Archive for January, 2009

Amnesty International: Israeli army used flechettes against Gaza civilians

January 31, 2009

Global Research, January 29, 2009

Al Mezan Center for Human Rights

Apart from white phosphorus, the Israeli army used a variety of other weapons in densely populated civilian areas of Gaza in the three-week conflict that began on 27 December.

Flechettes are 4cm long metal darts that are sharply pointed at the front, with four fins at the rear. Between 5,000 and 8,000 are packed into 120mm shells which are generally fired from tanks. The shells explode in the air and scatter the flechettes in a conical pattern over an area about 300m wide and 100m long.

An anti-personnel weapon designed to penetrate dense vegetation, flechettes should never be used in built-up civilian areas. The Israeli army has used them in Gaza periodically for several years. In most cases their use has resulted in civilians being killed or injured.

Amnesty International’s fact-finding team in Gaza first heard about the use of flechettes in the most recent conflict some ten days ago. The father of one of the victims showed the team a flechette which had been taken out of his son’s body.

In its latest post on Amnesty International’s Livewire blog, the team described how on Monday it visited towns and villages around Gaza and found more hard evidence of the use of flechettes.

In ‘Izbat Beit Hanoun, to the south-west of the town of Beit Hanoun, several flechette shells were fired into the main road, killing two people and injuring several others on the morning of 5 January.

Wafa’ Nabil Abu Jarad, a 21-year-old pregnant mother of two, was one of those killed. Her husband and her mother-in-law told the team that the family had just had breakfast and were outside the house drinking tea in the sun.

Wafa’ and her husband were standing by the corner of the house when they heard a noise, followed by screams. They turned to go back into their house but at that moment Wafa’ and several other members of the family were hit by flechettes. Wafa’ was killed outright.

That same day, at the other end of the street, 16-year-old Islam Jaber Abd-al-Dayem was struck in the neck by a flechette. He was taken to the hospital’s intensive care unit but died three days later. Mizar, his brother, was injured in the same attack and still has a flechette lodged in his back.

In the village of al-Mughraqa on the morning of 7 January, a shell struck the room where Atta Hassan Aref Azzam was sitting with two of his children, Mohammed, aged 13 and Hassan, aged two and a half. All three were killed. The six other members of the family who were in the house fled to the nearest school for shelter. The team examined the bloodstained wall by which the three were killed. It was full of flechettes.

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Chomsky: Neither The US Nor Israel Is A “Genuine Party To Peace.”

January 31, 2009


By Noam Chomsky | Information Clearing House, Jan 28, 2009

Barack Obama is recognized to be a person of acute intelligence, a legal scholar, careful with his choice of words. He deserves to be taken seriously – both what he says, and what he omits. Particularly significant is his first substantive statement on foreign affairs, on January 22, at the State Department, when introducing George Mitchell to serve as his special envoy for Middle East peace.

Mitchell is to focus his attention on the Israel-Palestine problem, in the wake of the recent US-Israeli invasion of Gaza. During the murderous assault, Obama remained silent apart from a few platitudes, because, he said, there is only one president – a fact that did not silence him on many other issues. His campaign did, however, repeat his statement that “if missiles were falling where my two daughters sleep, I would do everything in order to stop that.” He was referring to Israeli children, not the hundreds of Palestinian children being butchered by US arms, about whom he could not speak, because there was only one president.

On January 22, however, the one president was Barack Obama, so he could speak freely about these matters – avoiding, however, the attack on Gaza, which had, conveniently, been called off just before the inauguration.

Obama’s talk emphasized his commitment to a peaceful settlement. He left its contours vague, apart from one specific proposal: “the Arab peace initiative,” Obama said, “contains constructive elements that could help advance these efforts. Now is the time for Arab states to act on the initiative’s promise by supporting the Palestinian government under President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad, taking steps towards normalizing relations with Israel, and by standing up to extremism that threatens us all.”

Obama is not directly falsifying the Arab League proposal, but the carefully framed deceit is instructive.

The Arab League peace proposal does indeed call for normalization of relations with Israel – in the context – repeat, in the context of a two-state settlement in terms of the longstanding international consensus, which the US and Israel have blocked for over 30 years, in international isolation, and still do. The core of the Arab League proposal, as Obama and his Mideast advisers know very well, is its call for a peaceful political settlement in these terms, which are well-known, and recognized to be the only basis for the peaceful settlement to which Obama professes to be committed. The omission of that crucial fact can hardly be accidental, and signals clearly that Obama envisions no departure from US rejectionism. His call for the Arab states to act on a corollary to their proposal, while the US ignores even the existence of its central content, which is the precondition for the corollary, surpasses cynicism.

The most significant acts to undermine a peaceful settlement are the daily US-backed actions in the occupied territories, all recognized to be criminal: taking over valuable land and resources and constructing what the leading architect of the plan, Ariel Sharon, called “Bantustans” for Palestinians – an unfair comparison because the Bantustans were far more viable than the fragments left to Palestinians under Sharon’s conception, now being realized. But the US and Israel even continue to oppose a political settlement in words, most recently in December 2008, when the US and Israel (and a few Pacific islands) voted against a UN resolution supporting “the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination” (passed 173 to 5, US-Israel opposed, with evasive pretexts).

Obama had not one word to say about the settlement and infrastructure developments in the West Bank, and the complex measures to control Palestinian existence, designed to undermine the prospects for a peaceful two-state settlement. His silence is a grim refutation of his oratorical flourishes about how “I will sustain an active commitment to seek two states living side by side in peace and security.”

Also unmentioned is Israel’s use of US arms in Gaza, in violation not only of international but also US law. Or Washington’s shipment of new arms to Israel right at the peak of the US-Israeli attack, surely not unknown to Obama’s Middle East advisers.

Obama was firm, however, that smuggling of arms to Gaza must be stopped. He endorses the agreement of Condoleeza Rice and Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni that the Egyptian-Gaza border must be closed – a remarkable exercise of imperial arrogance, as the Financial Times observed: “as they stood in Washington congratulating each other, both officials seemed oblivious to the fact that they were making a deal about an illegal trade on someone else’s border – Egypt in this case. The next day, an Egyptian official described the memorandum as `fictional’.” Egypt’s objections were ignored.

Returning to Obama’s reference to the “constructive” Arab League proposal, as the wording indicates, Obama persists in restricting support to the defeated party in the January 2006 election, the only free election in the Arab world, to which the US and Israel reacted, instantly and overtly, by severely punishing Palestinians for opposing the will of the masters. A minor technicality is that Abbas’s term ran out on January 9, and that Fayyad was appointed without confirmation by the Palestinian parliament (many of them kidnapped and in Israeli prisons). Ha’aretz describes Fayyad as “a strange bird in Palestinian politics. On the one hand, he is the Palestinian politician most esteemed by Israel and the West. However, on the other hand, he has no electoral power whatsoever in Gaza or the West Bank.” The report also notes Fayyad’s “close relationship with the Israeli establishment,” notably his friendship with Sharon’s extremist adviser Dov Weiglass. Though lacking popular support, he is regarded as competent and honest, not the norm in the US-backed political sectors.

Obama’s insistence that only Abbas and Fayyad exist conforms to the consistent Western contempt for democracy unless it is under control.

Obama provided the usual reasons for ignoring the elected government led by Hamas. “To be a genuine party to peace,” Obama declared, “the quartet [US, EU, Russia, UN] has made it clear that Hamas must meet clear conditions: recognize Israel’s right to exist; renounce violence; and abide by past agreements.” Unmentioned, also as usual, is the inconvenient fact that the US and Israel firmly reject all three conditions. In international isolation, they bar a two-state settlement including a Palestinian state; they of course do not renounce violence; and they reject the quartet’s central proposal, the “road map.” Israel formally accepted it, but with 14 reservations that effectively eliminate its contents (tacitly backed by the US). It is the great merit of Jimmy Carter’s Palestine: Peace not Apartheid, to have brought these facts to public attention for the first time – and in the mainstream, the only time.

It follows, by elementary reasoning, that neither the US nor Israel is a “genuine party to peace.” But that cannot be. It is not even a phrase in the English language.

It is perhaps unfair to criticize Obama for this further exercise of cynicism, because it is close to universal, unlike his scrupulous evisceration of the core component of the Arab League proposal, which is his own novel contribution.

Also near universal are the standard references to Hamas: a terrorist organization, dedicated to the destruction of Israel (or maybe all Jews). Omitted are the inconvenient facts that the US-Israel are not only dedicated to the destruction of any viable Palestinian state, but are steadily implementing those policies. Or that unlike the two rejectionist states, Hamas has called for a two-state settlement in terms of the international consensus: publicly, repeatedly, explicitly.

Obama began his remarks by saying: “Let me be clear: America is committed to Israel’s security. And we will always support Israel’s right to defend itself against legitimate threats.”

There was nothing about the right of Palestinians to defend themselves against far more extreme threats, such as those occurring daily, with US support, in the occupied territories. But that again is the norm.

Also normal is the enunciation of the principle that Israel has the right to defend itself. That is correct, but vacuous: so does everyone. But in the context the cliche is worse than vacuous: it is more cynical deceit.

The issue is not whether Israel has the right to defend itself, like everyone else, but whether it has the right to do so by force. No one, including Obama, believes that states enjoy a general right to defend themselves by force: it is first necessary to demonstrate that there are no peaceful alternatives that can be tried. In this case, there surely are.

A narrow alternative would be for Israel to abide by a cease-fire, for example, the cease-fire proposed by Hamas political leader Khaled Mishal a few days before Israel launched its attack on December 27. Mishal called for restoring the 2005 agreement. That agreement called for an end to violence and uninterrupted opening of the borders, along with an Israeli guarantee that goods and people could move freely between the two parts of occupied Palestine, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The agreement was rejected by the US and Israel a few months later, after the free election of January 2006 turned out “the wrong way.” There are many other highly relevant cases.

The broader and more significant alternative would be for the US and Israel to abandon their extreme rejectionism, and join the rest of the world – including the Arab states and Hamas – in supporting a two-state settlement in accord with the international consensus. It should be noted that in the past 30 years there has been one departure from US-Israeli rejectionism: the negotiations at Taba in January 2001, which appeared to be close to a peaceful resolution when Israel prematurely called them off. It would not, then, be outlandish for Obama to agree to join the world, even within the framework of US policy, if he were interested in doing so.

In short, Obama’s forceful reiteration of Israel’s right to defend itself is another exercise of cynical deceit – though, it must be admitted, not unique to him, but virtually universal.

The deceit is particularly striking in this case because the occasion was the appointment of Mitchell as special envoy. Mitchell’s primary achievement was his leading role in the peaceful settlement in northern Ireland. It called for an end to IRA terror and British violence. Implicit is the recognition that while Britain had the right to defend itself from terror, it had no right to do so by force, because there was a peaceful alternative: recognition of the legitimate grievances of the Irish Catholic community that were the roots of IRA terror. When Britain adopted that sensible course, the terror ended. The implications for Mitchell’s mission with regard to Israel-Palestine are so obvious that they need not be spelled out. And omission of them is, again, a striking indication of the commitment of the Obama administration to traditional US rejectionism and opposition to peace, except on its extremist terms.

Obama also praised Jordan for its “constructive role in training Palestinian security forces and nurturing its relations with Israel” – which contrasts strikingly with US-Israeli refusal to deal with the freely elected government of Palestine, while savagely punishing Palestinians for electing it with pretexts which, as noted, do not withstand a moment’s scrutiny. It is true that Jordan joined the US in arming and training Palestinian security forces, so that they could violently suppress any manifestation of support for the miserable victims of US-Israeli assault in Gaza, also arresting supporters of Hamas and the prominent journalist Khaled Amayreh, while organizing their own demonstrations in support of Abbas and Fatah, in which most participants “were civil servants and school children who were instructed by the PA to attend the rally,” according to the Jerusalem Post. Our kind of democracy.

Obama made one further substantive comment: “As part of a lasting cease-fire, Gaza’s border crossings should be open to allow the flow of aid and commerce, with an appropriate monitoring regime…” He did not, of course, mention that the US-Israel had rejected much the same agreement after the January 2006 election, and that Israel had never observed similar subsequent agreements on borders.

Also missing is any reaction to Israel’s announcement that it rejected the cease-fire agreement, so that the prospects for it to be “lasting” are not auspicious. As reported at once in the press, “Israeli Cabinet Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, who takes part in security deliberations, told Army Radio on Thursday that Israel wouldn’t let border crossings with Gaza reopen without a deal to free [Gilad] Schalit” (AP, Jan 22); ‘Israel to keep Gaza crossings closed…An official said the government planned to use the issue to bargain for the release of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier held by the Islamist group since 2006 (Financial Times, Jan. 23); “Earlier this week, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said that progress on Corporal Shalit’s release would be a precondition to opening up the border crossings that have been mostly closed since Hamas wrested control of Gaza from the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority in 2007” (Christian Science Monitor, Jan. 23); “an Israeli official said there would be tough conditions for any lifting of the blockade, which he linked with the release of Gilad Shalit” (FT, Jan. 23); among many others.

Shalit’s capture is a prominent issue in the West, another indication of Hamas’s criminality. Whatever one thinks about it, it is uncontroversial that capture of a soldier of an attacking army is far less of a crime than kidnapping of civilians, exactly what Israeli forces did the day before the capture of Shalit, invading Gaza city and kidnapping two brothers, then spiriting them across the border where they disappeared into Israel’s prison complex. Unlike the much lesser case of Shalit, that crime was virtually unreported and has been forgotten, along with Israel’s regular practice for decades of kidnapping civilians in Lebanon and on the high seas and dispatching them to Israeli prisons, often held for many years as hostages. But the capture of Shalit bars a cease-fire.

Obama’s State Department talk about the Middle East continued with “the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan… the central front in our enduring struggle against terrorism and extremism.” A few hours later, US planes attacked a remote village in Afghanistan, intending to kill a Taliban commander. “Village elders, though, told provincial officials there were no Taliban in the area, which they described as a hamlet populated mainly by shepherds. Women and children were among the 22 dead, they said, according to Hamididan Abdul Rahmzai, the head of the provincial council” (LA Times, Jan. 24).

Afghan president Karzai’s first message to Obama after he was elected in November was a plea to end the bombing of Afghan civilians, reiterated a few hours before Obama was sworn in. This was considered as significant as Karzai’s call for a timetable for departure of US and other foreign forces. The rich and powerful have their “responsibilities.” Among them, the New York Times reported, is to “provide security” in southern Afghanistan, where “the insurgency is homegrown and self-sustaining.” All familiar. From Pravda in the 1980s, for example.

Israel and the Bomb

January 31, 2009

The Calculus of Death

By Jules Rabin | Counterpunch, January 31 / February 1, 2009

Can Israel be trusted with the nuclear bombs it steadfastly refuses to admit owning?

On the evidence of events in Gaza, I think not. Here’s why.

In the last week of December, when Israel lost patience over a series of rocket attacks from Gaza that killed three Israelis in as many days, on top of 25 more who had been killed in the same manner in the eight years preceding, the Israeli armed forces retaliated with sustained and overwhelming attacks on the entirety of densely populated Gaza.

Under intense Israeli bombardment and tank fire, over 1,300 Gazans, a third of them children, were killed in the 21 days of the Israeli onslaught — a stunningly great number of them under circumstances that have opened Israel to charges of committing war crimes.

Mark the ratio: 1,300 Palestinian lives, fighters and civilians, taken in skewed payment for the original three Israelis, whose deaths were the proximate cause — call it the last straw after eight years of rocket attacks from Gaza — of the assault on Gaza.

And mark the overwhelming swiftness of the reaction. It took Israel a mere 22 days to present the people of Gaza with a definitive version of the type of blunt lesson that the Hamas government of Gaza had been trying for eight years of intermittent rocket attacks to teach Israel.

With those ratios in mind — the 1,300 Palestinian deaths achieved in 22 days and the 28 Israeli deaths inflicted in eight years — it’s fair to ask how might an Israel in possession of an arsenal of nuclear weapons react if instead of a ragtag force of guerillas like that of Hamas it were threatened by a modern army like its own, equipped with tanks and attack jets. If, say, as happened with Gaza, a major Israeli city were to undergo an assault of 22 days duration that turned a great part of it into rubble, and caused a thousand Israeli deaths.

On the showing of the overwhelming scale of its punitive assault on Gaza, could we expect Israel to show restraint — nuclear restraint — in the event of an assault by an armed force more nearly matching its own? When there is no other lesson on earth, militarily speaking, that can be taught as swiftly and conclusively as the one the nuclear bomb teaches?

In the calculus of death, how many lives of the “other” will the taking of the life of a single Israeli, or three, or a thousand, be worth, finally, tomorrow and the next day and the last day of all?

Jules Rabin is a writer, political critic, and longtime resident of Marshfield, Vermont.

Holbrooke: Insensitive Choice for a Sensitive Region

January 31, 2009

by Stephen Zunes | Foreign Policy In Focus, January 31, 2009

Obama’s choice for special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, arguably the most critical area of U.S. foreign policy, is a man with perhaps the most sordid history of any of the largely disappointing set of foreign policy and national security appointments.

Richard Holbrooke got his start in the Foreign Service during the 1960s, in the notorious pacification programs in the Mekong Delta of South Vietnam. This ambitious joint civilian-military effort not only included horrific human rights abuses but also proved to be a notorious failure in curbing the insurgency against the U.S.-backed regime in Saigon. This was an inauspicious start in the career of someone Obama hopes to help curb the insurgency against the U.S.-backed government in Afghanistan.

In Asia

In the late 1970s, Holbrooke served as assistant secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs. In this position, he played a major role in formulating the Carter administration’s support for Indonesia’s occupation of East Timor and the bloody counterinsurgency campaign responsible for up to a quarter-million civilian deaths. Having successfully pushed for a dramatic increase in U.S. military aid to the Suharto dictatorship, he then engaged in a cover-up of the Indonesian atrocities. He testified before Congress in 1979 that the mass starvation wasn’t the fault of the scorched-earth campaign by Indonesian forces in the island nation’s richest agricultural areas, but simply a legacy of Portuguese colonial neglect. Later, in reference to his friend Paul Wolfowitz, then the U.S. ambassador to Indonesia, Holbrooke described how “Paul and I have been in frequent touch to make sure that we keep [East Timor] out of the presidential campaign, where it would do no good to American or Indonesian interests.”

In a particularly notorious episode while heading the State Department’s East Asia division, Holbrooke convinced Carter to release South Korean troops under U.S. command in order to suppress a pro-democracy uprising in the city of Kwangju. Holbrooke was among the Carter administration officials who reportedly gave the OK to General Chun Doo-hwan, who had recently seized control of the South Korean government in a military coup, to wipe out the pro-democracy rebels. Hundreds were killed.

He also convinced President Jimmy Carter to continue its military and economic support for the Marcos dictatorship in the Philippines.

At the UN

Holbrooke, as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in the late 1990s, criticized the UN for taking leadership in conflict resolution efforts involving U.S. allies, particularly in the area of human rights. For example, in October 2000 he insisted that a UN Security Council resolution criticizing the excessive use of force by Israeli occupation forces against Palestinian demonstrators revealed an unacceptable bias that put the UN “out of the running” in terms of any contributions to the peace process.

As special representative to Cyprus in 1997, Holbrooke unsuccessfully pushed the European Union to admit Turkey, despite its imprisonment of journalists, its ongoing use of the death penalty, its widespread killing of civilians in the course of its bloody counter-insurgency war in its Kurdish region, and other human rights abuses.

In the Former Yugoslavia

Holbrooke is perhaps best known for his leadership in putting together the 1995 Dayton Accords, which formally ended the conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Though widely praised in some circles for his efforts, Holbrooke remains quite controversial for his role. For instance, the agreement allows Bosnian Serbs to hold on to virtually all of the land they had seized and ethnically cleansed in the course of that bloody conflict. Indeed, rather than accept the secular concept of national citizenship that has held sway in Europe for generations, Holbrooke helped impose sectarian divisions that have made the country – unlike most of its gradually liberalizing Balkan neighbors – unstable, fractious, and dominated by illiberal ultra-nationalists.

As with previous U.S. officials regarding their relations with Iraq’s Saddam Hussein and Panama’s Manuel Noriega, Holbrooke epitomizes the failed U.S. policy toward autocratic rulers that swings between the extremes of appeasement and war. For example, during the 1996 pro-democracy uprising in Serbia Holbrooke successfully argued that the Clinton administration should back Milosevic, in recognition of his role in the successful peace deal over Bosnia, and not risk the instability that might result from a victory by Serb democrats. Milosevic initially crushed the movement. In response to increased Serbian oppression in Kosovo just a couple years later, however, Holbrooke became a vociferous advocate of the 1999 U.S.-led bombing campaign, creating a nationalist reaction that set back the reconstituted pro-democracy movement once again. The pro-democracy movement finally succeeded in the nonviolent overthrow of the regime, following Milosevic’s attempt to steal the parliamentary elections in October 2000, but the young leaders of that movement remain bitterly angry at Holbrooke to this day.

Scott Ritter, the former chief UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) inspector who correctly assessed the absence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and predicted a disastrous outcome for the U.S. invasion, observes that “not only has he demonstrated a lack of comprehension when it comes to the complex reality of Afghanistan (not to mention Pakistan), Holbrooke has a history of choosing the military solution over the finesse of diplomacy.” Noting how the Dayton Accords were built on the assumption of a major and indefinite NATO military presence, which would obviously be far more problematic in Afghanistan and Pakistan than in Europe, Ritter adds: “This does not bode well for the Obama administration.”

Ironically, back in 2002-2003, when the United States had temporarily succeeded in marginalizing Taliban and al-Qaeda forces, Holbrooke was a strong supporter of redirecting American military and intelligence assets away from the region in order to invade and occupy Iraq. Obama and others presciently criticized this reallocation of resources at that time as likely to lead to the deterioration of the security situation in the country and the resurgence of these extremist groups.

It’s unclear, then, why Obama would choose someone like Holbrooke for such a sensitive post. Indeed, it’s unclear as to why – having been elected on part for his anti-war credentials – Obama’s foreign policy and national security appointments have consisted primarily of such unreconstructed hawks. Advocates of a more enlightened and rational foreign policy still have a long row to hoe.

Stephen Zunes is Middle East editor for Foreign Policy In Focus. He is a professor of Politics at the University of San Francisco and the author of Tinderbox: U.S. Middle East Policy and the Roots of Terrorism (Common Courage Press, 2003.)

Turks hail PM after bust-up with Peres

January 31, 2009

The Morning Star

(Friday 30 January 2009)
Supporters of Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan awaiting his arrival at Ataturk airport in Istanbul.

DELIGHTED: Supporters of Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan awaiting his arrival at Ataturk airport in Istanbul.

THOUSANDS of Turks welcomed their prime minister home on Friday with chants of “Turkey is proud of you” after he publicly confronted the Israeli president over the bloody Gaza onslaught.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s intervention at the World Economic Forum in Davos also won praise in Gaza, where Turkish flags fluttered from a ruined mosque.

Mr Erdogan was greeted by a jubilant crowd of more than 5,000 supporters, many waving Turkish and Palestinian flags, who had flooded Istanbul’s airport when his plane from Davos touched down at about 2am.

The dispute about Israel’s offensive against Gaza took place at a panel discussion in Davos on Thursday. Israeli President Shimon Peres launched into a 25-minute defence of Tel Aviv’s attack on the coastal enclave, jabbing his finger repeatedly at Mr Erdogan.

“The tragedy of Gaza is not Israel. It is Hamas. They created a dictatorship, a very dangerous one,” he screamed.

After Mr Peres’s intervention had won applause, Mr Erdogan said: “I find it very sad that people applaud what you have said because many people have been killed.

“Mr Peres, you are older than me. Your voice is too loud,” he said, suggesting that his emotion betrayed a guilty conscience.

The session moderator cut Mr Erdogan off in mid-sentence, prompting the Turkish premier to walk out, declaring that he would never return to Davos.

In the Gaza refugee camp of Jebaliya, Turkish flags decorated the ruins of a local mosque that had been destroyed by Israeli air strikes. On the Egyptian side of the Gaza border, over two dozen lorries loaded with food, medicines and commercial goods remain stranded because Tel Aviv refuses to open the crossings.

The UN launched an emergency appeal on Thursday for $613 million (£440m) to help Palestinians rebuild, but UN officials on the ground warned that this would be useless if Israel continues to bar aid from entering Gaza.

John Ging, the top UN official in Gaza, said: “The ordinary people here in Gaza are not getting enough help and are not getting it quickly enough,” demanding that the border crossings be opened.

“There are thousands of tons of assistance generously donated, sitting in Egypt, Jordan and also in the ports in Israel,” Mr Ging reported, adding: “That aid should be right here, right now, helping the people who need it.”

Siegman: Israel’s Lies

January 26, 2009

Henry Siegman | London Review of  Books, January 29, 2009

Western governments and most of the Western media have accepted a number of Israeli claims justifying the military assault on Gaza: that Hamas consistently violated the six-month truce that Israel observed and then refused to extend it; that Israel therefore had no choice but to destroy Hamas’s capacity to launch missiles into Israeli towns; that Hamas is a terrorist organisation, part of a global jihadi network; and that Israel has acted not only in its own defence but on behalf of an international struggle by Western democracies against this network.

I am not aware of a single major American newspaper, radio station or TV channel whose coverage of the assault on Gaza questions this version of events. Criticism of Israel’s actions, if any (and there has been none from the Bush administration), has focused instead on whether the IDF’s carnage is proportional to the threat it sought to counter, and whether it is taking adequate measures to prevent civilian casualties.

Middle East peacemaking has been smothered in deceptive euphemisms, so let me state bluntly that each of these claims is a lie. Israel, not Hamas, violated the truce: Hamas undertook to stop firing rockets into Israel; in return, Israel was to ease its throttlehold on Gaza. In fact, during the truce, it tightened it further. This was confirmed not only by every neutral international observer and NGO on the scene but by Brigadier General (Res.) Shmuel Zakai, a former commander of the IDF’s Gaza Division. In an interview in Ha’aretz on 22 December, he accused Israel’s government of having made a ‘central error’ during the tahdiyeh, the six-month period of relative truce, by failing ‘to take advantage of the calm to improve, rather than markedly worsen, the economic plight of the Palestinians of the Strip . . . When you create a tahdiyeh, and the economic pressure on the Strip continues,’ General Zakai said, ‘it is obvious that Hamas will try to reach an improved tahdiyeh, and that their way to achieve this is resumed Qassam fire . . . You cannot just land blows, leave the Palestinians in Gaza in the economic distress they’re in, and expect that Hamas will just sit around and do nothing.’

The truce, which began in June last year and was due for renewal in December, required both parties to refrain from violent action against the other. Hamas had to cease its rocket assaults and prevent the firing of rockets by other groups such as Islamic Jihad (even Israel’s intelligence agencies acknowledged this had been implemented with surprising effectiveness), and Israel had to put a stop to its targeted assassinations and military incursions. This understanding was seriously violated on 4 November, when the IDF entered Gaza and killed six members of Hamas. Hamas responded by launching Qassam rockets and Grad missiles. Even so, it offered to extend the truce, but only on condition that Israel ended its blockade. Israel refused. It could have met its obligation to protect its citizens by agreeing to ease the blockade, but it didn’t even try. It cannot be said that Israel launched its assault to protect its citizens from rockets. It did so to protect its right to continue the strangulation of Gaza’s population.

Everyone seems to have forgotten that Hamas declared an end to suicide bombings and rocket fire when it decided to join the Palestinian political process, and largely stuck to it for more than a year. Bush publicly welcomed that decision, citing it as an example of the success of his campaign for democracy in the Middle East. (He had no other success to point to.) When Hamas unexpectedly won the election, Israel and the US immediately sought to delegitimise the result and embraced Mahmoud Abbas, the head of Fatah, who until then had been dismissed by Israel’s leaders as a ‘plucked chicken’. They armed and trained his security forces to overthrow Hamas; and when Hamas – brutally, to be sure – pre-empted this violent attempt to reverse the result of the first honest democratic election in the modern Middle East, Israel and the Bush administration imposed the blockade.

Israel seeks to counter these indisputable facts by maintaining that in withdrawing Israeli settlements from Gaza in 2005, Ariel Sharon gave Hamas the chance to set out on the path to statehood, a chance it refused to take; instead, it transformed Gaza into a launching-pad for firing missiles at Israel’s civilian population. The charge is a lie twice over. First, for all its failings, Hamas brought to Gaza a level of law and order unknown in recent years, and did so without the large sums of money that donors showered on the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority. It eliminated the violent gangs and warlords who terrorised Gaza under Fatah’s rule. Non-observant Muslims, Christians and other minorities have more religious freedom under Hamas rule than they would have in Saudi Arabia, for example, or under many other Arab regimes.

The greater lie is that Sharon’s withdrawal from Gaza was intended as a prelude to further withdrawals and a peace agreement. This is how Sharon’s senior adviser Dov Weisglass, who was also his chief negotiator with the Americans, described the withdrawal from Gaza, in an interview with Ha’aretz in August 2004:

What I effectively agreed to with the Americans was that part of the settlements [i.e. the major settlement blocks on the West Bank] would not be dealt with at all, and the rest will not be dealt with until the Palestinians turn into Finns . . . The significance [of the agreement with the US] 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. And all this with [President Bush’s] authority and permission . . . and the ratification of both houses of Congress.

Do the Israelis and Americans think that Palestinians don’t read the Israeli papers, or that when they saw what was happening on the West Bank they couldn’t figure out for themselves what Sharon was up to?

Israel’s government would like the world to believe that Hamas launched its Qassam rockets because that is what terrorists do and Hamas is a generic terrorist group. In fact, Hamas is no more a ‘terror organisation’ (Israel’s preferred term) than the Zionist movement was during its struggle for a Jewish homeland. In the late 1930s and 1940s, parties within the Zionist movement resorted to terrorist activities for strategic reasons. According to Benny Morris, it was the Irgun that first targeted civilians. He writes in Righteous Victims that an upsurge of Arab terrorism in 1937 ‘triggered a wave of Irgun bombings against Arab crowds and buses, introducing a new dimension to the conflict’. He also documents atrocities committed during the 1948-49 war by the IDF, admitting in a 2004 interview, published in Ha’aretz, that material released by Israel’s Ministry of Defence showed that ‘there were far more Israeli acts of massacre than I had previously thought . . . In the months of April-May 1948, units of the Haganah were given operational orders that stated explicitly that they were to uproot the villagers, expel them, and destroy the villages themselves.’ In a number of Palestinian villages and towns the IDF carried out organised executions of civilians. Asked by Ha’aretz whether he condemned the ethnic cleansing, Morris replied that he did not:

A Jewish state would not have come into being without the uprooting of 700,000 Palestinians. Therefore it was necessary to uproot them. There was no choice but to expel that population. It was necessary to cleanse the hinterland and cleanse the border areas and cleanse the main roads. It was necessary to cleanse the villages from which our convoys and our settlements were fired on.

In other words, when Jews target and kill innocent civilians to advance their national struggle, they are patriots. When their adversaries do so, they are terrorists.

It is too easy to describe Hamas simply as a ‘terror organisation’. It is a religious nationalist movement that resorts to terrorism, as the Zionist movement did during its struggle for statehood, in the mistaken belief that it is the only way to end an oppressive occupation and bring about a Palestinian state. While Hamas’s ideology formally calls for that state to be established on the ruins of the state of Israel, this doesn’t determine Hamas’s actual policies today any more than the same declaration in the PLO charter determined Fatah’s actions.

These are not the conclusions of an apologist for Hamas but the opinions of the former head of Mossad and Sharon’s national security adviser, Ephraim Halevy. The Hamas leadership has undergone a change ‘right under our very noses’, Halevy wrote recently in Yedioth Ahronoth, by recognising that ‘its ideological goal is not attainable and will not be in the foreseeable future.’ It is now ready and willing to see the establishment of a Palestinian state within the temporary borders of 1967. Halevy noted that while Hamas has not said how ‘temporary’ those borders would be, ‘they know that the moment a Palestinian state is established with their co-operation, they will be obligated to change the rules of the game: they will have to adopt a path that could lead them far from their original ideological goals.’ In an earlier article, Halevy also pointed out the absurdity of linking Hamas to al-Qaida.

In the eyes of al-Qaida, the members of Hamas are perceived as heretics due to their stated desire to participate, even indirectly, in processes of any understandings or agreements with Israel. [The Hamas political bureau chief, Khaled] Mashal’s declaration diametrically contradicts al-Qaida’s approach, and provides Israel with an opportunity, perhaps a historic one, to leverage it for the better.

Why then are Israel’s leaders so determined to destroy Hamas? Because they believe that its leadership, unlike that of Fatah, cannot be intimidated into accepting a peace accord that establishes a Palestinian ‘state’ made up of territorially disconnected entities over which Israel would be able to retain permanent control. Control of the West Bank has been the unwavering objective of Israel’s military, intelligence and political elites since the end of the Six-Day War.[*] They believe that Hamas would not permit such a cantonisation of Palestinian territory, no matter how long the occupation continues. They may be wrong about Abbas and his superannuated cohorts, but they are entirely right about Hamas.

Middle East observers wonder whether Israel’s assault on Hamas will succeed in destroying the organisation or expelling it from Gaza. This is an irrelevant question. If Israel plans to keep control over any future Palestinian entity, it will never find a Palestinian partner, and even if it succeeds in dismantling Hamas, the movement will in time be replaced by a far more radical Palestinian opposition.

If Barack Obama picks a seasoned Middle East envoy who clings to the idea that outsiders should not present their own proposals for a just and sustainable peace agreement, much less press the parties to accept it, but instead leave them to work out their differences, he will assure a future Palestinian resistance far more extreme than Hamas – one likely to be allied with al-Qaida. For the US, Europe and most of the rest of the world, this would be the worst possible outcome. Perhaps some Israelis, including the settler leadership, believe it would serve their purposes, since it would provide the government with a compelling pretext to hold on to all of Palestine. But this is a delusion that would bring about the end of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.

Anthony Cordesman, one of the most reliable military analysts of the Middle East, and a friend of Israel, argued in a 9 January report for the Center for Strategic and International Studies that the tactical advantages of continuing the operation in Gaza were outweighed by the strategic cost – and were probably no greater than any gains Israel may have made early in the war in selective strikes on key Hamas facilities. ‘Has Israel somehow blundered into a steadily escalating war without a clear strategic goal, or at least one it can credibly achieve?’ he asks. ‘Will Israel end in empowering an enemy in political terms that it defeated in tactical terms? Will Israel’s actions seriously damage the US position in the region, any hope of peace, as well as moderate Arab regimes and voices in the process? To be blunt, the answer so far seems to be yes.’ Cordesman concludes that ‘any leader can take a tough stand and claim that tactical gains are a meaningful victory. If this is all that Olmert, Livni and Barak have for an answer, then they have disgraced themselves and damaged their country and their friends.’

15 January

Israel Killed Everything but the Will to Resist

January 26, 2009

By Stephen Lendman

Global Research, January 25, 2009

” ‘Freedom or death’, is the popular Palestinian mantra,” wrote Palestine Chronicle Editor-in-Chief Ramzy Baroud in his January 22 article titled “Breaking Gaza’s Will: Israel’s Enduring Fantasy.”

Three weeks of Israeli terror caused about 1400 deaths, over 5500 injured (many seriously), vast destruction and  throughout Gaza, and Physicians for Human Rights warning that large numbers of wounded may die because hospitals are overloaded and lack basic supplies. Yet Palestinians endure. Their spirit is unbowed and unbroken. Hamas is more popular than ever, and world outrage sustains them.

Middle East analyst Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies believes Israel blundered badly. On January 9, he asked:

“The War in Gaza – Tactical Gains, Strategic Defeat?” In spite of all the IDF’s might “The fact remains that the growing human tragedy in Gaza is steadily raising more serious questions as to whether the kind of tactical gains that Israel now reports are worth the suffering involved.”

Cordesman reviewed the death, injury and destruction toll after 14 days of fighting, then added: “These direct costs are only part of the story.” He cited the siege’s crippling economic and humanitarian effects and wrote: “The current war has consequences more far-reaching than casualties. It involves a legacy of greatly increased suffering for the 1.5 million people who will survive this current conflict.”

“It is also far from clear that the tactical gains are worth the political and strategic cost to Israel. At least to date, (the war) increased popular support for Hamas and anger against Israel in Gaza. The same is true in the West Bank and the Islamic world….The US is seen as having done virtually nothing….and the President elect is getting as much blame as” George Bush.

He quotes former Saudi ambassador to Washington and London, Prince Turki al-Faisal saying: “The Bush administration has left you (with) a disgusting legacy and a reckless position towards the massacres and bloodshed of innocents in Gaza. Enough is enough, today we are all Palestinians….”

According to Cordesman, Israel appears to be repeating “the same massive failures” as in the 2006 Lebanon war. “Has Israel somehow blundered into a steadily escalating war without a clear strategic goal or at least one it can credibly achieve? Will Israel end in empowering (Hamas) in political terms….? Will Israel’s actions seriously damage the US position in the region, any hope for peace, as well as moderate Arab regimes and voices in the process? To be blunt, the answer (appears) to be yes….If this is all that Olmert, Livni, and Barak have (to show for their efforts) then they have disgraced themselves and damaged their country and their friends.”

Three Weeks of Israeli Terror Took Its Toll

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights compiles it daily and presents it in weekly reports. Its latest January 15 – 22 one includes whole families killed. More than 43% of deaths and injuries were women and children. The vast majority of casualties were civilians. “Entire features of many areas have disappeared, and civilian infrastructure services have completely collapsed.” Other destruction included:

— hospitals, ambulances, civil defense and private vehicles, and relief services damaged or destroyed;

— thousands of homes and whole neighborhoods damaged or destroyed as well as –

— roads, bridges, power installations, sewage facilities, water wells, and other infrastructure;

— 28 public civilian facilities;

— ministry, municipality and other government buildings; the parliament building;

— UN sanctuaries;

— commercial buildings;

— 121 industrial and commercial workshops destroyed; at least 200 others damaged;

— fishing boats and harbors;

— 21 private projects, including cafeterias, wedding halls, tourist resorts and hotels;

— 30 mosques completely destroyed; 15 others damaged;

— five concrete factories;

— 60 police stations;

— five media buildings and two health ones completely destroyed;

— 29 educational institutions completely or partly destroyed; and

— thousands of dunams of agricultural land razed.

After Israel declared a January 17 “ceasefire,” homes were bulldozed, agricultural land razed, civilians attacked and killed, homes invaded and searched, and arrests made. The war cost the al-Sammouni clan 36 of its men, women and children.

The West Bank wasn’t spared. The pattern repeats weekly, but from January 15 – 22 alone:

— Hebron and Beit ‘Awa village (southwest of the city) homes were raided and searched; four civilians were arrested;

— Jenin town and refugee camp homes were invaded, searched, and one civilian arrested;

— Bourqin village homes, west of Jenin, were raided, searched, and one civilian arrested;

— Qabtatya village homes, southwest of Jenin, were invaded and searched; no arrests were reported;

— Roujib village homes, east of Nablus, were raided, searched, and one arrest made;

— Dura village, southwest of Hebron, homes were invaded, searched, and four arrests made;

— Beit Sahour homes were raided and searched; one resident was arrested earlier;

— al-Lubban village, near Nablus, homes were invaded, searched, and three arrests made, including a child;

— at a January 16 Beit Ummar village, north of Hebron, anti-war demonstration, the IDF fired live rounds at civilians wounding at least three;

— at another January 16 southern Hebron demonstration, the IDF shot and killed one man and wounded four others, including a child;

— at a same day East Jerusalem demonstration, the IDF fired sound bombs, tear gas, and violently beat protesters; journalists were also attacked and forced to leave;

— at another demonstration near the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, the IDF attacked and violently beat at least 10 women;

— at an al-‘Eissawiya village, east of Jerusalem, demonstration, the IDF fired on and wounded four children, and arrested two others;

— homes were also raided and searched in Beita village, south of Nablus; Zabbouba village, west of Jenin; ‘Anza village, southeast of Jenin; Hawara village, south of Nablus; Taqqou’ village, southeast of Bethlehem; Bani Na’im, east of Hebron; ‘Arraba village, southwest of Jenin; Fahma village, southeast of Jenin; Sa’ir village, northeast of Hebron; Western Toura village, southwest of Jenin; ‘Assira village, north of Nablus; Beit Emrin village, northwest of Nablus; al-Zahiriya village, south of Hebron; Ya’bad village, southwest of Jenin; Bethlehem city; al-Duhaisha refugee camp, southwest of Bethlehem; ‘Aaida refugee camp, north of Bethlehem; and Qaryout village, southeast of Nablus — homes in all areas were raided and searched; numerous arrests were made;

— at a Beit Ummar village, north of Hebron, demonstration, the IDF fired live rounds on protesters wounding at least one child and arresting another;

— two undercover IDF operations made arrests in Qabatya village, southeast of Jenin, and Qiffin village, north of Tulkarm.

PCHR reports that the Gaza siege continues. Border crossings remain closed. Collective punishment is enforced. Basic food, medicine and other essentials are unavailable or in scarce supply to the great majority of Gazans. Impoverishment now exceeds 80%. Mass human suffering affects everyone. The world community is complicit by its silence.

Continued >>

Israel will back troops accused of war crimes

January 26, 2009

Reuters
The Independent, UK, Monday, 26 January 2009

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International calls to investigate Israel over alleged war crimes in the Gaza Strip prompted Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to promise military personnel state protection from foreign prosecution yesterday.

“The commanders and soldiers sent to Gaza should know they are safe from various tribunals and Israel will assist them on this front and defend them, just as they protected us with their bodies during the Gaza operation,” Olmert said.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki said after meeting counterparts from the European Union, Egypt, Turkey and Jordan in Brussels that Olmert’s comments should not preclude action against Israeli military figures.

“It does not mean there is an immunity against legal actions…More of such efforts will be seen also in the near future.”

Last week, the military censor ordered local and foreign media in Israel not to publish names of army commanders in the Gaza war and to blur their faces in photos and video for fear they could be identified and arrested while travelling abroad.

Israeli media reports said the military had been advising its top brass to think twice about visiting Europe.

Speaking at a weekly cabinet meeting, Olmert said Israel’s justice minister would consult the country’s top legal experts and find “answers to possible questions relating to the Israeli military’s activities” during the 22-day war.

Some 1,300 Palestinians, including at least 700 civilians, were killed, medical officials said, in the offensive Israel launched in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip with the declared aim of ending cross-border rocket attacks.

The civilian deaths sparked public outcry abroad and prompted senior UN officials to demand independent investigations into whether Israel committed war crimes.

Ten Israeli soldiers and three civilians, hit by rocket salvoes, were killed in the conflict.

Israel said hundreds of militants were among the Palestinian dead and that it tried its best to avoid civilian casualties in densely populated areas where gunmen operated.

Rights group Amnesty International has said that Israel’s use of white phosphorus munitions — which can cause extreme burns — in built-up areas of the Gaza Strip was indiscriminate and therefore constituted a war crime.

Israel has said it used all weapons in Gaza within the limits of international law. Its military, however, has opened an investigation into white phosphorous use during the conflict.

US Envoy

In a quick start to efforts by US President Barack Obama’s new administration to shore up a shaky Gaza truce and revive Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking, his envoy, former US Sen. George Mitchell, is expected in Israel on Wednesday.

He plans to visit the occupied West Bank, Egypt and Jordan. A Western diplomat said Syria was not currently on his schedule.

Palestinians have lobbied for a tougher international response to Israel’s military crackdowns. Yet legal frameworks are problematic.

The International Criminal Court in The Hague has no jurisdiction to investigate in the Gaza Strip, as it is not a state. Though the Palestinian Authority has been functioning as an interim sovereign polity since 1993, it was forced out of Gaza last year by Hamas after the Islamists won an election.

And while Israel has not signed the Rome Statute that enshrined the ICC, it can still be investigated, but that would require a UN Security Council mandate. Any such proposal would probably be vetoed by Israel’s ally, the United States.

Some European nations allow for war crimes lawsuits to be filed privately against members of Israel’s security services.

Britain shames BBC over Gaza

January 26, 2009

Morning Star Online

(Sunday 25 January 2009)
INDYMEDIA.ORG.UK

UNITED: Thousands of protesters demonstrating against Israeli terror and the BBC ban on Saturday in Trafalgar Square. pic: INDYMEDIA.ORG.UK

DONATE now – that was the message on Sunday from charities left reeling by a BBC ban on an urgent TV appeal for Gaza.

The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) estimated that the BBC decision could rob up to £10 million in aid from civilians living in medieval conditions following a three-week Israeli bombardment.

But donations were already pouring in as British people showed their contempt for the Beeb’s blatant censorship.

Blistering criticism rained down on the broadcaster from all sides at the weekend after corporation bosses claimed that broadcasting an appeal to raise cash for desperately needed food and medicine “could be interpreted as taking a political stance.”

Chief executive Mark Thompson asserted that BBC “impartiality” could be “compromised” if the appeal went ahead. And the chairman of the corporation’s trustees Michael Lyons claimed that any government criticism of the ban would itself “come close to constituting undue interference in the editorial independence of the BBC.”

But anti-war activists, who staged a mass protest at the Beeb’s London HQ on Saturday, attacked these excuses as “unconvincing and incoherent.”

And rivals ITV, Channel 4 and Five increased the pressure on the state broadcaster on Sunday by pledging to show the DEC broadcast on Monday evening.

Labour MP Richard Burden, who launched an early day motion criticising BBC bosses signed by over 50 MPs, said that “the need to get aid to the people of Gaza is recognised by almost everyone – including the government.

“The BBC seems to be the only one who has a problem seeing this,” he said.

Former minister Tony Benn took his criticism into the TV studios over the weekend, telling a BBC News presenter live on air that “this ban is a betrayal of the BBC obligation to be a public service.”

Dismissing the presenter’s suggestion that aid cash could end up with Hamas, Mr Benn retorted: “Hamas is Palestine’s elected government!”

“People will die because of the BBC,” Mr Benn stormed, before defying corporation executives by telling viewers how to contact the DEC to donate to the appeal.

Government ministers and senior Church of England figures added their condemnation of the ban, with International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander pointing out that “the public can distinguish between support for humanitarian aid and perceived partiality in a conflict.

“I really struggle to see, in the face of the immense human suffering in Gaza, that this is in any way a credible argument,” he said.

And Britain’s first Muslim minister Shahid Malik warned that the decision would be seen as “one which inflicts still further misery on the beleaguered and suffering people of Gaza.”

Stop the War Coalition activist Chris Nineham dismissed corporation bosses’ claim of trying maintain “impartiality” by highlighting how the ban “proves the BBC is not neutral when it comes to coverage of the Palestinian struggle.”

A spokesman for the DEC, which represents charities including the Red Cross, Islamic Relief and Save The Children, revealed that “£5 to £10 million could be lost” as a result of the BBC ban.

He explained: “We are sure that the three criteria agreed with the BBC for our appeals – that the scale of the disaster is huge, that the aid agencies have the ability to get assistance to those who need it and that there is sufficient public awareness – have been met.

“But the DEC regrets that senior BBC managers do not share this view.”

See also:
Star comment: Blood on the BBC’s hands

Avi Shlaim: The newspeak of Israeli propagandists

January 26, 2009

What Uri Dromi says about Hamas is pure and poisonous Israeli propaganda (This Hamas hallucination, 23 January). In every respect his article is almost the exact opposite of the truth. Dromi claims that: “The Orwellian mindset of the organisation is as much a barrier to peace as the rockets it fires.” But it is the newspeak of Israeli propagandists like Dromi that is truly Orwellian.

Over the last four weeks the powerful Israeli propaganda machine has been churning out lie after lie about Hamas in order to excuse its own inexcusable onslaught. Israel stopped journalists going into Gaza, preventing any independent reporting on the war crimes its forces were committing. Truth is usually the first casualty in war. Gaza was not even a war in the conventional sense of the word; it was one-sided carnage.

Here are some of the facts Dromi ignores or wilfully misrepresents. First, Hamas is the democratically elected government of the Palestinian people, not the corrupt regime led by Mahmoud Abbas. Second, Hamas spokesmen have repeatedly declared their readiness for a long-term ceasefire. Khalid Mish’al recently did so on these pages (Comment, 6 January). Third, Hamas has a solid record of observing ceasefires, while Israel has a consistent record of sabotaging them. Fourth, even during the ceasefire Israel did not lift its economic blockade of the 1.5 million inhabitants of Gaza, a form of collective punishment forbidden by international law. Fifth, the offensive unleashed in Gaza was illegal, immoral and unnecessary. If all Israel wanted was to stop rocket attacks from Gaza, all it had to do was to observe the ceasefire brokered by Egypt in June 2008.

Professor Avi Shlaim
Oxford