Archive for December, 2008

Gaza: the logic of colonial power

December 31, 2008

As so often, the term ‘terrorism’ has proved a rhetorical smokescreen under cover of which the strong crush the weak

I have spent most of the Bush administration’s tenure reporting from Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Somalia and other conflicts. I have been published by most major publications. I have been interviewed by most major networks and I have even testified before the senate foreign relations committee. The Bush administration began its tenure with Palestinians being massacred and it ends with Israel committing one of its largest massacres yet in a 60-year history of occupying Palestinian land. Bush’s final visit to the country he chose to occupy ended with an educated secular Shiite Iraqi throwing his shoes at him, expressing the feelings of the entire Arab world save its dictators who have imprudently attached themselves to a hated American regime.

Once again, the Israelis bomb the starving and imprisoned population of Gaza. The world watches the plight of 1.5 million Gazans live on TV and online; the western media largely justify the Israeli action. Even some Arab outlets try to equate the Palestinian resistance with the might of the Israeli military ma plight of 1.5 million Gazanschine. And none of this is a surprise. The Israelis just concluded a round-the-world public relations campaign to gather support for their assault, even gaining the collaboration of Arab states like Egypt.

The international community is directly guilty for this latest massacre. Will it remain immune from the wrath of a desperate people? So far, there have been large demonstrations in Lebanon, Yemen, Jordan, Egypt, Syria and Iraq. The people of the Arab world will not forget. The Palestinians will not forget. “All that you have done to our people is registered in our notebooks,” as the poet Mahmoud Darwish said.

I have often been asked by policy analysts, policy-makers and those stuck with implementing those policies for my advice on what I think America should do to promote peace or win hearts and minds in the Muslim world. It too often feels futile, because such a revolution in American policy would be required that only a true revolution in the American government could bring about the needed changes. An American journal once asked me to contribute an essay to a discussion on whether terrorism or attacks against civilians could ever be justified. My answer was that an American journal should not be asking whether attacks on civilians can ever be justified. This is a question for the weak, for the Native Americans in the past, for the Jews in Nazi Germany, for the Palestinians today, to ask themselves.

Terrorism is a normative term and not a descriptive concept. An empty word that means everything and nothing, it is used to describe what the Other does, not what we do. The powerful – whether Israel, America, Russia or China – will always describe their victims’ struggle as terrorism, but the destruction of Chechnya, the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, the slow slaughter of the remaining Palestinians, the American occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan – with the tens of thousands of civilians it has killed … these will never earn the title of terrorism, though civilians were the target and terrorising them was the purpose.

Counterinsurgency, now popular again among in the Pentagon, is another way of saying the suppression of national liberation struggles. Terror and intimidation are as essential to it as is winning hearts and minds.

Normative rules are determined by power relations. Those with power determine what is legal and illegal. They besiege the weak in legal prohibitions to prevent the weak from resisting. For the weak to resist is illegal by definition. Concepts like terrorism are invented and used normatively as if a neutral court had produced them, instead of the oppressors. The danger in this excessive use of legality actually undermines legality, diminishing the credibility of international institutions such as the United Nations. It becomes apparent that the powerful, those who make the rules, insist on legality merely to preserve the power relations that serve them or to maintain their occupation and colonialism.

Attacking civilians is the last, most desperate and basic method of resistance when confronting overwhelming odds and imminent eradication. The Palestinians do not attack Israeli civilians with the expectation that they will destroy Israel. The land of Palestine is being stolen day after day; the Palestinian people is being eradicated day after day. As a result, they respond in whatever way they can to apply pressure on Israel. Colonial powers use civilians strategically, settling them to claim land and dispossess the native population, be they Indians in North America or Palestinians in what is now Israel and the Occupied Territories. When the native population sees that there is an irreversible dynamic that is taking away their land and identity with the support of an overwhelming power, then they are forced to resort to whatever methods of resistance they can.

Not long ago, 19-year-old Qassem al-Mughrabi, a Palestinian man from Jerusalem drove his car into a group of soldiers at an intersection. “The terrorist”, as the Israeli newspaper Haaretz called him, was shot and killed. In two separate incidents last July, Palestinians from Jerusalem also used vehicles to attack Israelis. The attackers were not part of an organisation. Although those Palestinian men were also killed, senior Israeli officials called for their homes to be demolished. In a separate incident, Haaretz reported that a Palestinian woman blinded an Israeli soldier in one eye when she threw acid n his face. “The terrorist was arrested by security forces,” the paper said. An occupied citizen attacks an occupying soldier, and she is the terrorist?

In September, Bush spoke at the United Nations. No cause could justify the deliberate taking of human life, he said. Yet the US has killed thousands of civilians in airstrikes on populated areas. When you drop bombs on populated areas knowing there will be some “collateral” civilian damage, but accepting it as worth it, then it is deliberate. When you impose sanctions, as the US did on Saddam era Iraq, that kill hundreds of thousands, and then say their deaths were worth it, as secretary of state Albright did, then you are deliberately killing people for a political goal. When you seek to “shock and awe”, as president Bush did, when he bombed Iraq, you are engaging in terrorism.

Just as the traditional American cowboy film presented white Americans under siege, with Indians as the aggressors, which was the opposite of reality, so, too, have Palestinians become the aggressors and not the victims. Beginning in 1948, 750,000 Palestinians were deliberately cleansed and expelled from their homes, and hundreds of their villages were destroyed, and their land was settled by colonists, who went on to deny their very existence and wage a 60-year war against the remaining natives and the national liberation movements the Palestinians established around the world. Every day, more of Palestine is stolen, more Palestinians are killed. To call oneself an Israeli Zionist is to engage in the dispossession of entire people. It is not that, qua Palestinians, they have the right to use any means necessary, it is because they are weak. The weak have much less power than the strong, and can do much less damage. The Palestinians would not have ever bombed cafes or used home-made missiles if they had tanks and airplanes. It is only in the current context that their actions are justified, and there are obvious limits.

It is impossible to make a universal ethical claim or establish a Kantian principle justifying any act to resist colonialism or domination by overwhelming power. And there are other questions I have trouble answering. Can an Iraqi be justified in attacking the United States? After all, his country was attacked without provocation, and destroyed, with millions of refugees created, hundreds of thousands of dead. And this, after 12 years of bombings and sanctions, which killed many and destroyed the lives of many others.

I could argue that all Americans are benefiting from their country’s exploits without having to pay the price, and that, in today’s world, the imperial machine is not merely the military but a military-civilian network. And I could also say that Americans elected the Bush administration twice and elected representatives who did nothing to stop the war, and the American people themselves did nothing. From the perspective of an American, or an Israeli, or other powerful aggressors, if you are strong, everything you do is justifiable, and nothing the weak do is legitimate. It’s merely a question of what side you choose: the side of the strong or the side of the weak.

Israel and its allies in the west and in Arab regimes such as Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia have managed to corrupt the PLO leadership, to suborn them with the promise of power at the expense of liberty for their people, creating a first – a liberation movement that collaborated with the occupier. Israeli elections are coming up and, as usual, these elections are accompanied by war to bolster the candidates. You cannot be prime minister of Israel without enough Arab blood on your hands. An Israeli general has threatened to set Gaza back decades, just as they threatened to set Lebanon back decades in 2006. As if strangling Gaza and denying its people fuel, power or food had not set it back decades already.

The democratically elected Hamas government was targeted for destruction from the day it won the elections in 2006. The world told the Palestinians that they cannot have democracy, as if the goal was to radicalise them further and as if that would not have a consequence. Israel claims it is targeting Hamas’s military forces. This is not true. It is targeting Palestinian police forces and killing them, including some such as the chief of police, Tawfiq Jaber, who was actually a former Fatah official who stayed on in his post after Hamas took control of Gaza. What will happen to a society with no security forces? What do the Israelis expect to happen when forces more radical than Hamas gain power?

A Zionist Israel is not a viable long-term project and Israeli settlements, land expropriation and separation barriers have long since made a two state solution impossible. There can be only one state in historic Palestine. In coming decades, Israelis will be confronted with two options. Will they peacefully transition towards an equal society, where Palestinians are given the same rights, à la post-apartheid South Africa? Or will they continue to view democracy as a threat? If so, one of the peoples will be forced to leave. Colonialism has only worked when most of the natives have been exterminated. But often, as in occupied Algeria, it is the settlers who flee. Eventually, the Palestinians will not be willing to compromise and seek one state for both people. Does the world want to further radicalise them?

Do not be deceived: the persistence of the Palestine problem is the main motive for every anti-American militant in the Arab world and beyond. But now the Bush administration has added Iraq and Afghanistan as additional grievances. America has lost its influence on the Arab masses, even if it can still apply pressure on Arab regimes. But reformists and elites in the Arab world want nothing to do with America.

A failed American administration departs, the promise of a Palestinian state a lie, as more Palestinians are murdered. A new president comes to power, but the people of the Middle East have too much bitter experience of US administrations to have any hope for change. President-elect Obama, Vice President-elect Biden and incoming secretary of state Hillary Clinton have not demonstrated that their view of the Middle East is at all different from previous administrations. As the world prepares to celebrate a new year, how long before it is once again made to feel the pain of those whose oppression it either ignores or supports?

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Israel’s Warped Self-justification For Murder

December 31, 2008

Paul J. Balles exposes Israel’s warped definition of self-defence, which it uses as a cover for its murder of innocent Palestinians, including women and children, and its destruction of universities, mosques and other civilian infrastructure in the occupied Gaza Strip.

By Paul J. Balles | Information Clearing House, Dec 31, 2008

Israel brazenly lies, saying that Hamas broke the cease-fire when it was Israel that broke the cease-fire in November.

In Haaretz, Zvi Barel writes: “Six months ago Israel asked and received a cease-fire from Hamas. It unilaterally violated it when it blew up a tunnel, while still asking Egypt to get the Islamic group to hold its fire.”

Israel continues its propaganda, claiming that its attack on Gaza is in self-defence.

The Huffington Post reports, “A mother whose three school-age children were killed, and are piled one on top of the other in the morgue, screams and then cries, screams again and then is silent.”

Self-defence?

The New York Times reported: “At Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, women wailed as they searched for relatives among bodies that lay strewn on the hospital floor.”

Self-defence?

While the world is busy attempting to assess the damage from the financial crisis, Israel decides that it’s a fitting time to massacre 350 and injure another 1500 in Gaza.

Self-defence?

In its propaganda dissemination, Israelis have been getting instruction on how to paint Israel as angels and Hamas as devils. What makes Hamas Beelzebubs? They have sent 1000 rockets into Israel, killing four Israelis altogether.

Self-defence?

The Israeli navy attacked and rammed a humanitarian boat in international waters off the coast of Gaza, preventing it from delivering desperately needed medical supplies and treatment.

Self-defence?

Eva Bartlett (Canadian), International Solidarity Movement, reported from inside Gaza on 27 December: “Israeli missiles tore through a children’s playground and busy market in Diyar Balah. We saw the aftermath – many were injured and some reportedly killed.”

Self-defence?

Ewa Jasiewicz (Polish and British), Free Gaza Movement, observed: “The morgue at the Shifa Hospital has no more room for dead bodies, so bodies and body parts are strewn all over the hospital.”

Self-defence?

Sharon Lock (Australian), International Solidarity Movement, writing from Gaza: “This massacre is not going to bring security for the State of Israel or allow it to be part of the Middle East. Now calls of revenge are everywhere.”

Self-defence?

Jenny Linnel (British), International Solidarity Movement, reporting from Gaza: “In front of our house we found the bodies of two little girls under a car, completely burnt. They were coming home from school.”

Self-defence?

Nora Barrows-Friedman, Flashpoints Radio, says: “The people [in Gaza] are filled with panic and terror – and this comes after a prolonged siege that deprives them of needed food, medicine, clean water, electricity – the basics of life.”

Self-defence?

Laila El-Haddad, a mother from Gaza, writes: “My father just called to inform me he was OK – after warplanes bombed the Islamic University there, considered to be the Strip’s premier academic institution.” They also bombed a mosque. Why would the Israeli Air Force bomb a place of learning and one of prayer?

Self-defence?

Justin Alexander, writing for the Economist, notes: “”Israel’s past military responses to the rocket threat, although massively disproportionate, have … been largely ineffective. It demolished buildings and levelled large areas of farmland in the northern part of Gaza to reduce the cover available for rocket crews. It fired over 14,000 artillery shells in 2006, killing 59 Palestinian civilians in the process, in what was framed as a preventive tactic to make it more difficult for rocket crews to operate.”

Self-defence?

Haaretz ran an article by Gideon Levy reporting: “Within the span of a few hours on a Saturday [27 December] afternoon, the IDF sowed death and destruction on a scale that the Qassam rockets never approached in all their years, and Operation ‘Cast Lead’ is only in its infancy.”

Self-defence? Not on your life! Or death!

Paul J. Balles is a retired American university professor and freelance writer who has lived in the Middle East for many years. For more information, see http://www.pballes.com.

The Gaza Ghetto and Western Cant

December 31, 2008

Tariq Ali | Counterpunch, Dec 30, 2008

The assault on the Gaza Ghetto, planned over six months and executed with perfect timing was designed largely to help the incumbent parties triumph in the forthcoming Israeli elections. The dead Palestinians are little more than election fodder in a cynical contest between the Right and the Far Right in Israel. Washington and its EU allies, perfectly aware that Gaza was about to be assaulted, as in the case of Lebanon a few years, sit back and watch. Washington, as is its wont, blames the pro-Hamas Palestinians, with Obama and Bush singing from the same AIPAC hymn sheet.

The EU politicians, having observed the build-up, the siege, the collective punishment inflicted on Gaza, the targeting of civilians, etc [See Harvard scholar Sara Roy’s chilling essay in the latest LRB] were convinced that it was the rocket attacks that had ‘provoked’ Israel but called on both sides to end the violence, with nil effect. The moth-eaten Mubarik dictatorship in Egypt and NATO’s favourite Islamists in Ankara, failed to even register a symbolic protest by recalling their Ambassadors from Israel. China and Russia did not convene a meeting of the UNSC to discuss the crisis.

As result of official apathy, one outcome of this latest attack will be to inflame Muslim communities throughout the world and swell the ranks of those very organisations that the West claims it is combating in the ‘war against terror’.

The bloodshed in Gaza raises broader strategic questions for both sides, issues related to recent history. One fact that needs to be recognised is that there is no Palestinian Authority. There never was one. The Oslo Accords were an unmitigated disaster for the Palestinians, creating a set of disconnected and shrivelled Palestinian ghettoes under the permanent watch of a brutal enforcer.

The PLO, once the repository of Palestinian hope, became little more than a supplicant for EU money. Western enthusiasm for democracy stops when those opposed to its policies are elected to office. The West and Israel tried everything to secure a Fatah victory: Palestinian voters rebuffed the concerted threats and bribes of the ‘international community’ in a campaign that saw Hamas members and other oppositionists routinely detained or assaulted by the IDF, their posters confiscated or destroyed, us and EU funds channelled into the Fatah campaign, and US Congressmen announcing that Hamas should not be allowed to run. Even the timing of the election was set by the determination to rig the outcome. Scheduled for the summer of 2005, it was delayed till January 2006 to give Abbas time to distribute assets in Gaza—in the words of an Egyptian intelligence officer: ‘the public will then support the Authority against Hamas’. Popular desire for a clean broom after ten years of corruption, bullying and bluster under Fatah proved stronger than all of this.

Hamas’s electoral triumph was treated as an ominous sign of rising fundamentalism, and a fearsome blow to the prospects of peace with Israel, by rulers and journalists across the Atlantic world. Immediate financial and diplomatic pressures were applied to force Hamas to adopt the same policies as those whom it defeated at the polls.
Uncompromised by the Palestinian Authority’s combination of greed and dependency, the self-enrichment of its servile spokesmen and policemen, and their acquiescence in a ‘peace process’ that has brought only further expropriation and misery to the population under them, Hamas offered the alternative of a simple example. Without any of the resources of its rival, it set up clinics, schools, hospitals, vocational training and welfare programmes for the poor. Its leaders and cadres lived frugally, within reach of ordinary people. It is this response to everyday needs that has won Hamas the broad basis of its support, not daily recitation of verses from the Koran.

How far its conduct in the second Intifada has given it an additional degree of credibility is less clear. Its armed attacks on Israel, like those of Fatah’s Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade or Islamic Jihad, have been retaliations against an occupation far more deadly than any actions it has ever undertaken. Measured on the scale of IDF killings, Palestinian strikes have been few and far between. The asymmetry was starkly exposed during Hamas’s unilateral ceasefire, begun in June 2003, and maintained throughout the summer despite the Israeli campaign of raids and mass arrests, which followed, in which some three hundred Hamas cadres were seized from the West Bank. On 19 August 2003 a self-proclaimed ‘Hamas’ cell from Hebron, disowned and denounced by the official leadership, blew up a bus in West Jerusalem, upon which Israel promptly assassinated the Hamas ceasefire’s negotiator, Ismail Abu Shanab. Hamas in turn responded. In return, the Palestinian Authority and Arab states cut funding to its charities and, in September 2003, the EU declared the whole Hamas movement to be a terrorist organization—a long-standing demand of Tel Aviv.

What has actually distinguished Hamas in a hopelessly unequal combat is not dispatch of suicide bombers, to which a range of competing groups resorted, but its superior discipline—demonstrated by its ability to enforce a self-declared ceasefire against Israel over the past year. All civilian deaths are to be condemned, but since Israel is their principal practitioner, Euro-American cant serves only to expose those who utter it. Overwhelmingly, the boot of murder is on the other foot, ruthlessly stamped into Palestine by a modern army equipped with jets, tanks and missiles in the longest armed oppression of modern history. ‘Nobody can reject or condemn the revolt of a people that has been suffering under military occupation for forty-five years against occupation force’: the words of General Shlomo Gazit, former chief of Israeli military intelligence, in 1993.

The real grievance of the EU and US against Hamas is that it refused to accept the capitulation of the Oslo Accords, and has rejected every subsequent effort, from Taba to Geneva, to pass off their calamities on the Palestinians. The West’s priority ever since was to break this resistance. Cutting off funding to the Palestinian Authority is an obvious weapon with which to bludgeon Hamas into submission. Boosting the presidential powers of Abbas—as publicly picked for his post by Washington, as was Karzai in Kabul—at the expense of the Legislative Council is another.

No serious efforts were made to negotiate with the elected Palestinian leadership. I doubt if Hamas could have been rapidly suborned to Western and Israel but it would not have been unprecedented. Hamas’s programmatic heritage remains mortgaged to the most fatal weakness of Palestinian nationalism: the belief that the political choices before it are either rejection of the existence of Israel altogether, or acceptance of the dismembered remnants of a fifth of the country. From the fantasy maximalism of the first to the pathetic minimalism of the second, the path is all too short, as the history of Fatah has shown. The test for Hamas is not whether it can be house-trained to the satisfaction of Western opinion, but whether it can break with this crippling tradition. Soon after the Hamas victory I was asked in public by a Palestinian what I would do in their place. ‘Dissolve the Palestinian Authority’, was my response and end the make-belief. To do so would situate the Palestinian national cause on its proper basis, with the demand that the country and its resources be divided equitably, in proportion to two populations that are equal in size—not 80 per cent to one and 20 per cent to the other, a dispossession of such iniquity that no self-respecting people will ever submit to it in the long run. The only acceptable alternative is a single state for Jews and Palestinians alike, in which the exactions of Zionism are repaired.

There is no other way. And Israeli citizens might ponder the following words from Shakespeare [The Merchant of Venice] that I have slightly altered:

‘I am a Palestinian. Hath not a Palestinian eyes? Hath not a Palestinian hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Jew is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that…the villainy you teach me, I will execute; and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction.’

Tariq Ali’s latest book, ‘The Duel: Pakistan on the Flight Path of American Power’ is published by Scribner.


May We No Longer Be Silent

December 31, 2008

America’s Crimes “Never Happened”

By PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS | Counterpunch, Dec 30, 2008

The title of my article comes from the sermon of the Episcopal Bishop of Washington DC, John Bryson Chane, delivered on October 5, 2008, at St. Columba Church.  The bishop’s eyes were opened to Israel’s persecution of Palestinians by his recent trip to Palestine.  In his sermon he called on “politicians seeking the highest office in [our] land” to find the courage to “speak out and condemn violations of human rights and religious freedom denied to Palestinian Christians and Muslims” by the state of Israel.

Bishop Chane’s courage was to no avail.  When America’s new leader of “change” was informed of Israel’s massive air attack on the Gaza Ghetto, an area of 139 square miles where Israel confines 1.4 million Arabs and tightly controls the inflow of all resources–food, medicine, water, energy–America’s president-elect Obama had “no comment.”

According to the Jerusalem Post ( December 26), “at 11:30 a.m., more than 50 fighter jets and attack helicopters swept into Gazan airspace and dropped more than 100 bombs on 50 targets. . . . Thirty minutes later, a second wave of 60 jets and helicopters struck at 60 targets . . . More than 170 targets were hit by IAF aircraft throughout the day. At least 230 Gazans were killed and over 780 were wounded . . .”

As I write, news reports are that Israel is sending tanks and infantry reinforcements in preparation for a ground invasion of Gaza.

Israel’s excuse for its violence is that from time to time the Palestinian resistance organization, Hamas, fires off rockets into Israel to protest against the  ghetto life that Israel imposes on Gazans.  The rockets are ineffectual for the most part and seldom claim Israeli casualties.  However, the real purpose for the Israeli attack is to destroy Hamas.

In 2006 the US insisted that the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank hold free elections.  When free elections were held, Hamas won.  This was unacceptable to the Americans and Israelis.  In the West Bank, the Americans and Israelis imposed a puppet government, but Hamas held on in Gaza.  After unheeded warnings to the Gazans to rid themselves of Hamas and accept a puppet government, Israel has decided to destroy the freely elected government with violence.

Ehud Barak, who is overseeing the latest act of Israeli aggression, said in interviews addressed to the British and American publics that asking Israel to agree to a ceasefire with Hamas would be like asking the US to agree to a ceasefire with al Qaeda.  The terrorism that Israel inflicts on Palestinians goes unremarked.

According to the London Times (December 28), “Britain and the United States were on a collision course with their European allies last night after refusing to call for an end to Israeli airstrikes on Hamas targets in Gaza. The wave of attacks marked a violent end to President George W. Bush’s sporadic Middle East peace efforts.  The White House put the blame squarely on Hamas.”  The British government also blamed Hamas.

For the US and UK governments, Israel can do no wrong.  Israel doesn’t have to stop withholding food, medicine, water, and energy, but Hamas must stop protesting by firing off rockets.  In violation of international law, Israel can drive West Bank Palestinians off their lands and out of their villages and give the stolen properties to “settlers.”  Israel can delay Palestinians in need of emergency medical care at checkpoints until their lives ebb away.  Israeli snipers can get their jollies murdering Palestinian children.

The Great Moral Anglo-Americans couldn’t care less.

In his 2005 Nobel Lecture, British playwright Harold Pinter held the United States and its British puppet state accountable for “the systematic brutality, the widespread atrocities, the ruthless suppression of independent thought.”  Everyone knows that such crimes occurred in the Soviet Union and in its East European empire, but “US crimes in the same period have only been superficially recorded, let alone documented, let alone acknowledged, let alone recognized as crimes at all,” this despite the fact that “the United States’ actions throughout the world made it clear that it had concluded it had carte blanche to do what it liked.”

Soviet crimes, like Nazi ones, are documented in gruesome detail, but America’s crimes “never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn’t happening. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest. The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It’s a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.”

America’s is “a scintillating stratagem. Language is actually employed to keep thought at bay. The words ‘the American people’ provide a truly voluptuous cushion of reassurance. You don’t need to think.”

Pinter presents a long list of American crimes and comes to Iraq:  “The invasion of Iraq was a bandit act, an act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept of international law. The invasion was . . . an act intended to consolidate American military and economic control of the Middle East masquerading–as a last resort–all other justifications having failed to justify themselves–as liberation.”  Americans and their British puppets “have brought torture, cluster bombs, depleted uranium, innumerable acts of random murder, misery, degradation and death to the Iraqi people and call it ‘bringing freedom and democracy to the Middle East.”

“How many people do you have to kill before you qualify to be described as a mass murderer and a war criminal?”  Pinter’s question can also be asked of Israel.  Israel has been in violation of international law since 1967, protected by the United States’ veto of UN Resolutions condemning Israel for its violent, inhumane, barbaric, and illegal acts.

American evangelical Christians, who are degenerating into Zionists, are Israel’s greatest allies.  Jesus is forsaken as Christians swallow whole the Israeli lies. A couple of years ago the US Presbyterian Church was so distressed by Israel’s immorality toward Palestinians that the church attempted to disinvest its investment portfolio from assets tainted with Israel.  But the Israel Lobby was stronger.  The Presbyterian Church was unable to stand up for Christian principles and knuckled under to the Israel Lobby’s pressure.

This is hardly surprising considering that the US government doesn’t stand for Christian principles either.

America’s doctrine of “full spectrum dominance” means that, like Lenin’s dictatorship, America is not bound by law or morality, but by power alone.

Pinter sums it up in a speech he had dreams of writing for President George W. Bush:

“God is good. God is great. God is good. My God is good. Bin Laden’s God is bad. His is a bad God. Saddam’s God was bad, except he didn’t have one. He was a barbarian. We are not barbarians. We don’t chop people’s heads off. We believe in freedom. So does God. I am not a barbarian. I am the democratically elected leader of a freedom-loving democracy. We are a compassionate society. We give compassionate electrocution and compassionate lethal injection. We are a great nation. I am not a dictator. He is. I am not a barbarian. He is. And he is. They all are. I possess moral authority. You see this fist? This is my moral authority. And don’t you forget it.”

If only our ears could hear, this is the speech we have been hearing from Israel for 60 years.

Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.He can be reached at: PaulCraigRoberts@yahoo.com

MIDEAST: Jewish Organisations Call For End to Gaza Bombings

December 31, 2008

By Ali Gharib | Inter Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec 30 (IPS) – With a fresh outbreak of violence between Israel and Palestine, a battle of a different sort is being waged in Washington between various interests in Mid- East policy circles.

As Israeli air strikes continue to pummel the Gaza Strip for a fourth day and crude home-made rockets launched by Palestinian militants land in Israeli towns near the densely populated and besieged Strip, Jewish groups in the U.S. are taking two distinctly differing tacks at addressing the latest Middle East bloodshed.

Some of what are traditionally thought of as pro-Israel groups are undertaking a major public relations campaign to support the bombing runs against Hamas that have claimed more than 370 Palestinian lives — largely parroting the Israeli government that the attacks are a justified defence of Israelis.

The American Jewish Committee “expressed strong support for Israel… in its military operation aimed at terrorist targets in Gaza.”

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) urged U.S. leadership to “stand firmly with Israel as it strives to defend itself….”

In addition to a flurry of press releases, officials from the groups are making regular appearances in the media and organising conference calls.

But, rather than unquestioning support of Israel’s latest military venture in the decades-long conflict, four major Jewish organisations here are calling for an immediate end to the bombings, and for humanitarian aid in the Gaza Strip.

One of the groups, Americans for Peace Now, the sister organisation of the Israel-based Peace Now, called for “the government of Israel to end its military operation in the Gaza Strip and to act toward achieving a ceasefire.”

And Bit Tzedek v’Shalom, the Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace, called on the outgoing U.S. President George W. Bush administration “to initiate an international effort aimed at negotiating and immediate ceasefire.”

These strong statements, along with ones from J Street (the political arm of the pro-Israel, pro-peace movement) and the Israel Policy Forum (IPF), are in sharp contrast to many of the more hawkish traditional pro-Israel groups, who make no mention of a cessation of armed hostilities. The confident assertions from the four groups are a relatively new sort of campaign.

“You see a voice that is increasingly clear and has a significant resonance in the American Jewish community, and beyond the Jewish community, that takes a position, stakes it grounds and won’t be intimidated,” said Daniel Levy, a former Israeli negotiator and the director of New America Foundation’s Middle East Task Force, one of the four groups.

“This is an important position to be taking,” he told IPS. “It’s moving the ball forward on redefining the parameters of the debate on what it means to be responsibly and thoughtfully — rather than reflexively — pro-Israel.”

The move by the groups is in many ways the culmination of a public relations effort of its own that seeks to establish a strong pro-peace, pro-Israeli voice that is not afraid to depart from the line of the Israeli government.

The groups are expressing a position that they, too, appreciate and support Israel and believe in its right to defend itself, just like their counterparts in the traditional, more powerful, so-called pro-Israel groups.

But Jeremy Ben-Ami, the executive director of J Street, says that the issue does not lie in a right to self-defence — a given — but whether an operation like the attacks on Gaza will even work.

“While… air strikes by Israeli Defence Forces in Gaza can be understood and even justified in the wake of recent rocket attacks,” according to Ben-Ami, “we believe that real friends of Israel recognise that escalating the conflict will prove counterproductive, igniting further anger in the region and damaging long-term prospects for peace and stability.”

J Street echoed its director’s statement with a press release declaring that the recent massive escalation was “pushing the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict further down a path of never-ending violence.”

Therein lays the crux of these groups’ assertions. While many of the other Jewish groups have been at best lukewarm on the peace process and the two-state solution, the peace groups see them as essential to the continued existence of Jewish state.

By encouraging steps that they see as contributing to peace between Israel and her Arab neighbours, including the Palestinians, they contend they are helping Israel in the long run.

Levy said that the groups are essentially saying, “We love Israel too, but it doesn’t do us or Israel any good to be the mouthpiece for the talking points of the Israeli foreign ministry.”

Levy also pointed to the peace groups’ statements as an indication of a U.S. Jewish perspective, rather than strictly an Israeli one.

Indeed, the J Street release stated that re-establishing the ceasefire and making a concerted, international-led effort towards a sustainable resolution to the broader conflict “is a fundamental American interest.”

“We too stand to suffer as the situation spirals, rage in the region is directed at the United States, and our regional allies are further undermined,” said the statement, speaking from a U.S. perspective.

J Street is circulating a petition that has already garnered 14,000 signatures and which the group says it is already using to lobby President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team and congressional leaders.

The petition calls for “strong U.S.-led diplomatic efforts to urgently reinstate a meaningful ceasefire that ends all military operations, stops the rockets aimed at Israel and lifts the blockade of Gaza.” Those actions, it says, are “in the best interests of Israel, the Palestinian people and the United States.”

The intense pressure from both sets of groups is very much aimed at the transition team, with Obama just three weeks away from being sworn into office, said an analysis of varying views in Jewish Week, a New York-based newspaper.

Obama and his transition team have been very cautious in their brief statements about the escalation, often repeating a talking point that there is only one president at a time.

But Obama campaigned on a renewed and vigorous attempt at Israeli-Arab peace, and he reiterated his commitment when announcing his foreign policy team last month.

Pro-Palestinian Protesters at Obama’s Hawaii House

December 31, 2008

by Ross Colvin

KAILUA, Hawaii – A small group of placard-waving pro-Palestinian demonstrators gathered near U.S. President-elect Barack Obama’s vacation retreat in Hawaii on Tuesday to protest against the Israeli airstrikes in Gaza.

[Protestor Ephrosine Daniggelis holds a placard in front of U.S. president-elect Barack Obama's vacation compound in Kailua, Hawaii December 30, 2008, during a protest against the Israeli attacks on Gaza. (REUTERS/Hugh Gentry)]Protestor Ephrosine Daniggelis holds a placard in front of U.S. president-elect Barack Obama’s vacation compound in Kailua, Hawaii December 30, 2008, during a protest against the Israeli attacks on Gaza. (REUTERS/Hugh Gentry)

Obama has made no public comment on the strikes, which Israel launched on Saturday. Aides have repeatedly said he is monitoring the situation and continues to receive intelligence briefings but that there is only one U.S. president at a time.Some critics, however, say Obama did choose to speak out after the attacks on the Indian city of Mumbai in November in which gunmen killed nearly 180 people, condemning them as acts of terrorism.

Obama, who takes office on January 20 from outgoing Republican President George W. Bush, has also spoken out on economic issues facing the United States.

“He is talking about how many jobs he is going to create but he is refusing to speak about this,” said one of the protesters, Carolyn Hadfield, 66.

Hadfield was one of eight protesters standing with placards reading “No U.S. support for Israel” and “Gazans need food and medicine, not war” near Obama’s rented vacation home in Kailua, an upmarket suburb on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, where Obama is in the second week of a vacation with his family.

Obama had not left the compound on Tuesday morning and did not see the protest.

Obama has in the past called Israel one of the United States’ greatest allies and has vowed to ensure the security of the Jewish state.

He has also said he would make a sustained push to achieve the goal of two states — a Jewish state in Israel and a Palestinian state.

Israel on Tuesday pressed on with air strikes in Gaza that it says are in response to rocket fire by Hamas militants deep inside the Jewish state. Medical officials put Palestinian casualties at 383 dead and more than 800 wounded.

The Bush administration has so far backed Israel’s actions in Gaza and demanded the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas stop firing rockets into Israel and agree to a lasting ceasefire.

“We are very upset with what is going in Palestine. There is a very great need for change in U.S. foreign policy toward Israel and Palestine. We need to stop giving Israel a blank check,” said another protester, Margaret Brown, 66.

The protesters were rebuffed when they tried to hand a letter signed by dozens of U.S. activist groups to a Secret Service agent guarding the access road to Obama’s beachfront compound.

Reporting by Ross Colvin; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

Israel’s onslaught on Gaza is a crime that cannot succeed

December 31, 2008

The US-backed attempt to bring Hamas to heel by overwhelming force is in fact more likely to boost the movement’s appeal

Israel’s decision to launch its devastating attack on Gaza on a Saturday was a “stroke of brilliance”, the country’s biggest selling paper Yediot Aharonot crowed: “the element of surprise increased the number of people who were killed”. The daily Ma’ariv agreed: “We left them in shock and awe”.

Of the ferocity of the assault on one of the most overcrowded and destitute corners of the earth, there is at least no question. In the bloodiest onslaught on blockaded Gaza since it was captured and occupied by Israel 41 years ago, at least 310 people were killed and more than a thousand reported injured in the first 48 hours alone.

As well as scores of ordinary police officers incinerated in a passing-out parade, at least 56 civilians were said by the UN to have died as Israel used American-supplied F-16s and Apache helicopters to attack a string of civilian targets it linked to Hamas, including a mosque, private homes and the Islamic university. Hamas military and political facilities were mostly deserted, while police stations in residential areas were teeming as they were pulverised.

As Israeli journalist Amos Harel wrote in Ha’aretz at the weekend, “little or no weight was apparently devoted to the question of harming innocent civilians”, as in US operations in Iraq. Among those killed in the first wave of strikes were eight teenage students waiting for a bus and four girls from the same family in Jabaliya, aged one to 12 years old.

Anyone who doubts the impact of these atrocities among Arabs and Muslims worldwide should switch on the satellite television stations that are watched avidly across the Middle East and which – unlike their western counterparts – do not habitually sanitise the barbarity meted out in the name of multiple wars on terror.

Then, having seen a child dying in her parent’s arms live on TV, consider what sort of western response there would have been to an attack on Israel, or the US or Britain for that matter, which left more than 300 dead in a couple of days.

You can be certain it would be met with the most sweeping condemnation, that the US president-elect would do a great deal more than “monitor” the situation and the British prime minister go much further than simply call for “restraint” on both sides.

But that is in fact all they did do, though the British government has since joined the call for a ceasefire. There has, of course, been no western denunciation of the Israeli slaughter – such aerial destruction is, after all, routinely called in by the US and Britain in occupied Iraq and Afghanistan.

Instead, Hamas and the Palestinians of Gaza are held responsible for what has been visited upon them. How could any government not respond with overwhelming force to the constant firing of rockets into its territory, the Israelis demand, echoed by western governments and media.

But that is to turn reality on its head. Like the West Bank, the Gaza Strip has been – and continues to be – illegally occupied by Israel since 1967. Despite the withdrawal of troops and settlements three years ago, Israel maintains complete control of the territory by sea, air and land. And since Hamas won the Palestinian elections in 2006, Israel has punished its 1.5 million people with an inhuman blockade of essential supplies, backed by the US and the European Union.

Like any occupied people, the Palestinians have the right to resist, whether they choose to exercise it or not. But there is no right of defence for an illegal occupation – there is an obligation to withdraw comprehensively. During the last seven years, 14 Israelis have been killed by mostly homemade rockets fired from the Gaza Strip, while more than 5,000 Palestinians were killed by Israel with some of the most advanced US-supplied armaments in the world. And while no rockets are fired from the West Bank, 45 Palestinians have died there at Israel’s hands this year alone. The issue is of course not just the vast disparity in weapons and power, but that one side is the occupier, the other the occupied.

Hamas is likewise blamed for last month’s breakdown of the six-month tahdi’a, or lull. But, in a weary reprise of past ceasefires, it was in fact sunk by Israel’s assassination of six Hamas fighters in Gaza on 5 November and its refusal to lift its siege of the embattled territory as expected under an Egyptian-brokered deal. The truth is that Israel and its western sponsors have set their face against an accommodation with the Palestinians’ democratic choice and have instead thrown their political weight, cash and arms behind a sustained attempt to overthrow it.

The complete failure of that approach has brought us to this week’s horrific pass. Israeli leaders believe they can bomb Hamas into submission with a “decisive blow” that will establish a “new security environment” – and boost their electoral fortunes in the process before Barack Obama comes to office.

But as with Israel’s disastrous assault on Lebanon two years ago – or its earlier siege of Yasser Arafat’s PLO in Beirut in 1982 – it is a strategy that cannot succeed. Even more than Hezbollah, Hamas’s appeal among Palestinians and beyond doesn’t derive from its puny infrastructure, or even its Islamist ideology, but its spirit of resistance to decades of injustice. So long as it remains standing in the face of this onslaught, its influence will only be strengthened. And if it is not with rockets, its retaliation is bound to take other forms, as Hamas’s leader Khalid Mish’al made clear at the weekend.

Meanwhile, the US and Israeli-backed Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has been further diminished by being seen as having colluded in the Israeli assault on his own people – as has the already rock-bottom credibility of the Egyptian regime. What is now taking place in the Palestinian territories is a futile crime in which the US and its allies are deeply complicit – and unless Obama is prepared to change course, it is likely to have bitter consequences that will touch us all.

s.milne@guardian.co.uk

In the Arab Press, Multiple Targets For Scorn

December 30, 2008

The Lede, The New York Times, December 29, 2008

A review of Arabic and English-language Web sites from the Arab world on Monday shows that gory images of destruction from the air attacks in Gaza are dominating news reports, as you would expect. The term being used nearly universally by Arab media outlets to describe the Gaza attacks is “massacre,” according to Marc Lynch, a blogger and media analyst who writes Abu Aardvark.

But there is much more to the Arab media’s reaction to the news from Gaza than just the reflexive denunciations of Israel for mounting the attacks.

Considerable attention is being paid to comments by Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary general of the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah. In a speech Sunday night, Mr. Nasrallah condemned Israel’s attack on Gaza in the harshest terms, but then pointed his finger at the governments of Egypt, Jordan and other Arab regimes that he said were conspiring with Israel against residents of Gaza.

“There is true and full collaboration between certain Arab regimes, especially those who have already signed peace deals with Israel, to crush any form of resistance,” he told thousands of Hezbollah supporters in Beirut’s southern suburbs.

Mr. Nasrallah’s comments were the main story on the Arabic-language Web site of the satellite television channel Al Arabiya and the London-based newspaper Al-Sharq al-Awsat, among others, early on Monday afternoon. (Al Arabiya’s English-language Web site also featured the comments, but gave them less prominence in English than in Arabic.)

The comments fed into Hezbollah’s ongoing narrative that it is the truest friend of the Palestinian cause, not the American-aligned governments of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries, who have shown themselves once again to be unable to stop Israeli aggression.

Throughout the Arab world, in fact, the Gaza attacks are being received as a gift-wrapped package by opponents of the American-allied regimes, regardless of where the opponents fall on the political spectrum, said Steven Cook, senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.

Al Dostor, one of the most outspoken opposition newspapers in Egypt, ran on its home page a photo-montage, with images of the bloodshed in Gaza placed on top of a picture taken in Cairo last week of the Egyptian foreign minister, Ahmed Abu Gheit, and his Israeli counterpart, Tzipi Livni. The central photo, which shows the two diplomats hand in hand, apparently was chosen to convey the idea that Israeli the attacks on Hamas, the militant Palestinian group that controls Gaza, were mounted with at least tacit Egyptian support, a charge the Egyptian regime has denied.

By contrast, the official state-run Egyptian newspaper, Al-Ahram, after calling for an end to “the Israeli killing machine,” concentrated on reporting that the Egyptian government had allowed 17 aid trucks to pass through the Rafah border crossing into Gaza.

The official Jordanian press took a similar approach of looking for hopeful developments. Al Rai, for example, reported that in Cairo, Mr. Abul Gheit and the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, met to discuss a plan for a Palestinian-Israeli cease-fire followed by an agreement for calm.

There is no love lost on Hamas in many Arab capitals, in large part because it is an ally of other Islamic opposition movements in the region, like the Muslim Brotherhood, that threaten the ruling regimes. But because the general Arab public is solidly behind the Palestinian cause, criticism of Hamas during a time of crisis is being kept to a minimum, even in state-run newspapers, according to Nathan Brown, a Middle East expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington.

While Hamas remains locked in a frequently bloody rivalry with Fatah, Mr. Abbas’s political party, which governs the West Bank, the Gaza air attacks have been treated as a time for solidarity in the Palestinian press. Al-Ayaam, the main Palestinian newspaper in Ramallah, devoted its coverage to details of the chaos in Gaza and news about a population in shock and crisis, rather than political recriminations.

Even so, though, there were signs of mounting frustration with Hamas among some Arab commentators — along with a sense of despair that after the dust settles, Israel and Palestine will be no closer to solving the region’s woes. Hassan Haidar, on the English-language Web site of Al-Hayat, wrote that while Israel had been looking for a pretext to attack Gaza, “Hamas’s decision to suspend the truce was offered to Israel on a silver plate, with the movement falling in the Israeli trap.”

And in the Daily Star, a Beirut-based English-language publication that includes a wider range of opinions than is usually seen in the Arab press, editorials blasted Israel’s “wanton disregard for innocent life,” but also said that the strife between Fatah and Hamas, once again, had been shown not to be in the interest of Palestinians.

It is no secret that the period of Hamas’ rule in Gaza since 2007 has been one of little or no accomplishment and of supremely unimaginative leadership. The Islamist movement has provided its enemy with a pretext to bring ruin on the very people whose rights a resistance group is supposed to defend. It is not just the rival Fatah faction that recognizes this: Even some long-time supporters of Hamas’ tougher line have now retreated to a more pragmatic middle ground from which the obvious conclusion is that flipping makeshift rockets at a regional superpower will never liberate occupied land, only expose the dispossessed to further hardship.

After saying that Israel seemed “poised to embark on a course of even greater folly,” the Star editorial continued:

The Israelis have been down this road before, and it has never worked. Sure, churning up Gaza and scattering Hamas’s forces would be easier than the failed attempt to accomplish something similar against Hizbollah here in Lebanon in 2006. It might even help some members of the Israeli military to regain a measure of the confidence lost in places like Aita al-Shaab and Maroun al-Ras. But once the Israelis have had their way with Gaza, what then? Will the citizens of Israel be any closer to being accepted by their neighbors? Will those Palestinians and other Arabs willing to negotiate a peace — not a surrender — have any more credibility with their respective publics?

Israel’s War Crimes

December 30, 2008

By Richard Falk

The Nation, December 29, 2008

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Editor’s Note: This statement was issued December 27 in response to Israel’s attack in Gaza by Professor Richard Falk, United Nations special rapporteur for human rights in the Occupied Territories and a longtime member of The Nation‘s editorial board.

The Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip represent severe and massive violations of international humanitarian law as defined in the Geneva Conventions, both in regard to the obligations of an Occupying Power and in the requirements of the laws of war.


» More

  • Israel’s War Crimes

    Israeli/Palestinian Conflict

    Richard Falk: Israel’s airstrikes on Gaza are severe and massive violations of international law–and nations that have supplied weapons and supported Israel’s siege of Gaza are complicit in the crimes.

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    Iraq

    Richard Falk: Even the most naive American voter cannot be expected to see the morally, legally and politically questionable death sentence given to Saddam Hussein a milestone in the Bush Administration’s illegal war in Iraq. As the milestones pile up, so do the bodies.

Those violations include:
Collective punishment: The entire 1.5 million people who live in the crowded Gaza Strip are being punished for the actions of a few militants.

Targeting civilians: The airstrikes were aimed at civilian areas in one of the most crowded stretches of land in the world, certainly the most densely populated area of the Middle East.

Disproportionate military response: The airstrikes have not only destroyed every police and security office of Gaza’s elected government, but have killed and injured hundreds of civilians; at least one strike reportedly hit groups of students attempting to find transportation home from the university.

Earlier Israeli actions, specifically the complete sealing off of entry and exit to and from the Gaza Strip, have led to severe shortages of medicine and fuel (as well as food), resulting in the inability of ambulances to respond to the injured, the inability of hospitals to adequately provide medicine or necessary equipment for the injured, and the inability of Gaza’s besieged doctors and other medical workers to sufficiently treat the victims.

Certainly the rocket attacks against civilian targets in Israel are unlawful. But that illegality does not give rise to any Israeli right, neither as the Occupying Power nor as a sovereign state, to violate international humanitarian law and commit war crimes or crimes against humanity in its response. I note that Israel’s escalating military assaults have not made Israeli civilians safer; to the contrary, the one Israeli killed today after the upsurge of Israeli violence is the first in over a year.

Israel has also ignored recent Hamas diplomatic initiatives to re-establish the truce or ceasefire since its expiration on 26 December.

The Israeli airstrikes today, and the catastrophic human toll that they caused, challenge those countries that have been and remain complicit, either directly or indirectly, in Israel’s violations of international law. That complicity includes those countries knowingly providing the military equipment including warplanes and missiles used in these illegal attacks, as well as those countries who have supported and participated in the siege of Gaza that itself has caused a humanitarian catastrophe.

I remind all Member States of the United Nations that the UN continues to be bound to an independent obligation to protect any civilian population facing massive violations of international humanitarian law–regardless of what country may be responsible for those violations. I call on all Member States, as well as officials and every relevant organ of the United Nations system, to move on an emergency basis not only to condemn Israel’s serious violations, but to develop new approaches to providing real protection for the Palestinian people.

About Richard Falk

Richard Falk, professor emeritus of international law and practice at Princeton University, is the United Nations Human Rights Rapporteur in the Occupied Territories and a member of The Nation editorial board. He is the author of many books, including The Costs of War: International Law, the UN, and World Order After Iraq. more…

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Bush, Obama, and the Gaza Blitz

December 30, 2008

by Patrick J. Buchanan | Antiwar.com, Dec 30, 2008


Unwilling to control its fighters, who fired scores of missiles into Israel at the end of their six-month cease-fire, Hamas gave Israel the provocation it needed to deliver a savage blow to the Palestinian enclave in Gaza.

Saturday was the bloodiest day in the history of the Palestinian people since being driven from their homes in the war of 1948. One thousand were killed or wounded, as the Israeli air force conducted over a hundred strikes – on graduation ceremonies for Hamas fighters, police stations, and storage sites for rockets.

About Israel’s right and duty to defend its border towns, there is no dispute. When Hamas permits Gaza to be used as a launch pad for rockets, it must expect retaliation. Nor can Hamas claim some right to dictate the limits of that retaliation.

Yet the wisdom of so savage a retribution for rockets that killed not one Israeli is open to question. And crass Israeli politics seems to be behind this premeditated and planned blitz.

With Likud’s hawkish “Bibi” Netanyahu ahead in the polls for the Feb. 10 election, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Labor’s candidate, had to show that he, too, could be ruthless with Hamas.

Kadima Party candidate and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has an even greater need than the highly decorated Barak to show toughness. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, departing in scandal, wants to exit in a blaze of glory, to blot out the memory of a botched war against Hezbollah that he launched in the summer of 2006.

However, while Israel’s politicians all seem to have a stake in these devastating strikes, Israel herself will pay the price.

Given the casualty toll, over 300 dead and 1,300 wounded as of this writing, Hamas will have to exact its pound of flesh. The Hamas wing that seeks renewed war with Israel will now shout into silence the wing working with Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak on a new cease-fire.

The moderate Palestinian Mahmoud Abbas, who has been talking to Israel, testifying to her good faith, has been made to appear the puppet and fool. A new Intifada spreading to the West Bank, with suicide attacks inside Israel, is now possible.

Moderate Arabs, who have recognized Israel or backed peace, will now be seen by the Arab street as appeasers impotent to stop the public suffering of the Palestinian people.

As for President Bush’s hopes of midwifing a peace that would create a Palestinian state, they are as dead as the Annapolis process he set in train. In advancing peace in the Middle East, Bush’s eight-year record is now a near-absolute failure.

For four years, Bush refused to talk to Yasser Arafat, though Bill Clinton had negotiated with him, as had four Israeli prime ministers, two of whom shared a Nobel Prize with Arafat. In his second term, Bush, after insisting Hamas be included in free elections in Palestine, refused to recognize Hamas when it won those elections.

Arafat was a terrorist and Hamas is a terrorist organization, declared Bush, and we don’t negotiate with terrorists. Yet Bush de-listed Libya as a state sponsor of terror and sent Condi Rice to chat up Col. Gadhafi, though Gadhafi still has on his hands the blood of scores of American school kids from the Lockerbie massacre of 1989 that Libya and Gadhafi engineered

For eight years, like the “dummy” in a hand of bridge, Bush has sat mute as his Israeli partner, Sharon or Olmert, played America’s cards as well as their own. The Bush response to Saturday’s carnage, as anticipated, was to blame Hamas for causing it and urge Israelis to be careful about civilian casualties as they go about their reprisals.

Whatever Israel decides, we support. For eight years that has been the most reliable guide to U.S. Middle East policy.

And Barack Obama? Forty-eight hours after the Israeli blitz began, he and his national security team remain silent.

Hopefully, Obama will bring with him a new Mideast policy, one made in the USA, for the USA. Hopefully, just as Israel has its private links to Syria through Turkey, to Hamas through Egypt, and to Hezbollah, Obama will establish independent U.S. channels to all three, and adopt a separate U.S. policy toward all three, as Israel does.

While the United States must support Israel’s right to defend her towns and to strike bases from which Israelis are being attacked, Obama should denounce the collective punishment of 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza, by Israel’s cutting off their electricity in the dead of winter and denying them the food and medicine many need to survive.

For us to remain silent in the face of this comports neither with our interests or our values. Israel’s policy of withholding from the weak and innocent of Gaza, women and children, the necessities of life, to punish the guilty who rule at the point of a gun, is a policy that Obama should declare the United States will no longer support with tax dollars.

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