Posts Tagged ‘Israeli attack’

Gaza is burning and the Arabs sit and watch

July 14, 2014
Dr Mohammed Al-MisferDr Mohammed Al-Misfer

There have been many times when oppressed people resisting their oppressors gain international solidarity for their cause as public opinion sways in their favour. They embody bravery as they continue to resist against their enemies. We saw this pattern manifest itself in Vietnam when the people struggled against the biggest superpower in the world. The Vietnamese demonstrated how they turned to each other for support when the northern city of Hanoi stood as a beacon of light for its counterpart Saigon in the south. Soon after, the southern Vietnamese people embodied the spirit of resistance and achieved all of their goals.

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When it comes to the Palestinian case, the situation is entirely different, for in the Gaza Strip (Southern Palestine) we see true armed resistance being engaged in the battle against the Zionist enemy, which is armed with the most sophisticated weapons and is using all of its power and influence throughout the world to frame this conflict as it sees fit; it is from this that the Palestinian people in Gaza can find no escape. Gaza is burning and its natural supporters, the Arabs of the region, sit and watch. The Palestinian Authority under the leadership of Mahmoud Abbas, based in the West Bank city of Ramallah (which we can consider here to be the northern region of Palestine), should be the biggest advocate for its people in Gaza. And yet, all we here are murmurs and useless statements being made here and there.

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From Istanbul: Outrage Over a Massacre on the High Seas

June 2, 2010

By Phyllis Bennis, The Huffington Post, June 2, 2010

Israel has decided that it is better to be perceived as savage than as weak. In its initial attack on the boats carrying human rights activists and humanitarian aid to the besieged Gaza Strip, Israel’s commandos killed at least nine human rights activists and injured perhaps as many as eighty or more. All those aboard the ships, which were attacked and seized pirate-style in international seas far beyond the legal limits of Israel’s own territorial waters, were arrested and/or deported.

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Jimmy Carter: Goldstone and Gaza

November 7, 2009
By JIMMY CARTER, The New York Times, November 5, 2009

Judge Richard Goldstone and the United Nations fact-finding mission on the Gaza conflict have issued a report about Gaza that is strongly critical of both Israel and Hamas for their violations of human rights. On Wednesday, a special meeting of the U.N. General Assembly began a debate on whether to refer the report to the Security Council.

In January 2009 rudimentary rockets had been launched from Gaza toward nearby Jewish communities, and Israel had wreaked havoc with bombs, missiles, and ground invading forces. Judge Goldstone’s claim is that they are both guilty of “crimes against humanity.” Predictably, both the accused parties have denounced the report as biased and inaccurate.

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Carter decries destruction in Gaza

June 17, 2009

CNN – June 16, 2009

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter said Tuesday on a visit to Gaza that he had to “hold back tears” when he saw the destruction caused by the deadly campaign Israel waged against Gaza militants in January.

Former President Jimmy Carter visits an American school in Gaza destroyed by Israeli bombings.

Former President Jimmy Carter visits an American school in Gaza destroyed by Israeli bombings.

Carter was wrapping up a visit to the region during which he met representatives of all sides of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Among the sites he visited was the American school that was destroyed by the bombings Israel initiated in response to rocket attacks launched from Gaza into southern Israel.

“It is very distressing to me. I have to hold back tears when I see the deliberate destruction that has been raked against your people.

“I come to the American school which was educating your children, supported by my own country. I see it’s been deliberately destroyed by bombs from F16s made in my country and delivered to the Israelis. I feel partially responsible for this — as must all Americans and all Israelis,” Carter said at a news conference.

“The only way to avoid this tragedy happening again is to have genuine peace,” he added, pointing out that many Palestinians are now fighting each other in the West Bank and Gaza because of their affiliations with Hamas or Fatah.

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“It’s very important that Palestinians agree with each other, to cooperate and stop attacking each other and to build a common approach to an election that I hope to witness and observe next January the 25th.”

After the briefing, Carter headed to a graduation ceremony for students who completed a human rights curriculum provided by UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees.

“The human rights curriculum is teaching children about their rights and also about their responsibilities,” Carter said in his speech to graduates.

In his speech to graduates, Carter said bombings, tanks and a continuing economic siege have brought death, destruction, pain and suffering to Gaza. “Tragically, the international community largely ignores the cries for help, while the citizens of Gaza are treated more like animals than human beings.”

“The responsibility for this terrible human rights crime lies in Jerusalem, Cairo, Washington, and throughout the international community,” Carter said.

At a news conference later in Tel Aviv, reporters asked the former president about media reports early Tuesday that said Hamas had thwarted a possible assassination plot against him.

The Israeli daily Maariv, quoting a Palestinian source, said explosives had been placed on a road Carter was due to travel on. Citing the source, the newspaper said it was a plot by an al Qaeda-affiliated group based in Gaza.

“I don’t believe it’s true,” Carter said. “I don’t know anything about it.

“None of our people were aware of being rerouted. I asked our driver and I asked the others in charge of making the arrangements, (and) they didn’t know anything about it.”

Carter said some of his staff asked Gaza’s minister of interior, who is in charge of security, and he also was unfamiliar with the report.

Also in Gaza, Carter met with Hamas leaders, who he said “want peace and they want to have reconciliation not only with their Fatah brothers but also, eventually, with the Israelis to live side by side.

Galloway: Our Convoy to Gaza

June 6, 2009

Don’t Carp, Organize

By GEORGE GALLOWAY | Counterpunch, June 5 / 7,  2009

“Where is the ummah; where is this Arab world they tell us about in school.”

Those words will forever remain etched on my brain. They were spoken by a 10 year old girl in a bombed out ruin in Gaza in March. She had lost her almost her entire family in the 22-day Gazat earlier this year. The second time she spoke, it was to the back of my head. I had to turn away; what answer could you give her?

While Hugo Chavez expelled the Israeli ambassador to Venezuela, the leaders of the Arab League, with a handful of exceptions, spent those murderous weeks in December and January scarcely summoning even the synthetic indignation that has so often attended previous bloody episodes in the Palestinian tragedy.

But that was not so of public opinion, not only in the Muslim world, but mobilized on the streets of Western capitals. In Britain, over 100,000 people took to the streets and night after night we blockaded the Israeli embassy. Above all, the Gaza onslaught produced in the US an unprecedented outpouring. There have, for sure, been protests before, but this has turned out to be more than an ephemeral release of impotent rage. Something is changing.

That has become more and more apparent to me over the last two months as I’ve spoken on Palestine at packed meetings and fundraisers across the US.  The opinion polls in January showed a plurality of Americans against the Israeli onslaught. It may not have been a surprise to those of us who witnessed Ariel Sharon’s leveling of Beirut in the late summer of 1982, but the sight of white phosphorous – which forms a gaseous cloud – being used against civilians in Gaza stunned the senses of millions or people who had up to that point been led to believe that it was somehow the Palestinians who were occupying Israeli land rather than the other way round.

Seasoned activists in the Palestinian cause confirm that there is now a window of opportunity to take this case beyond the ghetto and into the mainstream of political life – in the US and in Britain, which between them bear the heaviest responsibility for the suffering in Palestine: the US as the cashier for Israeli colonization; Britain, as the author of the tragedy in 1917, when a leader of one people, British foreign secretary Arthur Balfour (an anti-Semite), gave to the purported leaders of another people, the Zionist movement, the land belonging to a third people, the Palestinians. And all without asking any of the people, which even by the standards of British imperialism is quite a triumph.

How then to bring to the cause of Palestine the kind of political movement that helped shatter apartheid, between the hammer of the ANC resistance and the anvil of international solidarity? This is the question that has led to me flitting backwards and forwards across the Atlantic, between lectures and fundraisers here, and the unfolding of an extraordinary political crisis at home. It was the question we asked ourselves as we marched past the Israeli embassy on those cold days in January.

The demonstrations were important. Anyone who doubts that should listen to those living under siege whose capacity to resist was strengthened every time they saw those protests on Al Jazeera and Press TV. But they were not enough, nor were the speeches, though they too have their place. It is actions that speak louder than words. That’s why on January 10 I announced at the big London demonstration that I would be leading a convoy of humanitarian aid from Britain to Gaza.

We decided to head off just five weeks later and to go through a difficult route – down to Spain, cross to Morocco and then driving across the Maghreb. We hoped to take a dozen or so vehicles. In the end, we left Hyde Park on February14 with 107 vehicles, 255 people and around $2 million of aid. Some 23 days and 5,500 miles later we entered Gaza. And now, we’re doing it all again, this time from the US.

On July 4, the Vietnam vet Ron Kovic, myself and hundreds of US citizens will fly out from JFK to Cairo where we will form up a convoy of hundreds of vehicles carrying medical aid and head into Gaza. We will be in Egypt exactly one month to the day from when President Obama delivered his historic speech offering a new and more egalitarian relationship between the US and the Muslim world. And that speech makes it all the more imperative that anyone and everyone gets on board this convoy.

For Obama’s speech, like his election campaign and presidency, can be looked at two ways. There were the expressions of general support for Israel and continuity in foreign policy which it would be naïve not to expect from any US president. How easy it would be to slump into the cynical and knowing snorting that has been such an unappealing trait of too much of the left for far too long. Because at the same time, his skilful appeal for a more respectful East-West dialogue opens up many roads for friends of Palestine and the Arab cause. If you doubt that, look at the frenzied reaction of the Israeli right who, in their usual understated way, are likening opposition to the settlement program to genocidal murder.

Our case is that Obama is right to identify that if the US wants to drain the swamp of hatred against it, then it needs a radical change in policy. The road he marked out in Cairo points in the right direction. But he stopped short. Literally. The road leads a couple of hundred dusty desert miles further from the Nile Delta, across the Sinai and to the Rafah crossing into Gaza. Hence the convoy, whose aims are manifold.

First, it is to take much-needed aid to a people subsisting under siege. We are a link in the supply chain that others who have sent delegations to Gaza have also helped establish.

Second, it is to take people – lots of American people. No one should underestimate the impact that will have on the Palestinian people. It was emphasized by our hosts in March that the presence of so many Britishers was even more valuable than the aid we brought. It meant hundreds of people going back as ambassadors for Palestine in towns and cities across the country. For the people of the Gaza Strip it was proof positive, in front of their very eyes, that they had not been forgotten.

Third, it is to contribute to the mighty process of changing US public opinion on this issue. And where public opinion changes, public policy follows – even if the mechanism is complex and difficult. The eight dark years of the Bush era saw, in effect, the criminalization of solidarity with the Palestinian cause. Whole organization, Muslim and Arab, were closed down, their leaders disappeared and deported or imprisoned, witness the appalling trial and verdict of the Holy Land Foundation organizers. This convoy is about ending that. We want a cross-section of US society, including prominent figures, to take part and demonstrate that this is no longer a no go area; that Palestine is the issue and nobody is going to turn us around.

In Gaza, Ron Kovic will hand over wheelchairs to Palestinian amputees. That’s the image the world’s media will carry. Let the rabid supporters of the Netanyahu-Lieberman regime raise their voices against that. That’s a public relations battle we should relish.

There’s no point passively bewailing what this presidency might be failing to do. If we make an impact in July and beyond, it can help shift the balance, throwing the die-hard defenders of Israeli aggression on the defensive and making it more politically attractive for President Obama to move further down the dusty road.

In a sense George W Bush had an excuse for the mayhem he unleashed: he was a complete and utter imbecile. Barack Obama does not have that excuse. He’s highly intelligent and cultured. He met the sorely missed Edward Said. He doesn’t just know who the President of Pakistan is, he can pronounce the name of the country.

If the new sentiment for Palestine in this country is roused and made politically effective, there will be no excuse for anyone not to do the right thing.

Go to www.vivapalestina-us.org for information on the US to Gaza convoy or phone 773 226 2742

George Galloway is the Respect Party Member of Parliament for Bethnal Green and Bow.

The Rape of Gaza

June 2, 2009

by Roane Carey | The Nation, June 2, 2009

How would you feel if you found out that an American school, paid for with your tax dollars, was bombed and completely destroyed by a US ally? This happened in Gaza just a few months ago, during Israel’s now-infamous Operation Cast Lead.

I’ve been touring Gaza for the past three days as part of a Code Pink delegation, and the concrete rubble and twisted rebar of the American International School in Gaza is just one of the many horrifying images we’ve seen on this trip. The school, which taught American progressive values to Palestinian kids in grades K-12, was bombed by US-supplied Israeli F-16s in early January. The Israelis claimed, without supplying evidence, that Hamas fighters had fired rockets from the school. Now several hundred kids have not only lost the school they dearly loved; they have been given a very different lesson in American values, one no doubt unintended by the school’s founders and teachers.

The people of Gaza suffered immensely from the Israeli assault, which not only killed some 1,400 and injured 5,000 but destroyed or heavily damaged mosques, schools, hospitals, universities, and industrial and other business establishments, in addition to thousands of private homes. Dr. Marwan Sultan, who practices at Kamal Adwan Hospital in Beit Lahiya, told me his hospital was so damaged they had to send all patients to al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City–which was itself damaged. The bombing of one school in Beit Lahiya killed about forty kids and injured a hundred, Sultan told me. He saw scenes of death and mutilation that still give him nightmares. Thousands are living in tent cities all over the Strip, and the entire population of Gaza is being strangled to this day by a blockade that is choking off any possibility of reconstruction or recovery.

Make no mistake about it: the blockade, directly enforced by Israel and Egypt but conspired in by their superpower patron in Washington, is a continuing act of war against an entire civilian population of 1.5 million, a form of collective punishment and a crime against humanity. John Ging, director of operations for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which officially invited Code Pink to come to Gaza, told our delegation that billions in aid had been promised in the wake of Israel’s massacre, but so far nothing had arrived. Our delegation, he said, is the first concrete action of solidarity with an oppressed, long-suffering population. Four months after a devastating conflict, he added, the siege continues. “The first thing we need to see is the opening up of crossing points and an end to collective punishment because of the political failures and security problems created by a few.” It’s a matter of life and death, he said, “and we’re running out of time…. The people of Gaza are asking for help, justice and the rule of law.”

Code Pink–whose organizers, I might add, have done a fabulous job in arranging this tour–is urging Obama to break the siege himself by visiting Gaza on his Middle East tour. That’s not likely to happen, of course, but the least he could do is demand an end to the blockade. He’s more likely to do so if Americans put on the pressure. Readers: it’s your turn.

© 2009 The Nation

Roane Carey, managing editor at The Nation, was the editor of The New Intifada (Verso) and, with Jonathan Shainin, The Other Israel: Voices of Refusal and Dissent (New Press).

US Officials Confirm Israeli Attack in Sudan

March 27, 2009

Intelligence Reports Alleged Iranian Operative in Sudan Coordinated Efforts

Antiwar.com, March 27, 2009

US officials have confirmed today that the attack against a convoy of trucks in Sudan was in fact carried out by Israeli warplanes. The attack destroyed the entire convoy, killing 39 people. Israeli officials had declined to confirm the attack, though Prime Minister Olmert used the report to underscore Israel’s ability to launch attacks on targets “anywhere.”

The officials, citing classified intelligence, claimed that there had been intelligence reports that an operative from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps was in Sudan at the time, coordinating the effort to smuggle weapons into the Gaza Strip.

The Sudanese government had kept quiet about the attack for months as an apparent attempt to save face at their inability to stop or even determine who had launched the attack. A government spokesman today claimed the attack “was a genocide, committed by US forces,” and put the death toll at over 100.

Related Stories

compiled by Jason Ditz [email the author]

Question and Answer on Gaza

January 20, 2009

On December 27, 2008, Israel launched its brutal assault on Gaza, Operation Cast Lead. The aim here has been to collect in one place the most frequently-asked questions and to offer answers and sources. You can read the whole thing through (warning: it’s long!) or see a separate list of sections and questions, and jump to the ones you’re interested in.

Introduction

1. Doesn’t Israel have the right to defend itself and its population from rocket attacks?

Rockets from Gaza aimed at Israeli civilians violate international law. But any assessment of whether Israeli military actions constitute lawful self-defense has to take account of the context and the question of proportionality. The broad context is that the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories is illegal and unjust and Israel can’t claim self-defense when Palestinians struggle by legitimate means to end the occupation. (In the same way, Japanese troops couldn’t claim self-defense when they were attacked by guerrillas in occupied China or the occupied Philippines during World War II.) The proper Israeli response to such Palestinian actions is not “self-defense,” but full withdrawal from the occupied territories.

Gaza

2. While conquests in wars of aggression are clearly illegal, didn’t Israel obtain the West Bank and Gaza as the result of a defensive war against an attack waged by neighboring Arab states?

The West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and Gaza, as well as the Sinai and the Golan Heights were conquered by Israel during the June 1967 war, a war in which Israel attacked first. Israel’s supporters argue that although Israel fired the first shots, this was a justified preventive war, given that Arab armies were mobilizing on Israel’s borders, with murderous rhetoric. The rhetoric was indeed blood-curdling, and many people around the world worried for Israel’s safety. But those who understood the military situation — in Tel Aviv and the Pentagon — knew quite well that even if the Arabs struck first, Israel would prevail in any war. Egypt’s leader was looking for a way out and agreed to send his vice-president to Washington for negotiations. Before that could happen, Israel attacked, in part because it rejected negotiations and the prospect of any face-saving compromise for Egypt. Menachem Begin, who was an enthusiastic supporter of that (and other) Israeli wars was quite clear about the necessity for launching an attack: In June 1967, he said, Israel “had a choice.” Egyptian Army concentrations did not prove that Nasser was about to attack. “We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him.”[1] However, even if it were the case that the 1967 war was wholly defensive on Israel’s part, this could not justify continued rule over Palestinians. A people do not lose their right to self-determination because the government of a neighboring state goes to war. Sure, punish Jordan and don’t give it back the West Bank (to which it had no right in the first place, having joined with Israel in carving up the stillborn Palestinian state envisioned in the UN’s 1947 partition plan). And don’t return Gaza to Egyptian administrative control. But there is no basis for punishing the Palestinian population by forcing them to submit to foreign military occupation. Israel immediately incorporated occupied East Jerusalem into Israel proper, announcing that Jerusalem was its united and eternal capital. It then began to establish settlements in the Occupied Territories in violation of the Geneva Conventions, which prohibit a conquering power from settling its population on occupied territory. The Israeli government legal adviser at the time, the distinguished jurist Theodor Meron, warned that any settlements would be illegal,[2] but he was ignored. And the International Court of Justice has ruled — in a portion of an opinion that had the unanimous support of all its judges, including the one from the United States — that all the settlements in the occupied territories are illegal.[3]

3. Hasn’t Israel withdrawn from Gaza, thereby ending its occupation?

The Israeli withdrawal did not end the occupation. As John Dugard, the UN’s then special rapporteur on the Occupied Palestinian Territories, noted in 2006: Statements by the Government of Israel that the withdrawal ended the occupation of Gaza are grossly inaccurate. Even before the commencement of ‘Operation Summer Rains,’ following the capture of Corporal Shalit, Gaza remained under the effective control of Israel. This control was manifested in a number of ways. Israel retained control of Gaza’s air space, sea space and external borders. Although a special arrangement was made for the opening of the Rafah border crossing to Egypt, to be monitored by European Union personnel, all other crossings remained largely closed…. The actions of IDF [Israeli Defense Force] in respect of Gaza have clearly demonstrated that modern technology allows an occupying Power to effectively control a territory even without a military presence.[4] On November 20, 2008, Human Rights Watch wrote to Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert, stating, among other things, “Even though Israel withdrew its permanent military forces and settlers in 2005, it remains an occupying power in Gaza under international law because it continues to exercise effective day-to-day control over key aspects of life in Gaza.”[5] If Israel had truly withdrawn from Gaza, then Israel could not prohibit Gaza from trading by sea or air with other nations, bar people from sailing or flying in to or out of Gaza, overfly Gazan airspace or patrol its coastal waters, or declare “no go zones” within Gaza. Israel also controls Gaza’s Population Registry and collects import duties on any goods it allows into Gaza.[6]

4. Regardless of whether the occupation legally continues, didn’t Israel give up its settlements and its military bases in Gaza?

Israel’s Gaza “disengagement” was a unilateral move, not worked out with any Palestinian leaders at all. Israeli settlers were removed from Gaza, but more new settlers moved to the West Bank in 2005 than left Gaza and more Palestinian land was taken over on the West Bank than was given up in Gaza.[7] To many it seemed clear that the disengagement, rather than a step towards eventual Palestinian statehood, was in fact a move to secure Israel’s hold on the West Bank and deny any independent existence for the Palestinian people. As Ariel Sharon’s chief aide, Dov Weisglass, told an interviewer for an Israeli newspaper: The significance of the disengagement plan “is the freezing of the political process. And when you freeze that process you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state and you prevent a discussion about the refugees, the borders and Jerusalem. Effectively, this whole package that is called the Palestinian state, with all that it entails, has been removed from our agenda indefinitely.”[8]

5. Why should Israel have an obligation to open its borders with or transmit electricty or fuel to Gaza? Doesn’t it have the sovereign right to close its borders as it wishes?

When a country has controlled a territory for 40 years, and prohibits all construction or development that might allow that territory to function independent of the country, it bears obligations. When, in addition, the country prohibits the territory from engaging in trade via air or sea, it cannot claim the right to cut off land crossings.

6. Gaza shares a land border with Egypt. Why is Israel blamed for cutting off Gaza’s borders?

When Israel “disengaged” from Gaza, it did not turn the Rafah crossing — the connection to Egypt — over to the Palestinians. Instead, the Rafah crossing was the subject of an Agreement on Movement and Access (AMA) signed in November 2005 by the Palestinian Authority and Israel, with U.S. backing, that provided that the crossing would be staffed by personnel from the European Union (EU). According to the Agreement, Israel would have a veto on who could come and go through the border (though Israelis wouldn’t be present at the crossing, but they would have real time video feed and advance notice of anyone seeking to cross). As the Israeli human rights organization Gisha has noted, “With the exception of personal effects brought by travelers, imports through Rafah, the only crossing into Gaza not directly controlled by Israel, are not permitted. “[9] Egypt could, of course, ignore the AMA and open the border anyway. And it should do so. And the EU and the U.S. governments could and should end their financial strangulation of Gaza and send supplies by sea to Gaza’s coast, ignoring any Israeli blockade, since presumably Israel wouldn’t sink EU or U.S. vessels. The behavior of all of these governments is reprehensible.

Hamas

7. Didn’t Hamas just use the Israeli disengagement from Gaza as an opportunity to launch rockets at Israel without provocation?

Rocket attacks declined after the Israeli “disengagement.” There were 281 rockets fired at Israel from Gaza in 2004, and 179 in 2005. The disengagement was completed in September 2005. In the four month period October 2005 through January 2006, there were only 40 rockets fired.[10] In late September, there was a flurry of rockets launched from Gaza, following a deadly explosion at a Hamas armed victory parade in the Jabaliya refugee camp in Gaza. Most observers, including the Palestinian Authority (then involved in internecine conflict with Hamas) blamed the explosion on a Hamas accident; Hamas claimed Israel was responsible. Whatever the truth, according to the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, an Israeli think tank closely tied to the Israeli intelligence and military establishment[11]: “Afterwards, Fatah factions and the PIJ [Palestinian Islamic Jihad] launched the greatest number of rockets. Hamas stopped its direct involvement in rocket launching following the internal and external criticism it received for having harmed the civilian Palestinian populace, and later because of its governmental commitments.”[12] Other Palestinian groups did launch rockets. In October 2005 there was another bout of rocket fire. But this did not occur in isolation. And in the pattern of violence and retaliatory violence it is hard to determine who “started” it. On October 23, 2005, Israeli forces killed two Islamic Jihad members on the West Bank; rockets were then fired from Gaza, without causing any injuries; Israel then closed border crossings; its planes flew low over Gaza creating sonic booms and it fired air to ground missiles, injuring five; a suicide bomber from the West Bank attacked an Israeli town, killing five; Israel unleashed further airstrikes and artillery on Gaza, killing eight including three children.[13] Things cooled down a few days later and remained reasonably calm until after the election of Hamas at the end of January 2006.

8. How did Israel and the West react to Hamas’s election victory?

In January 2006, Hamas participated in Palestinian legislative elections (reversing its previous policy of abstentionism), and received a plurality of the votes. International observers certified the elections as fair,[14] and indeed, these were among the rare democratically elected leaders in the Arab world. Washington had pressed Israel to allow the 2006 election and Hamas’s victory was a surprise to everyone (including Hamas). Ironically, earlier, the United States and Israel had given support to Hamas in an attempt to undermine the secular leadership of the PLO.[15] Most analysts concluded that voters were expressing not so much support for Hamas’s religious positions, as rejection of Fatah’s corrupt and pusillanimous leadership, which after many years had brought Palestinians no closer to a viable state of their own. Hamas’s entry into the government might have been taken as an opportunity to try to encourage it to moderate its positions, but Israel, the United States, and the European Union determined to crush it. Israel refused to turn over Palestinian tax revenues and closed borders, causing severe economic hardship. International donors, especially the United States and the EU, withheld funds, and Washington went a step further and imposed draconian regulations. As the mainstream International Crisis Group explained, “NGOs engaged in humanitarian relief work face significant obstacles stemming from extraordinarily restrictive U.S. Treasury Department regulations; U.S. organisations, for example, require pre-approval for their donations, which must be in-kind rather than cash. “Such restrictions affect developmental assistance – $450 million in 2005 – even more severely, for it often involves direct contacts with the PA. Some U.S. NGOs have had entire projects suspended. CARE, the international aid agency, which had hitherto provided 30 per cent of the health ministry’s medicines under a USAID-funded emergency medical assistance program, halted regular supplies after USAID withheld approval.”[16]

9. How could Hamas be a partner for peace? Didn’t they refuse the three U.S.-Israeli conditions: that they recognize Israel, renounce violence, and agree to accept all agreements previously accepted by the Palestinian Authority?

Hamas has indeed refused these three conditions, but no more so than Israel and the United States have done. Hamas has not recognized Israel, but Israel and the United States have not recognized an independent Palestinian state. Consider General Assembly resolution 63/165 that was adopted on December 18, 2008. The resolution reaffirms the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, including the right to an independent State of Palestine, and further urged all States and United Nations entities to continue to support and assist the Palestinian people in the early realization of their right to self-determination. The resolution passed by the overwhelming vote of 173 in favor and 5 opposed, with 7 abstentions. The five nay votes were the United States, Israel, and three tiny U.S.-dependent Pacific island nations.[17] Of course, Israel may say that it is willing to accept a Palestine state, just not on the 1967 borders, and indeed so long as it is confined to a tiny swath of unviable territory. But if Hamas returned the favor, saying it was willing to recognize Israel, but only if it were confined to Tel Aviv and its suburbs, one doubts Israel and the United States would consider that adequately forthcoming. Regarding the use of violence, it would be nice if Hamas renounced the use of violence. Certainly, however, any sermons in this regard from the United States or Israel are preposterous. (Think Sinai, 1956, or Lebanon, 1982, or Iraq, 2003.) It might also be noted that those Israelis who actually renounce violence — by refusing military service in an occupying army — are imprisoned.[18] As for agreeing with previous agreements, put aside Washington’s withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty, its “unsigning” of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and its failure to comply with the World Court’s ruling on Nicaragua. Consider simply that the World Court found Israel to be in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention (to which it is a party) in its construction of the Wall on the occupied West Bank.[19] By a vote of 150 to 6 with 10 abstentions, the General Assembly affirmed that World Court opinion and called on Israel to comply.[20] Israel refused to do so and the United States supported its refusal. Thus, for Israel and the United States, treaties solemnly accepted are just scraps of paper. For Palestinians, who signed on to the 1993 Oslo Accords which promised them a state by 1999, only to see no state and a huge expansion in the number of Israeli settlers,[21] Israel’s insistence that Hamas adhere to agreements must seem a cruel joke.

10. Hasn’t Hamas refused to ever accept the existence of Israel?

When Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert addressed a joint session of the U.S. Congress in 2006, he declared his continuing belief “in our people’s eternal and historic right to this entire land.”[22] Yet, he said, he understood the necessity of compromise. Hamas has taken a similar position: it considers Palestine in its entirety to be sacred Muslim land, it considers the state of Israel to be illegitimate, but yet it has made clear on numerous occasions that it was willing to compromise, and that it would accept a two-state solution on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state, along with a truce that could last 20, 30, or 50 years, or even indefinitely.[23] Israel and the United States, however, refused to pursue these Hamas offers and refused to talk with Hamas at all — despite the fact that a majority of Israelis[24] and conservative analysts such as Efraim Halevy, the former head of the Israeli intelligence service, Mossad,[25] supported such talks.

11. Doesn’t Hamas support Islamic fundamentalism and anti-Semitism?

Unfortunately, throughout the Middle East over the past few decades secular nationalist and progressive movements have been replaced by fundamentalists, a result of both the tremendous repression the nationalist and leftist movements have faced and their own internal weaknesses. And anti-Semitism has grown across the Middle East, which is not surprising given that Palestinians have been subjected to horrendous barbarity by a self-described “Jewish state.” (And Middle Easterners are not encouraged to make fine distinctions when Israeli apologists declare that all criticisms of Israel are ipso facto anti-Semitic.) Obviously, we must reject anti-Semitism and the retrograde social views of fundamentalists. Hamas, which had its origins in the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, comes out of an Islamic fundamentalist background. But origins alone do not determine present behavior. A March 2008 assessment of Hamas’s current practice by the mainstream International Crisis Group paints a mixed picture. Hamas “denies any intent of coercively imposing an Islamist entity. It appointed some non-Hamas figures to run its security services and administer its judiciary. There are no flagrant signs of Islamisation of the courts and schools. The authorities did not alter the PA school curriculum, the PA’s law code or its constitution. In January 2008, in accordance with PA practice but controversial within Islamic tradition, they appointed a woman judge and promoted another to head the Appeals Court. Notably, since August 2007, Hamas has recruited policewomen to fill the gap, attracting them through television and radio stations, as well as through mosques. Over 100 women have applied. A Hamas official maintained: ‘The people in Ramallah are trying to stigmatise Hamas as extremist. But an Islamic emirate will not come about in Gaza.’ “That said, past performance is no guarantee of future conduct, and civil rights groups as well as non-Hamas preachers remain deeply worried, pointing in particular to indirect forms of social pressure. Within Hamas, a more hardline clerical faction insists on a greater role for Sharia (Islamic law)…. “A senior Hamas jurist’s reply was equivocal: ‘We want the courts to apply Sharia law, but we won’t compel the people.’ Yet in some cases, they have done just that…. “Moreover, amid Gaza’s intensifying isolation and accompanying withdrawal of a Western presence, social mores have grown increasingly conservative and patriarchal – a process that some of Hamas’s more zealous militants, particularly within the security forces, have encouraged. The time devoted to religious instruction in schools has increased, and some teachers are known to punish girls who do not wear the veil. Although women continue to walk the streets unveiled, and officials say there has been no ruling on dress-code, Hamas militants are known to have enjoined some women to don scarves. Similarly while Hamas has curbed the killing of women on grounds of immorality, unmarried couples in cars reported some cases of being beaten and detained. The rate of attacks on internet cafes – apparently by non-Hamas groups – has begun to climb after a brief lull following the [June 2007] takeover, and Gaza’s Christians accuse Hamas forces of doing too little too late to reverse a significant increase in attacks on their community of 3,000, evidence, say some, of the growing influence radical Islamism commands within Hamas ranks.”[26] Unfortunately, continuing Israeli brutality and Palestinian helplessness will likely increase the worst tendencies of Hamas. At the same time, in Israel, Jewish fundamentalists are politically strong and part of the governing coalition. The U.S. State Department has noted the Israeli “Government’s unequal treatment of non-Orthodox Jews, including the Government’s recognition of only Orthodox Jewish religious authorities in personal and some civil status matters concerning Jews. Government allocations of state resources favor Orthodox (including Modern and National Religious streams of Orthodoxy) and ultra-Orthodox (sometimes referred to as “Haredi”) Jewish religious groups and institutions.”[27] Hamas’s 1988 Charter cites the Protocols of the Elders of Zion,[28] though in many respects the document is outdated.[29] The organization does, however, still resort to anti-Semitic rhetoric.[30] But that Hamas holds such views does not disqualify it as a party to peace talks, any more than the fact that Hindus and Muslims in South Asia have racist views of one another precludes them from sitting down together. And certainly many Israelis have racist views of Palestinians[31] (recall the comment of the father of Obama’s new chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, saying that Arabs were fit only to clean floors[32]). One can find vile anti-Jewish rhetoric from some Palestinian religious leaders. But one can find equally repulsive language from some Israeli rabbis. For example, the former Sephardic chief rabbi of Israel proclaimed a religious ruling in 2007 “that there was absolutely no moral prohibition against the indiscriminate killing of civilians during a potential massive military offensive on Gaza aimed at stopping the rocket launchings” because “an entire city holds collective responsibility for the immoral behavior of individuals.” The rabbi’s son, who is chief rabbi of Safed, explained: “If they don’t stop after we kill 100, then we must kill a thousand…. And if they do not stop after 1,000 then we must kill 10,000. If they still don’t stop we must kill 100,000, even a million. Whatever it takes to make them stop.”[33] Racism must be opposed, but it makes no sense to rule a party out as a potential partner for peace until its racism has been eliminated.

12. Is Hamas a terrorist organization?

Hamas was never a terrorist organization like al-Qaeda. Unlike the latter, it has a mass base, social welfare programs, and, now, an electoral constituency. Hamas has engaged in terrorist acts, most notably by purposely targeting civilians with suicide bombs. Sherdia Zuhur, Research Professor of Islamic and Regional Studies at the Strategic Studies Institute at the U.S. Army War College, wrote: “HAMAS operatives first utilized suicide attacks in 1994, after an American-born Israeli settler, Baruch Goldstein, fired on and threw hand grenades at unarmed worshippers in the al-Haram al-Ibrahimi mosque in Hebron on February 25, killing 29. It was thought that Goldstein had attained entry with assistance of Israeli troops. Until that date, HAMAS’ only targets were Israeli military. It ceased such attacks, which were very controversial with other Palestinians in 1995, and reintroduced them after the “targeted killing” of HAMAS leader Yahya Ayyash.”[34] Zuhur went on to note that “HAMAS observed a 3-year moratorium on suicide attacks, which was then reestablished for a year, and possibly broken in a January 2008 attack in Dimona which may have been carried out by HAMAS or by other actors.”[35] And at various intervals, Hamas has fired rockets at civilian areas, which is also a form of terrorism. What this record suggests is that Hamas has engaged in terrorism, has not ruled it out, but is also amenable to refraining from terrorism in what it sees as appropriate circumstances. Such a record should be condemned — for terrorism is always wrong — but Israel’s record of terrorism must be condemned as well.

13. How can Israel be accused of terrorism since it doesn’t intentionally kill civilians, and views all civilian deaths that it causes as regrettable accidents?

Keep in mind the official U.S. definition of terrorism: “premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets.”[36]Three points need to be noted here. First, inflicting pain on civilians for political purposes has long been official Israeli policy. When Hamas kidnapped an Israeli soldier in June 2006, Israel responded by destroying Gaza’s only power plant, causing massive suffering.[37] Israeli leaders have openly acknowledged that they intended to cripple Gaza’s economy as a way to undermine support for Hamas. (That this is a foolish policy makes it no less immoral. That the governments of the United States, the European Union, and Egypt are complicit in the policy likewise makes it no less immoral.) Gazans have seen poverty and unemployment soar and their health and welfare decline as Israel has closed their borders, cut fuel and power supplies, and denied them their own tax revenues. Human rights groups[38] and United Nations officials[39] have condemned this policy of economic strangulation, deeming it “collective punishment.” When New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman writes that he hopes Israel is pursuing a strategy in Gaza of trying to inflict “heavy pain on Gaza civilians,” he is endorsing a policy that is indistinguishable from the above-cited official U.S. government definition of terrorism.[40] Second, over the years Israel has intentionally killed civilians. Among other instances, it has used lethal fire against demonstrators who posed no serious threat.[41] It has targeted and killed medical personnel and journalists.[42] And now it has targeted and killed civilian police and non-military government personnel in Gaza (as will be discussed below). Third, even when civilians have not been specifically targeted, Israel has shown reckless disregard for the welfare of civilians, killing many. These are not “unfortunate accidents,” but the result of willful, criminal negligence. It is true that in domestic law we distinguish between intentional and unintentional killing, with the former being a much more serious offense than the latter. But domestic law also recognizes that sometimes criminal negligence can be as condemnable as premeditation. As the Palestinian human rights organization Al Haq correctly puts it, “the choice of targeted areas, methods of attack and the number of civilians killed and injured clearly indicate a reckless disregard for civilian life synonymous with intent.”[43] Consider the record before the current Israeli attack on Gaza. According to statistics from the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, from the beginning of the second Intifada on September 29, 2000, until November 30, 2008, 2,990 Palestinians in Gaza were killed by Israeli security forces. Of these, 1,382 were known not to be taking part in hostilities.[44] (During this same seven year period, Palestinian rockets or mortars from Gaza killed a grand total of 22 Israeli civilians.[45]) If these Palestinian rockets constituted terrorism and war crimes — and they do — how much greater were the crimes of the Israeli government? And this is so whether Israeli officials express pro forma regret or instead declare, as Prime Minister Ariel Sharon did in March 2002, “The Palestinians must be hit and it must be painful. We must cause them losses, victims, so they feel the heavy price.”[46]

Continued >>

Broken town shows Gaza destruction

January 19, 2009

BBC, January 18, 2009

Gazans returning to their homes in Beit Lahiya were shocked

The BBC’s Paul Wood is part of the first group of journalists to gain independent access to Gaza from Israel. He reports from Gaza City on his impressions as he entered northern Gaza hours after Israel declared a unilateral ceasefire.

The Erez crossing from Israel into Gaza is an eerie place at the best of times.

The first hours of a shaky ceasefire are not “the best of times”.

As we stepped out of the concrete tunnel which leads from Israeli passport control, we could hear tanks manoeuvring nearby.

Their spent shells were on the ground. Israeli drones – un-manned aircraft – were circling overhead.

Unsurprisingly, the road was completely deserted, save for a couple of wild dogs and a donkey whose owner had long since fled.

The Hamas customs post, too, was abandoned – destroyed by Israeli fire.

Residents in Gaza describe their ordeal

But it was in the nearby town of Beit Lahiya that we saw the first real destruction and a hint of how so many lives have been lost here.

There were streets churned up by Israeli heavy armour; overturned cars; a lake of raw sewage in the street and a mosque left as a broken, charred ruin and smoke was still rising from a large school building across the way.

A Palestinian man carrying a white cane told me how his 13-year-old son had been killed by a tank shell.

“We were sleeping in our beds,” he says, “I am nearly blind. We were no threat to the Israelis.”

Everyone here denied there were military targets in the homes fired on by the Israeli forces.

But Hamas officials stopped us from filming at one site where bodies were still being removed.

This was a sign, perhaps, that there had indeed been some kind of military target if not in the houses then nearby.

Who is to blame for the loss of life in Gaza will be fiercely disputed between Israel and Hamas even as the final death toll is calculated.

Israel Is Committing War Crimes

January 13, 2009

Hamas’s violations are no justification for Israel’s actions.

By GEORGE E. BISHARAT | The Wall Street Journal, January 10, 2009

Israel’s current assault on the Gaza Strip cannot be justified by self-defense. Rather, it involves serious violations of international law, including war crimes. Senior Israeli political and military leaders may bear personal liability for their offenses, and they could be prosecuted by an international tribunal, or by nations practicing universal jurisdiction over grave international crimes. Hamas fighters have also violated the laws of warfare, but their misdeeds do not justify Israel’s acts.

The United Nations charter preserved the customary right of a state to retaliate against an “armed attack” from another state. The right has evolved to cover nonstate actors operating beyond the borders of the state claiming self-defense, and arguably would apply to Hamas. However, an armed attack involves serious violations of the peace. Minor border skirmishes are common, and if all were considered armed attacks, states could easily exploit them — as surrounding facts are often murky and unverifiable — to launch wars of aggression. That is exactly what Israel seems to be currently attempting.

Israel had not suffered an “armed attack” immediately prior to its bombardment of the Gaza Strip. Since firing the first Kassam rocket into Israel in 2002, Hamas and other Palestinian groups have loosed thousands of rockets and mortar shells into Israel, causing about two dozen Israeli deaths and widespread fear. As indiscriminate attacks on civilians, these were war crimes. During roughly the same period, Israeli forces killed about 2,700 Palestinians in Gaza by targeted killings, aerial bombings, in raids, etc., according to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem.

But on June 19, 2008, Hamas and Israel commenced a six-month truce. Neither side complied perfectly. Israel refused to substantially ease the suffocating siege of Gaza imposed in June 2007. Hamas permitted sporadic rocket fire — typically after Israel killed or seized Hamas members in the West Bank, where the truce did not apply. Either one or no Israelis were killed (reports differ) by rockets in the half year leading up to the current attack.

Israel then broke the truce on Nov. 4, raiding the Gaza Strip and killing a Palestinian. Hamas retaliated with rocket fire; Israel then killed five more Palestinians. In the following days, Hamas continued rocket fire — yet still no Israelis died. Israel cannot claim self-defense against this escalation, because it was provoked by Israel’s own violation.

An armed attack that is not justified by self-defense is a war of aggression. Under the Nuremberg Principles affirmed by U.N. Resolution 95, aggression is a crime against peace.

Israel has also failed to adequately discriminate between military and nonmilitary targets. Israel’s American-made F-16s and Apache helicopters have destroyed mosques, the education and justice ministries, a university, prisons, courts and police stations. These institutions were part of Gaza’s civilian infrastructure. And when nonmilitary institutions are targeted, civilians die. Many killed in the last week were young police recruits with no military roles. Civilian employees in the Hamas-led government deserve the protections of international law like all others. Hamas’s ideology — which employees may or may not share — is abhorrent, but civilized nations do not kill people merely for what they think.

Deliberate attacks on civilians that lack strict military necessity are war crimes. Israel’s current violations of international law extend a long pattern of abuse of the rights of Gaza Palestinians. Eighty percent of Gaza’s 1.5 million residents are Palestinian refugees who were forced from their homes or fled in fear of Jewish terrorist attacks in 1948. For 60 years, Israel has denied the internationally recognized rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes — because they are not Jews.

Although Israel withdrew its settlers and soldiers from Gaza in 2005, it continues to tightly regulate Gaza’s coast, airspace and borders. Thus, Israel remains an occupying power with a legal duty to protect Gaza’s civilian population. But Israel’s 18-month siege of the Gaza Strip preceding the current crisis violated this obligation egregiously. It brought economic activity to a near standstill, left children hungry and malnourished, and denied Palestinian students opportunities to study abroad.

Israel should be held accountable for its crimes, and the U.S. should stop abetting it with unconditional military and diplomatic support.

George E. Bisharat is a professor at Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco.


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