians stand “no chance of getting out of the line of fire.”
“The intensive care unit here is full of children with serious injuries. Twenty-five percent of the victims are women and children and forty-five percent of the injured are women and children. This is the closest you come to a massacre,” Gilbert told Swedish Radio.
Both Fosse and Gilbert are reportedly working around the clock to help the victims, which are increasing in numbers since Saturday’s ground invasion began. He says the two of them live in a room at the hospital and that Israel is pounding the area and “shooting at everyone and everything.”....
Gilbert’s messages eventually became a doctor’s cry for people to take action to pressure European governments to pressure their leaders into brokering a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.
'Send it (the SMS) along, call it out. DO SOMETHING! DO MORE!,' Gilbert pleads in one SMS, adding, “We shouldn't call ourselves decent Europeans if we don't act to stop this.”
He told Swedish Radio, “This is the Warzaw ghettos of 2009,” an allusion to the NAZI offensive on the Jewish section of the Polish capital in the Second World War.
Israel said it intends to press on with its ground offensive, and despite the fact that conditions are worsening in the Gaza Strip, Gilbert has no plans on leaving even if he is risking his own life.
'We are here to help people and we're staying here,' he said.
The Al-Johara Tower, an eight-storey building in Al-Rimal neighborhood in Gaza City, was hit twice by Israeli aircraft, even though the building was clearly marked as housing media staff. Up to 20 news organisations work inside the building including Iran's English-language Press TV and Arabic-language network of al-Alam. Satellite transmission equipment on the roof of the building was destroyed and at least one journalist was reported injured.
The IFJ is particularly concerned because the coordinates for the building were provided to the Israeli military and lighting on the roof clearly identifies the building.
“This latest attack confirms the fear that media inside Gaza are becoming the targets of Israeli forces,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “It is time for the international community to condemn this targeting and to ensure that any agreement to end hostilities will also take media and journalists out of the firing line.”...
Despite an Israeli Supreme Court ruling ordering the government to allow a limited pool of journalists to enter Gaza, the army continues to block entry of foreign reporters. The IFJ says this is an attempt to manipulate media reporting of the conflict.
“The media have become part of the battleground and journalists are ever more at risk,” said White. “The targeting of journalists is a scandalous violation of human rights and must be stopped.”
UPI, January 9, 2009 - Abbas argues that he has the right to remain in office for another year because the law says presidential and parliamentary elections should be held at the same time, the Jerusalem Post reported. Parliamentary elections are set for January 2010.
Hamas officials said they do not expect Abbas to step down while the war continues in Gaza. But they also deny his legitimacy.
"Thursday was Abbas's last day in office," said Osama Hamdan, who represents Hamas in Lebanon. "Our position on this issue is clear: Abbas's term in office has expired."
Mushir al-Masri, a spokesman for the party in Gaza, agreed.
"He doesn't have the right to speak on behalf of the people," Masri said. "He's in power only because the Israelis and the Americans want him to stay."
Ha'aretz, January 9, 2009 (interview excerpts) - Is the idea that Egypt will now take a more active role in stopping the smuggling?
This must be stopped by Israel or someone else. In six months, Hamas has changed the range of the missiles from 20 kilometers to 50 kilometers. This now threatens 1 million Israelis. We used to say it was just the southern part of Israel but . . . now parts in the center of Israel are under threat. We needed to give an answer to their rearmament. . . .
We need to know that at the end of this military operation, we will not face the rearmament of Hamas.
Is Iran behind it all?
Oh, yes, clearly. We know that. When they started, the missiles were homemade -- made in the Gaza Strip. But not anymore. Now they are professional, coming from Iran.
Are you still in favor of an international monitoring group to help control the borders of Gaza -- especially its border with Egypt?
I am not against the participation of the international community, but it doesn't replace our need to fight terrorism. And sometimes, when you have monitoring forces within a place, it makes it more difficult for us to defend ourselves, because the last thing we want is to kill people by mistake. . . .
Israel is not going to show restraint anymore. . . . it is not a missile against a missile. We are going to attack strongly if they continue.
It must have been a difficult decision to send Israeli troops into Gaza by land?
Yes, it was a very difficult decision, but right now it looks good.
An IDF spokesperson said the building had not been targeted, though it may have sustained "collateral damage."
Ha'aretz: US Seeks to Ship Hundreds of Tons of Arms from Greece to Israel Within Days; Broker Terms Request "Large, Rare"
"Shipping 3,000-odd tons of ammunition in one go is a lot," one broker said, on condition of anonymity. "This (kind of request) is pretty rare and we haven't seen much of it quoted in the market over the years," he added.
The U.S. Defense Department, contacted by Reuters on Friday in Washington, had no immediate comment.
The MSC transports armor and military supplies for the U.S. armed forces aboard its own fleet, but regularly hires merchant ships if logistics so require.
The request for the ship was made on Dec. 31, with the first leg of the charter to arrive no later than January 25 and the second at the end of the month....
The tender document said the vessel had to be capable of "carrying 5.8 million pounds (2.6 million kg) of net explosive weight", which specialist brokers said was a very large quantity.
The ship was requested early last month to load on December 15.
In September, the U.S. Congress approved the sale of 1,000 bunker-buster missiles to Israel. The GPS-guided GBU-39 is said to be one of the most accurate bombs in the world.
Friday, January 9, 2009
Il Manifesto, Gaza, January 8, 2009 - ....Towards midnight I received another call, from Eva this time - the building she was in was under attack. I know that building well, in the centre of Gaza City. I've spent a night there with some Palestinian photojournalist friends of mine. They try to capture through images and words something of the unnatural catastrophe we're enduring in the last ten days. Reuters, Fox News, Russia Today and many, many other local or foreign agencies were under fire by seven rockets shot by an Israeli helicopter. They managed to evacuate everyone on time before anyone was seriously injured - all those cameramen, photographers, reporters - all Palestinian, considering Israel won't allow any international journalists to set foot in Gaza. There are no "strategic" targets around that building, nor a resistance fighting off the deadly armoured Israeli vehicles, which can be found a way away towards the North. Clearly, someone in Tel Aviv cannot bear the images of the massacres of civilians clashing with the ones that the Israeli officers' briefings provide while offering the mercenary journalists their aperitif. Through these press conferences they're declaring to the world that the bombs' targets are only the Hamas terrorists, not those atrociously mutilated children we pull out of the rubble every day.
At Zetun, about ten kilometres from Jabalia, a bombed building crumbled over a family, leaving about ten victims. The ambulances had to wait several hours before they could reach the spot, as the military persist in shooting at us. They shoot at ambulances and bomb hospitals. A few days ago, while I was on the air with a well-known Milanese radio station, an Israeli "pacifist" clearly spelt out to me that this was a war where both sides used all the weapons at their disposal. I thus invite Israel to drop one of its many atomic bombs upon us, those they keep secretly stashed away, defying all treaties against nuclear proliferation. Why not just drop that decisive bomb of theirs and put an end to the inhuman agony of thousands of bodies, lying in tatters in the overcrowded hospital wards I visited?
I took some black and white photos yesterday, the caravans of mule-drawn carts, overloaded beyond belief with children waving white drapes pointing skywards, their faces pale and terrified. Looking through those snaps of fleeing refugees today, I felt shivers down my spine. If they could only be superimposed with those witnessing the Nakba of 1948, the Palestinian catastrophe, they would be a perfect mirror image of them. The cowardly passiveness of self-styled democratic states and governments are responsible for a new catastrophe in full swing right now, a new Nakba, a brand new ethnic cleansing befalling the Palestinian population....
The Italian Consulate has just contacted me, saying that tomorrow they shall evacuate a fellow Italian, an elderly nun who'd lived near the Catholic church in Gaza for the last twenty years, and had by now been adopted by the Palestinians in the Strip. The consul gently urged me to seize this last opportunity and escape this hell with the nun. I thanked him for the offer, but I'm not moving from here - I just can't. For the sake of the losses we endured, before being Italian, Spanish, British or Australian, right now we are all Palestinian. If only we could do that for just one minute a day, the way we were all Jewish during the Holocaust, I think we would have been spared this entire massacre.
Vittorio Arrigoni is an Italian volunteer who has worked in Palestine with the International Solidarity Movement since 2003. He is presently in Gaza writing daily dispatches for the Italian press. His previous articles can be read on his blog.
Times Online, January 8, 2009 - The Times has identified stockpiles of white phosphorus (WP) shells from high-resolution images taken of Israel Defence Forces (IDF) artillery units on the Israeli-Gaza border this week. The pale blue 155mm rounds are clearly marked with the designation M825A1, an American-made WP munition. The shell is an improved version with a more limited dispersion of the phosphorus, which ignites on contact with oxygen, and is being used by the Israeli gunners to create a smoke screen on the ground.
The rounds, which explode into a shower of burning white streaks, were first identified by The Times at the weekend when they were fired over Gaza at the start of Israel's ground offensive. Artillery experts said that the Israeli troops would be in trouble if they were banned from using WP because it is the simplest way of creating smoke to protect them from enemy fire.
There were indications last night that Palestinian civilians have been injured by the bombs, which burn intensely. Hassan Khalass, a doctor at al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, told The Times that he had been dealing with patients who he suspected had been burnt by white phosphorus. Muhammad Azayzeh, 28, an emergency medical technician in the city, said: “The burns are very unusual. They don't look like burns we have normally seen. They are third-level burns that we can't seem to control.”
Victims with embedded WP particles in their flesh have to have the affected areas flushed with water. Particles that cannot be removed with tweezers are covered with a saline-soaked dressing.
Nafez Abu Shaban, the head of the burns unit at al-Shifa hospital, said: “I am not familiar with phosphorus but many of the patients wounded in the past weeks have strange burns. They are very deep and not like burns we used to see.”...
The facts of history affirm that Israel will not accept a sovereign Palestinian state on any part of historic Palestine. Hamas is not the issue. All Palestinian leaders sooner or later, secular or Islamic, are declared unacceptable partners for peace no matter how much they concede to Israel. That Israel hides behind the “Hamas Islamic threat” today to destroy it as a potential partner is becoming transparent.
The picture changes when history matters. Treating Israeli war crimes as historically detached events, unrelated to its Zionist ideology and militaristic strategy to control all of Palestine, becomes more transparent each day.
Israel has a choice: by accepting Palestinian rights under international law now and jettisoning its exclusivist ideology and militarism, Israel secures the future of its people in a shared Israel/Palestine; or by continuing its present policy of ruthless repression of indigenous Palestinians and denying them self determination, it cultivates an intensified and unyielding native resistance. Israel has always chosen the latter. Will President-Elect Obama have the courage to help Israel embrace the first?
Elaine C. Hagopian is Professor Emerita of Sociology, Simmons College, Boston.
At eleven thirty Israeli tank fire destroyed the home of Palestinian journalist Ala Mortijar, killing him and injuring several others....
Earlier in the day an Israeli airstrike took out a building complex in Gaza city that housed the media and production studios of more than 20 media organizations including several international news agencies.
The unbridled aggression and brutality are justified as "exercising caution": the frightening balance of blood - about 100 Palestinian dead for every Israeli killed, isn't raising any questions, as if we've decided that their blood is worth one hundred times less than ours, in acknowledgement of our inherent racism....
Yet there are some who still want it both ways. To kill and destroy indiscriminately and also to come out looking good, with a clean conscience. To go ahead with war crimes without any sense of the heavy guilt that should accompany them. It takes some nerve. Anyone who justifies this war also justifies all its crimes. Anyone who preaches for this war and believes in the justness of the mass killing it is inflicting has no right whatsoever to speak about morality and humaneness. There is no such thing as simultaneously killing and nurturing. This attitude is a faithful representation of the basic, twofold Israeli sentiment that has been with us forever: To commit any wrong, but to feel pure in our own eyes. To kill, demolish, starve, imprison and humiliate - and be right, not to mention righteous. The righteous warmongers will not be able to allow themselves these luxuries.
Anyone who justifies this war also justifies all its crimes. Anyone who sees it as a defensive war must bear the moral responsibility for its consequences. Anyone who now encourages the politicians and the army to continue will also have to bear the mark of Cain that will be branded on his forehead after the war. All those who support the war also support the horror.
Gideon Levy is a columnist for Ha'aretz Hebrew daily newspaper.
"In their totality these constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity," he declared.
"I am concerned with violations of international law. Incidents such as this must be investigated because they display elements of what could constitute war crimes," Pillay told Reuters in an interview....A U.N. aid agency reported on Friday that the 30 Palestinians were killed this week when the Israeli army sheltered 110 civilians in a house in the Zeitoun neighbourhood in central Gaza, later hit by shells.
"It cries out for proper investigation," said Pillay, a former International Criminal Court judge from South Africa.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said on Thursday its rescue team had found four children near the bodies of their dead mothers in Zeitoun, not far from Israeli soldiers.
"There is an international obligation on the part of soldiers in their position to protect civilians, not to kill civilians indiscriminately in the first place, and when they do to make sure that they help the wounded," Pillay said.
"In this particular case these children were helpless and the soldiers were close by," she said.
Pillay, speaking earlier to a special session of the U.N. Human Rights Council held on the Gaza crisis, called for accountability for any violations of international law.
Scores of people, including children, had been killed or wounded in "Israel's totally unacceptable strikes" against clearly marked U.N. facilities sheltering Gaza civilians, she said in a speech. Harm to civilians caused by rockets fired from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel was also "unacceptable."
Tony Karon is a Senior Editor at Time.com. Originally from South Africa, he currently resides in NY and blogs at Rootless Cosmopolitan.
HRW said that both Israel and Egypt have blocked the exit from Gaza of many severely wounded people in urgent need of medical treatment....
Abrahams said: "For Israel and Egypt to continue blocking the evacuation of severely wounded people is not only unlawful but heartless."
Civilians wanting to flee air and artillery strikes in one of the most densely populated areas on earth -- as well as a worsening humanitarian situation -- should be allowed to do so.
"The impact of the armed conflict on the Palestinian population in Gaza has been magnified by months of an Israeli blockade that has caused severe shortages of food, water, electricity, and medicines," said Abrahams.
"It's crucial that Israel lift its unlawful blockade of basic necessities immediately."
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Antonio Guterres made a similar call on Monday, describing the war as "the only conflict in the world in which people are not even allowed to flee."
There were two people wounded in the Israeli attack, a Press TV correspondent said Friday, adding that Press TV's sister channel, Al-Alam, which was also based in the building has been affected by the attack.
According to our correspondent Hamoudi Gharib, the building was targeted even though the staff had kept light projectors working on the roof of the building 24 hours a day to mark the building.
The journalists working in the building had been given safety assurances that the building would not be targeted by mistake, after its coordinates were handed to organizations responsible for the journalist safety, including the UN.
The Press TV team said they received no warnings ahead of the Israeli strike, which only targeted journalists and news crew who were in the building.
The team's equipment, including satellite transmission devices installed on the roof, have been damaged.
Press TV has been one of the few news networks which has provided extensive coverage of the Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip, which has claimed the lives of some 783 Palestinians.
The U.S. weapons systems used by the Israelis -- including F-16 fighter planes, Apache helicopters, tactical missiles and a wide array of munitions -- have been provided by Washington mostly as outright military grants.
The administration of President George W. Bush alone has provided over 21 billion dollars in U.S. security assistance over the last eight years, including 19 billion dollars in direct military aid as freebies.
"Israel's intervention in the Gaza Strip has been fueled largely by U.S. supplied weapons paid for with U.S. tax dollars," says a background briefing released Thursday by the Arms and Security Initiative of the New York-based New America Foundation.
"The Bush administration has been unwilling to use its considerable influence -- as Israel's major military and political backer -- to dissuade the government in Tel Aviv from its pattern of claiming self-defence while perpetrating collective punishment, human rights violations and undertaking massively disproportionate attacks that harm and kill civilians," Frida Berrigan, senior programme associate at the New America Foundation, told IPS.
Besides military aid, the United States has contracted more than 22 billion dollars in arms sales to Israel in 2008 alone, including a proposed deal for 75 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, nine C-130J-30 military transport aircraft and four combat ships.
"So, when Israeli forces engage in combat in Gaza or the West Bank, they are more often than not using U.S.-designed systems that were either made in the United States or produced under licence in Israel," says the New America Foundation.
The two-week military onslaught has resulted in the deaths of over 700 Palestinians, including more than 300 civilians, mostly victims of U.S. weaponry.
In comparison, the Israeli death toll is about seven soldiers and four civilians, primarily due to "friendly fire", or victims of rocket attacks by Hamas.
Rice repeated the reasons for the US abstention at the United Nations on Thursday.
"The US abstention was principally because we believe it would have been useful to have a little bit more time for the Mubarak initiative to mature," she said.
Every day that Israel pounds Gaza brings more converts to the BDS cause, and talk of cease-fires is doing little to slow the momentum. Support is even emerging among Israeli Jews. In the midst of the assault roughly 500 Israelis, dozens of them well-known artists and scholars, sent a letter to foreign ambassadors stationed in Israel. It calls for "the adoption of immediate restrictive measures and sanctions" and draws a clear parallel with the antiapartheid struggle. "The boycott on South Africa was effective, but Israel is handled with kid gloves.... This international backing must stop."
Yet many still can't go there. The reasons are complex, emotional and understandable. And they simply aren't good enough. Economic sanctions are the most effective tools in the nonviolent arsenal. Surrendering them verges on active complicity. Here are the top four objections to the BDS strategy, followed by counterarguments.
1. Punitive measures will alienate rather than persuade Israelis. The world has tried what used to be called "constructive engagement." It has failed utterly. Since 2006 Israel has been steadily escalating its criminality: expanding settlements, launching an outrageous war against Lebanon and imposing collective punishment on Gaza through the brutal blockade. Despite this escalation, Israel has not faced punitive measures--quite the opposite. The weapons and $3 billion in annual aid that the US sends to Israel is only the beginning. Throughout this key period, Israel has enjoyed a dramatic improvement in its diplomatic, cultural and trade relations with a variety of other allies. For instance, in 2007 Israel became the first non-Latin American country to sign a free-trade deal with Mercosur. In the first nine months of 2008, Israeli exports to Canada went up 45 percent. A new trade deal with the European Union is set to double Israel's exports of processed food. And on December 8, European ministers "upgraded" the EU-Israel Association Agreement, a reward long sought by Jerusalem.
It is in this context that Israeli leaders started their latest war: confident they would face no meaningful costs. It is remarkable that over seven days of wartime trading, the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange's flagship index actually went up 10.7 percent. When carrots don't work, sticks are needed.
2. Israel is not South Africa. Of course it isn't. The relevance of the South African model is that it proves that BDS tactics can be effective when weaker measures (protests, petitions, back-room lobbying) have failed. And there are indeed deeply distressing echoes: the color-coded IDs and travel permits, the bulldozed homes and forced displacement, the settler-only roads. Ronnie Kasrils, a prominent South African politician, said that the architecture of segregation that he saw in the West Bank and Gaza in 2007 was "infinitely worse than apartheid."
3. Why single out Israel when the United States, Britain and other Western countries do the same things in Iraq and Afghanistan? Boycott is not a dogma; it is a tactic. The reason the BDS strategy should be tried against Israel is practical: in a country so small and trade-dependent, it could actually work.
4. Boycotts sever communication; we need more dialogue, not less. This one I'll answer with a personal story. For eight years, my books have been published in Israel by a commercial house called Babel. But when I published The Shock Doctrine, I wanted to respect the boycott. On the advice of BDS activists, I contacted a small publisher called Andalus. Andalus is an activist press, deeply involved in the anti-occupation movement and the only Israeli publisher devoted exclusively to translating Arabic writing into Hebrew. We drafted a contract that guarantees that all proceeds go to Andalus's work, and none to me. In other words, I am boycotting the Israeli economy but not Israelis.
Coming up with this plan required dozens of phone calls, e-mails and instant messages, stretching from Tel Aviv to Ramallah to Paris to Toronto to Gaza City. My point is this: as soon as you start implementing a boycott strategy, dialogue increases dramatically. And why wouldn't it? Building a movement requires endless communicating, as many in the antiapartheid struggle well recall. The argument that supporting boycotts will cut us off from one another is particularly specious given the array of cheap information technologies at our fingertips. We are drowning in ways to rant at one another across national boundaries. No boycott can stop us.
Just about now, many a proud Zionist is gearing up for major point-scoring: don't I know that many of those very high-tech toys come from Israeli research parks, world leaders in infotech? True enough, but not all of them. Several days into Israel's Gaza assault, Richard Ramsey, the managing director of a British telecom company, sent an e-mail to the Israeli tech firm MobileMax. "As a result of the Israeli government action in the last few days we will no longer be in a position to consider doing business with yourself or any other Israeli company."
When contacted by The Nation, Ramsey said his decision wasn't political. "We can't afford to lose any of our clients, so it was purely commercially defensive."
It was this kind of cold business calculation that led many companies to pull out of South Africa two decades ago. And it's precisely the kind of calculation that is our most realistic hope of bringing justice, so long denied, to Palestine.
Further Reading: Disengagement and the Frontiers of Zionism
About Naomi KleinNaomi Klein is an award-winning journalist and syndicated columnist and the author of the international andNew York Times bestseller The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (September 2007); an earlier international best-seller, No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies; and the collection Fences and Windows: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Globalization Debate (2002). more...
Last night, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1860 by a vote of 14-0 with the United States abstaining. The resolution calls for an "immediate, durable and fully respected ceasefire, leading to the full withdrawal of Israeli forces from
Although the White House reportedly overruled the State Department and changed the
Now, we need to demand from our Members of Congress, the State Department, White House, and the Obama Transition Team the immediate implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1860.
TAKE ACTION NOW
1. Call your Representative now at 202-224-3121 and tell them to vote "NO" on H.Res.34 and instead support UN Security Council Resolution 1860 which calls for an immediate ceasefire and humanitarian access. Earlier this morning, the House of Representative debated this resolution "recognizing
2. Contact Congress, the State Department, the White House, and Obama Transition Team and demand an immediate arms embargo on
3. Take your demands to the street. Many protests are scheduled across the country this weekend. Attend one near you or organize one yourself. For the latest protest information, check our calendar for frequent updates by clicking here.
Join in with many others who are taking action to end
US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, January 8th, 2009
Call your Representative NOW to tell them to vote "NO" on any resolution which fails to call for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire, and for unimpeded access for humanitarian aid into Gaza and a lifting of Israel's illegal siege.
There are several biased resolutions on the table, most of which applaud Israel for being a strong ally in the "Global War on Terror;" falsely blame Hamas for breaking the cease-fire; fail to recognize the legitimacy of Palestinian elections; and say absolutely nothing about Israel's responsibility for the killing and injuring of Palestinians and imposing collective punishment on them through a brutal siege-all with U.S. weapons.
If you don't know who represents you in Congress, then you can find out at Congress.org (enter your zip code in the upper right corner of the website). Once you know who represents you call 202.224.3121 and the operator will connect you to your Representative.
When you are connected to your Representative's office, keep your message short and to the point. Tell them:
- We need an immediate, unconditional cease-fire. Biased resolutions that enable Israel to continue killing and injuring Palestinians are unacceptable. Israel has killed more than an estimated 700 Palestinians and injured more than 3,000 since Dec. 27. Resolutions that condition a cease-fire will only lead to more needless death and destruction.
- Demand unrestricted access for humanitarian aid. Israel is allowing through only a trickle of humanitarian aid into Gaza. As the Occupying Power of the Gaza Strip, Israel is legally obligated by the 4th Geneva Convention to ensure that Palestinians receive adequate supplies of food, medical supplies, and other necessities of life. Israel's siege on the Gaza Strip imposes an illegal collective punishment on 1.5 million civilians by denying them access to these vital supplies in violation of international law. Israel must lift its siege of the Gaza Strip to comply with its Geneva Convention obligations and humanitarian aid deliveries must be allowed to enter without restrictions.
- Israel is misusing U.S. weapons to attack a civilian population. Instead of placing blame for Israel's war on and siege of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip on the victims, Members of Congress should join with Rep. Dennis Kucinich in demanding from the Secretary of State an investigation into Israel's violations of the Arms Export Control Act. Members of Congress must hold Israel accountable for its misuse of U.S. weapons to kill Palestinian civilians in violation of U.S. and international law, not vote for resolutions which justify these illegal killings.
The petitions – over attacks on medical personnel and the shelling of United Nations schools in Gaza – follow statements by senior Israeli commanders that they have been using heavy firepower to protect soldiers during their advance on built-up areas. “We are very violent,” one told Israeli media.
There is also growing evidence that Israeli forces have been firing phosphorus shells over densely populated areas in a move that risks violating international law by inflicting burns on civilians.
The Palestinian prime minister, Salam Fayyad, meanwhile, called the events in Gaza a “new Nakba”, referring to the catastrophe that dispossessed the Palestinians in 1948. The Palestinian Authority revealed that it was planning to seek the prosecution of Israel’s leaders for war crimes in the international courts....
A petition to the Israeli courts was announced on Wednesday by Taleb al Sanaa, an Arab member of the Israeli parliament, over the shelling on Tuesday of a UN school in the Jabaliya refugee camp that killed at least 40 Palestinians sheltering there.
UN officials, noting that they had passed on the school’s GPS co-ordinates to Israel and that it was clearly marked with a UN flag, insisted that only civilians had sought refuge at the school. The UN has demanded an investigation.
Mr al Sanaa said the petition would name the prime minister, Ehud Olmert, the foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, and Ehud Barak, the defence minister, as the responsible parties. “Israel needs to decide whether it wants to be a terrorist organisation like Hamas or respect international law,” he said.
A further petition has been launched by eight Israeli human rights groups, demanding that Israel’s Supreme Court ban the army from targeting ambulances and medical personnel.
The slow reaction of the international community should not come as a surprise, but is nevertheless appalling.
These, one would hope, are the violent death throes of the neocons, under whose iron-fist ideology the world, in particular this part of the world, has suffered dramatically for the past eight years. That the neocons in Washington should choose to lash out through their proxy in Israel is sad and cowardly, but entirely par for the course.
And to all those who accepted Israel’s explanation that for eight years Israelis have lived in terror of rocket attacks, consider this: this terrifying rocket menace, which started in 2001 and was first fired mostly at the illegal settlements and military targets inside Gaza, has killed 18 Israelis. That is, 18 in eight years.
This may certainly be too many. But if that is too many, what is nearly 700 dead in 12 days? What it is not is self-defence, especially in the context of 41 years of illegal, belligerent military occupation?
What is this, if not a war crime on the back of a war crime?
The letter, addressed to EU Ambassador to Lebanon Patrick Laurent, said the bloc "not only justifies these crimes, but has become party to them, by providing them legitimacy."
The organizations say the EU is taking no action to end the current military operation in Gaza by Israel, which they describe as a "massacre" and a "violation of human rights and crimes against humanity."
But EU officials have dismissed the accusations as being based on "misinformation."
Kamel Mohanna, coordinator of the Lebanese NGOs involved, said: "We ask [the EU] to take a fair position on the situation in Gaza. Our aim is to have a fair solution to problems facing Palestinians."....
But the EU said the letter was wrong in its analysis. Michael Miller, the head of political affairs in the EU commision's Beirut office, pointed to a common statement released by the bloc on December 30. "The EU statement on the situation in the Middle East is the only document setting out a EU common position," he said. "It calls for an immediate and permanent cease-fire: a halt to rocket attacks and to Israeli military action and immediate action to allow access for humanitarian aid. It also states that there is no military solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and that the peace process should be stepped up."
"The EU has dispatched a field mission to assess how best to respond to the humanitarian crisis caused by the fighting in Gaza," Miller said, adding that the bloc believed in maintaining a "critical dialogue" with Israel.
"Dropping Israeli bombs on unarmed civilians, many women and children, destroying mosques, hospitals and homes, and devastating Gaza's infrastructure is illegal and constitute war crimes. The deaths of the people in Gaza are now over 600, with more than 2,500 people injured–many women and children," she added.
"The infrastructure of Gaza has been destroyed and the people have been cut off from the world–including journalists, human rights advocates and humanitarian workers, all locked out of Gaza and unable to [get aid to] the people," she said.
"The UN must help uphold human rights and justice for Palestinian people by seriously considering establishing an International Criminal Tribunal for Israel so that the Israeli government (can) be held accountable for war crimes," Maguire said.
Thursday, January 8, 2009
NEARLY everything you’ve been led to believe about Gaza is wrong. Below are a few essential points that seem to be missing from the conversation, much of which has taken place in the press, about Israel’s attack on the Gaza Strip.
THE GAZANS Most of the people living in Gaza are not there by choice. The majority of the 1.5 million people crammed into the roughly 140 square miles of the Gaza Strip belong to families that came from towns and villages outside Gaza like Ashkelon and Beersheba. They were driven to Gaza by the Israeli Army in 1948.
THE OCCUPATION The Gazans have lived under Israeli occupation since the Six-Day War in 1967. Israel is still widely considered to be an occupying power, even though it removed its troops and settlers from the strip in 2005. Israel still controls access to the area, imports and exports, and the movement of people in and out. Israel has control over Gaza’s air space and sea coast, and its forces enter the area at will. As the occupying power, Israel has the responsibility under the Fourth Geneva Convention to see to the welfare of the civilian population of the Gaza Strip.
THE BLOCKADE Israel’s blockade of the strip, with the support of the United States and the European Union, has grown increasingly stringent since Hamas won the Palestinian Legislative Council elections in January 2006. Fuel, electricity, imports, exports and the movement of people in and out of the Strip have been slowly choked off, leading to life-threatening problems of sanitation, health, water supply and transportation.
The blockade has subjected many to unemployment, penury and malnutrition. This amounts to the collective punishment — with the tacit support of the United States — of a civilian population for exercising its democratic rights.
THE CEASE-FIRE Lifting the blockade, along with a cessation of rocket fire, was one of the key terms of the June cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. This accord led to a reduction in rockets fired from Gaza from hundreds in May and June to a total of less than 20 in the subsequent four months (according to Israeli government figures). The cease-fire broke down when Israeli forces launched major air and ground attacks in early November; six Hamas operatives were reported killed.
WAR CRIMES The targeting of civilians, whether by Hamas or by Israel, is potentially a war crime. Every human life is precious. But the numbers speak for themselves: Nearly 700 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been killed since the conflict broke out at the end of last year. In contrast, there have been around a dozen Israelis killed, many of them soldiers. Negotiation is a much more effective way to deal with rockets and other forms of violence. This might have been able to happen had Israel fulfilled the terms of the June cease-fire and lifted its blockade of the Gaza Strip.
This war on the people of Gaza isn’t really about rockets. Nor is it about “restoring Israel’s deterrence,” as the Israeli press might have you believe. Far more revealing are the words of Moshe Yaalon, then the Israeli Defense Forces chief of staff, in 2002: “The Palestinians must be made to understand in the deepest recesses of their consciousness that they are a defeated people.”
Rashid Khalidi, a professor of Arab studies at Columbia, is the author of the forthcoming “Sowing Crisis: The Cold War and American Dominance in the Middle East."