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:

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, 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,

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.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The S&M Election, by Chris Hedges

The S&M Election

OpEdNews Op Eds 11/5/2012 at 11:27:19
Cross-posted from Truthdig

I learned at the age of 10, when I was shipped off to a New England boarding school where the hazing of younger boys was the principal form of recreation, that those who hunger for power are psychopathic bastards. The bullies in the forms above me, the sadistic masters on our dormitory floors, the deans and the headmaster would morph in later life into bishops, newspaper editors, college presidents, politicians, heads of state, business titans and generals. Those who revel in the ability to manipulate and destroy are demented and deformed individuals. These severely diminished and stunted human beings -- think Bill and Hillary Clinton -- shower themselves, courtesy of elaborate public relations campaigns and an obsequious press, with encomiums of piety, patriotism, devoted public service, honor, courage and vision, not to mention a lot of money. They are at best mediocrities and usually venal. I have met enough of them to know.

So it is with some morbid fascination that I watch Barack Obama, who has become the prime "dominatrix" of the liberal class, force us in this election to plead for more humiliation and abuse. Obama has carried out a far more egregious assault on our civil liberties, including signing into law Section 1021(b)(2) of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), than George W. Bush. Section 1021(b)(2), which I challenged in federal court, permits the U.S. military to detain American citizens, strip them of due process and hold them indefinitely in military facilities. U.S. District Judge Katherine B. Forrest struck down the law in September. The Obama administration immediately appealed the decision. The NDAA has been accompanied by use of the Espionage Act, which Obama has turned to six times in silencing whistle-blowers. Obama supported the FISA Amendment Act so government could spy on tens of millions of us without warrants. He has drawn up kill lists to exterminate those, even U.S. citizens, deemed by the ruling elite to be terrorists.

Obama tells us that we better lick his boots or we will face the brute down the hall, Mitt Romney. After all, we wouldn't want the bad people to get their hands on these newly minted mechanisms of repression. We will, if we do not behave, end up with a more advanced security and surveillance state, the completion of the XL Keystone pipeline, unchecked pillage from Wall Street, environmental catastrophe and even worse health care. Yet we know on some level that once the election is over, Obama will, if he is re-elected, again betray us. This is part of the game. We dutifully assume our position. We cry out in holy terror. We promise to obey. And we are mocked as we watch promises crumble into dust.

As we are steadily stripped of power, we desire with greater and greater fervor to be victims and slaves. Our relationship to corporate power increasingly mirrors that of ancient religious cults. Lucian writes of the priests of Cybele who, whipped into frenzy, castrated themselves to honor the goddess. Women devotees cut off their breasts. We are not far behind.

"Anyone who wants to rule men first tries to humiliate them, to trick them out of their rights and their capacity for resistance, until they are as powerless before him as animals," wrote Elias Canetti in "Crowds and Power." ...

"He uses them like animals and, even if he does not tell them so, in himself he always knows quite clearly that they mean just as little to him; when he speaks to his intimates he will call them sheep or cattle. His ultimate aim is to incorporate them into himself and to suck the substance out of them. What remains of them afterwards does not matter to him. The worse he has treated them, the more he despises them. When they are no more use at all, he disposes of them as he does excrement, simply seeing to it that they do not poison the air of his house."

Our masters rely on our labor to make them wealthy, on our children for cannon fodder in war and on our collective chants for adulation. They would otherwise happily slip us rat poison. When they retreat into their inner sanctums, which they keep hidden from public view, they speak in the cold words of manipulation, power and privilege, words that expose their visions of themselves as entitled and beyond the reach of morality or law.

The elite have produced a few manuals on power. Walter Lippmann's "Public Opinion," Leo Strauss' work and "Atlas Shrugged" by the third-rate novelist Ayn Rand express the elite's deep contempt for the sans-culottes. These writers posit that the masses are incapable of responding rationally to the complexities of power. They celebrate the role of a tiny, controlling elite that skillfully uses propaganda and symbols to, as Lippmann wrote, "manufacture consent." They call on the power elite to operate in secrecy. The elite's systems of propaganda are designed to magnify emotion and destroy the capacity for critical thought. Kafka was right: The modern world has made the irrational rational.

"Crowds have always undergone the influence of illusions," wrote Gustave Le Bon, one of the first pioneers of the study of mass psychology. "Whoever can supply them with illusions is easily their master; whoever attempts to destroy their illusions is always their victim."

The more we believe the lies that saturate our airwaves, the more we salute our "heroes" in Iraq or Afghanistan, the more we militarize social and political values, the more frightened we become, the more we bow down and clamor for enslavement, the more the elite detests us. We are, in their eyes, vermin. We have to be dealt with and controlled. At times we have to be placated. At other times we have to be repressed and even killed. But we are a headache. Our existence interferes with the privileges of the ruling class.

"Those who have put out the people's eyes," John Milton wrote, "reproach them of their blindness."

There are a few writers and artists who give us a view of the dark, corrupt heart of power. The 1972 film "The Ruling Class," a black comedy based on Peter Barnes' play, does this, as does Jean Genet's play "The Balcony." So does Noam Chomsky, Elias Canetti's "Crowds and Power," C. Wright Mill's "The Power Elite," Karl Marx's "Capital," Thomas Pynchon's "Gravity's Rainbow," Marcel Proust's "In Search of Lost Time" and Louis-Ferdinand Celine's "Castle to Castle." The astute explorations of the pathology of power, however, are buried in the avalanche of Disneyfied popular culture and nationalist cant. The elite deeply fears any art, literature, philosophy, poetry, theology and drama that challenge the assumptions and structures of authority. These disciplines must appear to the public only in bastardized forms, packaged as froth, entertainment or sentimental drivel that celebrates the established hierarchy.

Pynchon in "Gravity's Rainbow" portrays Brigadier Ernest Pudding, the commander of a special psychological operations unit in World War II and a veteran of World War I, as the archetypal member of the elite. Pudding's glory on the battlefield "came in 1917, in the gassy, Armageddonite filth of the Ypres salient, where he conquered a bight of no man's land some 40 yards at its deepest, with a wastage of only 70% of his unit." He holds secret fortnightly trysts with "the Mistress of the Night" where he strips, kisses her boots, receives blows from a cane, drinks her urine and eats her excrement. He dies "of a massive E. Coli infection" that results from his nocturnal coprophagic rituals.

Peter Barnes captures the same dementia in "The Ruling Class," in which Ralph Gurney, the 13th earl of Gurney, accidentally hangs himself in his bedroom while wearing a tutu and playing erotic games with a noose. His successor, Jack Gurney, believes he is God and speaks only of love and charity. This will not do. A psychiatrist is called in to help the new earl adapt to his role as a representative of the ruling class. By the time the psychiatrist's work is complete, Jack is cured of his God delusion. He now believes he is Jack the Ripper. He assumes his seat in the House of Lords. He rails against the unemployed, homosexuals and socialists. He champions God, queen and country, along with corporal and capital punishment. He murders innocent women on the side, including his wife, and becomes an esteemed member of the ruling class.

Genet, who like Pynchon and Barnes equates the lust for power with sexual depravity, sets "The Balcony" in a brothel. Clients don the vestments of power, including those of a judge, a bishop and a general. The "bishop," who outside the brothel works for the gas company, hears the sins of the prostitutes in confession and revels in the power of absolution. The "judge" metes out severe sentences for trivial offenses to maintain law and order. The "general," who rides his prostitute as if she were a horse, demands self-sacrifice, honor and glory for the state. A bank clerk in the brothel, meanwhile, defiles the Virgin Mary. Revolution occurs outside the doors of the brothel. The actual rulers, priests, generals and judges are killed. The patrons step outside, along with Irma, the brothel madam, who is anointed the new queen, to assume the roles in society they once play-acted and to mount the counter-revolution.

Irma, at the close of the play, turns to face the audience. She says:

"In a little while, I'll have to start all over again ... put all the lights on again ... dress up. ... (A co*k crows.) Dress up ... ah, the disguises! Distribute roles again ... assume my own. ... (She stops in the middle of the stage, facing the audience.) ... Prepare yours ... judges, generals, bishops, chamberlains, rebels who allow the revolt to congeal, I'm going to prepare my costumes and studios for tomorrow. ... You must now go home, where everything -- you can be quite sure -- will be falser than here. ... You must go now. You'll leave by the right, through the alley. " (She extinguishes the last light. It's morning already. (A burst of ma

The only recognizable basis for moral and political authority, in the eyes of the elite, is the attainment of material success and power. It does not matter how it is gotten. The role of education, the elites believe, is to train us vocationally for our allotted positions and assure proper deference to the wealthy. Disciplines that prod us to think are -- and the sneering elites are not wrong about this -- "political," "leftist," "liberal" or "subversive." And schools and universities across the country are effectively stomping out these disciplines. The elites know, as Canetti wrote, that once we stop thinking we become a herd. We react to every new stimulus as if we were rats crammed into a cage. When the elites push the button, we jump. It is collective sadomasochism. And we will get a good look at it on Election Day.