Bulletin N° 385
Subject: ON GAZA CONTINUED . . . .
Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies
Director of Research
Universit Stendhal Grenoble 3
from Ahmed El Adi :
Date: 8 January 2009
Subject: How Israel brought Gaza to the brink of humanitarian catastrophe.
[Oxford professor of international relations Avi Shlaim served in the Israeli army and has never questioned the state's legitimacy. But its merciless assault on Gaza has led him to devastating conclusions.]
A wounded Palestinian policeman gestures while lying on the ground outside Hamas police headquarters following an Israeli air strike in Gaza City. Photograph: Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images
The only way to make sense of Israel's senseless war in Gaza is through understanding the historical context. Establishing the state of Israel in May 1948 involved a monumental injustice to the Palestinians. British officials bitterly resented American partisanship on behalf of the infant state. On 2 June 1948, Sir John Troutbeck wrote to the foreign secretary, Ernest Bevin, that the Americans were responsible for the creation of a gangster state headed by "an utterly unscrupulous set of leaders". I used to think that this judgment was too harsh but Israel's vicious assault on the people of Gaza, and the Bush administration's complicity in this assault, have reopened the question.
I write as someone who served loyally in the Israeli army in the mid-1960s and who has never questioned the legitimacy of the state of Israel within its pre-1967 borders. What I utterly reject is the Zionist colonial project beyond the Green Line. The Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in the aftermath of the June 1967 war had very little to do with security and everything to do with territorial expansionism. The aim was to establish Greater Israel through permanent political, economic and military control over the Palestinian territories. And the result has been one of the most prolonged and brutal military occupations of modern times.
Four decades of Israeli control did incalculable damage to the economy of the Gaza Strip. With a large population of 1948 refugees crammed into a tiny strip of land, with no infrastructure or natural resources, Gaza's prospects were never bright. Gaza, however, is not simply a case of economic under-development but a uniquely cruel case of deliberate de-development. To use the Biblical phrase, Israel turned the people of Gaza into the hewers of wood and the drawers of water, into a source of cheap labour and a captive market for Israeli goods. The development of local industry was actively impeded so as to make it impossible for the Palestinians to end their subordination to Israel and to establish the economic underpinnings essential for real political independence.
Gaza is a classic case of colonial exploitation in the post-colonial era. Jewish settlements in occupied territories are immoral, illegal and an insurmountable obstacle to peace. They are at once the instrument of exploitation and the symbol of the hated occupation. In Gaza, the Jewish settlers numbered only 8,000 in 2005 compared with 1.4 million local residents. Yet the settlers controlled 25% of the territory, 40% of the arable land and the lion's share of the scarce water resources. Cheek by jowl with these foreign intruders, the majority of the local population lived in abject poverty and unimaginable misery. Eighty per cent of them still subsist on less than $2 a day. The living conditions in the strip remain an affront to civilised values, a powerful precipitant to resistance and a fertile breeding ground for political extremism.
In August 2005 a Likud government headed by Ariel Sharon staged a unilateral Israeli pullout from Gaza, withdrawing all 8,000 settlers and destroying the houses and farms they had left behind. Hamas, the Islamic resistance movement, conducted an effective campaign to drive the Israelis out of Gaza. The withdrawal was a humiliation for the Israeli Defence Forces. To the world, Sharon presented the withdrawal from Gaza as a contribution to peace based on a two-state solution. But in the year after, another 12,000 Israelis settled on the West Bank, further reducing the scope for an independent Palestinian state. Land-grabbing and peace-making are simply incompatible. Israel had a choice and it chose land over peace.
The real purpose behind the move was to redraw unilaterally the borders of Greater Israel by incorporating the main settlement blocs on the West Bank to the state of Israel. Withdrawal from Gaza was thus not a prelude to a peace deal with the Palestinian Authority but a prelude to further Zionist expansion on the West Bank. It was a unilateral Israeli move undertaken in what was seen, mistakenly in my view, as an Israeli national interest. Anchored in a fundamental rejection of the Palestinian national identity, the withdrawal from Gaza was part of a long-term effort to deny the Palestinian people any independent political existence on their land.
Israel's settlers were withdrawn but Israeli soldiers continued to control all access to the Gaza Strip by land, sea and air. Gaza was converted overnight into an open-air prison. From this point on, the Israeli air force enjoyed unrestricted freedom to drop bombs, to make sonic booms by flying low and breaking the sound barrier, and to terrorise the hapless inhabitants of this prison.
Israel likes to portray itself as an island of democracy in a sea of authoritarianism. Yet Israel has never in its entire history done anything to promote democracy on the Arab side and has done a great deal to undermine it. Israel has a long history of secret collaboration with reactionary Arab regimes to suppress Palestinian nationalism. Despite all the handicaps, the Palestinian people succeeded in building the only genuine democracy in the Arab world with the possible exception of Lebanon. In January 2006, free and fair elections for the Legislative Council of the Palestinian Authority brought to power a Hamas-led government. Israel, however, refused to recognise the democratically elected government, claiming that Hamas is purely and simply a terrorist organisation.
America and the EU shamelessly joined Israel in ostracising and demonising the Hamas government and in trying to bring it down by withholding tax revenues and foreign aid. A surreal situation thus developed with a significant part of the international community imposing economic sanctions not against the occupier but against the occupied, not against the oppressor but against the oppressed.
As so often in the tragic history of Palestine, the victims were blamed for their own misfortunes. Israel's propaganda machine persistently purveyed the notion that the Palestinians are terrorists, that they reject coexistence with the Jewish state, that their nationalism is little more than antisemitism, that Hamas is just a bunch of religious fanatics and that Islam is incompatible with democracy. But the simple truth is that the Palestinian people are a normal people with normal aspirations. They are no better but they are no worse than any other national group. What they aspire to, above all, is a piece of land to call their own on which to live in freedom and dignity.
Like other radical movements, Hamas began to moderate its political programme following its rise to power. From the ideological rejectionism of its charter, it began to move towards pragmatic accommodation of a two-state solution. In March 2007, Hamas and Fatah formed a national unity government that was ready to negotiate a long-term ceasefire with Israel. Israel, however, refused to negotiate with a government that included Hamas.
It continued to play the old game of divide and rule between rival Palestinian factions. In the late 1980s, Israel had supported the nascent Hamas in order to weaken Fatah, the secular nationalist movement led by Yasser Arafat. Now Israel began to encourage the corrupt and pliant Fatah leaders to overthrow their religious political rivals and recapture power. Aggressive American neoconservatives participated in the sinister plot to instigate a Palestinian civil war. Their meddling was a major factor in the collapse of the national unity government and in driving Hamas to seize power in Gaza in June 2007 to pre-empt a Fatah coup.
The war unleashed by Israel on Gaza on 27 December was the culmination of a series of clashes and confrontations with the Hamas government. In a broader sense, however, it is a war between Israel and the Palestinian people, because the people had elected the party to power. The declared aim of the war is to weaken Hamas and to intensify the pressure until its leaders agree to a new ceasefire on Israel's terms. The undeclared aim is to ensure that the Palestinians in Gaza are seen by the world simply as a humanitarian problem and thus to derail their struggle for independence and statehood.
The timing of the war was determined by political expediency. A general election is scheduled for 10 February and, in the lead-up to the election, all the main contenders are looking for an opportunity to prove their toughness. The army top brass had been champing at the bit to deliver a crushing blow to Hamas in order to remove the stain left on their reputation by the failure of the war against Hezbollah in Lebanon in July 2006. Israel's cynical leaders could also count on apathy and impotence of the pro-western Arab regimes and on blind support from President Bush in the twilight of his term in the White House. Bush readily obliged by putting all the blame for the crisis on Hamas, vetoing proposals at the UN Security Council for an immediate ceasefire and issuing Israel with a free pass to mount a ground invasion of Gaza.
As always, mighty Israel claims to be the victim of Palestinian aggression but the sheer asymmetry of power between the two sides leaves little room for doubt as to who is the real victim. This is indeed a conflict between David and Goliath but the Biblical image has been inverted - a small and defenceless Palestinian David faces a heavily armed, merciless and overbearing Israeli Goliath. The resort to brute military force is accompanied, as always, by the shrill rhetoric of victimhood and a farrago of self-pity overlaid with self-righteousness. In Hebrew this is known as the syndrome of bokhim ve-yorim, "crying and shooting".
To be sure, Hamas is not an entirely innocent party in this conflict. Denied the fruit of its electoral victory and confronted with an unscrupulous adversary, it has resorted to the weapon of the weak - terror. Militants from Hamas and Islamic Jihad kept launching Qassam rocket attacks against Israeli settlements near the border with Gaza until Egypt brokered a six-month ceasefire last June. The damage caused by these primitive rockets is minimal but the psychological impact is immense, prompting the public to demand protection from its government. Under the circumstances, Israel had the right to act in self-defence but its response to the pinpricks of rocket attacks was totally disproportionate. The figures speak for themselves. In the three years after the withdrawal from Gaza, 11 Israelis were killed by rocket fire. On the other hand, in 2005-7 alone, the IDF killed 1,290 Palestinians in Gaza, including 222 children.
Whatever the numbers, killing civilians is wrong. This rule applies to Israel as much as it does to Hamas, but Israel's entire record is one of unbridled and unremitting brutality towards the inhabitants of Gaza. Israel also maintained the blockade of Gaza after the ceasefire came into force which, in the view of the Hamas leaders, amounted to a violation of the agreement. During the ceasefire, Israel prevented any exports from leaving the strip in clear violation of a 2005 accord, leading to a sharp drop in employment opportunities. Officially, 49.1% of the population is unemployed. At the same time, Israel restricted drastically the number of trucks carrying food, fuel, cooking-gas canisters, spare parts for water and sanitation plants, and medical supplies to Gaza. It is difficult to see how starving and freezing the civilians of Gaza could protect the people on the Israeli side of the border. But even if it did, it would still be immoral, a form of collective punishment that is strictly forbidden by international humanitarian law.
The brutality of Israel's soldiers is fully matched by the mendacity of its spokesmen. Eight months before launching the current war on Gaza, Israel established a National Information Directorate. The core messages of this directorate to the media are that Hamas broke the ceasefire agreements; that Israel's objective is the defence of its population; and that Israel's forces are taking the utmost care not to hurt innocent civilians. Israel's spin doctors have been remarkably successful in getting this message across. But, in essence, their propaganda is a pack of lies.
A wide gap separates the reality of Israel's actions from the rhetoric of its spokesmen. It was not Hamas but the IDF that broke the ceasefire. It di d so by a raid into Gaza on 4 November that killed six Hamas men. Israel's objective is not just the defence of its population but the eventual overthrow of the Hamas government in Gaza by turning the people against their rulers. And far from taking care to spare civilians, Israel is guilty of indiscriminate bombing and of a three-year-old blockade that has brought the inhabitants of Gaza, now 1.5 million, to the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe.
The Biblical injunction of an eye for an eye is savage enough. But Israel's insane offensive against Gaza seems to follow the logic of an eye for an eyelash. After eight days of bombing, with a death toll of more than 400 Palestinians and four Israelis, the gung-ho cabinet ordered a land invasion of Gaza the consequences of which are incalculable.
No amount of military escalation can buy Israel immunity from rocket attacks from the military wing of Hamas. Despite all the death and destruction that Israel has inflicted on them, they kept up their resistance and they kept firing their rockets. This is a movement that glorifies victimhood and martyrdom. There is simply no military solution to the conflict between the two communities. The problem with Israel's concept of security is that it denies even the most elementary security to the other community. The only way for Israel to achieve security is not through shooting but through talks with Hamas, which has repeatedly declared its readiness to negotiate a long-term ceasefire with the Jewish state within its pre-1967 borders for 20, 30, or even 50 years. Israel has rejected this offer for the same reason it spurned the Arab League peace plan of 2002, which is still on the table: it involves concessions and compromises.
This brief review of Israel's record over the past four decades makes it difficult to resist the conclusion that it has become a rogue state with "an utterly unscrupulous set of leaders". A rogue state habitually violates international law, possesses weapons of mass destruction and practises terrorism - the use of violence against civilians for political purposes. Israel fulfils all of these three criteria; the cap fits and it must wear it. Israel's real aim is not peaceful coexistence with its Palestinian neighbours but military domination. It keeps compounding the mistakes of the past with new and more disastrous ones. Politicians, like everyone else, are of course free to repeat the lies and mistakes of the past. But it is not mandatory to do so.
Avi Shlaim is a professor of international relations at the University of Oxford and the author of The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World and of Lion of Jordan: King Hussein's Life in War and Peace.
from Edward S. Herman :
Date: 9 January 2009
Subject: Children Found Starving
Mercilessness, aggression, genocide--all with EU acceptance and/or support and positive approval by Republican and Democratic Party leaders. This wholesale terrorism will elicit a sure retail terrorist response, and there will be great indignation on the part of Reid, Pelosi, and the NYT editors.
RAMALLAH, Jan 8 (IPS) - An international chorus of condemnation has blasted Israel over its human rights abuses in Gaza. Operation Cast Lead, into its 12th day, has now claimed the lives of over 700 Palestinians.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) demanded safe access Thursday for ICRC officials and Palestinian Red Crescent (PRC) ambulances to evacuate the wounded. It accused Israel of deliberately delaying ambulances.
Rescue teams made several attempts to rescue the wounded and retrieve bodies in several areas of Gaza city but were refused entry by Israel Defence Forces (IDF) soldiers.
On Wednesday, however, after a week's intensive negotiations with Israeli officials, ICRC officials and PRC ambulance teams managed to reach some of the survivors in Gaza's Zeitoun neighbourhood.
The ICRC reported finding four starving toddlers next to the bodies of their dead mothers in one of the houses. The children were apparently too weak to stand. One man was found barely alive. Twelve bodies were found laid out on mattresses in the same house.
Fifteen survivors were rescued from another house by the ICRC. Three bodies were found in an adjacent house. The rescue teams kept looking for survivors despite orders by Israeli soldiers that they leave.
"This is shocking," Pierre Wettach, the ICRC's head of delegation for Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories told IPS. "The Israeli military must have been aware of the situation, but did not assist the wounded. Neither did they make it possible for us or the PRC to assist the wounded."
The ICRC said it believed Israel had breached international humanitarian law.
Amnesty International accused the IDF and Palestinian gunmen Wednesday of using Palestinian civilians as human shields.
"Our sources in Gaza report that Israeli soldiers have entered and taken up positions in a number of Palestinian homes, forcing families to stay in a ground-floor room while they use the rest of their house as a military base and sniper position," said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa programme director.
"This clearly increases the risk to the Palestinian families concerned, and means they are effectively being used as human shields," he said.
While Palestinian gunmen have also used civilian homes as bases to attack Israeli forces, the IDF has adopted this tactic for many years. It is standard IDF policy throughout the occupied West Bank to use Palestinian homes as bases, while confining families to single bedrooms.
Israeli soldiers have been filmed forcing Palestinian youngsters to walk in front of army jeeps or to enter a home they fear is booby-trapped or has gunmen inside, before the soldiers follow afterwards.
Amnesty International also slammed Israel's decision to establish a daily ceasefire of only three hours, saying it was insufficient to tackle the unfolding humanitarian crisis.
"A truce that lasts for a few hours a day is simply insufficient. It's too short to address the urgent and massive needs of the civilians who are caught in the hostilities and suffering heavy casualties," said Curt Goering, Amnesty's senior deputy executive director for the U.S.
"Israel has severely blockaded aid for nearly all of 2008. The Israeli military can't let aid in for three hours and pretend that is sufficient. Nor would a daily brief 'recess' guarantee the safety of humanitarian workers," Goering noted.
Meanwhile, the UN has demanded that Israel provide evidence for its claims that Palestinian gunmen fired on Israeli forces from a UN school compound in northern Gaza before an Israeli artillery attack that killed more than 40 Palestinian civilians there.
The UN has categorically denied that any armed men were in the school at the time.
"We have nothing to hide," UN Relief and Welfare Agency (UNRWA) spokesman Chris Gunness told CNN Wednesday. "Bring it on. We want to see the evidence. We want to clear any suspicion."
About 14,000 Palestinians have been sheltered by UNRWA schools. The UN also stated that prior to Israel's current military incursion into Gaza it had provided Israel with the GPS coordinates of all UN installations in Gaza.
Several years ago Israel caused an international furore when it accused UNRWA ambulances of transporting gunmen in its ambulances. The IDF claimed to have satellite pictures of 'gunmen' loading 'rockets' into the back of an ambulance.
A subsequent investigation established that the 'rocket' was a stretcher and the 'gunmen' medics. UNRWA demanded an apology, and never got one.
Following the outbreak in 2000 of the second Palestinian uprising, or Intifadah, Israel accused the ICRC of transporting a suicide bomber with an explosives belt around his waist in one of its ambulances. The ICRC strongly denied the claim, and demanded evidence. None has been provided.
Meanwhile, another confrontation could be brewing off Gaza's coast as an international boat carrying humanitarian relief, human rights activists, journalists and politicians prepared to breach Israel's naval blockade of Gaza.
Several previous boats made the journey successfully, but during the last attempt the boat Dignity was rammed by Israeli naval vessels and forced at gunpoint to head to Beirut as the damaged vessel took on water.
Those on board included U.S. Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, and a CNN news crew which filmed the incident. (END/2009)
from Jean-Paul Vienne :
Date: 7 January 2009
Subject: Appel de la LDH : "Gaza : appel aux consciences"
Nous vous joignons cet appel l'initiative de la LDH qu'Arielle Denis et moi-mme avons sign.
Un tract du Mouvement de la Paix est en prparation pour les initiatives de samedi.
Merci tous ceux qui envoient leurs infos, elles sont publies sur le site dans l'agenda. Continuez nous tenir au courant de la mobilisation, elle a dj fait bouger notre Prsident de la Rpublique.
N'hsitez pas vous servir des informations que vous envoie Nicole Bouexel de la commission Proche-Orient.
Ehud Olmert, criminel de guerre ! Ehud Barak, criminel de guerre ! Tzipi Livni, criminelle de guerre !
from Ahmed El Adi :
Date: 7 January 2009
Subject: The 2008 Attack on the People of Gaza is Like-No-Other and the World
Hello M. Feeley, I hope these 2 sites are of interest.
P.S. Forty percent of the 1.5 million Palestinian citizens of Gaza are under the age of 14.
Palestinians' death toll as of 7 January is approaching 700, including many women and children.
from GRITtv :
Date: 7 January 2009
Subject: The War Comes Home.
The Israeli war in Gaza has been accompanied by an equally powerful PR offensive. Israel has barred reporters from entering the Gaza Strip in defiance of an order issued by their own High Court allowing access. Here in the United States a popular web site run by Ramzy Baroud, Palestinechronicle.com, was hacked into and taken down. A message on the screen read: "Hacked by ISRAELI Hackers."
Today we speak with Baroud about the Israeli propaganda war and who he thinks was behind the attack on his web site. We also speak with Uri Avnery, a founding member of Gush Shalom and the author of 1948: A Soldier's Tale--The Bloody Road to Jerusalem. Avnery says that despite diplomatic efforts on the part of Nicolas Sarkozy of France there is little substance or force behind them. He says there will be no ceasefire if the blockade is not lifted and that Israels primary objective is to destroy Hamas. And if they hope to destroy Hamas they will only be able to do so by reconquering and reoccupying Gaza.
Then an interview with Aaron Glantz, author of The War Comes Home: Washingtons Battle against Americas Veterans and Luis Carlos Montalvan, a former U.S. Army cavalry captain who served two combat tours in Iraq.
An estimated 6,000 vets commit suicide very year. 200,000 are homeless. According to the Rand Corporation, 300,000 suffer from brain injuries. Many soldiers on their second and third tours of duty in Iraq are heavily medicated with psychotropic drugs because they suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). But we hardly hear anything about the plight of veterans. Will that change under an Obama administration?
Thanks to the American Widow Project for video in tonight's show.
from GRITtv :
Date: 7 January 2009
Subject: Interviews with War Resisters and with Phyllis Bennis on Gaza.
from GRITtv :
Date: 7 January 2009
Subject: "What needs to be done." : An Interview with Uri Avnery.