Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Terror lurking in a Christmas tree? Israel tries to ban non-Jewish celebrations


rom Mondoweiss
Dec 24, 2012 08:27 am | Jonathan Cook
Bilin pere Noel 269f8
Santa Claus in Bilin, 2011.
(Photo: Popular Committee Against the Wall and settlement of Bil’in via europalestine.com)

Israel’s large Palestinian minority is often spoken of in terms of the threat it poses to the Jewish majority. Palestinian citizens’ reproductive rate constitutes a “demographic timebomb”, while their main political program – Israel’s reform into “a state of all its citizens” – is proof for most Israeli Jews that their compatriots are really a “fifth column”.

But who would imagine that Israeli Jews could be so intimidated by the innocuous Christmas tree?

This issue first came to public attention two years ago when it was revealed that Shimon Gapso, the mayor of Upper Nazareth, had banned Christmas trees from all public buildings in his northern Israeli city.

“Upper Nazareth is a Jewish town and all its symbols are Jewish,” Gapso said. “As long as I hold office, no non-Jewish symbol will be presented in the city.”

The decision reflected in part his concern that Upper Nazareth, built in the 1950s as the centrepiece of the Israeli government’s “Judaisation of the Galilee” programme, was failing dismally in its mission.

Far from “swallowing up” the historic Palestinian city of Nazareth next door, as officials had intended, Upper Nazareth became over time a magnet for wealthier Nazarenes who could no longer find a place to build a home in their own city. That was because almost all Nazareth’s available green space had been confiscated for the benefit of Upper Nazareth.

Instead Nazarenes, many of them Palestinian Christians, have been buying homes in Upper Nazareth from Jews – often immigrants from the former Soviet Union – desperate to leave the Arab-dominated Galilee and head to the country’s centre, to be nearer Tel Aviv.

The exodus of Jews and influx of Palestinians have led the government to secretly designate Upper Nazareth as a “mixed city”, much to the embarrassment of Gapso. The mayor is a stalwart ally of far-right politician Avigdor Lieberman and regularly expresses virulently anti-Arab views, including recently calling Nazarenes “Israel-hating residents whose place is in Gaza” and their city “a nest of terror in the heart of the Galilee”.

Although neither Gapso nor the government has published census figures to clarify the city’s current demographic balance, most estimates suggest that at least a fifth of Upper Nazareth’s residents are Palestinian. The city’s council chamber also now includes Palestinian representatives.

But Gapso is not alone in his trenchant opposition to making even the most cursory nod towards multiculturalism. The city's chief rabbi, Isaiah Herzl, has refused to countenance a single Christmas tree in Upper Nazareth, arguing that it would be “offensive to Jewish eyes”.

That view, it seems, reflects the official position of the country’s rabbinate. In so far as they are able, the rabbis have sought to ban Christmas celebrations in public buildings, including in the hundreds of hotels across the country.

A recent report in the Haaretz newspaper, on an Israeli Jew who grows Christmas trees commercially, noted in passing: “hotels – under threat of losing kashrut certificates – are prohibited by the rabbinate from decking their halls in boughs of holly or, heaven forbid, putting up even the smallest of small sparkly Christmas tree in the corner of the lobby.”

In other words, the rabbinate has been quietly terrorising Israeli hotel owners into ignoring Christmas by threatening to use its powers to put them out of business. Denying a hotel its kashrut (kosher) certificate would lose it most of its Israeli and foreign Jewish clientele.

Few mayors or rabbis find themselves in the uncomfortable position of needing to go public with their views on the dangers of Christmas decorations. In Israel, segregation between Jews and Palestinians is almost complete. Even most of the handful of mixed cities are really Jewish cities with slum-like ghettoes of Palestinians living on the periphery.

Apart from Upper Nazareth, the only other “mixed” place where Palestinian Christians are to be found in significant numbers is Haifa, Israel’s third largest city. Haifa is often referred to as Israel’s most multicultural and tolerant city, a title for which it faces very little competition.

But the image hides a dirtier reality. A recent letter from Haifa’s rabbinate came to light in which the city’s hotels and events halls were reminded that they must not host New Year’s parties at the end of this month (the Jewish New Year happens at a different time of year). The hotels and halls were warned that they would be denied their kashrut licences if they did so.

“It is a seriously forbidden to hold any event at the end of the calendar year that is connected with or displays anything from the non-Jewish festivals,” the letter states.

After the letter was publicised on Facebook, Haifa’s mayor, Yona Yahav, moved into damage limitation mode, overruling the city’s rabbinical council on Sunday and insisting that parties would be allowed to go ahead. Whether Yahav has the power to enforce his decision on the notoriously independent-minded rabbinical authorities is still uncertain.

But what is clear is that there is plenty of religious intolerance verging on hatred being quietly exercised against non-Jews, mostly behind the scenes so as not to disturb Israel’s “Jewish and democratic” image or outrage the millions of Christian tourists and pilgrims who visit Israel each year.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Ultimate Logic of a Society Built on Mass Murder

It’s not a sudden madness, but a long history of mass murder come full circle.

By Glen Ford

December 21, 2012 "Information Clearing House" - As a native-born American, I grew up watching cowboy and Indian shoot-em-ups in which the highlight of the movie was when the white guys in the circled wagon train shot the Indians off their horses until all the red men were dead, and very silent. Indians didn’t do a lot of screaming in pain when they were shot; they just expired. Same thing with buck-toothed Japanese, line after line of them, charging into U.S. machine guns, falling instantly silent and dead. It was somehow quite clean, almost antiseptic, these cinematic rituals of death, all staged for the broadest popular consumption to demonstrate the inevitability – and cosmic justice – of ultimate white victory over the darker races.

This was mother’s milk to the white American nation – which is why Richard Pryor and kids like me rooted for the Indians. Mass murder is at the core of the American national religion, which is a celebration of a genocidal march across a continent filled with other, doomed human beings. America’s contribution to European culture was to invite “all the nations of Europe” to come to these shores and become fellow “white” citizens, whose status was defined by the enforced inferiority of Blacks and the remnants of the Indians. Ritual burnings of Blacks were organized as great public festivals, attended by thousands, staged in order to affirm whites’ collective right to commit murder. This monopoly on violence was what made them white Americans.

U.S. foreign policy reflects the nation’s origins and ghastly evolution into a globe-strutting mob, that empowers itself to kill at will. A million dead Filipinos at the turn of the 20th century; aerial bombing of Haitian villages less than a generation later; the totally unwarranted nuclear annihilation of two cities at the very end of World War Two; two million dead Koreans shortly thereafter; three million dead Vietnamese in the next decade,; and, since 1996, six million Congolese – all, and many, many more, slaughtered in the name of U.S. civilizational superiority – the ghastly opiate of the white American masses.

What kind of human beings does such a culture produce? To paraphrase the Bible, “By their massacres, ye shall know them.” The modern mass American murder is overwhelmingly a white phenomenon. Yet few whites ask the question, “What’s wrong with white America?” It is seems that white America lacks the capacity for self-examination. It cannot grasp the simple truth, that a culture that celebrates the annihilation of whole peoples, casually and without guilt or introspection, is devoid of human values at its very core. In the end, it turns against itself. That is the simple lesson of Newtown, and Columbine, and Aurora. The same cultural deformity creates a huge market for games like the very popular Assassin’s Creed, whose latest version integrates individual and group murder with events of the American Revolutionary War. American kids can simulate mass murder all day long, and feel patriotic and smart while doing it. Assassin’s Creed features an inter-racial cast of killers – possibly in deference to the brown guy in the White House who owns the ultimate Kill List. It’s the modern equivalent of the cowboys and Indians movies of my youth. The same sickness.

© 2012 Black Agenda Report

"First as Tragedy, then as Farce..." Oh! ...Hagel not Hegel!

ck Hagel, had the unusual honesty to rightfully disparage AIPAC and the whole Israel-first lobby, saying "I'm a senator of the United States, not Israel."

AIPAC and it's puppet legislators and media shills tolerate no criticism of Israel and themselves of any kind, so it's somewhat amazing that Hagel is even up for consideration. Enter supposedly-progressive firebrand Rachel Maddow. Of course, she's really just another Democratic Party hack and defender Israel's ethnic cleansing and war crimes (as well as Obama's bipartisan rule-the-world-via permanent warfare policy). BUT, she's too much of a moral coward to admit it, so she makes an on-air denouncement of Hagel as unfit to be Secretary of Defense because he made a homophobic remark 14 years ago. --RC

Maddow slams Hagel, to neocon applause
Dec 22, 2012 01:21 pm | Philip Weiss

The war against Chuck Hagel to be Defense Secretary continues. Rachel Maddow concludes this short segment, "Sorry, Charlie" on Chuck Hagel's homophobic comment of 14 years ago with the statement, "I do not know if President Obama wants to nominate Chuck Hagel or not. But if he is, so far it's not going all that well."

Hagel has apologized for the statement.

"My comments 14 years ago in 1998 were insensitive," he said, NBC News reported. "They do not reflect my views or the totality of my public record, and I apologize to Ambassador Hormel and any LGBT Americans who may question my commitment to their civil rights.”

But Maddow picked up a Washington Post item saying that the object of the 1998 slur, James Hormel, does not accept Hagel's apology.

Notes a friend: Dan Senor is retweeting the criticism of Hagel. This gives the lobby the cover they need. Remember after they sank Chas Freeman they claimed it was all about China and Saudi Arabia. They need a smokescreen to say it wasn't all about Israel.

Andrew Sullivan has characterized this as a "classic" underhanded smear campaign, and pointed out that Hagel voted in 2006 to oppose a ban on same-sex marriage:

A secretary of defense nominee should not be disqualified because he said something retrograde on a non-defense issue fifteen years ago. In the most dangerous scenario gay activists have faced - a potential constitutional amendment to consign us permanently to second class status - Hagel voted no.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Another example of heavily armed psychopaths murdering innocent children

From the middleeastmonitor
The tragedy of eight-year old Sarah

Tuesday, 18 December 2012 12:30

Sarah al-Dalou, was killed along with nine members of her family, including her parents, when an Israeli F16 fighter jet attacked her house.
The eight-day Israeli offensive against the Gaza Strip last month was traumatic for all civilians, not least the students of Hassan Salameh School in northern Gaza. Every student has a dramatic and traumatic incident to relate, but those in the second primary stage, section 'A' have an especially exclusive story. While they were talking about their difficulties during the war, 8-year old Wejdan screamed as she stared at the empty chair next to her. "Sarah is not here! Sarah is absent!"

Sarah al-Dalou, was killed along with nine members of her family, including her parents, when an Israeli F16 fighter jet attacked her house; she was a student in Hassan Salameh School. "The Israeli military chief of staff feels sorry for attacking the Al-Dalou family home by mistake," media reports said. He feels "sorry".

According to statistics from the Ministry of Education in Gaza, Sarah was one of 25 school children killed by the Israeli attacks against civilians during the war. More than 300 students were wounded.

"Everyone has a story; a lost relative, a neighbour or a friend," teacher Huda said. "Otherwise, they have lost their home, or know someone who has." The teacher was affected badly by the losses of her students and the damage to her school.

Sarah's school was partially damaged because a nearby house was attacked and completely destroyed. It was one among 50 schools affected by the Israeli offensive. The total cost of the damage to educational premises
The tragedy of eight-year old Sarah

The home of Sarah al-Dalou after an Israeli F16 attacked her house.
in Gaza, including universities and schools run by UNRWA, was around $4 million.

Almost half-a-million students in Gaza did not attend their schools during the offensive; around 5,000 returned one week after the war when alternative school accommodation could be found.

During Israel's 2008/9 war against the people of Gaza, the Israeli forces targeted several schools, including Al-Fakhoura which was attacked with white phosphorous, which is prohibited internationally for use in civilian areas. About 25 civilians were killed when they took refuge in the school.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Israel's new "Judea and Samaria" stamp on passports -- more historical fiction

Blogs » Alice Bach's blog
Why the Bible doesn’t give Israel a claim to the West Bank
Submitted by Alice Bach on Mon, 12/10/2012 - 08:26

Israel was an anachronism from day one.
(Nedal Shtieh / APA images)

Having a passport stamped with the names Judea and Samaria reminds me of a trip my family made to Disneyworld, where I got a passport stamped Neverland. That day I met Peter Pan and Wendy. Getting my passport stamped for the West Bank these days, I can hope to stand before the graves of Biblical characters in Samaria and Judea.

What actually can we glean about the area of Samaria from the Hebrew Scriptures? Samaria was a region in the land of Israel with geographical limits that were never clearly defined in the Bible. Originally it was the territory of the tribe of Ephraim and half tribe of Manasseh: its eastern boundary was the Jordan River, the western boundary was the Mediterranean coast. Not surprising since natural boundaries, such as mountains, rivers, deserts, or lakes formed boundaries long before they were hand-drawn by the winners of wars.

After the campaign of Tiglath-Pileser III in 732 BC, Samaria became a province of the Assyrians. The Biblical authors understand this loss of the Northern Kingdom (Samaria) as God’s punishment of his people for worshipping other deities and breaking the Covenant that had bound them to God. “And the king of Assyria did carry away Israel [Samaria] unto Assyria and put them in Halah and in Habor by the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes” (II Kings 18:11).

The triumphant Assyrians settled some of their subject populations there and in Syria to mingle with the Palestinian people. The Hill Country of Samaria remained a province during the Persian period. Then, Samaria, along with Judea, became the property of the Babylonians, from 539 until 333 BC, and subsequently was ruled by the Hellenistic Greeks, and then the formidable Roman Empire. The land was never owned by the Jewish people, except in minds that were nourished by the Biblical narratives.
Israel’s history of salvation

Why am I providing such specific historical data for these vague geographical areas? Because there has always been an intertwined narrative between Israel’s religious history and a so-called objective history that must be maintained. To reject the historicity of Israel’s salvation history has been considered an attack on the faith itself. A fundamental basis of Biblical faith is that, unlike other ancient deities living in some faraway realm, the Israelite God acts within history, prodding and protecting his chosen people from the threats and attacks of its enemies. When Israel breaks its Covenant with God, the land and the power revert to their enemies, often for as long as 400 narrative years of repentance. Then God relents. What could reassure Israelis of the historicity of the biblical narratives, and their everlasting bond with God, more than actual physical proof that they earned every hectare of land from righteousness. Stepping right out of the pages of the Bible, today’s faithful can flash that Biblical truth in the form of a current passport stamp. Samaria and Judea.

What better way to prove the veracity of the events narrated in the Bible than by discovering tangible, visible proof embedded on shards, stele, inscriptions and other archeological treasures. So with the Bible in one hand and a shovel in the other, Western and Israeli archeologists began to dig up the Holy Land to prove the land holy. Official versions of a nation’s past are commonplace: think of Columbus discovering America. But what is different about the attempt to recover the history of ancient Israel is that this history has been shaped in the context of the modern European nation state. It has been translated and interpreted as the history of a united group of people, divided into tribes. There are no other people except for enemies, the generic “Canaanites.”
A different kind of salvation

In the past 25 years, scholars have begun to argue, following the lead of Niels Lemche of the University of Copenhagen, that the gap between the first written fixation of the Biblical texts, beginning some time after the Exile in 587 BC, and the occurrence of these events is too great to accept the tradition as a primary source for the reconstruction of the Israelite past. Why is this statement so central to our continuing study of this land today? Because it frees the Western scholarly “search for ancient Israel” to examine the history of the entire region, including the all-important search for a Palestinian history that has been overshadowed, intentionally erased, by those who ignored the social history of the indigenous people of Syro-Palestine.

In her important book Facts on the Ground (2002), anthropologist Nadia Abu El-Haj argues that the strong Zionist collective memory has been strengthened by the Eurocentric model that created the cultural construction of Orientalism, the Western depiction of Arab cultures with all its negativity. Since the first-generation of Israeli archeologists came from Europe, they saw through eyes trained by the last generation of scholars of the continental empires. Like all subject peoples, the hope of these Jewish archeologists was to create and privilege their national “ethnic” majority over the indigenous people of Palestine. To create a visible ancient Israel has resulted in dismissing the large Canaanite mounds. In searching for Judea and Samaria, these archeologists have shown little interest in the lowlands, understood to be Canaanite.

Thus, during the British Mandate period, these archeologists set out to create and preserve a solid historical link from the Biblical narratives to the world of the Zionists. A new nation set to work to revive the old Biblical history from every hillside and wadi. By the time of the 1967 War, the continuum between the past and the present, linking the modern state of Israel to the intentional creation of ancient Israelite history, had been forged. Even tourists visiting the State of Israel could visit Rachel’s tomb, breathe the air in the cave of Machpelach, which Abraham had purchased as a tomb for himself and Sarah. I have been shown the very well the Bible says Abraham dug to water his flocks. Not to be a spoil sport, but these Biblical characters survived in story form through a minimum of 800 years of oral transmission before their stories were ever written down. And one can still find a well dug by a mythic patriarch?

Finally the Zionists have their modern state, theirs by means of an ancient tradition superimposed on a Western nation-state model. And the West, lead by the United States, has displayed no inclination to question the eradication of Arabic place names, that the Zionists have replaced with Biblical names. Comfortable with the celebration of Biblical values ascribed to our own national cultures, how could we not have been Israel’s natural allies? Only recently have historians begun to argue in impressive numbers that the problem with the historical model of ancient Israel is that it denies validity to any attempt to produce a history of ancient Palestine. Zionist allies have allowed Israel to play the largest board game in the world. But the roll of the dice is getting more dangerous for Israel.

As Tony Judt argued almost a decade ago, the idea of a Jewish state was already too late in 1948. “The very idea of a ‘Jewish state’ — a state in which Jews and the Jewish religion have exclusive privileges from which non-Jewish citizens are forever excluded — is rooted in another time and place. Israel, in short, is an anachronism.”
Tags: Samaria Tony Judt Nadia Abu El-Haj Assyria West Bank Niels Lemche University of Copenhagen Judea and Samaria Bible
Share on diggShare on twitterShare on facebook

Alice Bach's blog
Add new comment

Donate now

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Thomas Friedman tops himself in thick-headed duncery

How many different ways can one point out the ignorance/extreme lack of any capacity for self-reflection and sheer dunbfuckedness of Tom Friedman?

Sunday's New York Timse op-ed page published His latest empty-headed homage to self-involvment which employs the hackneyed cliche of poor Israel, they have to do things that look bad because they live in a "tough neighborhood."

Friedman fully identifies with the pure arrogance of a population of settler-colonialists primarily from Europe and the US and their descendants, who regard the native Palestinians, whose land they have robbed, as subhumans who can't be talked to.

The Zionist infiltrators (to use their own term against them) forced their way into the "neighborhood" and by force of arms in 1948 expelled 750,000 inhabitants and relegated the remaining inhabitants to jim crow status. Not being happy with the small borders of the neighborhood, they grabbed more land in 1967 and are busily annexing the West Bank while the 2.5 million indigenous inhabitants are under martial law.

Not caring much for the wider neighborhood, Zionist Israel has also bitten off pieces of land from Egypt, Lebanon and Syria,hanging on to whatever it could. If a family moved into a house next door to yours and proceeded to bulldoze your home to expand their lawn, would you complain? Oh, come on..don't hold a grudge...you wouldn't want your neighborhood to get a reputation for being "tough."

Now Friedman is shocked that the Welcome Wagon didn't show up for the new neighbors.

Any "neighborhood" that is invaded, occupied and subject to ethnic cleansing and killings by a new resident that comes in to conquer and eliminate the native people is quite likely to become tough. When you steal someone's country, you will never have peace...unless you kill and expel them all. Yo, Tom! Can't you get that?

The tough neighborhood is of Israel's and its indispensable sponsor, the USA's making.

No, Israel Does Not Have the Right to Self-Defense In International Law Against Occupied Palestinian Territory

Dec 05 2012 by Noura Erakat

On the fourth day of Israel's most recent onslaught against Gaza's Palestinian population, President Barack Obama declared, “No country on Earth would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders.” In an echo of Israeli officials, he sought to frame Israel's aerial missile strikes against the 360-square kilometer Strip as the just use of armed force against a foreign country. Israel's ability to frame its assault against territory it occupies as a right of self-defense turns international law on its head.

A state cannot simultaneously exercise control over territory it occupies and militarily attack that territory on the claim that it is “foreign” and poses an exogenous national security threat. In doing precisely that, Israel is asserting rights that may be consistent with colonial domination but simply do not exist under international law.

Admittedly, the enforceability of international law largely depends on voluntary state consent and compliance. Absent the political will to make state behavior comport with the law, violations are the norm rather than the exception. Nevertheless, examining what international law says with regard to an occupant’s right to use force is worthwhile in light of Israel's deliberate attempts since 1967 to reinterpret and transform the laws applicable to occupied territory. These efforts have expanded significantly since the eruption of the Palestinian uprising in 2000, and if successful, Israel’s reinterpretation would cast the law as an instrument that protects colonial authority at the expense of the rights of civilian non-combatants.

Israel Has A Duty To Protect Palestinians Living Under Occupation

Military occupation is a recognized status under international law and since 1967, the international community has designated the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as militarily occupied. As long as the occupation continues, Israel has the right to protect itself and its citizens from attacks by Palestinians who reside in the occupied territories. However, Israel also has a duty to maintain law and order, also known as “normal life,” within territory it occupies. This obligation includes not only ensuring but prioritizing the security and well-being of the occupied population. That responsibility and those duties are enumerated in Occupation Law.

Occupation law is part of the laws of armed conflict; it contemplates military occupation as an outcome of war and enumerates the duties of an occupying power until the peace is restored and the occupation ends. To fulfill its duties, the occupying power is afforded the right to use police powers, or the force permissible for law enforcement purposes. As put by the U.S. Military Tribunal during the Hostages Trial (The United States of America vs. Wilhelm List, et al.)

International Law places the responsibility upon the commanding general of preserving order, punishing crime, and protecting lives and property within the occupied territory. His power in accomplishing these ends is as great as his responsibility.

The extent and breadth of force constitutes the distinction between the right to self-defense and the right to police. Police authority is restricted to the least amount of force necessary to restore order and subdue violence. In such a context, the use of lethal force is legitimate only as a measure of last resort. Even where military force is considered necessary to maintain law and order, such force is circumscribed by concern for the civilian non-combatant population. The law of self-defense, invoked by states against other states, however, affords a broader spectrum of military force. Both are legitimate pursuant to the law of armed conflict and therefore distinguished from the peacetime legal regime regulated by human rights law.

When It Is Just To Begin To Fight

The laws of armed conflict are found primarily in the Hague Regulations of 1907, the Four Geneva Conventions of 1949, and their Additional Protocols I and II of 1977. This body of law is based on a crude balance between humanitarian concerns on the one hand and military advantage and necessity on the other. The post-World War II Nuremberg trials defined military exigency as permission to expend “any amount and kind of force to compel the complete submission of the enemy…” so long as the destruction of life and property is not done for revenge or a lust to kill. Thus, the permissible use of force during war, while expansive, is not unlimited..

In international law, self-defense is the legal justification for a state to initiate the use of armed force and to declare war. This is referred to as jus ad bellum—meaning “when it is just to begin to fight.” The right to fight in self-defense is distinguished from jus in bello, the principles and laws regulating the means and methods of warfare itself. Jus ad bellum aims to limit the initiation of the use of armed force in accordance with United Nations Charter Article 2(4); its sole justification, found in Article 51, is in response to an armed attack (or an imminent threat of one in accordance with customary law on the matter). The only other lawful way to begin a war, according to Article 51, is with Security Council sanction, an option reserved—in principle, at least—for the defense or restoration of international peace and security.

Once armed conflict is initiated, and irrespective of the reason or legitimacy of such conflict, the jus in bello legal framework is triggered. Therefore, where an occupation already is in place, the right to initiate militarized force in response to an armed attack, as opposed to police force to restore order, is not a remedy available to the occupying state. The beginning of a military occupation marks the triumph of one belligerent over another. In the case of Israel, its occupation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights, and the Sinai in 1967 marked a military victory against Arab belligerents.

Occupation Law prohibits an occupying power from initiating armed force against its occupied territory. By mere virtue of the existence of military occupation, an armed attack, including one consistent with the UN Charter, has already occurred and been concluded. Therefore the right of self-defense in international law is, by definition since 1967, not available to Israel with respect to its dealings with real or perceived threats emanating from the West Bank and Gaza Strip population. To achieve its security goals, Israel can resort to no more than the police powers, or the exceptional use of militarized force, vested in it by IHL. This is not to say that Israel cannot defend itself—but those defensive measures can neither take the form of warfare nor be justified as self-defense in international law. As explained by Ian Scobbie:

To equate the two is simply to confuse the legal with the linguistic denotation of the term ”defense.“ Just as ”negligence,“ in law, does not mean ”carelessness” but, rather, refers to an elaborate doctrinal structure, so ”self-defense” refers to a complex doctrine that has a much more restricted scope than ordinary notions of ”defense.“

To argue that Israel is employing legitimate “self-defense” when it militarily attacks Gaza affords the occupying power the right to use both police and military force in occupied territory. An occupying power cannot justify military force as self-defense in territory for which it is responsible as the occupant. The problem is that Israel has never regulated its own behavior in the West Bank and Gaza as in accordance with Occupation Law.

Israel’s Attempts To Change International Law

Since the beginning of its occupation in 1967, Israel has rebuffed the applicability of international humanitarian law to the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). Despite imposing military rule over the West Bank and Gaza, Israel denied the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (the cornerstone of Occupation Law). Israel argued because the territories neither constituted a sovereign state nor were sovereign territories of the displaced states at the time of conquest, that it simply administered the territories and did not occupy them within the meaning of international law. The UN Security Council, the International Court of Justice, the UN General Assembly, as well as the Israeli High Court of Justice have roundly rejected the Israeli government’s position. Significantly, the HCJ recognizes the entirety of the Hague Regulations and provisions of the 1949 Geneva Conventions that pertain to military occupation as customary international law.

Israel’s refusal to recognize the occupied status of the territory, bolstered by the US’ resilient and intransigent opposition to international accountability within the UN Security Council, has resulted in the condition that exists today: prolonged military occupation. Whereas the remedy to occupation is its cessation, such recourse will not suffice to remedy prolonged military occupation. By virtue of its decades of military rule, Israel has characterized all Palestinians as a security threat and Jewish nationals as their potential victims, thereby justifying the differential, and violent, treatment of Palestinians. In its 2012 session, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination described current conditions following decades of occupation and attendant repression as tantamount to Apartheid.

In complete disregard for international law, and its institutional findings, Israel continues to treat the Occupied Territory as colonial possessions. Since the beginning of the second Palestinian intifada in 2000, Israel has advanced the notion that it is engaged in an international armed conflict short of war in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Accordingly, it argues that it can 1) invoke self-defense, pursuant to Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, and 2) use force beyond that permissible during law enforcement, even where an occupation exists.

The Gaza Strip Is Not the World Trade Center

To justify its use of force in the OPT as consistent with the right of self-defense, Israel has cited UN Security Council Resolution 1368 (2001) and UN Security Council Resolution 1373 (2001). These two resolutions were passed in direct response to the Al-Qaeda attacks on the United States on 11 September 2001. They affirm that those terrorist acts amount to threats to international peace and security and therefore trigger Article 51 of the UN Charter permitting the use of force in self-defense. Israel has therefore deliberately characterized all acts of Palestinian violence – including those directed exclusively at legitimate military targets – as terrorist acts. Secondly it frames those acts as amounting to armed attacks that trigger the right of self-defense under Article 51 irrespective of the West Bank and Gaza’s status as Occupied Territory.

The Israeli Government stated its position clearly in the 2006 HCJ case challenging the legality of the policy of targeted killing (Public Committee against Torture in Israel et al v. Government of Israel). The State argued that, notwithstanding existing legal debate, “there can be no doubt that the assault of terrorism against Israel fits the definition of an armed attack,” effectively permitting Israel to use military force against those entities. Therefore, Israeli officials claim that the laws of war can apply to “both occupied territory and to territory which is not occupied, as long as armed conflict is taking place on it” and that the permissible use of force is not limited to law enforcement operations. The HCJ has affirmed this argument in at least three of its decisions: Public Committee Against Torture in Israel et al v. Government of Israel, Hamdan v. Southern Military Commander, and Physicians for Human Rights v. The IDF Commander in Gaza. These rulings sanction the government’s position that it is engaged in an international armed conflict and, therefore, that its use of force is not restricted by the laws of occupation. The Israeli judiciary effectively authorizes the State to use police force to control the lives of Palestinians (e.g., through ongoing arrests, prosecutions, checkpoints) and military force to pummel their resistance to occupation.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) dealt with these questions in its assessment of the permissible use of force in the Occupied West Bank in its 2004 Advisory Opinion, Legal Consequences on the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The ICJ reasoned that Article 51 contemplates an armed attack by one state against another state and “Israel does not claim that the attacks against it are imputable to a foreign state.” Moreover, the ICJ held that because the threat to Israel “originates within, and not outside” the Occupied West Bank,

the situation is thus different from that contemplated by Security Council resolutions 1368 (2001) and 1373 (2001), and therefore Israel could not in any event invoke those resolutions in support of its claim to be exercising a right of self-defense. Consequently, the Court concludes that Article 51 of the Charter has no relevance in this case.

Despite the ICJ's decision, Israel continues to insist that it is exercising its legal right to self-defense in its execution of military operations in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Since 2005, Israel slightly changed its position towards the Gaza Strip. The government insists that as a result of its unilateral disengagement in 2005, its occupation has come to an end. In 2007, the government declared the Gaza Strip a “hostile entity” and waged war upon the territory over which it continues to exercise effective control as an Occupying Power. Lisa Hajjar expounds on these issues here.

In effect, Israel is distorting/reinterpreting international law to justify its use of militarized force in order to protect its colonial authority. Although it rebuffs the de jure application of Occupation Law, Israel exercises effective control over the West Bank and Gaza and therefore has recourse to police powers. It uses those police powers to continue its colonial expansion and apartheid rule and then in defiance of international law cites its right to self-defense in international law to wage war against the population, which it has a duty to protect. The invocation of law to protect its colonial presence makes the Palestinian civilian population doubly vulnerable. Specifically in the case of Gaza,

It forces the people of the Gaza Strip to face one of the most powerful militaries in the world without the benefit either of its own military, or of any realistic means to acquire the means to defend itself.

More broadly, Israel is slowly pushing the boundaries of existing law in an explicit attempt to reshape it. This is an affront to the international humanitarian legal order, which is intended to protect civilians in times of war by minimizing their suffering. Israel’s attempts have proven successful in the realm of public relations, as evidenced by President Obama’s uncritical support of Israel’s recent onslaughts of Gaza as an exercise in the right of self-defense. Since international law lacks a hierarchal enforcement authority, its meaning and scope is highly contingent on the prerogative of states, especially the most powerful ones. The implications of this shift are therefore palpable and dangerous.

Failure to uphold the law would allow states to behave according to their own whim in furtherance of their national interest, even in cases where that is detrimental to civilian non-combatants and to the international legal order. For better or worse, the onus to resist this shift and to preserve protection for civilians rests upon the shoulders of citizens, organizations, and mass movements who can influence their governments enforce international law. There is no alternative to political mobilization to shape state behavior.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Chonmsky on Israel's "direct negotiations" scam

By Noam Chomsky

December 04, 2012 "Information Clearing House" - An old man in Gaza held a placard that reads: “You take my water, burn my olive trees, destroy my house, take my job, steal my land, imprison my father, kill my mother, bombard my country, starve us all, humiliate us all but I am to blame: I shot a rocket back.” [1]

The old man’s message provides the proper context for the timelines on the latest episode in the savage punishment of Gaza. They are useful, but any effort to establish a “beginning” cannot help but be misleading. The crimes trace back to 1948, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled in terror or were expelled to Gaza by conquering Israeli forces, who continued to truck them over the border for years after the official cease-fire. The persecution of Gazans took new forms when Israel conquered the Strip in 1967. From recent Israeli scholarship we learn that the goal of the government was to drive the refugees into the Sinai, and if feasible the rest of the population too.

Expulsions from Gaza were carried out under the direct orders of General Yeshayahu Gavish, commander of the Southern Command. Expulsions from the West Bank were far more extreme, and Israel resorted to devious means to prevent the return of those expelled, in direct violation of Security Council orders. The reasons were made clear in internal discussion immediately after the war. Golda Meir, later Prime Minister, informed her Labor colleagues that Israel should keep the Gaza Strip while “getting rid of its Arabs.” Defense Minister Dayan and others agreed. Prime Minister Eshkol explained that those expelled cannot be allowed to return because “We cannot increase the Arab population in Israel” — referring to the newly occupied territories, already tacitly considered part of Israel. In accord with this conception, all of Israel’s maps were changed, expunging the Green Line (the internationally recognized borders), though publication was delayed to permit UN Ambassador Abba Eban to attain what he called “favorable impasse” at the General Assembly, by concealing Israel’s intentions. [2]

The goals may remain alive, and might be a factor contributing to Egypt’s reluctance to open the border to free passage of people and goods barred by the US-backed Israeli siege.

The current upsurge of US-Israeli violence dates to January 2006, when Palestinians voted “the wrong way” in the first free election in the Arab world. Israel and the US reacted at once with harsh punishment of the miscreants, and preparation of a military coup to overthrow the elected government, routine procedure. The punishment was radically intensified in 2007, when the coup attempt was beaten back, and the elected Hamas government established full control over Gaza.

The standard version of these events is more anodyne, for example, in the New York Times, November 29: “Hamas entered politics by running in, and winning, elections in the Palestinian territories in 2006. But it was unable to govern in the face of Western opposition and in 2007 took power in the Gaza Strip by force, deepening the political split [with Fatah and the Palestinian Authority].” [3]

Ignoring immediate Hamas offers of a truce after the 2006 election, Israel launched attacks that killed 660 Palestinians in 2006, mostly civilians, one-third minors. The escalation of attacks in 2007 killed 816 Palestinians, 360 civilians and 152 minors. The UN reports that 2879 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire from April 2006 through July 2012, along with several dozen Israelis killed by fire from Gaza. [4]

A truce in 2008 was honored by Hamas until Israel broke it in November. Ignoring further truce offers, Israel launched the murderous Cast Lead operation in December. So matters have continued, while the US and Israel also continue to reject Hamas calls for a long-term truce and a political settlement in accord with the international consensus on a two-state settlement that the US has blocked since 1976, when the US vetoed a Security Council resolution to this effect, brought by the major Arab states.

In late 2012 the US devoted extensive efforts to block a General Assembly resolution upgrading Palestine’s status to that of a “non-member observer state.” The effort failed, leaving the US in its usual international isolation on November 29, when the resolution passed overwhelmingly on the anniversary of the 1947 General Assembly vote on partition. [5] The reasons Washington frankly offered for its opposition to the resolution were revealing: Palestine might approach the International Criminal Court on Israel’s U.S.-backed crimes, which cannot be permitted judicial review for reasons that are all too obvious. A second concern, the New York Times reported, was that “the Palestinians might use the vote to seek membership in specialized agencies of the United Nations,” which could lead Washington to defund these international organizations, as it cut off financing to UNESCO in 2011 when it dared to admit Palestine as a member. The Master does not tolerate disobedience. [6]

Israel had warned that it would “go crazy” (“yishtagea”) if the resolution passed, reviving warnings from the 1950s that it would “go crazy” if crossed — not very meaningful then, much more so now. [7] And indeed, hours after the UN vote Israel announced its decision to carry forward settlement in Area E1 that connects the vastly expanded Greater Jerusalem that it annexed illegally to the town of Ma’aleh Adumim, greatly expanded under Clinton after the Oslo Accords, with lands extending virtually to Jericho, effectively bisecting the West Bank if the Area E1 corridor is closed by settlement. [8] Before Obama, US presidents had barred Israel’s efforts to expand its illegal settlements into the E1 region, so it was compelled to resort to stealth measures, like establishing a police station in the zone. Obama has been more supportive of Israeli criminal actions than his predecessors, and it remains to be seen whether he will keep to a tap on the wrist with a wink, as before.

Israel and the US insist on “direct negotiations” as the only “path to peace.” They also insist on crucial preconditions. First, the negotiations must be under US leadership, which makes as much sense as asking Iran to mediate Sunni-Shiite conflicts in Iraq. Genuine negotiations would take place under the auspices of some neutral party with a claim to international respect, perhaps Brazil, and would have the US and Israel on one side of the table, and most of the rest of the world on the other. A second precondition, left tacit, is that expansion of Israel’s settlements must be allowed to continue in one or another form (as happened, for example, during the formal 10-month “suspension”), with Washington signaling its disapproval while continuing to provide the required support.

The call for “direct negotiations” without substance is an old Israeli tactic to prevent steps towards diplomatic settlement that would impede its expansionist projects. After the 1967 war, the respected diplomat Abba Eban, who was in charge of the effort, was highly praised by Golda Meir and other colleagues in the governing Labor Party for his success at the United Nations in carrying forward “Israel’s peacemaking strategy” of confusion and delay, which came to “take the shape of a consistent foreign policy of deception,” as it is described by Israeli scholar Avi Raz in a detailed review of internal records. [9] At that time the tactics angered US officials, who protested vigorously though to no effect. But much has changed since, particularly since Kissinger took control of policy and the US largely departed from the world on Israel-Palestine.

The practice of delay goes back to the earliest Zionist settlement, which sought to “create facts” on the ground while keeping goals obscure. Even the call for a “Jewish commonwealth” was not made officially by the Zionist organization until a May 1942 meeting at the Biltmore hotel in New York.

Returning to Gaza, one element of the unremitting torture of its people is Israel’s “buffer zone” within Gaza from which Gazans are barred entry, almost half of Gaza’s limited arable land according to Sara Roy, the leading academic scholar of Gaza. From September 2005, after Israel transferred its settlers to other parts of the occupied territories, to September 2012, Israeli security forces killed 213 Palestinians in the zone, including 154 who were not taking part in hostilities, 17 of them children. [10]

From January 2012 to the launching of Israel’s latest killing spree on November 14, Operation Pillar of Defense, one Israeli was reported to have been killed by fire from Gaza while 78 Palestinians were killed by Israel fire. [11]

The full story is naturally more complex, and considerably uglier.

The first act of Operation Pillar of Defense was to murder Ahmed Jabari. Aluf Benn, editor of Ha’aretz, describes him as Israel’s “subcontractor” and “border guard” in Gaza, who enforced relative quiet in Gaza for over five years. [12] The pretext for the assassination was that during these five years Jabari had been creating a Hamas military force, with missiles from Iran. [13] Plainly, if that is true it was not learned on November 14.

A more credible reason was provided by Israeli peace activist Gershon Baskin, who had been involved in direct negotiations with Jabari for years, including plans for the release of the captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Baskin reports that hours before Jabari was assassinated, “he received the draft of a permanent truce agreement with Israel, which included mechanisms for maintaining the ceasefire in the case of a flare-up between Israel and the factions in the Gaza Strip.” A truce was then in place, called by Hamas on November 12. Israel apparently exploited the truce, Reuters reports, directing attention to the Syrian border in the hope that Hamas leaders would relax their guard and be easier to assassinate. [14]

Throughout these years, Gaza has been kept on a level of bare survival, imprisoned by land, sea and air. On the eve of the latest attack, the UN reported that 40 percent of essential drugs and more than half of essential medical items were out of stock. [15] One of the first of the series of hideous photos that were sent from Gaza in November showed a doctor holding the charred corpse of a murdered child. That one had a personal resonance. The doctor is the director and head of surgery at Khan Yunis hospital, which I had visited a few weeks earlier. In writing about the trip I reported his passionate appeal for desperately needed simple drugs and surgical equipment. These are among the crimes of the US-Israeli siege, and Egyptian complicity.

The casualty rates from the November episode were about normal: over 160 Palestinian dead, including many children, and 6 Israelis. Among the dead were three journalists. The official Israeli justification was that “The targets are people who have relevance to terror activity.” Reporting the “execution” in the New York Times, David Carr observes that “it has come to this: killing members of the news media can be justified by a phrase as amorphous as ‘relevance to terror activity’.” [16]

The massive destruction was all in Gaza. Israel used advanced US military equipment for the slaughter and destruction, and relied on US diplomatic support, including the usual US intervention to block a Security Council call for a cease-fire. [17]

With each such exploit Israel’s global image erodes. The images of terror and destruction, and the character of the conflict, leave few remaining shreds of credibility to the self-declared “most moral army in the world,” at least among people with eyes open.

The pretexts for the assault were also the usual ones. We can put aside the predictable declarations of the perpetrators in Israel and Washington, but even decent people ask what Israel should do when attacked by a barrage of missiles. It’s a fair question, and there are straightforward answers.

One response would be to observe international law, which allows the use of force without Security Council authorization in exactly one case: in self-defense after informing the Security Council of an armed attack, until the Council acts (UN Charter, Article 51). Israel understands that well. That is the course it followed at the outbreak of the June 1967 war, but of course Israel’s appeal went nowhere when it was quickly ascertained that it was Israel that had launched the attack. Israel did not follow this course in November, knowing well what would be revealed in a Security Council debate.

Another narrow response would be to agree to a truce, as appeared quite possible before the operation was launched on November 14, as often before.

There are more far-reaching responses. By coincidence, one illustration is discussed in the current issue of the journal National Interest. The authors, Asia scholars Raffaello Pantucci and Alexandros Petersen, describe China’s reaction after rioting in western Xinjiang province “in which mobs of Uighurs marched around the city beating hapless Han [Chinese] to death.” Chinese president Hu Jintao quickly flew to the province to take charge, senior leaders in the security establishment were fired, and a wide range of development projects were undertaken to address underlying causes of the unrest. [18]

In Gaza too a civilized reaction is possible. The US and Israel could end the merciless unremitting assault and open the borders, and provide for reconstruction — and if it were imaginable, reparations for decades of violence and repression.

The cease-fire agreement stated that the measures to implement the end of the siege and the targeting of residents in border areas “shall be dealt with after 24 hours from the start of the ceasefire.” There is no sign of steps in this direction. Nor is there any indication of US-Israeli willingness to rescind their policy of separating Gaza from the West Bank in violation of the Oslo Accords, to end the illegal settlement and development programs in the West Bank designed to undermine a political settlement, or in any other way to abandon the rejectionism of the past decades.

Some day, and it must be soon, the world will respond to the plea issued by the distinguished Gazan human rights lawyer Raji Sourani while the bombs were once again raining down on defenseless civilians in Gaza: “We demand justice and accountability. We dream of a normal life, in freedom and dignity.” [19]


[1] http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/the-war-between-israel-and-hamas-has-its-roots-in-britains-shameful-betrayal-of-the-palestinians-8327052.html.

[2] Avi Raz, The Bride and the Dowry (Yale, 2012).

[3] http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/29/world/middleeast/leader-of-hamas-calls-for-palestinian-unity.html?src=twrhp.

[4] Slater, International Security, Nov-Dec 2012. http://www.economist.com/blogs/pomegranate/2012/11/israel-and-palestinians.

[5] http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2012/ga11317.doc.htm.

[6] http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/29/world/middleeast/us-and-israel-look-to-limit-impact-of-palestinian-authority-upgrade.html.

[7] Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz, Oct. 26, under the headline “Yisrael Mazhira et Ha-Olam: Ba’al Habayit Yishtagea” (“Israel warns the world: the head of the household will go crazy”). http://www.haaretz.co.il/news/politics/1.1850595.

[8] http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/international/countriesandterritories/israel/index.html.

[9] Raz, op. cit.

[10] Roy, http://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2012/11/23/roy/sctFniw6Wn2n9nTdxZ91RJ/story.html?s_campaign=8315. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/24/world/middleeast/israel-gaza-conflict.html?ref=global-home.

[11] Ibid.

[12] http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/israel-killed-its-subcontractor-in-gaza.premium-1.477886.

[13] http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/18/world/middleeast/arms-with-long-reach-bolster-hamas.html?_r=0.

[14] http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/israeli-peace-activist-hamas-leader-jabari-killed-amid-talks-on-long-term-truce.premium-1.478085. http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/11/who-started-the-israel-gaza-conflict/265374/. http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2012/11/15/world/middleeast/15reuters-palestinians-israel-deception.html?scp=5&sq=bronner+Jaabari&st=nyt.

[15] Mads Gilbert, 11-17-12.

[16] http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/26/business/media/using-war-as-cover-to-target-journalists.html?_r=0.

[17] http://www.foxnews.com/world/2012/11/20/us-blocks-un-security-council-call-for-gaza-cease-fire-as-unbalanced-against/.

[18] http://nationalinterest.org/article/chinas-inadvertent-empire-7615.

[19] http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/11/20121117115136211403.html.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Mainstream journalists’ failure to explain reasons for Gazan resistance is professional malpractice

Nov 28, 2012 10:19 am | Philip Weiss

Scott McConnell has a piece on Gaza up at the National Interest that emphasizes the ways that the American media have skewed our perception of Gaza's plight:

If a man from Mars descended to observe Israel’s attack on the Gaza strip, he would have seen one group of humans trapped in a densely populated area, largely defenseless while a modern air force destroyed their buildings at will. He might have learned that the people in Gaza had been essentially enclosed for several years in a sort of ghetto, deprived by the Israeli navy of access to the fish in their sea, generally unable to travel or to trade with the outside world, barred by Israeli forces from much of their arable land, all the while surveyed continuously from the sky by a foe which could assassinate their leaders at will and often did.

This Martian also might learn that the residents of Gaza—most of them descendants of refugees who had fled or been driven from Israel in 1948—had been under Israeli occupation for 46 years, and intensified closure for six, a policy described by Israeli officials as “economic warfare” and privately by American diplomats as intended to keep Gaza “functioning at the lowest level possible consistent with avoiding a humanitarian crisis.” He might note that Gaza’s water supply is failing, as Israel blocks the entry of materials that could be used to repair and upgrade its sewage and water-treatment infrastructure. That ten percent of its children suffer from malnutrition and that cancer and birth defects are on the rise. That the fighting had started after a long standing truce had broken down after a series of tit-for-tat incidents, followed by the Israeli assassination of an Hamas leader, and the typical Hamas response of firing inaccurate rockets, which do Israel little damage.

But our man from Mars is certainly not an American. And while empathy for the underdog is said to be an American trait, this is not true if the underdog is Palestinian.

McConnell then details the way in which Charles Krauthammer, Richard Cohen and David Ignatius at the Washington Post all echo Israeli talking points on Gaza: That Israel withdrew from the territory in 2005 and got only rockets for an answer, and that Hamas is a hateful organization.

Does not publishing this kind of narrative, again and again, constitute a kind of journalistic malpractice, an abrogation of a major newspaper’s responsibility to inform? To imply that the Palestinians have no cause to resist, when rather plainly they exist in circumstances no people on earth would tolerate, is not really different from an actual lie. Israel can lie about Gaza if it wants, as governments do. But should major U.S. newspapers do so in their editorial and opinion pages?

It is hardly as if such journalistic distortions come without cost to Americans. Faced with a vast region of critical strategic importance, American readers are being deprived of information essential to understanding what is going on. The Arab world is radicalizing rapidly, often in anti-American ways, and one stream feeding the radicalism is U.S. diplomatic and moral support for Israel’s cruel blockade of Gaza.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Why Israel Didn’t Win

Adam Shatz
From The London Review of Books

The ceasefire agreed by Israel and Hamas in Cairo after eight days of fighting is merely a pause in the Israel-Palestine conflict. It promises to ease movement at all border crossings with the Gaza Strip, but will not lift the blockade. It requires Israel to end its assault on the Strip, and Palestinian militants to stop firing rockets at southern Israel, but it leaves Gaza as miserable as ever: according to a recent UN report, the Strip will be ‘uninhabitable’ by 2020. And this is to speak only of Gaza. How easily one is made to forget that Gaza is only a part – a very brutalised part – of the ‘future Palestinian state’ that once seemed inevitable, and which now seems to exist mainly in the lullabies of Western peace processors. None of the core issues of the Israel-Palestine conflict – the Occupation, borders, water rights, repatriation and compensation of refugees – is addressed by this agreement.
The fighting will erupt again, because Hamas will come under continued pressure from its members and from other militant factions, and because Israel has never needed much pretext to go to war. In 1982, it broke its ceasefire with Arafat’s PLO and invaded Lebanon, citing the attempted assassination of its ambassador to London, even though the attack was the work of Arafat’s sworn enemy, the Iraqi agent Abu Nidal. In 1996, during a period of relative calm, it assassinated Hamas’s bomb-maker Yahya Ayyash, the ‘Engineer’, leading Hamas to strike back with a wave of suicide attacks in Israeli cities. When, a year later, Hamas proposed a thirty-year hudna, or truce, Binyamin Netanyahu dispatched a team of Mossad agents to poison the Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal in Amman; under pressure from Jordan and the US, Israel was forced to provide the antidote, and Meshaal is now the head of Hamas’s political bureau – and an ally of Egypt’s new president, Mohamed Morsi.

Operation Pillar of Defence, Israel’s latest war, began just as Hamas was cobbling together an agreement for a long-term ceasefire. Its military commander, Ahmed al-Jabari, was assassinated only hours after he reviewed the draft proposal. Netanyahu and his defence minister, Ehud Barak, could have had a ceasefire – probably on more favourable terms – without the deaths of more than 160 Palestinians and five Israelis, but then they would have missed a chance to test their new missile defence shield, Iron Dome, whose performance was Israel’s main success in the war. They would also have missed a chance to remind the people of Gaza of their weakness in the face of Israeli military might. The destruction in Gaza was less extensive than it had been in Operation Cast Lead, but on this occasion too the aim, as Gilad Sharon, Ariel’s son, put it in the Jerusalem Post, was to send out ‘a Tarzan-like cry that lets the entire jungle know in no uncertain terms just who won, and just who was defeated’.

Victory in war is not measured solely in terms of body counts, however. And the ‘jungle’ – the Israeli word not just for the Palestinians but for the Arabs as a whole – may have the last laugh. Not only did Hamas put up a better fight than it had in the last war, it averted an Israeli ground offensive, won implicit recognition as a legitimate actor from the United States (which helped to broker the talks in Cairo), and achieved concrete gains, above all an end to targeted assassinations and the easing of restrictions on the movement of people and the transfer of goods at the crossings. There was no talk in Cairo, either, of the Quartet Principles requiring Hamas to renounce violence, recognise Israel and adhere to past agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority: a symbolic victory for Hamas, but not a small one. And the Palestinians were not the only Arabs who could claim victory in Cairo. In diplomatic terms, the end of fighting under Egyptian mediation marked the dawn of a new Egypt, keen to reclaim the role that it lost when Sadat signed a separate peace with Israel. ‘Egypt is different from yesterday,’ Morsi warned Israel on the first day of the war. ‘We assure them that the price will be high for continued aggression.’ He underscored this point by sending his prime minister, Hesham Kandil, to Gaza the following day. While refraining from incendiary rhetoric, Morsi made it plain that Israel could not depend on Egyptian support for its attack on Gaza, as it had when Mubarak was in power, and would only have itself to blame if the peace treaty were jeopardised. After all, he has to answer to the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas’s parent organisation, and to the Egyptian people, who are overwhelmingly hostile to Israel. The Obama administration, keen to preserve relations with Egypt, got the message, and so apparently did Israel. Morsi proved that he could negotiate with Israel without ‘selling out the resistance’, in Meshaal’s words. Internationally, it was his finest hour, though Egyptians may remember it as the prelude to his move a day after the ceasefire to award himself far-reaching executive powers that place him above any law.

That Netanyahu stopped short of a ground war, and gave in to key demands at the Cairo talks, is an indication not only of Egypt’s growing stature, but of Israel’s weakened position. Its relations with Turkey, once its closest ally in the region and the pillar of its ‘doctrine of the periphery’ (a strategy based on alliances with non-Arab states) have deteriorated with the rise of Erdogan and the AKP. The Jordanian monarchy, the second Arab government to sign a peace treaty with Israel, is facing increasingly radical protests. And though Israel may welcome the fall of Assad, an ally of Hizbullah and Iran, it is worried that a post-Assad government, dominated by the Syrian branch of the Muslim Brothers, may be no less hostile to the occupying power in the Golan: the occasional rocket fire from inside Syria in recent days has been a reminder for Israel of how quiet that border was under the Assad family. Israeli leaders lamented for years that theirs was the only democracy in the region. What this season of revolts has revealed is that Israel had a very deep investment in Arab authoritarianism. The unravelling of the old Arab order, when Israel could count on the quiet complicity of Arab big men who satisfied their subjects with flamboyant denunciations of Israeli misdeeds but did little to block them, has been painful for Israel, leaving it feeling lonelier than ever. It is this acute sense of vulnerability, even more than Netanyahu’s desire to bolster his martial credentials before the January elections, that led Israel into war.
Hamas, meanwhile, has been buoyed by the same regional shifts, particularly the triumph of Islamist movements in Tunisia and Egypt: Hamas, not Israel, has been ‘normalised’ by the Arab uprisings. Since the flotilla affair, it has developed a close relationship with Turkey, which is keen to use the Palestinian question to project its influence in the Arab world. It also took the risk of breaking with its patrons in Syria: earlier this year, Khaled Meshaal left Damascus for Doha, while his number two, Mousa Abu Marzook, set himself up in Cairo. Since then, Hamas has thrown in its lot with the Syrian uprising, distanced itself from Iran, and found new sources of financial and political support in Qatar, Egypt and Tunisia. It has circumvented the difficulties of the blockade by turning the tunnels into a lucrative source of revenue and worked, with erratic success, to impose discipline on Islamic Jihad and other militant factions in the Strip. The result has been growing regional prestige, and a procession of high-profile visitors, including the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, who came to Gaza three weeks before the war and promised $400 million dollars to build housing and repair roads. The emir did not make a similar trip to Ramallah.

Hamas’s growing clout has not gone unnoticed in Tel Aviv: cutting Hamas down to size was surely one of its war aims. If Israel were truly interested in achieving a peaceful settlement on the basis of the 1967 borders – parameters which Hamas has accepted – it might have tried to strengthen Abbas by ending settlement activity, and by supporting, or at least not opposing, his bid for non-member observer status for Palestine at the UN. Instead it has done its utmost to sabotage his UN initiative (with the robust collaboration of the Obama administration), threatening to build more settlements if he persists: such, Hamas has been only too happy to point out, are the rewards for non-violent Palestinian resistance. Operation Pillar of Defence will further undermine Abbas’s already fragile standing in the West Bank, where support for Hamas has never been higher.
Hardly had the ceasefire come into effect than Israel raided the West Bank to round up more than fifty Hamas supporters, while Netanyahu warned that Israel ‘might be compelled to embark’ on ‘a much harsher military operation’. (Avigdor Lieberman, his foreign minister, is said to have pushed for a ground war.) After all, Israel has a right to defend itself. This is what the Israelis say and what the Israel lobby says, along with much of the Western press, including the New York Times. In an editorial headed ‘Hamas’s Illegitimacy’ – a curious phrase, since Hamas only seized power in Gaza after winning a majority in the 2006 parliamentary elections – the Times accused Hamas of attacking Israel because it is ‘consumed with hatred for Israel’. The Times didn’t mention that Hamas’s hatred might have been stoked by a punishing economic blockade. It didn’t mention that between the start of the year and the outbreak of this war, 78 Palestinians in Gaza had been killed by Israeli fire, as against a single Israeli in all of Hamas’s notorious rocket fire. Or – until the war started – that this had been a relatively peaceful year for the miserable Strip, where nearly three thousand Palestinians have been killed by Israel since 2006, as against 47 Israelis by Palestinian fire.

Those who invoke Israel’s right to defend itself are not troubled by this disparity in casualties, because the unspoken corollary is that Palestinians do not have the same right. If they dare to exercise this non-right, they must be taught a lesson. ‘We need to flatten entire neighbourhoods in Gaza,’ Gilad Sharon wrote in the Jerusalem Post. ‘Flatten all of Gaza. The Americans didn’t stop with Hiroshima – the Japanese weren’t surrendering fast enough, so they hit Nagasaki too.’ Israel shouldn’t worry about innocent civilians in Gaza, he said, because there are no innocent civilians in Gaza: ‘They elected Hamas … they chose this freely, and must live with the consequences.’ Such language would be shocking were it not so familiar: in Israel the rhetoric of righteous victimhood has merged with the belligerent rhetoric – and the racism – of the conqueror. Sharon’s Tarzan allusion is merely a variation on Barak’s description of Israel as a villa in the jungle; his invocation of nuclear war reminds us that in 2008, the deputy defence minister Matan
Vilnai proposed ‘a bigger holocaust’ if Gaza continued to resist.

But the price of war is higher for Israel than it was during Cast Lead, and its room for manoeuvre more limited, because the Jewish state’s only real ally, the American government, has to maintain good relations with Egypt and other democratically elected Islamist governments. During the eight days of Pillar of Defence, Israel put on an impressive and deadly fireworks show, as it always does, lighting up the skies of Gaza and putting out menacing tweets straight from The Sopranos. But the killing of entire families and the destruction of government buildings and police stations, far from encouraging Palestinians to submit, will only fortify their resistance, something Israel might have learned by consulting the pages of recent Jewish history. The Palestinians understand that they are no longer facing Israel on their own: Israel, not Hamas, is the region’s pariah. The Arab world is changing, but Israel is not. Instead, it has retreated further behind Jabotinsky’s ‘iron wall’, deepening its hold on the Occupied Territories, thumbing its nose at a region that is at last acquiring a taste of its own power, exploding in spasms of high-tech violence that fail to conceal its lack of a political strategy to end the conflict. Iron Dome may shield Israel from Qassam rockets, but it won’t shield it from the future.
23 November

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

5 Lies the Media Keeps Repeating About Gaza

From Omar Baddar's Blog, Huffington Post

Political Scientist, Human Rights Activist

Posted: 11/19/2012 2:34 pm

As Israel continues to pound Gaza, the Palestinian death toll of the latest round of violence has crossed the 100 mark. Thus far, the American media has given Israeli officials and spokespersons a free pass to shape the narrative of this conflict with falsehoods. Here are the top 5 lies the media doesn't challenge about the crisis in Gaza:

1. Israel Was Forced to Respond to Rockets to Defend Its Citizens

CNN, like many other American outlets, chose to begin the story of the latest round of violence in Gaza on November 10th, when 4 Israeli soldiers were wounded by Palestinian fire, and the IDF "retaliated" by killing several Palestinians. But just two days before, a 13 year old Palestinian boy was killed in an Israeli military incursion into Gaza (among other fatalities in preceding days). Is there any reason why those couldn't be the starting point of the "cycle of violence"? The bias was even more blatant in 2008/09, when Israel's massive assault on Gaza (which killed 1400+ Palestinians) was cast as self-defense, even though it was acknowledged in passing that Israel was the party that broke the ceasefire agreement in place at the time. Are the Palestinians not entitled to self-defense? And if indiscriminate Palestinian rocket fire is not an acceptable response to Israeli violence (which it absolutely isn't), how can indiscriminate Israeli bombings of Gaza ever be acceptable? And why is the broader context, the fact that Gaza remains under Israeli blockade and military control, overlooked?

2. Israel Tries to Avoid Civilian Casualties

It must be aggravating for Israel's propagandists when high-ranking political officials slip and get off the sanitized/approved message for public consumption. Yesterday, Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai said the "goal of the operation is to send Gaza back to the Middle Ages." Not to be outdone, Gilad Sharon, son of former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, said "we need to flatten entire neighborhoods in Gaza. Flatten all of Gaza." If you're thinking this is just rhetoric, consider the fact that, according to Amnesty International, Israel "flattened... busy neighborhoods" into "moonscapes" during its last major assault on Gaza in 2008/09. And it wasn't just human rights organizations that were exposing Israeli war crimes in Gaza, but Israeli soldiers whose conscience could not bear to remain silent about the atrocities they had committed were also coming forward.

If, for some odd reason, you cannot decide whether it is official Israeli spokespersons or soldiers of conscience and human rights investigators who are telling the truth, consider this question: If Hamas has only managed to kill 3 people despite being bent on killing civilians with thousands of indiscriminate rockets, how has Israel managed to kill several dozen Palestinian civilians when it is using sophisticated precision weapons to avoid civilian casualties? In just one Israeli attack yesterday, Israel killed more Palestinian civilians in a matter of minutes than the total number of all Israelis killed by rocket fire from Gaza over the last 3 years. The truth is exposed by the utter disregard for civilian life we see in practice, reaffirmed by testimonies and investigative evidence.

3. This Is About Security

If Israel's main objective were indeed to end the rocket fire from Gaza, all it had to do was accept the truce offered by the Palestinian factions before the Jabari assassination. And if the blockade of Gaza was just about keeping weapons from coming in, why are Palestinian exports from Gaza not allowed out? Why were food items ever restricted? The truth is, this isn't about security; it's about punishing the population of Gaza for domestic Israeli political consumption. When Gilad Sharon recommended the decimation of Gaza, he justified it by saying "the residents of Gaza are not innocent, they elected Hamas." Sharon may find this posturing to be rewarding in some circles, but it's actually the very same logic used by terrorists to attack civilians in democracies. Are Israeli civilians considered legitimate targets of violence because they elected right wing Israeli leaders who commit atrocities against the Palestinians? Of course not, and only a broken moral compass can keep this principle from consistently applying to Palestinian civilians as well.

4. Hamas Is the Problem

Between their religious right-wing domestic agenda, and their refusal to renounce violence against civilians, I'm most certainly no fan of Hamas. But whenever you hear Israel try to scapegoat Hamas for the crisis in Gaza, there are two things to consider. First, Hamas hasn't only showed preparedness to have a truce with Israel if Israel ended its attacks on Gaza, but has also suggested (though with mixed signals) that it is open to a two-state solution. Second, and more importantly, Hamas didn't come to power until 2006/07. Between 1993 and 2006 (13 years), Israel had the more moderate, peaceful, and pliant Palestinian authority (which recognizes Israel and renounces violence) to deal with as a partner for peace. What did Israel do? Did it make peace? Or did it continue to occupy Palestinian land, violate Palestinian rights, and usurp Palestinian resources? What strengthened Hamas and other extremists in Palestine is precisely the moderates' failure to secure any Palestinian rights through cooperation and negotiations. The truth is entirely inverted here: it is Israel's escalating violations of Palestinian rights which strengthen the extremists.

5. There is a Military Solution to this Conflict

This is not the first time, and probably not the last, that Israel has engaged in a military campaign to pummel its opponents into submission. But are we any closer to ending this conflict today after decades of violence? The answer is a resounding no. After the 2006 war in Lebanon, Hezbollah emerged stronger. After the 2009 war on Gaza, Hamas remained in power and maintained possession of thousands of rockets. Israel's military superiority, while indeed impressive (thanks to $30 billion in U.S. military aid this decade), is not stronger than the Palestinian will to live in dignity. The way to end the firing of rockets in the short term is to agree to a truce and end the blockade of Gaza. The way to resolve the entire conflict in the long term is to end Israel's illegal occupation of Palestinian lands and allow the Palestinians to exercise their right to self-determination. We're probably close to a ceasefire agreement to end this round of violence. The real challenge is ending the Israeli occupation for long-term peace and security for Israelis and Palestinians.

Follow Omar Baddar on Twitter: www.twitter.com/omarbaddar

Monday, November 19, 2012

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Stop pretending the US is an uninvolved, helpless party in the Israeli assault on Gaza

The Obama administration's unstinting financial, military and diplomatic support for Israel is a key enabling force in the conflict

Glenn Greenwald
guardian.co.uk, Saturday 17 November 2012 12.20 EST

A central premise of US media coverage of the Israeli attack on Gaza - beyond the claim that Israel is justifiably "defending itself" - is that this is some endless conflict between two foreign entitles, and Americans can simply sit by helplessly and lament the tragedy of it all. The reality is precisely the opposite: Israeli aggression is possible only because of direct, affirmative, unstinting US diplomatic, financial and military support for Israel and everything it does. This self-flattering depiction of the US as uninvolved, neutral party is the worst media fiction since TV news personalities covered the Arab Spring by pretending that the US is and long has been on the side of the heroic democratic protesters, rather than the key force that spent decades propping up the tyrannies they were fighting.

Literally each day since the latest attacks began, the Obama administration has expressed its unqualified support for Israel's behavior. Just two days before the latest Israeli air attacks began, Obama told Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmud Abbas "that his administration opposes a Palestinian bid for non-state membership of the UN". Both the US Senate and House have already passed resolutions unequivocally supporting Israel, thus earning the ultimate DC reward: the head-pat from Aipac, which "praised the extraordinary show of support by the Senate for Israel's struggle against terrorist attacks on its citizens". More bipartisan Congressional cheerleading is certain to come as the attacks continue, no matter how much more brutal they become.

In reflexive defense of Israel, the US government thus once against put itself squarely at odds with key nations such as Turkey (whose prime minister accused Israel of being motivated by elections and demanded that Israel be "held to account" for mounting civilians deaths), Egypt (which denounced Israeli attacks as "aggression against humanity"), and Tunisia (which called on the world to "stop the blatant aggression" of Israel).

By rather stark contrast, Obama continues to defend Israel's free hand in Gaza, causing commentators like Jeffrey Goldberg to gloat, not inaccurately: "Barack Obama hasn't turned against Israel. This is a big surprise to everyone who has not paid attention for the last four years" (indeed, there are few more compelling signs of how dumb and misleading US elections are than the fact that the only criticism of Obama on Israel heard over the last year in the two-party debate was the grievance that Obama evinces insufficient fealty - rather than excessive fealty - to the Israeli government). That the Netanyahu government knows that any attempt to condemn Israel at the UN would be instantly blocked by the US is a major factor enabling them to continue however they wish. And, of course, the bombs, planes and tanks they are using are subsidized, in substantial part, by the US taxpayer.

If one wants to defend US support for Israel on the merits - on the ground that this escalating Israeli aggression against a helpless population is just and warranted - then one should do so. As I wrote on Thursday, it's very difficult to see how those who have cheered for Obama's foreign policy could do anything but cheer for Israeli militarism, as they are grounded in the same premises.

But pretending that the US - and the Obama administration - bear no responsibility for what is taking place is sheer self-delusion, total fiction. It has long been the case that the central enabling fact in Israeli lawlessness and aggression is blind US support, and that continues, more than ever, to be the case under the presidency of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize winner.

The US is not some neutral, uninvolved party. Whatever side of this conflict you want to defend - or if you're one of those people who love to announce that you just wish the whole thing would go away - it's still necessary to take responsibility for the key role played by the American government and this administration in enabling everything that is taking place.
Media coverage

Due to extensive travel the past few days, I've been subjected to far more television news coverage than is probably healthy, and it's just been staggering to see how tilted US media discourse is: Israeli officials and pro-Israel "experts" are endlessly paraded across the screen while Palestinian voices are exceedingly rare; the fact of the 45-year-old brutal occupation and ongoing Israeli dominion over Gaza is barely mentioned; meanwhile, every primitive rocket that falls harmlessly near Israeli soil is trumpeted with screaming headlines while the carnage and terror in Gaza is mentioned, if at all, as an afterthought. Two cartoons perfectly summarize this coverage: here and here.

On a related note, the Nation's Jeremy Scahill was interviewed on Tuesday night after a Sundance Institute panel on political documentaries which I moderated. Scahill, who is working on a documentary entitled "Dirty Wars" about the US violence in Yemen and other parts of the Muslim world, spoke for 12 minutes to We Are Change about Obama's terrorism and foreign policies; I highly recommend it:

According to Haaretz, Israel's Interior Minister, Eli Yishai, said this about Israel's attacks on Gaza: "The goal of the operation is to send Gaza back to the Middle Ages." Let me know if any of the US Sunday talk shows mention that tomorrow during their discussions of this "operation".

Gilad Sharon, the son of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, has an Op-Ed in today's Jerusalem Post in which, among other things, he writes [emphasis added]:

"We need to flatten entire neighborhoods in Gaza. Flatten all of Gaza. The Americans didn't stop with Hiroshima – the Japanese weren't surrendering fast enough, so they hit Nagasaki, too.

"There should be no electricity in Gaza, no gasoline or moving vehicles, nothing."

Meanwhile, Rupert Murdoch today went to Twitter to announce: "Obama [is] making excellent statements on Israeli situation."

Chomsky on Gaza

> From Noam Chomsky:
> "The incursion and bombardment of Gaza is not about destroying Hamas.
> It is not about stopping rocket fire into Israel, it is not about
> achieving peace. The Israeli decision to rain death and destruction on
> Gaza, to use lethal weapons of the modern battlefield on a largely
> defenseless civilian population, is the final phase in a decades-long
> campaign to ethnically-cleanse Palestinians.
> Israel uses sophisticated attack jets and naval vessels to bomb
> densely-crowded refugee camps, schools, apartment blocks, mosques, 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 in control, no army… and calls it a war. It is not a war, it
> is murder.
> “When Israelis in the occupied territories now claim that they have to
> defend themselves, they are defending themselves in the sense that any
> military occupier has to defend itself against the population they are
> crushing. You can't defend yourself when you're militarily occupying
> someone else's land. That's not defense. Call it what you like, it's
> not defense.”
> --

There are conflicting ideas about whether the Israelis are committing genocide or using ethnic cleansing. Here is a definition:

[An earlier draft by the Commission of Experts described ethnic cleansing as "the planned deliberate removal from a specific territory, persons of a particular ethnic group, by force or intimidation, in order to render that area ethnically homogenous." which it based on "the many reports describing the policy and practices conducted in the former Yugoslavia, 'ethnic cleansing' has been carried out by means of murder, torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, extra-judicial executions, rape and sexual assaults, confinement of civilian population in ghetto areas, forcible removal, displacement and deportation of civilian population, deliberate military attacks or threats of attacks on civilians and civilian areas, and wanton destruction of property. Those practices constitute crimes against humanity and can be assimilated to specific war crimes. Furthermore, such acts could also fall within the meaning of the Genocide Convention".[4]

Ethnic cleansing is not to be confused with genocide; however, academic discourse considers both as existing in a spectrum of assaults on nations or religio-ethnic groups. Ethnic cleansing is similar to forced deportation or population transfer whereas genocide is the intentional murder of part or all of a particular ethnic, religious, or national group.[5] The idea in ethnic cleansing is "to get people to move, and the means used to this end range from the legal to the semi-legal."[6] Some academics consider genocide as a subset of "murderous ethnic cleansing."[7] Thus, these concepts are different, but related, "literally and figuratively, ethnic cleansing bleeds into genocide, as mass murder is committed in order to rid the land of a people."[8] ]
But If the occupier makes it impossible for the indigenous population to move, and kills them to destroy them where they are confined, it isn't ethnic cleansing, it is genocide...

Israel's Post Election War by Jerimiah Haber (Magnes Zionist Blog)

While Haber's blog says: "Magnes Zionist," this posting had a solid ant-zionist message (which is my outlook)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Israel's Post-Election War
I don't know whether Nate Silver gives odds on wars, but the odds of Israel escalating its aggression against Gaza were higher than the odds Silver gave for Obama winning the last election -- I mean the odds on election day.

It has been clear for over a year that Israel would wait until after the American elections to launch some act of military aggression, and it was clear, to me, at least, that it would not be directed against Iran, Syria, or Lebanon. It seems likely that Israel had decided to conduct an operation in Gaza before the first rocket was fired from Gaza.

All military actions, indeed, all actions having to do with Gaza, have one goal in mind: the subjugation of the Palestinian people there with minimum cost to Israel. In hasbara speak this is called "protecting Israelis," "defeating terror," "defending national security," even "protecting national honor," but it boils down to the same thing -- Israel cannot be secure if the Palestinians have real independence. That is why Israelis are divided into those who want to subjugate Palestinians by giving them no self-determination and those who want to subjugate them by giving them quasi self-determination in a quasi-state.

I spoke with an expert on the Israeli military shortly after "Operation Cast Lead," and when I told him that many argued that the operation was a reaction to Hamas rocket-fire, he laughed. He said that Hamas rocket-fire was deliberately provoked when Israel broke the cease-fire so that Israel could do a little "spring cleaning," deplete Hamas's arsenal of weapons. He told me that this happens every few years, and that I should expect it to happen in another few years. Israel will assassinate a Hamas leader, Hamas will have to respond (wouldn't Israel, under those circumstances?) and Israel will perform a "clean up" operation. If Hamas is smart and doesn't play into Israel's hands, then Israel will also come out ahead, because it will be weakened in the eyes of the Palestinian public. It's win-win for Israel. That's what having control means.

Since 1967, Israel has occupied Gaza. Since the disengagement -- or more accurately, the "redeployment" -- Israel has effectively controlled Gaza. It has allowed Hamas to wax and wane, at its pleasure, and when it thinks the timing is ripe, it strikes against Hamas.

The only thing that will restrain Israel is world-wide, and especially US and European, condemnation. As always, the only way to advance the cause of peace and justice in this region is through holding Israel to the standards of a decent state, not the rogue state it has long become.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

more news from TheonlydemocracyintheMiddleEast

By Yossi Gurvitz
|Published November 12, 2012
The strange case of the police writs served to Israeli activists

What we can learn from the weird orders served to several leftist activists on Sunday. On police intimidation and the sham of ‘the only democracy in the Middle East.’

Activist Ilan Shalif, who regularly takes part in weekly protests in Bil’in, reviews a military order declaring villages in the West Bank ‘closed military zones’ (photo: Oren ZIv, Activestills.org)

At least 11 leftist activists were surprised on Sunday morning when they were woken up by cops. The cops, all plainclothes and in groups of three, knocked on their doors between 6 and 7 in the morning, and handed them what they claimed to be administrative restraining orders, signed by the commanding general, prohibiting them from entering four villages in the occupied West Bank: Bil’in, Qaddum, Ni’lin and Nabi Saleh. Activist Alma Biblash reported that the policemen entered her apartment without a warrant, taking care to video not just her but her sister as well. The cops also waved in her face a file with her name on it. In another case, the cops woke up the parents of an activist who had moved out long ago. Activist Leehee Rothschild, also served with a warrant, was told they were issued under the 1945 Emergency Ordinances.

Commanding general? What the hell, you say? Oh. Despite Israeli propaganda claiming it is the only democracy in the Middle East, the 1945 Emergency Ordinances – defined by Menachem Begin, a noted leftist radical, as worse than Nazi legislation – are still in effect in Israel. They allow the military commander (in the case of all residents of Israel proper, that would be the Home Front Command) to do basically what he damn well pleases, or, to be more precise, to do what his ISA (AKA Shin Bet) handler damn well pleases he do. By writs signed by the Home Front Command, the settler Neryah Ofan was exiled from Pisgat Ze’ev, where he lived and worked; Tali Fahima was administratively arrested by such a writ; and the same writ enables draconian measures against John Crossman (AKA Mordechai Vanunu), even though he finished serving his prison sentence eight years ago. As part of the facade of the rule of law, the courts serve as a rubber stamp for those writs, though from time to time they sigh pathetically as they do so. The judges know full well which side the rabble will take, if it has to choose between the secret policemen and the general, or the judge.

What all of the above share in common is the fact they highly irritated the ISA. Ofan by riding in circles around the Jewish Department of the ISA and openly mocking them (they’ve been using administrative writs against him since 2005, but never took him to court); Fahima broke every Israeli taboo, crossed the lines, saw Palestinians as humans, and humiliated the ISA by refusing to serve as an agent; and Crossman, as we know, is responsible for the ISA’s worse debacle: failing to realize a nuclear technician is radicalized and about to leave the country and inform the world (insert insensible mantra) that according to foreign media reports (end insensible mantra), Israel has nuclear weapons.

But when the activists calmed down and actually read the papers they were served, they were stunned to find out this was a run of the mill closed-military-zone order, and that it was signed by the Central Command, not his colleague at Home Front. The spokesman of the SHAI police district (Judea and Samaria, i.e. the West Bank) went on to say that his people gave out 16 such writs, and that “the serving of the writs went on without incident, and at the moment we are unaware of any plans to disturb the peace as a result.” If you say so, Sherlock.

So what just happened? The most plausible explanation would be that the cops, being Israeli policemen, were clueless of the law they were supposed to enforce, and confused the closed-military-zone orders they were serving with administrative restraining orders. Attorney Michael Sfard said, in a phone interview, that Israeli courts have already ruled several times that Israeli activists cannot stand trial for violating those orders, since they are enforceable by military courts only; and, as part of the apartheid regime in the occupied territories, Israelis are not tried in military courts. A Palestinian who violated a closed-military-zone order can be dragged to court; his Israeli comrade cannot.

Sfard further said that as far as he knows, this is the first time that closed-military-zone orders – which are aimed at specific territories, not specific persons – were personally delivered. So what we have here is the policemen of the SHAI district – which is outside Israel – galloping around Israel, serving writs not written by an Israeli court but by the sovereign of the West Bank. Which, assuming Israel was not annexed to the West Bank, has absolutely no power in Israel.

This looks very much like a heavy-handed attempt at intimidating the activists: We know where you live, you’re in our sights, we have you on file, we can knock at your door at 6 a.m. Don’t piss us off and don’t try to use the fact that legally, we can’t touch you, or we’ll dig something up.

Something less plausible is that administrative restraining orders were indeed issued, that the cops were aware of them, and that they may be served soon. If that happens, we’d have the Home Front Command signing writs intended to prevent activists from disobeying orders of the Central Command – i.e., a clumsy attempt to indict people for violating closed-military-zone orders, which would only serve to remind us that we live in a military dictatorship which pretends, since such pretense is useful to it, that it is subservient to the law.

And Sfard’s final remark was even more depressing; There is a strong correlation, he says, between worsening attitude towards activists in the West Bank and military action in the Gaza Strip. The IDF uses the noise of the guns in Gaza to disguise actions in the West Bank which would normally draw critical attention.