Israel has threatened the ‘peace process’ by again rejecting to enforce a freeze in East al-Quds (Jerusalem) settlement construction on the first day of the so-called proximity talks.
Although Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu had made commitments on freezing settlement construction at the Ramat Shlomo project for two years, a Tel Aviv official denied such a commitment was made.
“The prime minister has clarified, over the whole process, that building and planning will continue as usual, exactly as it has for the last 43 years, and no Israeli commitments have been given on this issue,” a senior official close to Netanyahu said.
The Palestinians reacted immediately by accusing Israel of trying to undermine the peace talks once again. “The Israeli statement is an attempt to embarrass or challenge the US administration,” said Nimr Hammad, an aide to acting Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas.
“If he [Netanyahu] announces a complete halt to settlement building, there will be direct talks,” said Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, quoted by the Voice of Palestine radio.
Indirect peace talks were launched Sunday between the Palestinian Authority and the Tel Aviv regime with US mediation in the form of a shuttle diplomacy.
The US special envoy George Mitchell told the two parties that making progress is important for moving ahead to direct negotiations.
The proximity talks were originally due to start in March but the Palestinians withdrew after Israel publicized plans to build new 1,600 settlement units in annexed East al-Quds.
The Palestinians reportedly agreed to fresh talks only after receiving US assurances that the settlement expansion plan would be frozen.
After the first day of talks concluded, Mitchell left for Washington. He will return next week to coordinate the planned four months of indirect talks.
Press TV — February 09, 2010
An exclusive interview with Grant F. Smith, author of Spy Trade
Gaza – Israeli threats to open fire at a host of solidarity boats carrying aid to Gaza later this month reveal Israel’s weakness, said Jamal Al-Khudari, head of Gaza’s Popular Committee Against the Siege on Sunday.
“Such threats reflect the occupation’s failure and embody state terrorism against peaceful individuals who come to support a people under siege and aggression,” a statement issued by Al-Khudari said.
Under international law, the activists attempting to dock in Gaza have the right to participate in breaking the siege, Al-Khudari added, saying the threats will not deter participants from arriving in Gaza.
The popular committee organizer said the group was coming well-equipped, and would be ready should the Israeli navy surround them for a long period of time.
The Freedom Flotilla announced plans in late April, saying a group of ships would depart from several corners of the Mediterranean and gather in international waters with the intent to deliver some 5,000 tons of building and medical supplies to the population under siege.
According to flotilla organizers, 600 activists will sail three cargo ships and five passenger boats for Gaza in what a statement called the “biggest internationally coordinated effort to directly challenge Israeli’s ongoing occupation, aggression, and violence against the Palestinian people.”
ISLAMABAD: Minister for Interior Rehman Malik on Saturday said it was premature to link the New York incident to Waziristan. He said only Pakistani agencies will investigate the matter and no foreign team would be allowed to come to Pakistan for this purpose.
The minister was talking to media persons at his residence after his return from China.
Malik said the United States has formally requested cooperation in investigations into the failed bid of terrorist attack at the New York’s Times Square and Pakistan would fully cooperate in this regard.
“We will investigate the reports of Faisal Shahzad’s visit to Waziristan,” he said, adding only Pakistani agencies will investigate the matter and no foreign team would be allowed to come to Pakistan for this purpose.
“It is the prerogative of the Pakistani intelligence agencies to investigate the alleged links of Faisal Shahzad with the Taliban and we would do that investigation in a transparent manner,” the minister said.
He denied the news report carried by a section of the press that an FBI team was in Islamabad to investigate the New York bomber’s links with terrorists in Fata.
Answering a question, he said his visit to China was very successful and Beijing has confirmed $180 million to be given to Pakistan for enhancing the capacity of its law-enforcement agencies.
Malik said China also offered training facilities for the Pakistani law-enforcement agencies personnel and RMB, two million yuan for purchase of police equipment and an agreement was signed with his Chinese counterpart in this regard. He said Sino-Pak friendship has stood the tests of time and in the coming years these relations would further grow and play a key role in regional stability.
SAN FRANCISCO — Does the history diet fed to Americans by Hollywood promote an unhealthy national memory? The latest screen epic about American heroism in World War II — the HBO miniseries “The Pacific” — is clouded by an unintended irony.
Creators Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, who teamed up also on “Band of Brothers” and “Saving Private Ryan,” have sought to strengthen the authenticity of Hollywood renderings of World War II. But while such portrayals may give us a keener appreciation of the courage and suffering of U.S. troops on the battlefield, they also add further weight to a lopsided World War II history that leaves the dishonorable part of America’s wartime behavior buried deeper in national amnesia.
In what may be added irony, the widely reported premier of “The Pacific” came but four days after the little noticed anniversary of one of the darkest events in American war history — the March 10, 1945, firebombing of Tokyo. The two-volume World War II history “Total War,” by Peter Calvocoressi, Guy Wint and John Pritchard, describes the massive napalm attack on Japan’s capital as not only “the greatest air offensive in history” but also “deliberate, indiscriminate mass murder.”
The raid by B-29 bombers probably ranks as history’s largest mass killing of civilians in a short time span. The estimated death toll of 100,000 exceeded the immediate deaths in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima or Nagasaki, or the Dresden firebombing.
“The street was filled with blackened corpses,” air raid survivor Haruko Nihei recently told a U.C. Berkeley audience on her first trip to tell her story in America. “There were so many of them that it was hard to walk on the streets.”
Then an 8-year-old girl, Nihei survived after falling in the panicked tumult and being covered by other people. When she came to, she found the bodies on top of her were “black as charcoal.”
The U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey said at the time that “probably more persons lost their lives by fire in Tokyo in a six-hour period than at any time in the history of man.” The inferno was so intense that fleeing victims burst spontaneously into flame and were boiled alive in canals into which they had plunged to escape. Their agonies were no less severe than those suffered at Hiroshima.
Confronting U.S. mass killing of civilians in WWII — particularly the Tokyo firebombing — is important now, not just because Americans should remember both the good and bad about their history. The U.S. has trouble winning hearts and minds in today’s war against terrorists in part because the terrorism blood on America’s own hands leaves it vulnerable to effective enemy propaganda and charges of hypocrisy.
In the aftermath of 9/11, Osama bin Laden cited Hiroshima, as if to say the World Trade Center deaths represented only a small taste of the type of warfare that the U.S. had long ago sanctioned.
America was far from the first to bomb cities. The tactic began as early as the 19th century with bombs dropped from balloons over Venice. Indiscriminate killing of noncombatants from the air began, according to many historians, in the 1930s. The Japanese bombing of civilians in the Chapei section of Shanghai in January 1932 “horrified much of the world and anticipated the mass bombings of populations a decade later,” wrote Cornell University historian Walter LaFeber. The most infamous early example, immortalized in a painting by Picasso, came five years later in 1937 when more than a thousand people died in the German bombing of Guernica.
The Japanese military embraced the tactic during the Second Sino-Japanese War, bombing several Chinese cities. The most destruction came from repeated air raids on Chongqing, China’s wartime capital after the 1937 fall of Nanjing. Aerial attacks on Chongqing in May 1939 alone claimed an estimated 5,400 lives, according to Mark Selden, a Japan specialist at Cornell.
In WWII in Europe, bombing tolls mounted, beginning with German air raids on Warsaw in 1939 and Rotterdam in 1940. German bombing of British cities in the eight months following September 1940 claimed about 30,000 lives. British bombing of German cities began in 1942 and was later joined by the Americans. About 45,000 were killed in raids on Hamburg alone in July and August of 1943. Nearly as many were killed at Dresden in February 1945.
The concentration of carnage saw a significant escalation when America sent waves of bombers over Japan, especially in 1945. In attacks on 66 Japanese cities, including Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the number of civilians killed by American bombs was “probably close to four hundred thousand,” estimated MIT historian John Dower.
In the 2003 documentary “Fog of War” Robert McNamara, who served in World War II under the architect of the bombing campaign, Maj. Gen. Curtis LeMay, quoted LeMay’s postwar assessment: “If we’d lost the war, we’d all have been prosecuted as war criminals.”
McNamara, who later became U.S. Secretary of Defense, added, “I think he’s right. He, and I’d say I, were behaving as war criminals.”
But if the U.S. was guilty of war crimes, then weren’t Japan, Germany and Great Britain also guilty? All of them rained bombs indiscriminately on civilians. America may have done so with the largest kill ratio, but virtually all laws against killing of innocents are not conditional on the number killed.
International law on bombing cities at that time was not clearly established. A Hague Convention that was drafted in 1923 explicitly banned aerial bombardment of civilians but was never ratified. The League of Nations unanimously passed a resolution in 1938 outlawing aerial bombing of civilian populations, but Japan and Germany by then had withdrawn from the league and the U.S. had never joined.
The most relevant agreement was the earlier Hague Convention Respecting Laws and Customs of War on Land of 1907, which had been ratified by the major combatants of WWII. It forbade bombardment of “undefended” towns, bombardment without prior warning and destruction of enemy property not demanded by military necessity. But those who ordered the later bombings in Asia and Europe, though they were accused by their adversaries of violating international law, typically said they had met the required conditions.
At the Tokyo war crimes trial, bombing of cities was not one of the charges brought against the Japanese defendants. Nor was it charged against German leaders at Nuremberg. “Aerial bombardment had been used so extensively and ruthlessly on the Allied as well as Axis side that neither at Nuremberg nor Tokyo was the issue made a part of the trials,” recalled Telford Taylor, chief prosecutor at Nuremberg.
So, should anyone be blamed? One Japanese scholar said the 20th century’s ghastly record of civilian slaughter from the air had its origin in Japan’s attacks on Chinese cities.
In the book “Bombing Civilians,” Tetsuo Maeda, who retired in 2007 as a professor of international studies at Tokyo International University, wrote, “The sudden horror from the skies that took place in wars of the 20th century had its roots in tactics used by the Japanese forces during the Asia Pacific War. This horror boomeranged back to Japan in extreme form with the disasters of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”
The argument that “Japan started it” is often expressed, especially by American patriots, in the many debates over “victors’ justice” at the Tokyo war crimes trial and American misdeeds in the Pacific war. Can earlier Japanese bombing in China — along with German and British bombing in Europe and the uncertainty of international law at the time — exculpate the later American bombing of Japanese cities?
International laws of war, though not precisely defined, are generally viewed as including more than just signed treaties and agreements. Many scholars and jurists, including the judges at Nuremberg, have held that nations are bound also by “customary laws of war,” regardless of what particular treaty was signed by what country.
The indiscriminate slaughter of noncombatants violates customary laws of war as well as universal moral values. It sickens the human soul. Saying “Somebody else did it too” is no excuse.
All nations that bomb civilians are guilty and should account for their actions, and I believe the U.S. owes a special accounting. The scale and intensity of American bombing crossed a new threshold and, in the view of some critics, turned the bombing of cities into America’s chief weapon in concluding its war against Japan.
“If others, notably Germany, England and Japan led the way in area bombing, the targeting for destruction of entire cities with conventional weapons emerged in 1944-45 as the centerpiece of U.S. warfare,” Selden wrote.
It was the Tokyo attack that “initiated the U.S. government’s embrace of urban terror bombing as a legitimate form of warfare,” wrote Cary Karacas, an assistant professor at the College of Long Island who studies bombing of civilian populations.
In 1945, U.S. Brig. Gen. Bonner Fellers described the U.S. air raids over Japanese cities as “one of the most ruthless and barbaric killings of noncombatants in all history.”
The U.S. — and especially Hollywood’s shapers of national memory — have a special responsibility also to make amends for past omissions and tell the full truth about the past. A more forthright confrontation by Americans with their own war crimes would not only provide a model for other nations with dark pasts but also undermine the ability of America’s present enemies to win recruits for committing similar crimes against the U.S. and its allies.
Charles Burress is a San Francisco Bay Area freelance journalist who researched war memory as a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Tokyo and Keio University.