Posts Tagged ‘Avi Shlaim’

Avi Shlaim: The perils and pitfalls of patriotic history

February 8, 2014

War is said to be too serious a business to be left to the soldiers. By the same token, military history is too serious to be left to the politicians. When politicians pontificate about the past it is rarely in the disinterested pursuit of a complex truth.

Michael Gove’s perspective on the First World War is a classic example of a narrow, nationalistic, blinkered version of history. In an article in the Daily Mail, on 2 January 2014, the education secretary used the centenary of the Great War to declare war on “left-wing academics” whom he accused of peddling unpatriotic myths about Britain’s role in the conflict.

For Gove this was a plainly just war, a patriotic war in defence of the homeland and freedom, a war forced on Britain by imperial Germany’s “aggressively expansionist war aims”. British soldiers, according to Gove, went to war in 1914 to defend “the western liberal order”. Gove also argued that dramas such as Oh What a Lovely War and satires such as Blackadder enable left-wing myths to take hold, leading some people to denigrate the “patriotism, honour and courage” of those who fought and died for their country. Gove’s article provoked a barrage of angry responses, including one from Baldrick, Blackadder’s wily sidekick.

One of the fiercest counter-attacks on the education secretary came from the left-wing journalist Seamus Milne in an article entitled “An imperial bloodbath that’s a warning, not a noble cause” (The Guardian, 9 January). Milne dismissed Gove’s claims about the war and its critics as “preposterous nonsense”. For Milne the 1914-18 bloodbath was not just a war: “It was a savage industrial slaughter perpetrated by a gang of predatory imperial powers, locked in a deadly struggle to capture and carve up territories, markets and resources”.

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Richard Daly and Nasir Khan on Israel and Palestine Issue

March 12, 2013
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Editor’s remarks: Dr Richard Daly is an anthropologist who is active in writing and publishing. He wrote me a letter in which he raised some serious questions about my approach to Israel and Palestine. In response I wrote to him a letter in which I explained my views on the matter but without getting into any detailed discussion of our differing views. As mutually agreed,  I am publishing our exchanges on my websites and some other internet sites. In doing so we hope that our respective views will be useful to clarify the issues for readers, political actors and peace activists. Any private and personal information we exchanged has been deleted.

Nasir Khan, Editor

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Richard Daly to Nasir Khan:

March 5, 2013,

Hello,

[Text deleted.]

I am  fully with you on Bradley Manning and Julian Assange, but I think you are wildly wrong on your commentary re Palestine and Israel. Too Islam-oriented. The focus cannot be on religion or physical violence. Too incendiary and full of hatred. It has to focus on Israel’s refusal to stop expansion and engage in peace.

I think we have to be pulling the world toward some kind of rational tolerance and peace in the region, and fanning flames of hatred –which does not have a shortage of the same–is counterproductive.

We have to stress not the bestiality of Israel, because all of us know how to be beasts when we are pushed into frenzies of intolerance, but to stress their leaders’ constant violation of the world’s desire for peace in the region, their violation of everything human by their armed occupation and expansion of Palestinian land.

I do not think the zionists have anything positive to contribute, but I do not think it reasonable or just, at this stage in the game, to drive Israelis into the sea. Israel has arrived. It cannot be pushed out, but nor should it be allowed to push out the long-term inhabitants on the basis of some Old Testament belief in ethnic primogeniture.

They must be led by world public opinion either to leave the country and make their mischief somewhere else, or work together with Palestinians to build a successful and peaceful country, an operation that could be a success if the whole world both criticizes and assists the process. How about calling for dismantling Israeli and Iranian nuclear installations, and, by the way, those of the big shots too.

Of course it cannot be done without a weakened and discredited late capitalism. Western capital is in crisis but that is another question. Pushing for a serious peace is a way of weakening capital and its aims even further, and giving some influence to the world’s peoples instead of to their so called leaders.

Your approach is shrill and incendiary and might one day contribute to massive communal violence rather than pressuring Israel and its backers  to make concessions for their own good, as well as for some degree of harmony is the powder keg that the region is. By all means, show the high walls, the roadblocks, the stunted Palestinian lives, the new towns on Palestinian farms, but many of your images — brutal acts to individuals — go beyond that and verge on hate literature, from my perspective.

I am sorry but I had to write this and I do not have time to become a blogger.

Richard
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Nasir Khan to Richard Daly:

March 10, 2013

Hello Richard,

[Text deleted.]

You have set forth some of your ideas on the Israel-Palestine issue including some critical remarks towards my approach to Israel and Palestine. Even though I have some reservations about what you say, but nonetheless I fully appreciate your sombre thoughts that show your good-will and your concern for peace and a peaceful settlement of the conflict. In fact, I also desire the same and have yearned for such goals for almost half-a-century. When it comes to analysing the specifics of Israeli policies, which I will rather call Zionist policies and goals, then our views seem to diverge on some points because they are based on our different experiences, involvements, perceptions and presuppositions.

Contrary to what you assume about my position, I also stand for peace and toleration in the region and for a peaceful resolution of the conflict. Meanwhile, the old Zionist lie perfectly tailored to misleading the world while they carried out their systematic  expansion for the last 6 decades has been to play the victim-card: Israeli Jews are under threat of being wiped out! This deception has duped many people everywhere, especially those whose ears are used to listening to the customary sermons of Judaeo-Christian common roots of the Western civilisation. Therefore, it was interesting to see you also repeating the favourite Zionist catch-phrase ‘to drive Israelis into the sea’!

Zionism has not been a religious organisation with a philanthropist outlook or mission. Its aims were and continue to be political: to expand, exploit and dominate. Not only within the Middle East but also far beyond. The strategy to extend the Zionist power and control is a story of success: the rulers of the United States and its Congress dance to the tunes of Zionist masters and lately Canada has joined their political chorus. Britain and France were their traditional supporters and they follow what Tel Aviv tells them to do. Earlier on, the way they managed to prevail over the British government to get the Balfour Declaration (1917) shows their strength and their methods. During the British Mandate (in other words, British colonial rule) over Palestine in the inter-war period, the British facilitated the task of the Zionists within Palestine.

The Jewish emigration to Palestine increased during and after the Second World War. The people of Palestine were ignored while their land was being taken by Jewish organisations who soon used terrorist methods to take control of the land. The British rulers, the patrons of Zionist cause, were not spared either. Now the next step was to get the British out of the way to take Palestine. Under Zionist terror, the British fled leaving behind a story of betrayal, apathy and deception.

But the old colonial master had opened the door for the European Zionists to create a new colonial-settler state of ‘Israel’. Now was the time to get UN to declare the creation of the State of Israel in 1948 by partitioning Palestine. More than 78% of Palestine to Israel, only 22% the rest to the ‘native’ population of Palestine! That was the partition by the imperialist powers towards which the USSR also acquiesced. The Zionists had their day. The Arabs of Palestine had been betrayed and left to organised Zionist terrorists who wasted no time to expel a large population from their land by terror and violence. The Nakba had started and since then it has chartered the course of the ethnic cleansing in the occupied Palestine.

Obviously, I am quite aware that to offer an adequate reply to some of your critical comments I should present my views in much greater detail. But unfortunately I am unable to do so at this time. Instead, I will briefly reply to some of your direct questions.

Are my comments and outlook on Palestine and Israel ‘Islam-oriented’? I hope not, as far as I can see. To my mind it has been a political problem where the Zionists have taken over the land of the people of Palestine, Muslims and Christians, and expelled them from their land. They are the Palestinians who have been pushed out of their land, not the Israelis ‘into the sea’!

Since 1967 the further colonisation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem has been going on unabated. The world has been watching and not able to do anything to stop Israel. Why? The Zionist power in the US and the rest of the Western world is the key to understanding this.

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Numerous UN resolutions condemning Israeli settlements in the occupied land produced no result. The Israeli response has been one of total defiance and rejection of international law and international conventions with regard to their illegal settlements in the occupied territories and their treatment of the captive Palestinians. USA, Canada, etc. support Israel in all crimes against the people of Palestine. This is still going on. Now the question is how to respond to all this?

Well, we can play lip-service to the problem and say that peace will eventually prevail if we show only patience. I suggest, better still we keep our eyes closed and ears shut so that we don’t see or hear what is going on in the occupied Palestine. In that way, the angel of peace may appear on the horizon and pronounce the message of peace and justice and everything will turn fine! In fact, this is the attitude of the people who are neutral spectators of the tragedy within the occupied territories of Palestine. How the Palestinians are killed, beaten and terrorised by Israel has no meaning for such noble neutral onlookers. I was somewhat surprised that a well-read academic like you also comes with a prognosis that ‘focus should not be on religion and physical violence’.

But it is fair to ask why I support the Palestinians while so many other people including numerous political analysts, historian and journalists do not concentrate on their plight. Why I have sided and still do with the oppressed people of Palestine is not due to their religions, Islam and Christianity, but rather it is because of my awareness as a humanist to the great calamity that had fallen these people. We know that right-wing Jewish settlers who have been placed in various illegal settlements by the Israeli government in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are religious extremists and fanatics. It is the Zionists who use Jewish religion for their political agenda and misleading propaganda. This is something which I have tried to make clear. But I have never tried to see the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in terms of religion, Islam and Christianity, versus Judaism. That will be too crude a position for a humanist like me to take! Neither, have I ever put forward Islam to define and defend the Palestinian cause. In my ideological and socio-political orientations, I have been a socialist, a non-compromising secularist and a humanist. As a matter of my humanist convictions, I do not play with religions or become a plaything of religions or religious people. Therefore to impute any religious label to my political work or views may be due to some misperception; this is quite easy because my Indo-Islamic cultural identity seems obvious.

Equally, it is vital to underscore that Israel has not been using physical violence and torture against the Palestinians for fun, but as a tool for its expansionist and colonising project. Such methods are brutal, barbarous and inhuman, and these are used routinely against other human beings. Should I ignore and not say what is happening in this regard? On the contrary, it is my duty as a human being to expose such cruel and inhuman violence against the people of Palestine. Obviously, the ‘Friends of Israel’ will rather have a lid on such information from leaking or displayed in the media. I am not against any religion or the followers of any religion or any mystic faith. But I am not a defender of Zionism, which as I mentioned earlier, is a political and not a religious movement. However, I am not the only one of the kind to think so, either.

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On my blogs and other alternative websites that care to side with the oppressed and victimised people, I try to highlight the human rights issues in many countries including Palestine and Israel. Because it is by exposing the violence and terror of the Zionists of Israel can we show to the world what the Zionists are doing. If we don’t that, we are giving our tacit approval to such atrocities by our silence and indifference. This is more so in the case of politically-conscious people, the people who know what is happening but remain indifferent. In this regard, my position is unambiguous and my views are clearly goal-oriented: Israel should stop all such criminal activities against the people and the occupied land of Palestine.

It is well known what the Zionists in and outside Israel, AIPAC, and the Israeli Lobby in America, Canada, Britain, France and other European countries stand for. The US Government and the US Congress as the staunch backers of Israel and the Friends of Israel throughout the western hemisphere support the policies of Israel vis-a-vis the occupied people of Palestine. They give their full backing to Israel for its continued oppression and the colonisation of the rest of the West Bank and the gradual annexation of East Jerusalem by obliterating its Arab complexion. Thus new facts on the ground that Israel has been creating would decide the shape of things to come. Who can doubt that? This is a realistic assessment of the situation which the people of Palestine do not and cannot accept. We who sympathise with them continue to voice our support for their national rights and their protection from a brutal occupier. This oppression and violence is still going on and people are being killed, imprisoned, brutally beaten and humiliated.

The shrivelled tracts of land in the West Bank that were still owned by the Palestinians have been and are still being taken over by Israel for Jewish settlements, while confiscations and demolitions of the Palestinian homes take place in East Jerusalem and other places. It happens all the time, almost on daily basis. Western spectators and mass media have their own affiliations, sympathies and much apathy towards the plight of the Palestinian people. Contrary to what you say that my approach is ‘shrill and incendiary’ that may contribute to massive communal violence, I see the violence against the Palestinians a crime against humanity and war crimes. I am one of those who oppose the violence and brutalities of the occupying power. My task here is to inform others and highlight the issues so that Israel changes its expansionist and terrorist course and stops killing and destroying the Palestinians. As a historian, a blogger and a peace activist that’s all I can do in solidarity with a people who are more like the Red Indians of America of the previous centuries who were pushed by the European colonists out of their homes and hearths and have since those times being portrayed as incorrigible wild tribal people who were mostly put to death and their remaining descendants pushed to some barren reservations to live in social isolation, powerlessness and penury in the land which they once had owned as a free and independent people. The situation of Palestinians is not much different for that of the old generations of the Red Indians or First Nations of Canada.

In other words, my approach to the conflict is not much different from that of other peace activists who are working for peace and justice. Among such people I will also mention the names of some prominent Jewish writers and peace activists like Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, Richard Falk, Gilad Atzmon, Miko Peled, Avi Shlaim, Ilan Pappe, etc. My views and work in this area are in line with these upholders of  the Palestinians’ rights and they are meant to contribute to ending the conflict and putting an end to the enslavement, oppression and degradation of a people.

I still believe only one democratic and secular state solution in historic Palestine is the best solution to the conflict. In no way, a well-informed person will see my approach as amounting to ‘hate literature’ or inflammatory. As you know, the Jewish writers, historians and peace activists I mentioned are not the enemies of Israel. Indeed, they are aware of the harm Zionism has done to the cause of the Jewish people and the long-term dangers which Israel is creating for itself and other people of the region. These views are appropriate to end an oppressive control over the life and destiny of the people of Palestine. With such views, I completely agree. But if you or anyone else will also call what they write including my articles and comments as ‘hate literature’ and ‘incendiary’ then that is something which I find deeply regrettable.

In the end, I thank you for your frank views and criticism. That also shows your perspective in a complicated conflict, which is a positive thing for exploring the possibilities from various angles. In addition, I much appreciate honestly-held views of a friend and well-wisher like you.

Cordially yours

Nasir

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Richard Daly To Nasir Khan:

March 10, 2013

Nasir,

[Text deleted.]

As for the Palestine question, there is nothing in what you write that I disagree with. In fact the hegemonic presence of Zionism in Toronto is regularly brought to our attention by an activist friend who works with Jews for Justice in Palestine. She is up to her eyes in the lies, threats and obfuscations of Zionism every day, and is a firm anti imperialist but constantly meets hysteria from the Canadian media, state and almost all other Jewish organizations.

The only difference you and I may have is how to frame the huge injustice and huge oppression such that this hegemony will be increasingly isolated by masses of bloggers and face bookers etc. Just exposing crimes without trying to affect a positive response to the situation, It seems to me –just pointing out the vicious acts of Israeli/Zionist officials and soldiers and settlers has to be done is ways that encourage organized resistance and not just gut-hatred based on tribal alliances,that can lead to more violent retaliations (which is what Zionism needs in order to justify its very military existence and its expansion). They provoke and we respond with angry retaliations, and the cycle goes on, and the leaders of the world, the monopolists continue to conduct business as usual.

Thanks for the long and serious reply. I did not feel it was an argument that I wanted, at this point to take to the Facebook crowd, which is an audience I find generally very superficial and highly manipulated by market forces and a difficult forum for serious issues.

Richard
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Tony Blair: Gaza’s Great Betrayer

February 3, 2010

It’s more than a year since Israel launched its immoral attack on Gaza and Palestinians are still living on the verge of a humanitarian disaster. So what has Tony Blair done to further peace in the region? Virtually nothing, argues the historian Avi Shlaim

Tony Blair visiting Gaza, June 2009Tony Blair in June 2009 speaking at a press conference in Gaza calling for a quick reconstruction. Photograph: Hatem Moussa/AP

The savage attack Israel ­unleashed against Gaza on 27 December 2008 was both immoral and unjustified. Immoral in the use of force against civilians for political purposes. Unjustified because Israel had a political alternative to the use of force. The home-made Qassam rockets fired by Hamas militants from Gaza on Israeli towns were only the ­excuse, not the reason for Operation Cast Lead. In June 2008, Egypt had ­brokered a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, the Islamic resistance movement. ­Contrary to Israeli propaganda, this was a success: the average number of rockets fired monthly from Gaza dropped from 179 to three. Yet on 4 November Israel violated the ceasefire by launching a raid into Gaza, killing six Hamas fighters. When Hamas ­retaliated, Israel seized the renewed rocket attacks as the ­excuse for launching its insane offensive. If all Israel wanted was to protect its citizens from Qassam rockets, it only needed to ­observe the ceasefire.

Continues >>

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

A war to crush the Palestinians

January 17, 2009

Eric Ruder argues that Israel’s rhetoric about Hamas “terrorism” is a pretext for an attempt to crush the Palestinian national movement.

After two weeks, Israel's assault on Gaza had claimed nearly 1,000 lives

TO U.S. politicians and mainstream media commentators, the justification for the massacre in Gaza is simple and unquestioned–that Israel is responding to Palestinian “terrorism” in the form of rocket attacks aimed at southern Israel.

“Israel has no choice but to take military action,” said former Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney, in a phrase repeated by politicians across the political spectrum. For the Democrats, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid declared, “I think this terrorist organization, Hamas, has got to be put away.”

In U.S. politics, these two arguments–that Israel had no choice but to defend itself, and that it faces a terrorist assault–are sufficient to excuse even the most senseless killing of Palestinian civilians and wanton destruction of Gaza’s infrastructure by Israeli forces.

But like so much that passes for fact in the U.S. discussion about the Israel-Palestine conflict, these arguments obscure all the essential dynamics of Israel’s war on the Palestinian people.

First, Hamas scrupulously observed a cease-fire from the summer of 2008 until Israel launched a raid November 4 that killed six Hamas members. The attack took place as the U.S. and international media focused its attention on the election of Barack Obama. Only after Israel broke this most recent cease-fire did Hamas militants fire rockets at Israel.

And as Palestinian activist and author Ali Abunimah has pointed out:

There are no rockets launched at Israel from the West Bank, and yet Israel’s attacks, killings, land theft, settler pogroms and kidnappings never ceased for one single day during the truce. The Palestinian Authority in Ramallah has acceded to all of Israel’s demands, even assembling “security forces” to fight the resistance on Israel’s behalf. None of that has spared a single Palestinian or her property or livelihood from Israel’s relentless violent colonization.

Since Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, Palestinian rocket fire has killed 11 Israelis. During the same period, Israel killed at least 1,400 Palestinians in Gaza, including 223 children.

And during the so-called truce that began last summer, Israel continued its suffocating siege of Gaza, imposing shortages of electricity, food and medical supplies that led to countless deaths, not to mention exacerbating the already inhuman levels of grinding poverty, unemployment and despair.

The inescapable conclusion is that Palestinian rockets fired from Gaza are the excuse for, not the cause of, the Israeli offensive that began on December 27.

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THIS BEGS an obvious question: What are the real reasons for Israel’s attack?

For one, Israel chose this moment with an exquisite sense of timing. According to Israel’s Ha’aretz newspaper, planning for the offensive began six months ago.

The attack was launched between the Christmas and New Year holidays when most Western governments are on hiatus. Further, the Bush administration–an ardent supporter of Israel’s aggression, no matter how bloody–could be expected to be quiet in its twilight while Barack Obama conveniently can conveniently hide behind the excuse that “there’s only one president at a time” (despite his high-profile involvement in setting economic policy in response to the unraveling economy).

At the most basic level, Israel hopes that the military defeat of Hamas will finally give it total and unchallenged control over the flow of goods into and out of Gaza, specifically by destroying the network of tunnels that connect Gaza to Egypt at the Rafah border crossing.

While it is true that these tunnels are used to provide Hamas with military equipment, what the corporate media fails to point out is that the tunnels now provide the vast majority of essential humanitarian supplies–goods that Israel has blocked at the border crossings it controls. As journalist Jonathan Cook wrote:

Israel believes the current invasion will have achieved nothing unless this time it regains absolute control of the Rafah border, undercutting Hamas’s claims to be running the Strip. The “mechanism” therefore requires that technical responsibility is lifted from Egyptian shoulders.

According to the Israeli plan, it will pass to the Americans, whose expertise will be called on to stop the tunneling and prevent Hamas from rebuilding its arsenal after the invasion comes to an end. Israel may additionally seek the involvement of international forces to diffuse the censure the Arab publics are likely to direct at Egypt as a result.

Israel also aims to further destroy Hamas’ institutional means to govern Gaza in order to weaken Hamas’ overall political strength and to create terms for a new cease-fire even more favorable to Israel. This is a longstanding goal of Israel’s political leadership, which it has pursued by a variety of means.

As Avi Shlaim, an Israeli professor of international relations at Oxford University, wrote:

In January 2006, free and fair elections for the Legislative Council of the Palestinian Authority brought to power a Hamas-led government. Israel, however, refused to recognize the democratically elected government, claiming that Hamas is purely and simply a terrorist organization.

America and the [European Union] shamelessly joined Israel in ostracizing and demonizing the Hamas government and in trying to bring it down by withholding tax revenues and foreign aid. A surreal situation thus developed with a significant part of the international community imposing economic sanctions not against the occupier but against the occupied, not against the oppressor but against the oppressed.

Then, Israel turned to more aggressive measures, working with the CIA to deliver guns and money to stoke a Palestinian civil war that Israel hoped would end in the overthrow of Hamas rule by the now fully tamed Fatah faction of Mahmoud Abbas, the current PA president.

But the plan didn’t work out, according to David Rose, who unearthed the details of the operation in an April 2008 Vanity Fair article. He wrote:

[T]he secret plan backfired, resulting in a further setback for American foreign policy under Bush. Instead of driving its enemies out of power, the U.S.-backed Fatah fighters inadvertently provoked Hamas to seize total control of Gaza.

Some sources call the scheme “Iran-contra 2.0,” recalling that [Deputy National-Security Adviser Elliott] Abrams [who was key to the implementation of the Gaza gambit] was convicted (and later pardoned) for withholding information from Congress during the 1980s Iran-Contra scandal under President Ronald Reagan.

There are echoes of other past misadventures as well: the CIA’s 1953 ouster of an elected prime minister in Iran, which set the stage for the 1979 Islamic revolution there; the aborted 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion, which gave Fidel Castro an excuse to solidify his hold on Cuba; and the contemporary tragedy in Iraq.

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THE IRONY, of course, is that for decades Israel sought to undermine, divide and destroy the Palestinian national movement as embodied in the Fatah faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Israel abetted the growth of Hamas as a means to that end.

As Middle East commentator Stephen Zunes wrote:

Israel initially encouraged the rise of the Palestinian Islamist movement as a counter to the Palestine Liberation Organization, the secular coalition composed of Fatah and various leftist and other nationalist movements.

Beginning in the early 1980s, with generous funding from the U.S.-backed family dictatorship in Saudi Arabia, the antecedents of Hamas began to emerge through the establishment of schools, health care clinics, social service organizations and other entities that stressed an ultraconservative interpretation of Islam, which up to that point had not been very common among the Palestinian population.

The hope was that if people spent more time praying in mosques, they would be less prone to enlist in left-wing nationalist movements challenging the Israeli occupation.

By the early 1990s, even Israel’s wink-and-nod at the growth of Hamas did little to persuade most Palestinians, who were not particularly religious, to abandon their commitment to the PLO, the historic representative of the Palestinian national movement.

It wasn’t until the 1993 “peace process,” by which Yasser Arafat and the PLO were transformed from resistance fighters into the willing accomplices of Israel’s drive to put the West Bank under Israeli hegemony while isolating Gaza, that Hamas began to overtake Fatah’s popularity.

“At the time of the Oslo Agreement between Israel and the PLO in 1993, polls showed that Hamas had the support of only 15 percent of the Palestinian community,” writes Zunes. “Support for Hamas grew, however, as promises of a viable Palestinian state faded as Israel continued to expand its colonization drive on the West Bank without apparent U.S. objections, doubling the amount of settlers over the next dozen years.”

In addition to suppressing the Palestinian struggle for self-determination, Israel aims to accomplish a larger regional goal with the assault on Gaza–namely, to re-establish the deterrent effect of having the most powerful military force in the Middle East. Ever since its humiliating defeat by Hezbollah in the Israeli assault on Lebanon in 2006, Israel has been looking for an opportunity to demonstrate overwhelming power.

Thus, the widespread civilian casualties and destruction of Hamas’ political institutions are purposefully designed to send a message to Iran, Hezbollah and other regional foes that the price of opposing of Israel should not be underestimated.

“The Israeli army needs to address the problem created to its deterrence in 2006,” Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, told Agence France Presse. “The army has to change its image among its enemies that it is afraid to use ground forces…It does not necessarily need to be a large-scale invasion, maybe just special units or localized incursions, but the army needs boots on the ground.”

Finally, Israel’s assault on Gaza is the latest attempt to put into practice the Bush administration blueprint for domination of the Middle East by the U.S. and its junior partner Israel. According to Columbia University professor Joseph Massad:

The U.S. has seen this as an opportune moment to fully integrate Israel in the region, so much so that it signaled to its Gulf allies to make proposals for a new regional alliance that includes Israel in its midst. The Bahraini foreign minister suggested a few weeks ago that Israel join the Arab League. Many such proposals have already been made in the past few months welcoming the colonial settlement to the regional alliance against Iran.

Against this U.S.-backed Israeli drive to further colonial domination, Palestinian resistance to Israeli occupation is legitimate and just–and protected under international law. No one should be fooled by U.S.-Israeli attempts to use the “war on terror” to excuse their imperial aims.

Pilger: Silence when Israel burns Gaza and the Gazans

January 12, 2009

John Pilger | New Statesman, January 8, 2009

By refusing to condemn Israeli atrocities, intellectuals in the West are complicit in its crimes, argues JOHN PILGER.

“WHEN the truth is replaced by silence,” the Soviet dissident Yevgeny Yevtushenko said, “the silence is a lie.”

It may appear that the silence on Gaza is broken. The small cocoons of murdered children, wrapped in green, together with boxes containing their dismembered parents, and the cries of grief and rage of everyone in that death camp by the sea can be witnessed on Al-Jazeera and YouTube, even glimpsed on the BBC.

But Russia’s incorrigible poet was not referring to the ephemera we call news. He was asking why those who knew the why never spoke it and so denied it.

Among the Anglo-US intelligentsia, this is especially striking. It is they who hold the keys to the great storehouses of knowledge – the historiographies and archives that lead us to the why.

They know that the horror now raining on Gaza has little to do with Hamas or, absurdly, “Israel’s right to exist.”

They know the opposite to be true – that Palestine’s right to exist was cancelled 61 years ago and that the expulsion and, if necessary, extinction of the indigenous people was planned and executed by the founders of Israel.

They know, for example, that the infamous “Plan D” of 1947-8 resulted in the murderous depopulation of 369 Palestinian towns and villages by the Haganah (Israeli army) and that massacre upon massacre of Palestinian civilians in such places as Deir Yassin, al-Dawayima, Eilaboun, Jish, Ramle and Lydda are referred to in official records as “ethnic cleansing.”

Arriving at a scene of this carnage, David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, was asked by a general, Yigal Allon: “What shall we do with the Arabs?” Ben Gurion, reported the Israeli historian Benny Morris, “made a dismissive, energetic gesture with his hand and said: ‘Expel them’.”

The order to expel an entire population “without attention to age” was signed by Yitzhak Rabin, a future prime minister promoted by the world’s most efficient propaganda as a peacemaker.

The terrible irony of this was addressed only in passing, such as when the Mapam party co-leader Meir Ya’ari noted “how easily” Israel’s leaders spoke of how it was “possible and permissible to take women, children and old men and to fill the road with them because such is the imperative of strategy. And this we say … who remember who used this means against our people during the (second world) war … I am appalled.”

Every subsequent “war” that Israel has waged has had the same objective – the expulsion of the native people and the theft of more and more land. The lie of David and Goliath, of perennial victim, reached its apogee in 1967 when the propaganda became a righteous fury that claimed the Arab states had struck first against Israel.

Since then, mostly Jewish truth-tellers such as Avi Shlaim, Noam Chomsky, Tanya Reinhart, Neve Gordon, Tom Segev, Uri Avnery, Ilan Pappé and Norman Finkelstein have undermined this and other myths and revealed a state shorn of the humane traditions of Judaism, whose unrelenting militarism is the sum of an expansionist, lawless and racist ideology called zionism.

“It seems,” wrote the Israeli historian Pappé on January 2, “that even the most horrendous crimes, such as the genocide in Gaza, are treated as discrete events, unconnected to anything that happened in the past and not associated with any ideology or system … Very much as the apartheid ideology explained the oppressive policies of the South African government, this ideology – in its most consensual and simplistic variety – allowed all the Israeli governments in the past and the present to dehumanise the Palestinians wherever they are and strive to destroy them.

“The means altered from period to period, from location to location, as did the narrative covering up these atrocities. But there is a clear pattern (of genocide).”

In Gaza, the enforced starvation and denial of humanitarian aid, the piracy of life-giving resources such as fuel and water, the denial of medicines, the systematic destruction of infrastructure and killing and maiming of the civilian population, 50 per cent of whom are children, fall within the international standard of the Genocide Convention.

“Is it an irresponsible overstatement,” asked Richard Falk, UN special rapporteur for human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories and international law authority at Princeton University, “to associate the treatment of Palestinians with this criminalised nazi record of collective atrocity? I think not.”

In describing a “holocaust-in-the making,” Falk was alluding to the nazis’ establishment of Jewish ghettos in Poland.

For one month in 1943, the captive Polish Jews, led by Mordechaj Anielewicz, fought off the German army and the SS, but their resistance was finally crushed and the nazis exacted their final revenge. Falk is also a Jew.

Today’s holocaust-in-the-making, which began with Ben Gurion’s Plan D, is in its final stages. The difference today is that it is a joint US-Israeli project.

The F-16 jet fighters, the 250lb “smart” GBU-39 bombs supplied on the eve of the attack on Gaza having been approved by a congress dominated by the Democratic Party, plus the annual $2.4 billion in war-making “aid,” give Washington de facto control.

‘The unreported news is that the death toll in Gaza is the equivalent of 18,000 dead in Britain. Imagine, if you can.’

It beggars belief that president-elect Obama was not informed. Outspoken about Russia’s war in Georgia and the terrorism in Mumbai, Obama has maintained a silence on Palestine that marks his approval, which is to be expected given his obsequiousness to the Tel Aviv regime and its lobbyists during the presidential campaign and his appointment of zionists as his secretary of state and principal Middle East advisers. When Aretha Franklin sings Think, her wonderful 1960s anthem to freedom, at Obama’s inauguration on January 20, I trust that someone with the brave heart of Muntader al-Zaidi, the shoe-thrower, will shout: “Gaza!”

The asymmetry of conquest and terror is clear. Plan D is now Operation Cast Lead, which is the unfinished Operation Justified Vengeance.

This was launched by prime minister Ariel Sharon in 2001 when, with George W Bush’s approval, he used F-16s against Palestinian towns and villages for the first time.

In that same year, the authoritative Jane’s Foreign Report disclosed that the Blair government had given Israel the “green light” to attack the West Bank after it was shown Israel’s secret designs for a bloodbath. It was typical of new Labour’s enduring complicity in Palestine’s agony.

However, the Israeli plan, reported Jane’s, needed the “trigger” of a suicide bombing which would cause “numerous deaths and injuries (because) the ‘revenge’ factor is crucial.” This would “motivate Israeli soldiers to demolish the Palestinians.”

What alarmed Sharon and the author of the plan, General Shaul Mofaz, then Israeli chief of staff, was a secret agreement between Yasser Arafat and Hamas to ban suicide attacks.

On November 23 2001, Israeli agents assassinated Hamas leader Mahmoud Abu Hanoud and got their “trigger.” The suicide attacks resumed in response to his killing.

Something uncannily similar happened on November 4 last year when Israeli special forces attacked Gaza, killing six people.

Once again, they got their propaganda “trigger,” a ceasefire sustained by the Hamas government, which had imprisoned its violators, was shattered as a result of the Israeli attacks and home-made rockets were fired into what used to be called Palestine before its Arab occupants were “cleansed.”

On December 23, Hamas offered to renew the ceasefire, but Israel’s charade was such that its all-out assault on Gaza had been planned six months earlier, according to the Israeli daily Haaretz.

Behind this sordid game is the Dagan Plan, named after General Meir Dagan, who served with Sharon during his bloody invasion of Lebanon in 1982.

Now head of the Israeli intelligence organisation Mossad, Dagan is the author of a “solution” that has brought about the imprisonment of Palestinians behind a ghetto wall snaking across the West Bank and in Gaza, now effectively a concentration camp.

The establishment of a quisling government in Ramallah under Mahmoud Abbas is Dagan’s achievement, together with a hasbara (propaganda) campaign relayed through mostly supine, if intimidated Western media, notably in the US, which says that Hamas is a terrorist organisation devoted to Israel’s destruction and is to “blame” for the massacres and siege of its own people over two generations, since long before its creation.

“We have never had it so good,” said the Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Gideon Meir in 2006. “The hasbara effort is a well-oiled machine.”

In fact, Hamas’s real threat is its example as the Arab world’s only democratically elected government, drawing its popularity from its resistance to the Palestinians’ oppressor and tormentor.

This was demonstrated when Hamas foiled a CIA coup in 2007, an event ordained in the Western media as “Hamas’s seizure of power.”

Likewise, Hamas is never described as a government, let alone democratic.

Neither is its proposal of a 10-year truce reported as a historic recognition of the “reality” of Israel and support for a two-state solution with just one condition – that the Israelis obey international law and end their illegal occupation beyond the 1967 borders.

As every annual vote in the UN general assembly demonstrates, most states agree. On January 4, the president of the general assembly, Miguel d’Escoto, described the Israeli attack on Gaza as a “monstrosity.”

When the monstrosity is done and the people of Gaza are even more stricken, the Dagan Plan foresees what Sharon called a “1948-style solution” – the destruction of all Palestinian leadership and authority, followed by mass expulsions into smaller and smaller “cantonments” and, perhaps, finally into Jordan.

This demolition of institutional and educational life in Gaza is designed to produce, wrote British-based Palestinian exile Karma Nabulsi, “a Hobbesian vision of an anarchic society: truncated, violent, powerless, destroyed, cowed … Look to the Iraq of today: that is what (Sharon) had in store for us and he has nearly achieved it.”

Dr Dahlia Wasfi is a US writer on Iraq and Palestine. She has a Jewish mother and an Iraqi Muslim father. “Holocaust denial is anti-semitic,” she wrote on December 31.

“But I’m not talking about the World War II, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (the president of Iran) or Ashkenazi Jews. What I’m referring to is the holocaust we are all witnessing and responsible for in Gaza today and in Palestine over the past 60 years … Since Arabs are semites, US-Israeli policy doesn’t get more anti-semitic than this.”

She quoted Rachel Corrie, the young US citizen who went to Palestine to defend Palestinians and was crushed by an Israeli bulldozer.

“I am in the midst of a genocide,” wrote Corrie, “which I am also indirectly supporting and for which my government is largely responsible.”

Reading the words of both, I am struck by the use of “responsibility.”

Breaking the lie of silence is not an esoteric abstraction but an urgent responsibility that falls to those with the privilege of a platform.

With the BBC cowed, so too is much of journalism, merely allowing vigorous debate within unmovable, invisible boundaries, ever fearful of the smear of anti-semitism.

The unreported news, meanwhile, is that the death toll in Gaza is the equivalent of 18,000 dead in Britain. Imagine, if you can.

Then there are the academics, the deans and teachers and researchers. Why are they silent as they watch a university bombed and hear the Association of University Teachers in Gaza plead for help?

Are British universities now, as Terry Eagleton believes, no more than “intellectual Tescos, churning out a commodity known as graduates rather than greengroceries?”

Then there are the writers. In the dark year of 1939, the Third American Writers’ Congress was held at Carnegie Hall in New York and the likes of Thomas Mann and Albert Einstein sent messages and spoke up to ensure that the lie of silence was broken. By one account, 2,500 jammed the auditorium.

Today, this mighty voice of realism and morality is said to be obsolete. The literary review pages affect an ironic hauteur of irrelevance. False symbolism is all.

As for the readers, their moral and political imagination is to be pacified, not primed. The anti-Muslim Martin Amis expressed this well in Visiting Mrs Nabokov: “The dominance of the self is not a flaw, it is an evolutionary characteristic; it is just how things are.”

If that is how things are, we are diminished as a civilised people. For what happens in Gaza is the defining moment of our time, which either grants war criminals impunity and immunity through our silence, while we contort our own intellect and morality, or it gives us the power to speak out.

For the moment, I prefer my own memory of Gaza – of the people’s courage and resistance and their “luminous humanity,” as Nabulsi put it.

On my last trip there, I was rewarded with a spectacle of Palestinian flags fluttering in unlikely places. It was dusk and children had done this. No-one had told them to do it. They made flagpoles out of sticks tied together and a few of them climbed onto a wall and held the flag between them, some silently, others crying out. They do this every day when they know foreigners are leaving, in the belief that the world will not forget them.