But What’s In It For Americans?
It is a familiar scenario. Israeli is killing hundreds of civilians, mostly women and children, and the Zionist propaganda machine is working overtime. The President of the United States reaffirms America’s solemn pledge to protect Israel at all costs and justifies the carnage by stating that Israel has a right to defend itself. Secretary of State John Kerry repeats the message and the US House and Senate pass unanimously American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) drafted resolutions affirming the same.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lies repeatedly and the US media gives him a bully pulpit to spread his disinformation about what is occurring, including the propaganda cartoon depicted above explaining why he had to use artillery and bombs to level a residential district, killing nearly 100 civilians in what was described as a “heinous massacre.”
The mainstream media obligingly toes the line, depicting something like a battle between equals pitting the Israeli Army (IDF) against Hamas militants, obfuscating the essential asymmetry of a conflict that has killed more than 1,000 Palestinians civilians. A very large percentage of the commentators on television and radio as well the authors of mainstream print media opinion are American and Israeli Jews, to include a piece by Michael Oren, former Israeli Ambassador to the US and current CNN “expert,” entitled “Israel Must be Permitted to Crush Hamas” as well as the featured appearances by Prime Minister Netanyahu on national television.
Oren’s call to crush Hamas is particularly ironic as it runs directly contrary to American interests. The US intelligence community believes that the group would likely be succeeded by something far more radical. The media, Congress, and Netanyahu all also connive to ignore the deliberate targeting of civilians to include hospitals, schools and private homes by the IDF, producing massive infrastructure damage and increasing the numbers of dead and wounded. The US media did not report how Israelis watching the bombing from their lawn chairs on a hill near Sderot were photographed cheering and applauding each time a target in Gaza exploded. They were also sharing popcorn and one described the event as “just good fun.”
Also missing in the discussion is the damage that the conflict does to the United States, which is seen throughout the world as Israel’s puppet, manifested most recently when Washington alone opposed and will presumably veto any United Nations inquiry into possible war crimes connected to the Gaza conflict.
America diplomats are supposed to support American interests while the Founding Fathers created an army and navy to defend the United States, not Israel, a fact that seems to have escaped the notice of many in the White House, Congress and in the media. In reality, Washington has no obligation to protect the Netanyahu government in international fora nor is there any treaty obligation to defend Israel or anyone else outside the NATO alliance. Israel is neither an ally nor is its self-defined security a compelling US national interest if one excludes the drumbeat of the domestic lobby that protects it no matter how badly it behaves.
The sequence of events leading up to the current slaughter is clear, though Israel’s friends pretend that it all started when the first homemade rocket landed inside Israel, justifying any subsequent steps necessary for “defense.” But the Israel-Palestine problem truly began in 1948, when armed Jews deliberately terrorized and then drove more than 700,000 Palestinians from their homes. It was exacerbated when in 1967 the military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza began, leading to the creation and expansion of illegal settlements on Arab land.
The current cycle of violence, rooted in the denial of viable statehood for the Palestinian people, began in April when Israel deliberately torpedoed US brokered peace talks by accelerating settlement building and failing to comply with an agreement to release prisoners. On May 15 th Israeli soldiers shot dead two Palestinian teenagers, an event that was videoed. They were among the 26 Palestinians killed by Israelis since January, with no one being held accountable. Four weeks later three Israeli teenagers from Hebron were kidnapped and later discovered dead. Netanyahu, who knew that the three young men were already dead and that the abduction had not been carried out by Hamas cynically used the kidnapping as a pretext to attack Hamas in the West Bank, blaming the group for the crime without producing one shred of evidence. An Arab teenager was subsequently burned to death by Jewish extremists and the boy’s American citizen cousin was badly beaten by police when he joined a demonstration.
Netanyahu may or may not have cared who was killing or kidnapping whom on a micro level, but he knew a good opportunity when he saw one. He took advantage of the situation to launch a plan to destroy Hamas and pari passu the Palestinian unity government. Hundreds of arrests were made, again without any evidence linking those detained with the kidnapping, and homes of suspects were demolished. When Hamas in Gaza eventually struck back with its homemade rockets, killing or injuring no one, Israel unleashed its modern army and air force on the largely unarmed and defenseless Palestinians.
Israel also has found allies in the usual places in the US media and political circles to help explain the ensuing massacre. Ayman Mohyeldin, the NBC News correspondent who personally witnessed and reported the killing by Israel of four Palestinian boys on a Gazan beach was ordered by NBC executives to leave Gaza immediately, presumably because he had strayed from the acceptable message, which is that the deaths of Palestinians is somehow their own fault. CNN also “reassigned” reporter Diana Magnay who tweeted regarding an Israeli mob that threatened her when she filmed their celebration of missile strikes in Gaza. She called her attackers “scum” and was quickly removed.
The far fewer deaths of Israelis in the conflict are, however, rather more celebrated than the mass high tech execution of Palestinians. American volunteers in the IDF are depicted as somehow doing their patriotic duty, albeit in a foreign army. The Washington Post described how the “Death of two Americans in Israel brings conflict home.” Both men identified in the article though born in the US had chosen to live in Israel, producing some pushback in the blog comments. One noted that bearing arms for a foreign country that is not in NATO is illegal (and used to lead to automatic loss of citizenship) while another comment observed that if you are by choice fighting in a foreign army you are no longer really American. I might add that directly supporting Israel’s militarized colonization of Palestinian lands is against stated US government policy and does actual damage to American interests.
The Gazans are, to be sure, an easy target, crowded into a narrow strip of land with no place to go as they are controlled on all sides by Egypt and Israel. Fleeing inhabitants cannot even turn to the sea which is controlled by the Israeli navy. A comprehensive ten year truce offer by Hamas has been rebuffed by Israel and the slaughter will presumably continue until Netanyahu decides to stop. The United Nations has suggested that what Israel is doing might fit the definition of a war crime, just as was the case back in 2009 for Operation Cast Lead, when more than 1,400 Gazans were killed and schools run by the UN were deliberately targeted, as has been the case also currently.
That the US is so tied to a rogue nation like Israel would be incomprehensible but for the action of what has been described as the Israel Lobby. As Harvard Professor Stephen Walt puts it, “AIPAC is the only explanation for America’s morally bankrupt Israel policy.” Israel is in reality a place that most Americans would find unsympathetic. It is a corrupt theocracy that denies equal rights to Christians and Muslims, a fact that is conveniently overlooked by Congress and the media. There is also a strong dose of racism and ethnocentrism in its political matrix, with broad popular support for either disenfranchising or expelling all non-Jews. Or even killing them, with crowds in Tel Aviv routinely chanting “Death to Arabs.”
An Israeli member of parliament Ayelet Shaked of the ultra-nationalist Jewish Home party has called all Palestinians terrorists, saying women should be especially targeted for killing during the ongoing Israeli assault on the besieged Gaza Strip because they give birth to “little snakes.” She explained “They have to die and their houses should be demolished so that they cannot bear any more terrorists,” adding “They are all our enemies and their blood should be on our hands. This also applies to the mothers of the dead terrorists.” A prominent Rabbi has also endorsed complete destruction of Gaza and genocide, as a “deterrent measure to exterminate the enemy.”
Perhaps most discouraging is the visceral hatred directed at American critics of Israeli policies that surfaces occasionally among that nation’s most zealous supporters. Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, former Michael Jackson spiritual adviser and self-designated “America’s Rabbi,” has penned a piece entitled, “By Condemning Israel, Presbyterians Condemn Themselves.” He writes regarding the Presbyterian decision to divest from companies supporting the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, stating that “The rotting corpse of the Presbyterian Church suffered another nail in the coffin with its general convention vote on Friday to divest from companies doing business with Israel.”
Boteach, who has also become close to a number of prominent politicians, received no mainstream censure for this comments attacking a major Christian denomination in the vilest terms. His article also plays fast and loose with the facts. He observes “In the wake of the Oslo Accords, in which Israel granted the PLO political autonomy in the West Bank, about 60,000 Americans were murdered in Israel.” Since Oslo in 1993 the actual figure for dead Americans, many of whom were Israeli dual nationals, is 53.
That the United States has provided political support for a monster like Benjamin Netanyahu is criminal but it is a tribute to the grip that Israel’s lobby has on America’s political class and media. For starters, one might reasonably suggest that people like Boteach and the American volunteers including Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel who go to fight for Israel while eschewing any service in the US Army should perhaps move permanently to the country that they love most. The charge of dual loyalty which surfaces regularly regarding Israel’s most passionate Jewish supporters misses the point. Boteach and his friends, most certainly to include the likes of multi billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson of Las Vegas, have no dual loyalty at all. Their only concern is for Israel and they stay in the United States to cash in and to make sure that the rest of the American people are coerced and propagandized sufficiently so as to guarantee that the US will remain Israel’s patsy. But more and more Americans are waking up to the fraud and the ongoing slaughter of another thousand or so Palestinians in Gaza virtually guarantees that there will be more questions about the relationship with Israel than answers. Eventually the truth will out.
Was it appropriate for the Middle East peace envoy to throw a lavish party for political cronies and minor celebrities as Israel slaughtered over 1000 Palestinian civilians?
WHERE was Middle East peace envoy Tony Blair last week as Israel invaded Gaza and committed horrific war crimes, killing over 1000 Palestinians, 80% of them civilians, 200 of them children?
Not at his official residence and office in the millionaires’ row of East Jerusalem, which costs £750,000 a year, and from where he directs his somewhat less than successful efforts to bring peace to the Middle East.
And what was Tony Blair doing, as Israel bombed hospitals, schools, centres for the disabled, and UN shelters to which 180,000 civilians fled — as at least 1000 homes were turned to rubble by random bombardment? What was he doing as the people in 46% of Gaza were warned by Israel to evacuate — without any indication of where they could go — or face being slaughtered by the world’s fifth most powerful military force?
What has been the Middle East’s Peace Envoy’s only visible contribution to finding a peaceful resolution to the carnage we have witnessed since 6 July, when Israel escalated its merciless attack on 1.8 million defenceless people, held captive by an inhumane siege, which for seven years has left them starved of food, clean water and essential resources, including medical supplies?
The only sighting has been his appearances on television in which his one purpose seems to be to repeat endlessly that he supports “Israel’s right to defend itself”. By killing 200 childen? is never the repost by his interviewers, least of all on the BBC, which, like Tony Blair, is a fully signed up contributor to Israel’s propaganda campaign justifying crimes against humanity.
So has the peace envoy been active behind the scenes, working tirelessly to bring the carnage to an end?
As far as we know, his only behind the scenes activity has been to act as messenge-boy for the scam Egyptian “ceasefire proposal”, which was actually hatched in Washington, with the terms drafted by Israel. Tony Blair’s errand was to deliver the proposal to US-backed Egyptian dictator Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, for him then to announce it as his initiative. The Middle East peace envoy, whose role is supposedly intended to mediate between warring parties in the region, didn’t consider showing the ceasefire proposal to Hamas, which only learnt of it from the media and understandably rejected it as a one-sided demand to surrender. As Israel based journalist Jonathan Cook wrote,
The corporate media swallowed the line of Israel accepting the “ceasefire proposal” and Hamas rejecting it. What Hamas did was reject a US-Israeli diktat to sign away the rights of the people of Gaza to end a siege that cuts them off from the rest of the world.
Tony Blair was the natural choice to be the US and Israeli emissary to the Egyptian dictator el-Sisi, who came to power in a military coup last year that toppled the democratically elected government of president Mohamed Morsi. The Sisi regime is estimated to have killed more than 2,500 protesters and jailed more than 20,000. But that didn’t stop Blair at the beginning of July agreeing to “advise” the Egyptian dictator in a deal which is said to promise huge “business opportunities”.
Not for the first time, Blair is blurring the lines between his public position as peace envoy and his private business dealings in the Middle East. Which is why a group of former British ambassadors and political figures joined a campaign to call for Blair to be sacked as Middle East envoy
So where was Tony Blair last week, as the world watched in horror as Israel invaded Gaza with complete disregard for international and humanitarian law?
He was in the United Kingdom.
And what was his prime activity last week? It was planning a surprise 60th birthday party for his wife Cherie. Why she needed one to coincide with the news that Israel’s mass murder in Gaza had passed 1000 is not clear, as her 60th birthday isn’t actually due till September.
But there was the Middle East peace envoy on Friday 25 July, partying at a cost of £50,000 in his £6 million mansion, with 150 political cronies, wealthy businessmen and minor celebrities.
The next day, over 60,000 protesters brought central London to a standstill calling for the Gaza massacre to stop. Many thousands more demonstrated in towns and cities throughout the UK. And across the world, from San Francisco to Tel Aviv, on every continent, demonstrations called for an end to the killing, the siege to be lifted and Palestine to be free.
There is an ever-growing worldwide outrage that Israel is allowed with impunity to get away with such barbarity. As the Channel 4 News journalist Jon Snow put it: “Were any other country on Earth doing what is being done in Gaza, there would be worldwide uproar.”
And the response of Tony Blair, the Middle East peace envoy: “Israel has the right to defend itself.” Time to party.
It is important to understand the genesis of the present round of violence between Israel and Hamas, really between Israel and the people of Gaza.
Both President Obama, Secretary Kerry, and the American news media have consistently described the conflict as Israel justifiably responding to the firing of rockets into Israel by Hamas and protecting their citizens, as if world history only began at this moment and that prior context did not exists.
More thoughtful and better informed observers than Obama and Kerry have more correctly noted that the present waves of Hamas rockets were preceded by a sequence of events which left Hamas with little choice except to resist with their only available means, which is firing rockets into Israel.
Let us recall: On June 2, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas announced the completion of an agreement unifying the two governments and to be led by the moderate Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and with ministries run mostly by technocrats, a process worked out with input from the American government which included terms that would not automatically trigger a US ban.
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, however vowed never to work with a government that included Hamas which he described, as is normal for him, as a ‘terrorist’ organization and also admonished western governments including the US not to conduct discussions with them, a call that went mostly unheeded, to Mr Netanyahu’s great frustration.
The abduction and murder of three Israeli youths was met by Mr Netanyahu’s response: “Hamas is responsible, and Hamas will pay.” This was his chance to wreck the unity government.
Thus a ‘search and destroy’ operation was initiated consisting of 18 days of Israeli army rampages which targeted anything affiliated with Hamas on the West Bank. Hundreds were arrested, about 500 total, and about a dozen Palestinians killed, Hamas offices and clinics were ransacked and destroyed, with computers confiscated, hundreds of Palestinian homes were invaded, usually in the middle of the night with the homes ransacked and contents destroyed or damaged, guns were pointed at women and children and people terrorized, and many arrested. Homes of so-called suspected persons were blown up and destroyed.
In addition, Mr. Netanyahu’s rhetoric contributed to an atmosphere of anger and vengeance which resulted in the abduction and burning alive of a Palestinian teenager by several Israelis.
As of almost three weeks later, there has been no evidence what so ever that the Hamas leadership was involved or even knew in advance about the kidnapping.
Furthermore Max Blumenthal has reported, based on his sources inside Israeli intelligence, Shin Bet, that they knew, with high probability, within hours of the kidnapping that the three abducted youths had been killed. This news was not released to the public thus permitting the ‘search and destroy’ operation to continue.
The rampage of Israeli soldiers in the west Bank was quickly followed by aerial attacks by Israel into Gaza which killed seven Hamas members.
Thus the charge, by Mr Netanyahu, of Hamas responsibility in the abduction and killing of the three Israelis, and the suppression of information to the effect that the Israeli government knew the three Israeli youths had been killed were disingenuous techniques of Mr Netanyahu to destroy or seriously degrade Hamas and destroy the unity government which Mr Netanyahu so despised.
Obama, Kerry, and Netanyahu and their minions constantly repeat the question. “What would you do if your country were attacked by rocket fire?” And, of course, there is the ever present refrain, “Israel has a right to defend itself”
A far less trite question is, “What would you do if you were Hamas, and your offices were being ransacked and destroyed, and your people killed.? And what would you do if the population of Gaza were living under a brutal siege, unable to export their agriculture or the products so their labors, with foodstuffs embargoed allowing only a bare subsistence, with electricity and fuel limited, and potable water in short supply, and with building and rebuilding of destroyed structure from two previous wars with Israel, as well as this one when it ends, impossible because of the Israeli siege?
All this is taking place in the political-diplomatic space created by the multiple failures of the Obama conflict resolution efforts which included sending Kerry to the Middle East with the instructions to ‘solve the problem’, as he had George Mitchell before, without any presidential directive or program toward a solution. Further, the efforts of Kerry were undermined, as were those of Mitchell’s earlier, by President Obama’s failure to apply any pressure at all to Israel and even to echo the narrative and talking points of the Israeli government and to repeat the Israeli-Zionist interpretation of Jewish-Zionist history and its justification for the Zionism project.
And, of course, there is the ever present refrain which Obama, like his predecessor George Bush, never tires of repeating: “Israel has a right to defend itself”, thus justifying Israel’s violent operation, both in 2012 and at present, which has been interpreted by the President as a ‘response’. Obama has advanced the argument that no nation could tolerate rocket fire aimed toward its citizens further justifying Israel’s air, land and sea attack on the people of Gaza, and implying that the cause of the present conflagration began with the Hamas launched rocket fire – that Hamas is responsible for the present round of violence.
Obama has never hinted at the slightest discomfort of the siege of Gaza in which at least half of Gaza’s 1.7 million people are food insecure and almost all are impoverished unable to export the products of their labors, nor to import enough of their material needs, including the need to upgrade their water and sanitation facilities. Though Obama is a constitutional lawyer, he seems not to have noticed that collective punishment as well as using food as a weapon of war violates the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Obama’s vetoes of all Palestinian sponsored UN Security Council resolutions which were critical of Israel or its occupation, his efforts to join Israel in quashing the Goldstone Report and rendering it ineffective, and his efforts to pressure the Palestinians not to seek memberships in UN Agencies or join international conventions, certainly undermined any possibility of Israel making an effort at compromise. Why should Israel compromise when the President of the United States as well as the US Congress will protect it from the pressures or constraints of international law, and also echo its talking points for general popular consumption.
Obama has sought to confine the possible avenues of potential resolution to the so-call ‘peace process’ and to the principle that any resolution must be one mutually agreed to by Israel and the Palestinians, which means that any constraints potentially imposed by international law will not be applied to Israel which occupies the land captured in the ’67 War and has a large and very well equipped military making it capable of occupying the land against the will of the Palestinian people for an indefinitely long period in to the future.
Everyday Israel seizes more Palestinian land, adds new settlers to the East Jerusalem and the West Bank population, and its leaders, particularly Prime Minister Netanyahu, has indicated very many times that the state of Israel has absolutely no intention of relinquishing any substantial amount of West Bank territory or any of East Jerusalem. Such indications includes a meeting of Mr Netanyahu with President Obama in the Oval Office in which Netanyahu told Obama to his face that Israel would never withdraw from ‘Judea and Samaria’, the Jewish nationalist designation of the West Bank. And that Israel must maintain an indefinite military presence in the Jordan Valley.
Obama acts as though he did not hear him, or doesn’t care. And his response to Mr Netanyahu, on that afternoon in the Oval Office, was complete silence.
Obama has done nothing but reinforce Mr Netanyahu’s argument that the occupied territories are not illegally occupied but are “disputed areas” subject only to negotiations between parties in to which Israel has as much right as anyone else. He has certainly never attempted to counter Mr Netanyahu’s frequent claim that the Land of Israel belongs to the Jews by virtue of ‘the Jewish historical right’.
During Obama’s five and half years in office, Obama has never displayed any insight at all in regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, nothing beyond the echoing of the Israeli-Zionist narrative. He has never used the term Nakbah, nor recognized that there was an ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people in 1948, though he did use the term “dispossession” in his (overrated) Cairo speech. I have never heard him use the term “occupation”.
His only insight into the Zionist movement is to echo the false claim that Jews dreamed and hoped for 2000 years to return to the Land of Israel. This mythology has been thoroughly debunked by Shlomo Sand and by any careful reading of the history of the Zionist movement – a movement which only became a project of Jews, and a small subset of Jews at that, in the 1880’s though it was preceded by four centuries by Christian Zionism, mostly in England, which set the parameters of Jewish Zionist thinking and introduced the term return to describe the migration of Jews into Palestine.
It is doubtful anyone would use the term “return” if the Egyptians decided to conquer Palestine though they ruled it a millennium before there was a Jewish city state in Jerusalem.
This war belongs to Obama as much as to anyone because it emerged in the vacuum created by Obama’s laziness and lack of courage in standing up to Netanyahu and the Zionist supporters in the US and in Congress.
Obama ignored the seven year long siege of Gaza. Now it has come back to bite him. His legacy will include that.
Given Obama’s limited shallow understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and its history, there may have been little else he could have done. Imagining Obama conducting a 13 day debate with Netanyahu, as Jimmy Carter did in 1978 at Camp David with Menachem Begin, is completely unimaginable.
Hamas and the people of Gaza can give up and let Israel slowly strangle them to death under a siege that stands in clear violation of international law which prohibits collective punishment. Or they can fight back with their only means available.
Hamas’s fight, which is mainly a struggle to lift the siege of Gaza, is an honorable one. Hamas’s fight possess the dignity with the Israeli brutalizers cannot not even imagine. In fact, the Zionists gave up any hope of dignity long before they ethnically cleansed Palestine of most of its indigenous population in 1948.
William James Martin can be reached at email@example.com.
The Senate overwhelmingly approved an emergency measure early Friday that could give $225 million in additional revenue to Israel for the country’s Iron Dome missile defense system.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) received unanimous consent from his colleagues Friday morning when he asked them to consider approving the measure, The Hill reported.
Next, the House of Representatives will be tasked with weighing the request, which if passed will put nearly a quarter of a billion dollars towards Israel’s missile defense system as that country continues its campaign at Hamas in Gaza City.
“They’re running out of Iron Dome missiles to protect themselves,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) said at the hearing, according to The Hill. “We are with you. Here are the missiles.”
“We are with the Israelis, because if they don’t have the Iron Dome, they can’t defend themselves,” added Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona).
Earlier in the day, a previously agreed upon ceasefire agreement between the Israeli Defense Forces and Hamas fell apart barely two hours after it began. Israel has been waging a campaign on Gaza for nearly one month now, and says the ongoing strikes are needed to retaliate against missiles being launched by Hamas into territory claimed by Israel.
Earlier this week, an IDF-attributed strike on Gaza resulted in the shelling of a United Nations-run school inside of a Palestinian refugee camp. The White House condemned the attack, but that same day the Pentagon reportedly approved an Israeli-made request for additional rounds of ammunition from the US.
Al-Shifa hospital has received a phone call telling them a building of the hospital will be bombed.
At 16:30, the hospital received a call from an unlisted number, stating a building needed to be evacuated immediately.
The building is being used for overflow patients, and is directly across the road from the main hospital building. It is part of the hospital site, but building work has yet to be completed.
The hospital is now in the process of evacuating all staff and patients inside.
“I’d like to say that Israel’s threats to bomb Gaza’s largest hospital have reached a new low, but in light of it’s relentless atrocities and civilian massacres over the last 25 days, it’s hardly unexpected.” Stated Joe Catron, U.S. International Solidarity Movement (ISM) activist now in al-Shifa hospital.
Since July 25th, international volunteers from countries including Spain, Sweden, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, New Zealand, Australia, and Venezuela have begun a constant protective presence in various locations at the al-Shifa Hospital.
According to the Gaza Ministry of Health, as of July 29th, there have been 34 attacks against Gazan medical facilities since this latest Israeli military assault began 25 days ago.
For more information:
Activists now in al-Shifa
+970595594326 Joe Catron, USA (English)
+970598345327 Charlie Andreasson, Sweden (Swedish/English)
+972595209679 Fred Ekblad, Swedeb (Swedish/English)
+970595251720 Huda Julie Webb-Pullman, Australia and New Zealand (English)
Here is an article with lots of useful information about how “indiscriminate” Israel’s weapons really are. This interests me a great deal because I have been raising problems about the interpretation of international law used by leading human rights groups, such as Human Rights Watch, on this point since the 2006 Lebanon War.
At that time I got into a dispute with HRW’s Middle East policy director, Sarah Leah Whitson, who argued that Hizbullah was committing war crimes by definition when it fired rockets at Israel, even if it hit military targets, because those rockets were primitive and inherently inaccurate. By contrast, Israel’s missiles were not inherently inadmissible because they were considered by HRW to be precise (see my articles here and here.) That was clearly nonsense in 2006. During the war, Israel dropped millions of cluster munitions – little bomblets that serve effectively as land mines – all over southern Lebanon, endangering the whole civilian population of the area.
But Norman Finkelstein recently pointed out the more general problem with this view:
By this standard, only rich countries, or countries rich enough to purchase high-tech weapons, have a right to defend themselves against high-tech aerial assaults. It is a curious law that would negate the raison d’être of law: the substitution of might by right.
It may not be entirely surprising that HRW and others interpret international law in a way that serves rich and powerful western states, however many civilians they kill, and criminalises developing states, however few civilians they kill. The current fighting in Gaza illustrates this point in dramatic fashion. Some 95% of the Israelis who have been killed during the fighting are soldiers; some 75% of the Palestinians who have been killed are civilian.
But this Guardian article adds another layer of insight into HRW’s dubious distinctions. Ignore the irritating framing of the article, which suggests that the high Palestinian death toll may be down to human or systems errors. Experts discount this theory in the article and also point out that Israel is often not checking whether its shooting is accurate. In short, it gives every indication of not taking any precautions to ensure it is hitting only military targets (or rather targets it claims are military in nature) – that recklessness makes it fully culpable.
But we also have experts here who make the point that much of Israel’s precise weaponry is not precise at all.
Andrew Exum, a former US army officer and defence department special adviser on the Middle East, who has studied Israel’s military operations, says this:
There are good strategic reasons to avoid using air power and artillery in these conflicts: they tend to be pretty indiscriminate in their effects and make it difficult for the population under fire to figure out what they’re supposed to do to be safe.
“Pretty indiscriminate”! So doesn’t that mean Israel was committing war crimes by definition every time it made one of those thousands of air strikes that marked the start of Operation Protective Edge, and that it is continuing to make now?
But it’s not just strikes from the air that are the problem. There’s more:
However, military analysts and human rights observers say the IDF is still using unguided, indirect fire with high-explosive shells, which they argue is inappropriate for a densely populated area like Gaza …
[Israel's 155m howitzer] shells have a lethal radius of 50 to 150 metres and causes injury up to 300 metres from its point of impact. Furthermore, such indirect-fire artillery (meaning it is fired out of direct sight of the target) has a margin of error of 200 to 300 metres.
Read that again: a margin of error of up to 300 metres, plus a lethal radius of up to 150 metres and an injury radius of 300 metres. So that’s a killing and injury zone of close to half a kilometre from the intended “precise” site of impact. In a territory that is only a few kilometres wide. In short, the main shell Israel is using in Gaza is entirely imprecise.
Set aside what Israel is trying to do in Gaza. Let’s assume it is actually trying to hit military targets rather than being either reckless about hitting civilian targets or deliberately trying to hit civilians, as much of the evidence might suggest.
Even if we assume total good faith on Israel’s part that it is trying to hit only Hamas and other military sites, it is clear it cannot do so even with the weaponry it has. The inherent imprecision of its arsenal is compounded many fold by the fact that it is using these weapons in densely built-up areas.
So when are we going to hear HRW or the UN’s Navi Pillay stop talking about proportionality or Israel’s potential war crimes, and admit Israel is committing war crimes by definition?
Palestinians are “facing a precipice” in Gaza, the top UN refugee official there told the Security Council on Thursday in a strongly-worded appeal for action.
With more than 240,000 Palestinians already sheltering in UN facilities — four times the number from the last Gaza conflict in 2008-2009 — Pierre Krahenbuhl said he had reached breaking point.
“I believe the population is facing a precipice and appeal to the international community to take the steps necessary to address this extreme situation,” the head of the UN Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA told the 15-member council.
“We have exceeded the tolerable limit that we can accommodate,” Krahenbuhl said, adding that he was “alarmed” by the latest Israeli instructions to civilians to evacuate two areas in Gaza targeted for more attacks.
“It is past time for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire as called for by the council,” he said.
Krahenbuhl spoke to the council by audiolink from Gaza after Israel vowed to press on with its military campaign, with the stated goal of destroying a network of tunnels used by Hamas.
Later on Thursday, the UN Security Council called for humanitarian pauses in Gaza and renewed its appeal for an immediate ceasefire.
The Council expressed “grave disappointment” that repeated appeals for an end to the fighting had not been heeded.
Meanwhile, UNRWA has declared a state of emergency and launched an appeal for funding.
“UNRWA urgently seeks $60 million to respond to the immediate shelter, food, health and psycho-social needs of affected families; to replenish emergency stocks; and to prepare for carrying out vital interventions that will be required immediately upon cessation of military activities,” its website said.
International alarm has grown over the civilian death toll from 24 days of fighting between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza strip, with the Security Council calling for a humanitarian truce in a statement issued early Monday.
In her address to the council, UN humanitarian aid chief Valerie Amos called for “more humanitarian pauses” to allow relief workers to reach those in need.
“Pauses must be daily, predictable, and adequate in length so that humanitarian staff can dispatch relief to those in need, rescue the injured, recover the dead and allow civilians some reprieve so that they can restock and resupply their homes,” she said.
Amos said finding shelter from Israeli strikes was becoming increasingly difficult for the 1.8 million people of Gaza.
“The reality of Gaza today is that no place is safe,” she said.
More than 1,420 Palestinians, the vast majority of them civilians, have died in the fighting, along with 58 Israelis, 56 of them soldiers.
The appeal to the council came a day after an attack on a UN-run school hosting refugees left 19 dead, drawing outrage from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon who lashed out: “Nothing is more shameful than attacking sleeping children.”
UN officials have called for a full investigation after an Israeli artillery strike hit the school.
Krahenbuhl described dire conditions for the shelters with very few showers and latrines, and problems with water supplies in classrooms holding 80 people.
“Disease outbreak is beginning” with cases of skin infections such as scabies while thousands of pregnant women have taken refuge in the UN schools, he said.
“We are sheltering newborn infants in these appalling conditions,” said the head of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestinians.
“The illegal blockade of Gaza must be lifted,” he added, referring to Israeli closure of crossing points that rights groups maintain have turned the Gaza Strip into an open-air prison.
Palestinian representative Riyad Mansour renewed his appeal to the Security Council to adopt a tough resolution calling for an end to the fighting, an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and lifting of the Israeli blockade.
“Enough is enough, this genocide should be stopped immediately,” Mansour told reporters after the council meeting.
Gaza-born pop star Mohammed Assaf also appealed to the UN to act to stop the bloodshed.
“There is pain in my heart from what is happening in my town and to my people in my beloved home, Gaza that is hurting,” said Khan Younis-born Assaf, winner of the popular Arab Idol talent show, said in a video distributed by the United Nations Thursday.
“Now we all have to help my beloved people in Gaza, all those who suffer in Gaza, all those who suffer under the attacks,” said Assaf, who accompanied an airlift of humanitarian supplies from Dubai to Jordan, from where it continued to Gaza by road.
“We have to help Gaza stand up on its feet one more time,” added Assaf, who is the goodwill ambassador of UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees.
Jordan last week circulated a draft resolution, but the council has yet to debate the measure and has instead adopted a statement calling for the humanitarian truce.
The statement was adopted despite reservations from the United States.
UNRWA’s spokesman in Gaza, Chris Gunness, broke down in tears Wednesday when Al-Jazeera television interviewed him after 16 people died in the shelling of a UN school in Gaza.
“The rights of Palestinians, even their children, are wholesale denied and its appalling,” Gunness said in a voice choked with emotion, before burying his face in his hands and sobbing uncontrollably.
The NY Times reports a blockbuster story about the anti-Iran lobby group, United Against a Nuclear Iran. It’s an especially perfidious group supporting regime change, though it couches its approach in terms of opposing Iran’ nuclear program. Curiously, this is precisely the same way Israel’s far-right government disguises its own support for the violent overthrow of the Iranian government. Knowing that such a plan is not supported by the west including the Obama administration, they believe that they can paint Iran as enough of a threat to the world through it’s alleged plans to create nuclear weapons, that this will get them half-way to regime change.
UANI specializes in “outing” companies which allegedly violate UN sanctions against Iran. The Times article revealed that the companies are usually approached by an Israeli “fixer” with close ties to the Mossad. He’s Rami Ungar, owner of an Israeli company, Ray Shipping, who’s worth $500-million.
Ungar gives them an opportunity to renounce their supposed trade with Iran. Sometimes they’re extorted for a donation to UANI as well. Though the article doesn’t mention it, I’m certain that the Mossad intermediary probes for companies that will serve Israel’s interests in its fight against Iran. Companies doing business with Iran who are willing to become Mossad assets are worth their weight in gold, since the Iranians trust them and Israel can use such trust to sabotage whatever aspect of the Iranian military or commercial interests the sanctions-buster participates in.
What brought much of this to light is a lawsuit brought by one of the ship owners who was targeted by UANI. Instead of rolling over and playing dead, Victor Restis decided to sue UANI to find out what was going on inside the bowels of this organization. Restis, who denies all charges against him made by UANI, decided to take the battle to UANI. He’s demanding to see internal documents that would show who conveyed information to the group about him, what the information said, and how it was collected. His suit also implies that the Mossad directly funds UANI, another explosive charge.
What’s especially odd about the case is that the U.S. Justice Department has threatened to intervene in the case on behalf of UANI. Clearly, the real reason they’re willing to take such an unusual step is that they’re trying to protect the Mossad. It would not only embarrass our Israeli ally[sic], it might expose the covert methods and work product of Israeli intelligence. It might allow Iran to find out what Mossad knows about it and how.
This is so unseemly because the Obama administration is protecting a foreign spy agency which aggressively steals U.S. secrets when possible. We are also protecting the Mossad as it attempts to manipulate U.S. public opinion in a witch hunt against Iran, which is a country with whom we’re trying to negotiate a rapprochement. Here is how the U.S. explained its “interest” in the case:
Government lawyers said they had a “good faith basis to believe that certain information” would jeopardize law enforcement investigations, reveal investigative techniques or identify confidential sources if released.
If we take this literally, it means the U.S. government has been in cahoots with the Mossad in this campaign against Iranian commerce. Even if it means something less than that, it certainly means that we’re protecting the Mossad as one of our “confidential sources.” The other possible interpretation is that the U.S. is investigating UANI or the Mossad for their collusion together, though the article doesn’t point in that direction at all.
UANI, though it claims to be a bi-partisan group above the political fray, is heavily laden with neocon, Bush-era personnel and board members. It’s full of U.S. intelligence officials and diplomats known as especially friendly to Israel, including Dennis Ross. Meir Dagan is also listed as an advisor. UANI appears little more than an extension of Israeli intelligence based in the U.S.
Gaza City – I’m still alive. I don’t know what this means, but I can say that most of the time I can still walk and do some work with people who need help. It all depends on my luck. And here, for people living in Gaza, luck means how close to you the bombs fall from Israel’s tanks, planes, or warships. Some hours it’s raining bombs. Americans say “It’s raining cats and dogs”. In the new Gaza idiom, we say “It’s raining bombs and shells.”
Today I started my day in the Red Crescent Society’s medical center. The electricity has stopped, but the X-ray still functions, so we received many patients. Let me share with you some of what I saw.
First is the story of an unnamed child we called “Number 6”. He was around three years and had identifying stickers on his arms saying “Unknown” and “Number 6”. I was shocked and immediately asked the nurses and ambulance drivers what his name was. I was told no one knew his name. They found him in a mass of destroyed houses and he was the only survivor of his family. He had a head injury and wounds on other parts of his body. Immediately I asked “Doesn’t anyone remember where the house was?” They said in the area where they found him, all the buildings were destroyed and mixed up with each other and sometimes the children are thrown from one area to another. So they didn’t know where he had lived.
And then I realized he’s Number 6, and that means there were five other unknown children before him and many more children after him. I stopped asking questions because I needed to do my work.
Second is the story of Reem Ahmad, six years old. Reem arrived in the X-ray unit also. She has a name and she used to have a family. She is the only survivor of her family. She lost her parents and brothers and sisters. She is injured in the head.
Third is the story of a fifty-two year old woman who arrived at our clinic with her son. He is a nurse and he was panicked. She had gone outside to her garden to take care of her plants. Some shrapnel hit her head and her son was crying like crazy and he said in very few words “We are a simple family staying in our home. This shrapnel flew all around the garden and hit my mom. I want my mom to live.” This woman is named Buthaina el-Izraia.
Fourth is the story of my colleague Afaf Jabar, a nurse on our team. Afaf lost her daughter Leena, who was also a nurse, her two grandchildren and her daughter’s husband when one bomb fell on their house in Bureij refugee camp.
We have gone through a lot in Gaza. But this is a new war. Israel is committing new massacres every day and sometimes more than one massacre in a day. In the Red Crescent clinic we receive at least 200 patients a day. And we are not an emergency clinic. A lot of disease is coming up in Gaza because of destruction of the water systems, the electrical system and ongoing stress and fear from over three weeks of bombings. People are experiencing different illnesses: gastrointestinal problems, diarrhea, breathing and skin problems, and most of them are the most vulnerable of all, children. We have a real crisis now. We managed to get some medicine before from MECA, but right now we facing a lack of medicine. I want people to know this and contribute and support us and help us get the proper medicines and supplies so we can treat these people who are suffering.
This is what I can tell you about today and with luck, I will report more information to you tomorrow.
Dr. Mona El-Farra, Director of Gaza Projects, is a physician by training and a human rights and women’s rights activist by practice in the occupied Gaza Strip. She was born in Khan Younis, Gaza and has dedicated herself to developing community based programs that aim to improve health quality and link health services with cultural and recreation services all over the Gaza Strip. Dr. El-Farra is also the Health Chair of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society of the Gaza Strip and a member of the Union of Health Work Committees. Dr. El-Farra has a son and two daughters.
The transformation of Zionism as a political ideology to Zionism as a religious ideology begins, in part, with Theodor Herzl’s “infatuation with British imperialism,” as noted by literary scholar and cultural historian Eitan Bar-Yosef in his book A Villa In The Jungle: Herzl, Zionist Culture, And The Great African Adventure. “Herzl’s phrase – a ‘miniature England in reverse’ – preserves the imperfect colonial mimicry that stood at the heart of Herzl’s Zionist project, and which was exposed so explicitly…in his decision to align himself with the British Empire.” Herzl would form the Zionist Organization (now The World Zionist Congress) in 1897 and promote the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine, while continuing to identify with British colonialism and those who facilitated colonialism – the colonialists themselves. While Herzl, in his book The Jewish State, published in 1895, argued that the ‘Jewish question’ was not social or religious but political, the historical account of the rise of religious Zionism shows that it began to take hold not long before the passing of Herzl in 1904.
In 1902 the Mizrachi organization was founded by Yitzchak Yaacov Reines, an Orthodox Rabbi; the formation of this movement would mark the systematized appearance of religious Zionism. The Mizrachi organization would go on to found a number of religious settlements in Palestine, under the Mizrachi Labor party, using Zionism’s primary call for the occupation of territory to then colonize said territory with a strategic religious backdrop. This would later lead to nationalist and religious claims to Palestinian territory unifying and changing Israeli politics in the process. In Indivisible Territory and the Politics of Legitimacy Stacie E. Goddard expounds on this merger, noting that “under [Menachem] Begin, religious Zionism became the dominant language of territorial claims, so much so that the aims of Gush Emunim and Likud are often now considered inseparable.” “[The] Likud’s dependence gave the Religious Zionists unparalleled access to the Israeli government.”
The framing of the colonization of Palestine as being a religious conflict is a tremendous distortion – it is a myth which has advanced the occupation under the guise of “dialogue” and by way of the so-called “peace process” which asks of indigenous Palestinians to settle the “conflict” by relinquishing their autonomy, their right to self-determination and their homeland.
The tired binary of “Jew vs. Arab” takes the place of instructive awareness and constructive inquiry based on a historical context that precedes even the establishment of the State of Israel, working instead to attenuate the influence of history concerning the occupation of Palestine by manipulating the discourse. Not only does such a categorization dilute the tremendous impact that colonialism continues to have upon the people of Palestine, it does so for the sake of fruitless back and forth counseling sessions where the colonized are likened to the colonizers and are asked to solve an occupation spanning decades with interpersonal exchanges. Social get-togethers, regardless of how well-intentioned they may be, will not resolve the occupation, nor are such exchanges capable of addressing its root causes. Only resistance can straightforwardly confront the structural and systematic violence against the indigenous peoples of Palestine.
A social media campaign using the hashtag #JewsAndArabsRefuseToBeEnemies is one such manipulation, where photographs of Jewish and Arab couples sharing intimate moments and Jewish and Arab children holding hands are shared with comforting messages of peace. These images, though heartwarming, work to exploit emotions and steer the focus away from the occupation, its continuing and extensive consequences and the victims of Zionism, which include Palestine’s Jewish populace whose histories these campaigns unequivocally ignore.
In The Palestine-Israel Conflict: A Basic Introduction independent scholar Gregory Harms notes that before 1880 there was already a Jewish population in Palestine “some of who had been there as long as any of the native Arabs,” and that of this Jewish populace were the Sephardim. From the essay Colonialism and Imperialism: Zionism by Israeli anthropologist and activist Smadar Lavie, found in volume 6 of the Encyclopedia of Women and Islamic Cultures, published in 2007 by the University of California’s department of Anthropology:
The Sephardim were descendants of the Jews who were expelled from Spain in 1492, and arrived in Palestine from then on, through the Mediterranean countries… Before 1948, about 450,000 Jews from Yiddish-speaking countries, mainly in Central and Eastern Europe, immigrated to Palestine. Most of them were Zionists, and many arrived as refugees who had survived the Holocaust. The rest, about 150,000 Jews, consisted of the few families who had always lived in Palestine, and the majority of the immigrants who arrived in Palestine during the Yishuv era from the Balkans or from Muslim countries. About 40,000 of them immigrated to Palestine from Yemen.
Presenting the colonization of Palestine as being a religious rivalry, or nothing more than a primordial spat ‘between cousins,’ wipes away the existence of these multidimensional histories as well as their relevant influence on elements of Palestinian society, including the cultural and intellectual dimensions, which coloured life for all those in Palestine. In Sephardim in Israel: Zionism From The Standpoint of Its Jewish Victims Ella Shohat, a self-identified Arab-Jew and Professor of Cultural Studies at New York University, argues that the consequences of Zionism not only extend to the Palestinians but to the Sephardim, who she refers to as Oriental Jews, whose voices have been silenced by Zionism. In the 1988 edition of the academic journal Social Text, published by Duke University Press, Shohat describes that even at the earliest stages of the Arab protest of Zionism there were clear distinctions made by Arabs between Zionists and Jews. An example of this Shohat provides was from the manifesto of the first Palestinian convention of February 1919 and “a Nazareth area petition” distributed during massive protests in 1920 which went on to denounce the Balfour Declaration, stating in part that “the Jews are people of our country who lived with us before the occupation, they are our brothers, people of our country and all the Jews of the world are our brothers.”
Shohat notes that not only did Zionism aim to uproot Arab-Jewish communities in Palestine but that the Sephardim were made to choose between what she called an “anti-Zionist “Arabness” and a pro-Zionist “Jewishness”, and so “for the first time in Sephardi history”, she writes, “Arabness and Jewishness were posed as antonym”:
An essential feature of colonialism is the distortion and even the denial of the history of the colonized… The Zionist master-narrative has little place for either Palestinians or Sephardim, but while Palestinians possess a clear counter narrative, the Sephardi story is a fractured one embedded in the history of both groups. Distinguishing the “evil” East (the Mosel Arab) from the “good” East (the Jewish Arab), Israel has taken upon itself to cleanse the Sephardim of their Arabness and redeem them from their “primal sin” of belonging to the Orient. Israeli historiography absorbs the Jews of Asia and Africa into the monolithic official memory European Jews… From the perspective of official Zionism, Jews from Arab and Moslem countries appear on the world stage only when they are seen on the map of the Hebrew state, just as the modern history of Palestine is seen as beginning with the Zionist renewal of the Biblical mandate.
Shohat writes that while Israel was expelling the indigenous Palestinians from their homeland the Sephardim were made to undergo “a complimentary trauma, a kind of image in negative, as it were, of the Palestinian experience” where their cultural heritage was erased and they were made to feel ashamed of their Arab identities – from their music, to their Arab countries of origin and even their dark skin tones. “Oriental Jews had to be taught to see the Arabs, and themselves, as Other.”
The struggle in Palestine has long been framed as though it is rooted in a religious discord, or long-held enmity between two peoples, and not only does this erase interconnected histories but it does so at the expense of justice for all victims of Zionism. This justice, and what Shohat describes as being “linked analogies between oppressions,” is what continues to plague Israel – and so, she writes, “the Zionist establishment in Israel has done everything in its power: the fomenting of war and the cult of “national security,” the simplistic portrayal of Palestinian resistance as “terrorism;”…the promotion, through the educational system and the media, of “Arab-hatred”…” so as to prevent its victims from perceiving these parallels.
Two observations about Jon Snow’s interview last night with Hamas spokesman Osama Hamdan, for which Snow has received a lot of criticism from those supportive of the Palestinian case.
First, we should notice how Snow chooses to frame the interview. This is his first question: “Israel has demonstrated that it is prepared to go on killing Gaza’s woman and children, civilians generally. Why are you encouraging them by continuing to fire your ineffective rockets?”
That is quite some opener. In using the phrase “prepared to go on”, Snow implies that Israel’s killing of civilians is to a degree deliberate. In fact, that becomes the essential frame of the whole interview – and is the source of his irritating, even puerile line of questioning. Why antagonise Israel, when it’s clear it’s going to vent its fury on women and children? Why not hand over your weapons and let Israel blow up your tunnels? Why not abandon resistance?
Snow’s framing does a great disservice to Hamas but it damages Israel even more. Hamas are stupid, according to this approach, but Israel is actually malevolent. We should not discount the significance of the assumption about Israel Snow is making on behalf of his viewers. This may be some sort of tiny victory for the Palestinians in the media war.
Second, Snow keeps telling Hamdan: “There’s no time to go into the history”. In other words, we must ignore the context. But this is precisely the criticism of media coverage of Israel-Palestine made by academics like Greg Philo. Their surveys show the media fail to provide the historical context of the conflict, and this failure puts the Palestinians at an immediate disadvantage, because their case is essentially historical – a demand for redress for the injustices of 1948 and 1967. After all, Hamas represents an enormous group of refugees from those wars, forced out of their homes in Israel and now imprisoned in Gaza. Without that context, we cannot understand what drives Hamas or Gaza’s will to resist.
The Israelis, on the other hand, would much rather we ignored the history, or only concentrated on marginal aspects of it, because the injustice – the dispossession of Palestinians – is precisely historical. So, in refusing to consider history, Snow is taking a side – Israel’s.
Since the beginning of the Israeli aggression in the Gaza Strip, Israel has killed seven Palestinian journalists and media workers.
According to Pls48.net news website, Palestinian medical sources announced on Wednesday afternoon the death of photojournalist Rami Rayan, who was killed while working in the Souq Al-Bastat, east of Gaza City, when Israeli forces committed a massacre against civilians. Earlier in the day, journalist Ahed Zaqqout, who worked in sports journalism for several agencies, was announced dead.
Israel’s assault on Gaza also led to the killing of photojournalist Khaled Hamad, as well as journalists Najla Mahmoud Haj, Abdul Rahman Ziad Abu Hin, Ezzat Duheir and Bahauddin Ghareeb.
The Palestinian Journalist Bloc issued a statement condemning Israel’s premeditated targeting of journalists and media workers, saying the Israeli army had crossed all red lines by targeting reporters and shattering international laws and norms.
The bloc demanded that the international community and the United Nations uphold their responsibilities regarding the Israeli targeting of journalists and media workers and depart from their shameful silence.
The bloc also criticised local, Arab and international press agencies, particularly the Arab Journalists Union and Reporters Without Borders, as well as all the institutions that deal with journalists and media workers’ rights, for their current silence towards the killing of Palestinian journalists in the Gaza Strip.
The statement stressed that Israel’s crimes against the media workers reflect its daily crimes against the Palestinian people, and demanded for the international community to curb the Israeli aggression and to stop supplying it with arms that are used to kill civilians.