Posts Tagged ‘Ehud Barak’

Israeli War Criminal Olmert Welcomed in Australia

November 30, 2009
There is a danger that Australia could become a safe haven for Israeli war criminals.

By Sonja Karkar, The Palestine Chronicle, Nov 29, 2009

The news that former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was in Australia and was welcomed by the honourable members of our parliament came as somewhat of a shock. It is one thing to have allowed a man on corruption charges as well as facing war crimes indictments into Australia at all; it is another thing that he was listed as a distinguished guest in Hansard – the official record of parliamentary proceedings – and received a resounding “hear, hear” from our elected representatives.

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Criminals shouldn’t be allowed to investigate themselves

October 22, 2009

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Khalid Amayreh, uruknet.info, October 21, 2009

In its rabid efforts to whitewash the Goldstone report, Israel is likely to carry out another disingenuous probe into its genocidal onslaught against the Gaza Strip nearly ten months ago.

The report, compiled by South African judge Richard Goldstone, himself a Jew, accused Israel of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity, including the deliberate targeting of innocent civilians.

As many as 1400 Palestinians, mostly non-combatants including more than 330 children, were killed during the 22-day campaign which some historians and intellectuals compared to the allied saturation bombing of the German city of Dresden at the close of the Second World War.

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Following Publication of Report of the UN Fact Finding Mission on Gaza: Israeli War Criminals to Trial/Court!

September 21, 2009

Michael Warschawski, Alternative Information Center, Sep 16, 2009

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Israeli Defense Minister, Ehud Barak.

Publication of Report of the UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict is an important step, on condition that it is followed up. This is important, first and foremost, for international public hygiene: during two decades of neo-conservative rule in the United States, we were witness to a joint effort of the White House and Israel to annul the norms of international law. Here we can recall the stupid comment of George W. Bush. Bush, in the framework of the global war on terror, argued it is essential to annul the limitations placed by the Geneva Conventions on combatants. And Israel, already in the early 1970s, decided that the Fourth Geneva Conventions are not applicable to the occupied Palestinian territories.

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Report: IDF, U.S. military to simulate Iran missile strike on Israel

September 21, 2009

By Haaretz Service, Haaretz/Israel, Sep 20, 2009

The Israel Defense Forces and the U.S. military will soon hold a training exercise in which they will simulate missile attacks on Israel from Iran, Syria, Lebanon and Gaza, the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat reported Sunday.

The exercise will be carried out as part of the ongoing maneuvers between Israel and the United States, the London-based paper said, which will reportedly be the broadest-ever this year.

According to the paper, the drill is also part of U.S. President Barack Obama’s new missile defense plan, under which the Pentagon will initially deploy ships with missile interceptors instead of stationing missile defense systems in Eastern Europe.

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As Dangerous as Netanyahu

March 4, 2009

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By Hassan Afif El-Hasan | The Palestine Chronicle, Mach 3, 2009

The Palestinians in the occupied lands and the refugee camps must have been puzzled by those Palestinian leaders’ declarations and commentators’ peppy articles lamenting the loss of the butchers of Gaza, Kadima-Labor coalition, to the Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu coalition. Have the Palestinian leaders in the West Bank established mystical bonds with the butchers of Gaza who became their only accepted partners for peace? I can’t see the teeniest difference between the policies of the two camps. If there is any difference, it is that unlike Kadima and Labour leaders, Netanyahu practices what he preaches. Netanyahu is a dangerous leader but Olmert, Livni, Peres and Barak are no less dangerous. The only competition among these leaders is the level of the horrors inflicted on the Palestinians and the blood wantonly spilled under their leaderships.

When Peres was the minister of defense under Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin he helped Gush Emunim movement followers launch several settlements next to the Arab population centers in the West Bank. For the Gush Emunim members, the right of the Jewish people to Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) is non-negotiable. At Peres order, the Israeli army provided water and electricity for Elon Moreh settlers and the military invited the settlers to establish a settlement at the military camp inside the Arab village of Kufur Qadum. The Israeli military declared the main road to the village as Jews-only-road and its Arab residents had to build new road leading to their homes and schools.

Peres personally helped establish Ofra settlement in the West Bank. In 1996 Peres approved and defended the shelling that killed and injured hundreds of Lebanese civilians who had taken refuge at a Fijian UNIFIL compound in Qana village. According to the Human Rights Watch, the death toll was 116 and the injured exceeded 120. And at the recent World Economic Forum in Switzerland, Peres defended Israel’s 22-day offensive against the Palestinian people in Gaza that killed hundreds of children and women and destroyed the civilian infrastructures of the ghettos where 1.5 million live under complete siege imposed by Israel. While Gaza had been under siege and its population was starved the unrepentant Peres said in the Forum “There is no siege against Gaza…..Why do they fight us? There was never a day of starvation in Gaza”. Peres is a sociopath liar and a war criminal, and that does not make him and his cohorts moderates.

How can the Palestinian leaders refer to Tzipi Livni, Ehud Barak and Olmert as moderates? The trio followed a policy of terrorizing the Palestinians who have been under occupation for forty years, building and expanding settlements, Judaisation of Jerusalem, confiscating Arab lands and building the apartheid wall. They carried out the barbarous massacres of the starved and besieged survivors of the 1948 Nakba in Gaza. And they deny the right of return for the refugees living in camps since 1948.

Under Olmert municipal administration in Jerusalem, Arab land was confiscated; public land was sequestrated; Olmert fostered Jews only settlements; and he cordoned off the city Arab inhabitants from their West Bank hinterland. Mayor Olmert and Prime Minister Netanyahu ordered the excavation of the so called “Hasmonean Tunnel” under the Muslim Haram Asharif shrine to facilitate movement of Israelis directly from the Western Wall area to Haram Asharif. The act is part of the plans to Judaize the character of the whole area. And on September 28, 2000, Olmert accompanied Sharon, a man anathematized by the Palestinians as “the butcher of Sabra and Shatila”, in the provocative walking visit to Haram Asharif that triggered the second intifada.

Netanyahu is not the first to ally himself with Avigdor Lieberman the leader of Yisrael Beiteinu Party. Ehud Olmert struck an alliance on October 23, 2006 with Lieberman who became a minister of strategic affairs and a deputy prime minister in Olmert cabinet. Lieberman called for stripping Arab Israelis of their citizenship to make Israel more Jewish, executing lawmakers for talking to Hamas and blanket-bombing of Palestinian population centers, gas stations and banks.

Even before Gaza massacres, Ehud Barak has lots of Palestinian blood on his hands. As a commando, Barak is widely presumed that he personally assassinated many Palestinians including the poet intellectual Kamal Nasir in 1972 and the Palestinian political nationalist Salah Khalaf (Abu Iyad) outside Tunis in 1991. Like Netanyahu, each of Peres, Olmert and Barak declared himself uncompromising on the issue of Jerusalem and the control of Israel’s security borders defined as the borders of historical Palestine.

Much has been written and aired by the US news media and the Israeli propaganda machine about a generous offer to Yassir Arafat by then Israeli Prime Minister Barak and US President Clinton in 2000 Camp David II negotiations. Here are some facts. The Palestinian state offered by Barak would be divided into small lots without territorial continuity or sovereignty. Barak stood firm on maintaining Israel’s sovereignty over the large Jewish settlement blocs that is home to more than 80 percent of the Jewish settlers in the West Bank. The thousands of the settlers who would be evacuated would have to remain under Israeli protection until arrangements could be made to relocate them. Barak map annexed the central Givat Ze’ev/Pisgat Ze’ev/Ma’aleh Adomin bloc dividing the West Bank in two; and Efrat/Etzion/Betar Ilit bloc in the southwest of Jerusalem severed any coherent connection between Bethlehem and Hebron. The annexed areas also included the large settlement of Ariel and some small satellite settlements next to the Palestinian City of Nablus. And the offer keeps under Israel’s control the Jordan River valley and the West Bank underground aquifer.

Yitzchak Shamir appointed Netanyahu as deputy foreign minister in his 1988 government and following Shamir’s defeat in 1992, Netanyahu was selected chairman of the Likud party. Like Olmert, Livni, Peres and Barak, Netanyahu is a strong believer in the Zionist ideology. The central theme of his book, “A Place among the Nations: Israel and the World”, is the right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel (Palestine) in its entirety. He argues that it was the Arabs who had usurped land from the Jews in Palestine, not the other way around; and Israel for its own self-protection must retain security control over all the territory of Palestine.

Benjamin Netanyahu has clinched the nomination to head a coalition that has been described by Arab commentators as a far-right coalition as compared to that of Tzipi Livni-Ehud Barak. Netanyahu has a peculiar plan for peace with the Palestinians. He calls it the “economic peace” plan which does not end the Israeli occupation. It offers the Palestinians a limited autonomy that allows them to police their own population centers while Israel controls borders, air space and its military continues to control overall security. In return, Netanyahu promises improvement of the Palestinians economic conditions by building industrial zones in the occupied lands that would employ Palestinians. He never specified who would finance the industrial projects and who would own them. But since Israel never assumed economic responsibility for the Palestinians under occupation, we can be certain that his proposed industrial projects requires the international community to foot its bill as it has been financing the occupation without holding Israel any responsibility for it.

In Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan, Israel would keep and expand the settlements; East Jerusalem would remain part of Israel; and no refugees would be given the right of return to their homes in Israel proper. He effectively is offering the status quo plus employment for the Palestinian labor as the solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Netanyahu has been firm and consistent in his opposition to ending the Israeli occupation. He is a racist by ideology and actions, so as Shimon Peres, Ehud Olmert, Tzipi Livni and Ehud Barak. All Israeli governments, the so called moderates and the right-wing share the same policy toward the Palestinians. Netanyahu’s vision of the Palestinian self-rule of disconnected non-sovereign enclaves in the West Bank and Gaza Strip is not different from the two-state solution offer made by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his Foreign Minister Livni after 12 months of continuous negotiations and fifteen years after Oslo. Shaul Mofaz, Kadima’s number two leader wants his party to join the Likud government under Netanyahu because there is little disagreement between the two parties.

These realities suggest none of the major parties in Israel is for just peace; and the current situation in the occupied land is the natural outcome of a conflict between a weak oppressed occupied people struggling for survival against a strong militant occupier with one of the most powerful armies in the world, a nuclear arsenal, unconditional backing of the world only super-power and ideology of conquest.

-Born in Nablus, Palestine, Hasan Afif El-Hasan, Ph.D. is a political analyst. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.

The Blood-Stained Monster Enters Gaza

January 13, 2009

URI AVNERY investigates how Israel’s propaganda has conned its own leadership.

By Uri Avnery | Counterpunch, January 12, 2009

Nearly seventy ago, in the course of World War II, a heinous crime was committed in the city of Leningrad. For more than a thousand days, a gang of extremists called “the Red Army” held the millions of the town’s inhabitants hostage and provoked retaliation from the German Wehrmacht from inside the population centers. The Germans had no alternative but to bomb and shell the population and to impose a total blockade, which caused the death of hundreds of thousands.

Some time before that, a similar crime was committed in England. The Churchill gang hid among the population of London, misusing the millions of citizens as a human shield. The Germans were compelled to send their Luftwaffe and reluctantly reduce the city to ruins. They called it the Blitz.

This is the description that would now appear in the history books – if the Germans had won the war.

Absurd? No more than the daily descriptions in our media, which are being repeated ad nauseam: the Hamas terrorists use the inhabitants of Gaza as “hostages” and exploit the women and children as “human shields”, they leave us no alternative but to carry out massive bombardments, in which, to our deep sorrow, thousands of women, children and unarmed men are killed and injured.

* * *

IN THIS WAR, as in any modern war, propaganda plays a major role. The disparity between the forces, between the Israeli army – with its airplanes, gunships, drones, warships, artillery and tanks – and the few thousand lightly armed Hamas fighters, is one to a thousand, perhaps one to a million. In the political arena the gap between them is even wider. But in the propaganda war, the gap is almost infinite.

Almost all the Western media initially repeated the official Israeli propaganda line. They almost entirely ignored the Palestinian side of the story, not to mention the daily demonstrations of the Israeli peace camp. The rationale of the Israeli government (“The state must defend its citizens against the Qassam rockets”) has been accepted as the whole truth. The view from the other side, that the Qassams are a retaliation for the siege that starves the one and a half million inhabitants of the Gaza Strip, was not mentioned at all.

Only when the horrible scenes from Gaza started to appear on Western TV screens, did world public opinion gradually begin to change.

True, Western and Israeli TV channels showed only a tiny fraction of the dreadful events that appear 24 hours every day on Aljazeera’s Arabic channel, but one picture of a dead baby in the arms of its terrified father is more powerful than a thousand elegantly constructed sentences from the Israeli army spokesman. And that is what is decisive, in the end.

War – every war – is the realm of lies. Whether called propaganda or psychological warfare, everybody accepts that it is right to lie for one’s country. Anyone who speaks the truth runs the risk of being branded a traitor.

The trouble is that propaganda is most convincing for the propagandist himself. And after you convince yourself that a lie is the truth and falsification reality, you can no longer make rational decisions.

An example of this process surrounds the most shocking atrocity of this war so far: the shelling of the UN Fakhura school in Jabaliya refugee camp.

Immediately after the incident became known throughout the world, the army “revealed” that Hamas fighters had been firing mortars from near the school entrance. As proof they released an aerial photo which indeed showed the school and the mortar. But within a short time the official army liar had to admit that the photo was more than a year old. In brief: a falsification.

Later the official liar claimed that “our  soldiers were shot at from inside the school”. Barely a day passed before the army had to admit to UN personnel that that was a lie, too. Nobody had shot from inside the school, no Hamas fighters were inside the school, which was full of terrified refugees.

But the admission made hardly any difference anymore. By that time, the Israeli public was completely convinced that “they shot from inside the school”, and TV announcers stated this as a simple fact.

So it went with the other atrocities. Every baby metamorphosed, in the act of dying, into a Hamas terrorist. Every bombed mosque instantly became a Hamas base, every apartment building an arms cache, every school a terror command post, every civilian government building a “symbol of Hamas rule”. Thus the Israeli army retained its purity as the “most moral army in the world”.

* * *

THE TRUTH is that the atrocities are a direct result of the war plan. This reflects the personality of Ehud Barak – a man whose way of thinking and actions are clear evidence of what is called “moral insanity”, a sociopathic disorder.

The real aim (apart from gaining seats in the coming elections) is to terminate the rule of Hamas in the Gaza Strip. In the imagination of the planners, Hamas is an invader which has gained control of a foreign country. The reality is, of course, entirely different.

The Hamas movement won the majority of the votes in the eminently democratic elections that took place in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. It won because the Palestinians had come to the conclusion that Fatah’s peaceful approach had gained precisely nothing from Israel – neither a freeze of the settlements, nor release of the prisoners, nor any significant steps toward ending the occupation and creating the Palestinian state. Hamas is deeply rooted in the population – not only as a resistance movement fighting the foreign occupier, like the Irgun and the Stern Group in the past – but also as a political and religious body that provides social, educational and medical services.

From the point of view of the population, the Hamas fighters are not a foreign body, but the sons of every family in the Strip and the other Palestinian regions. They do not “hide behind the population”, the population views them as their only defenders.

Therefore, the whole operation is based on erroneous assumptions. Turning life into living hell does not cause the population to rise up against Hamas, but on the contrary, it unites behind Hamas and reinforces its determination not to surrender. The population of Leningrad did not rise up against Stalin, any more than the Londoners rose up against Churchill.

He who gives the order for such a war with such methods in a densely populated area knows that it will cause dreadful slaughter of civilians. Apparently that did not touch him. Or he believed that “they will change their ways” and “it will sear their consciousness”, so that in future they will not dare to resist Israel.

A top priority for the planners was the need to minimize casualties among the soldiers, knowing that the mood of a large part of the pro-war public would change if reports of such casualties came in. That is what happened in Lebanon Wars I and II.

This consideration played an especially important role because the entire war is a part of the election campaign. Ehud Barak, who gained in the polls in the first days of the war, knew that his ratings would collapse if pictures of dead soldiers filled the TV screens.

Therefore, a new doctrine was applied: to avoid losses among our soldiers by the total destruction of everything in their path. The planners were not only ready to kill 80 Palestinians to save one Israeli soldier, as has happened, but also 800. The avoidance of casualties on our side is the overriding commandment, which is causing record numbers of civilian casualties on the other side.

That means the conscious choice of an especially cruel kind of warfare – and that has been its Achilles heel.

A person without imagination, like Barak (his election slogan: “Not a Nice Guy, but a Leader”) cannot imagine how decent people around the world react to actions like the killing of whole extended families, the destruction of houses over the heads of their inhabitants, the rows of boys and girls in white shrouds ready for burial, the reports about people bleeding to death over days because ambulances are not allowed to reach them, the killing of doctors and medics on their way to save lives, the killing of UN drivers bringing in food. The pictures of the hospitals, with the dead, the dying and the injured lying together on the floor for lack of space, have shocked the world. No argument has any force next to an image of a wounded little girl lying on the floor, twisting with pain and crying out: “Mama! Mama!”

The planners thought that they could stop the world from seeing these images by forcibly preventing press coverage. The Israeli journalists, to their shame, agreed to be satisfied with the reports and photos provided by the Army Spokesman, as if they were authentic news, while they themselves remained miles away from the events. Foreign journalists were not allowed in either, until they protested and were taken for quick tours in selected and supervised groups. But in a modern war, such a sterile manufactured view cannot completely exclude all others – the cameras are inside the strip, in the middle of the hell, and cannot be controlled. Aljazeera broadcasts the pictures around the clock and reaches every home.

* * *

THE BATTLE for the TV screen is one of the decisive battles of the war.

Hundreds of millions of Arabs from Mauritania to Iraq, more than a billion Muslims from Nigeria to Indonesia see the pictures and are horrified. This has a strong impact on the war. Many of the viewers see the rulers of Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority as collaborators with Israel in carrying out these atrocities against their Palestinian brothers.

The security services of the Arab regimes are registering a dangerous ferment among the peoples. Hosny Mubarak, the most exposed Arab leader because of his closing of the Rafah crossing in the face of terrified refugees, started to pressure the decision-makers in Washington, who until that time had blocked all calls for a cease-fire. These began to understand the menace to vital American interests in the Arab world and suddenly changed their attitude – causing consternation among the complacent Israeli diplomats.

People with moral insanity cannot really understand the motives of normal people and must guess their reactions. “How many divisions has the Pope?” Stalin sneered. “How many divisions have people of conscience?” Ehud Barak may well be asking.

As it turns out, they do have some. Not numerous. Not very quick to react. Not very strong and organized. But at a certain moment, when the atrocities overflow and masses of protesters come together, that can decide a war.

THE FAILURE to grasp the nature of Hamas has caused a failure to grasp the predictable results. Not only is Israel unable to win the war, Hamas cannot lose it.

Even if the Israeli army were to succeed in killing every Hamas fighter to the last man, even then Hamas would win. The Hamas fighters would be seen as the paragons of the Arab nation, the heroes of the Palestinian people, models for emulation by every youngster in the Arab world. The West Bank would fall into the hands of Hamas like a ripe fruit, Fatah would drown in a sea of contempt, the Arab regimes would be threatened with collapse.

If the war ends with Hamas still standing, bloodied but unvanquished, in face of the mighty Israeli military machine, it will look like a fantastic victory, a victory of mind over matter.

What will be seared into the consciousness of the world will be the image of Israel as a blood-stained monster, ready at any moment to commit war crimes and not prepared to abide by any moral restraints. This will have severe consequences for our long-term future, our standing in the world, our chance of achieving peace and quiet.

In the end, this war is a crime against ourselves too, a crime against the State of Israel.

Uri Avnery is an Israeli writer and peace activist with Gush Shalom. He is a contributor to CounterPunch’s book The Politics of Anti-Semitism.

Bush, Obama, and the Gaza Blitz

December 30, 2008

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

COPYRIGHT CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.

Israelis Get Truth About Gaza Attack

December 30, 2008

by Ira Chernus

If you get your news from the American mass media, you know that there’s a nice simple explanation for the massive Israeli attack on Gaza. That explanation comes straight from the Israeli government, via the White House: Hamas, the group that controls Gaza, is responsible for all the violence. “These people are nothing but thugs,” a White House spokesman said. “Israel is going to defend its people against terrorists like Hamas.” End of story. As usual, Israel is depicted as the innocent victim of an evil it did nothing to provoke.But if you read Israel’s most respected newspaper, Ha’aretz, you find out that things are rather more complicated. (All the quotes below come from Jewish journalists writing in recent editions of Ha’aretz.)

You know the reality of Gaza today: “The tremendous population density in the Gaza Strip does not allow a ‘surgical operation’ over an extended period that would minimize damage to civilian populations.” “There are many corpses and wounded, every moment another casualty is added to the list of the dead, and there is no more room in the morgue. . A mother whose three school-age children were killed, and are piled one on top of top of the other in the morgue, screams and then cries, screams again and then is silent.”

And you know that some Israelis are outraged: “Israel’s violent responses, even if there is justification for them, exceed all proportion and cross every red line of humaneness, morality, international law and wisdom.”

The justification Israel offers is the increased firing of rockets from Gaza. But Israelis can read that Hamas is responding to Israeli provocation. “Six months ago Israel asked and received a cease-fire from Hamas. It unilaterally violated it.” “On November 4, an Israeli operation sparked a new round of dangerous, if controlled, violence,” “when it unnecessarily bombed a tunnel.”

About the same time, Israel cut off transport of food, medical supplies, and electricity to Gaza. “Food insecurity in Gaza currently runs at 56 percent and is deteriorating rapidly, 42 percent of the Strip’s population is unemployed and 76 percent is receiving humanitarian assistance (all UN figures).” “A million and a half human beings . live in the conditions of a giant jail.” “Why should Gazan citizens tolerate such a long and severe siege for so long?”

General Shmuel Zakai, former commander of Israel’s troops in Gaza, says: “We could have eased the siege over the Gaza Strip, in such a way that the Palestinians, Hamas, would understand that holding their fire served their interests. But when you create a tahadiyeh [cease-fire], and the economic pressure on the Strip continues, it’s obvious that Hamas will try to reach an improved tahadiyeh, and that their way to achieve this, is resumed Qassam [rocket] 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.”

Nevertheless, just a few days before the attack, “Palestinian sources said they do not believe Hamas plans to launch a massive rocket strike on Israel unless the IDF begins offensive operations in the Strip.” Israel claims it wants peace, yet it “did not exhaust the diplomatic processes before embarking on another dreadful campaign of killing and ruin.” And “no military operation has ever advanced dialogue with the Palestinians.”

In fact military force is self-defeating, because “no Palestinian will consent to having his people and his homeland destroyed in this way.” “Hamas will not be weakened due to the Gaza war; to the contrary.” If predictions of a strengthened Hamas prove wrong, the other possibility is obvious: “A siege designed to depose Hamas rule . risks triggering a social collapse that would have devastating consequences for all concerned. . An Israeli military escalation would likely accelerate the splintering of Hamas’ leadership and the emergence of more radical alternatives.”

One way or another, more rockets are sure to fall on Israel. Of course that might be one goal of the attack. Israeli leaders may be trying to avoid dialogue. More intense fighting would let them claim they have no one to negotiate with, especially if Gaza breaks down in chaos. Israeli leaders may also have an eye on Palestinian elections coming up soon. They want to persuade the Palestinians to support the more conciliatory Fatah party by destroying Hamas, or at least showing what happens to its supporters.

But “working toward long-term goals that would completely change the landscape in the region, like toppling Hamas from power in Gaza, is liable to turn out to be a wild fantasy.” “Israel must understand that Hamas rule in Gaza is a fact, and it is with that government that we must reach a situation of calm. . We can’t impose regimes on the Palestinians.” The idea “that a military operation would suffice in toppling an entrenched regime and thus replace it with another one friendlier to us is no more than lunacy.”

Why would Israeli leaders pursue such a dangerous fantasy? When Ha’aretz journalists want to explain it, they (like all other Israeli journalists) focus most on politics — not Palestinian, but Israeli. Israel, too, will hold elections in just a few weeks. “Israelis are being treated to a predictable dose of political posturing and chest-thumping.”

The polls show the hawkish Likud party ahead, partly because “Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu pledged to topple the Hamas leadership in the Gaza Strip if elected prime minister. . Under his leadership, Israel would move from a policy of absorbing blows to a policy of being on the offensive.”

Perhaps that’s why the current (soon to retire) prime minister, Ehud Olmert, launched this week’s offensive, cheered on by his party’s candidate to replace him, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. She’s now talking tough, too. “‘The state of Israel, and a government under me, will make it a strategic objective to topple the Hamas regime in Gaza,’ Livni told members of her centrist Kadima party.” “We cannot allow Gaza to remain under Hamas control.” “Vice Premier Haim Ramon also said . that Hamas must be removed from power.”

“Ramon, Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz and others harshly criticized Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s handling of the situation” — because Barak, a former prime minister, is also running to regain that post, trying to resurrect his once-powerful Labor party. “The beginning of the raid in Gaza bears the wily and deceptive fingerprint of Barak. . It may deliver him and his party from the humiliating defeat the polls are predicting.” “If Hamas is beaten and Israel receives some peace under favorable terms, Labor and Barak may gain force.”

Politicians of every party want to prove that they are “not a bunch of wimps.” So they’ve staked their future on the same goal: one way or another, topple the democratically-elected government of Gaza.

But Israel is also a democracy. The politicians are catering to public opinion: “This war was preceded by a frighteningly uniform public dialogue in which only one voice was heard — that which called for striking, destroying, starving and killing.” “The hysterical reaction by the public as a whole and politicians in particular stems mainly from the fact that the country is in an election period. And when elections are in the offing people speak from the gut rather than the brain. . They’re suddenly strutting their macho stuff.”

“Politicians and the public at large have been enthralled by a new prospect: that of a wide-scale military operation in the Gaza Strip. Such a prospect answers all their heart’s secret wishes. . The public’s imaginations are let loose as they chant a battle-cry.” “Speeches have a tendency to identify goals that are by nature unreachable: phrases like ‘destroying the Hamas government’ (which is actually likely to be strengthened).”

With so many Israelis pointing out how self-defeating this attack on Gaza is, why would a majority of Israeli voters still push their leaders to more military action?

One theory looks to an inflated self-image: “Israel is striking at the Palestinians to ‘teach them a lesson.’ That is a basic assumption that has accompanied the Zionist enterprise since its inception: We are the representatives of progress and enlightenment, sophisticated rationality and morality, while the Arabs are a primitive, violent rabble, ignorant children who must be educated and taught wisdom — via, of course, the carrot-and-stick method, just as the drover does with his donkey.”

But there’s an opposite theory: The failed war in Lebanon two years ago deflated Israelis’ self-image, and now they are out to inflate it again. “The pictures of blood and fire are designed to show Israelis, Arabs and the entire world that the neighborhood bully’s strength has yet to wane. When the bully is on a rampage, nobody can stop him.” “Israel goaded its enemies to provoke it because [the enemies] ceased believing that Israel would agree to pay the price of using force.”

Eventually, though, “after the politicians flex their muscles, the analysts blow smoke and the citizens of Israel have their ‘honor restored,’ a new exit from Gaza must be sought.” “Most dangerous of all is the cliche that there is no one to talk to. That has never been true. There are even ways to talk with Hamas.”

“Hamas would have — and still would — accept a bargain . [to] halt the fire in exchange for easing of the many ways in which Israeli policies have kept a choke hold on the economy of the Strip.” “Hamas leader, Mahmoud Zahar, has said that his Palestinian militant group is willing to renew the recently ended truce in Gaza with Israel.”

“Hamas has clear conditions for its extension: The opening of the border crossings for goods and cessation of IDF attacks in Gaza, as outlined in the original agreement. Later, Hamas wants the cease-fire to be extended to the West Bank. Israel, for its part, is justifiably demanding a real calm in Gaza; that no Qassam or mortar shell be fired by either Hamas, Islamic Jihad or any other group. Essentially, Israel is telling Hamas it is willing to recognize its control of Gaza on the condition that it assumes responsibility for the security of the territory, like Hezbollah controls southern Lebanon. It is likely that this will be the outcome of a wide-scale operation in the Gaza Strip.”

“In a short time, after the parade of corpses and wounded ends, we will arrive at a fresh cease-fire, as occurred after Lebanon, exactly like the one that could have been forged without this superfluous war.” “Why, then, not forgo the war and agree to these conditions now?”

Ira Chernus, a Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder, is the author of American Nonviolence: The History of an Idea. Having written extensively on Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and George W. Bush, he is now writing a book tentatively titled “Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Origins of the National Insecurity State.” He can be contacted at chernus@colorado.edu.

Licence to kill

October 15, 2008
Jewish settler fanatics continue to kill and steal from Palestinians without censure from Israel, writes Khaled Amayreh in the West Bank

Al- Ahram Weekly, 9-15 October 2008

Israeli security circles have warned recently that “organised Jewish terror” against Palestinians (and also against peace-oriented Jews) is on the rise and that steps must be taken to “nip that terror in the bud”.

However, Israeli officials, including Defence Minister Ehud Barak, have admitted that “confronting the settlers” is an uphill struggle, given the wide support they receive in Israeli-Jewish society and the strong political backing they enjoy from powerful government circles.

Barak also alluded to the shocking laxity shown by the Israeli justice system towards the settlers, which effectively allows them to commit acts of murder and vandalism, especially against unprotected and near helpless Palestinian villagers, with virtual impunity.

The ultimate goal of the settler terrorists is to intimidate and terrorise indigenous Palestinians into leaving their land so that more settlers can take it over. However, despite years of permanent terror and harassment, very few Palestinians if any have left their villages and land, prompting the mostly religious terrorists to intensify their attacks against Palestinians and their property.

In recent days, armed settler terrorists have stepped up acts of arson and vandalism targeting Palestinian olive groves throughout the West Bank. In the Nablus and Salfit region, settlers set fire to olive groves, destroying large swathes of the crop upon which the livelihood of numerous impoverished Palestinian families depends.

In one incident, the head of a settlement council took part in an arson attack that Palestinians contend happened in full view of Israeli army troops.

“I think there is a sort of collusion between the army and the settlers. Do you believe that the mighty Israeli army can’t control a few thugs who are terrorising Palestinian communities here?” asked Ibrahim Ahmed of Salem near Nablus.

“The world is often under the false impression that the settlers are a few unruly fanatics in an otherwise civilised society,” Ahmed continued. “The truth of the matter, however, is that the settlers are a key tool of the Israeli state and army to terrorise and torment the Palestinians. It is the state and the army that give them money, housing, weapons and protection. So it is naïve to buy the claim that the settlers are acting against the will of the Israeli state and army.”

Last week, a young Palestinian shepherd was found murdered next to a Jewish colony, also in the Nablus region. Eyewitnesses reported that they saw a white van chasing the 19-year-old man. The Israeli army denied that the boy was murdered by settlers, saying it was more likely that he was killed by unexploded ordnance left by the Israeli army.

Last month, dozens of armed Jewish settler terrorists committed a virtual pogrom at the Palestinian village of Asira Al-Qibliya south of Nablus, shooting into Palestinian homes and vandalising property. Ten Palestinians were injured, including one sustaining serious gunshot wounds. A videotape of the wild rampage showed Israeli soldiers looking on and doing virtually nothing to stop the settlers. When the “story” died down, the settlers resumed their violence and vandalism.

In recent years, settlers have resorted to stealing Palestinian olive crops in broad daylight. Settlers have also begun to bring in foreign workers to harvest Palestinian groves in the vicinity of their settlements. In doing so, settlers act on religious edits issued by local and national rabbis allowing them to steal crops in the West Bank, which the settlers call Judea and Samaria, believing that the land belongs to the Jews by a divine decree.

Until recently, rabbis issued their edicts publicly, drawing bad publicity from the press. Now, however, the edicts are issued and circulated quietly through local synagogues in the settlements.

In addition, the Israeli army seems to always find new ways to make life more difficult for Palestinian farmers. Many olive groves surrounding illegal Jewish settlements are declared closed military zones (only for non-Jews), which in effect is a green light for settlers to come and to steal Palestinian olives.

Last week, the Israeli army said it would provide “protection” to Palestinian olive-pickers from settler violence. However, the army said the duration of protection would only last three days.

The Israeli army claims it is unable to rein in terrorist settlers. This claim, however, is starkly mendacious and hypocritical. The truth is that the army lacks the will and inclination to confront the settlers.

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz this week commented: “Military jails are packed with young Palestinians convicted of far less serious crimes than the violent acts of which the settlers are accused.” Yet generally speaking, the Israeli public is indifferent to the terror, murder and harassment wreaked by army-backed Jewish settlers in the West Bank.

Now, however, settler terror is boomeranging back on Israeli-Jewish society. Last month, suspected Jewish terrorists placed a bomb at the doorstep of 73-year-old Zeev Sternhell, a political science professor at Hebrew University in West Jerusalem. Sternhell, an expert on the evolution of European fascism, was slightly injured in the incident that sent shockwaves across the Israeli political establishment and public.

Sternhell, a prominent supporter of the centre-left group “Peace Now”, warned that the attempt on his life might mark the “collapse of democracy” in Israel. However, it is unlikely that the attempted assassination of Sternhell will introduce a qualitative change into the way the Israeli army and public relate to settler terrorists. Something much more would be required to break down the institutionalised, studied racism and violence at the core of the state of Israel.

Israel ‘doubling’ settlement growth

August 27, 2008

Al Jazeera, August 26, 2008

Rice maintains that she aims for the two sides to reach a peace deal by January [AFP]

Israel has nearly doubled settlement construction activity in the occupied West Bank since 2007, a report by the rights group Peace Now says.

The report on settlement expansion coincided with the 18th visit by Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, to the Middle East, on Tuesday.

Rice urged Israel to stop expanding settlements, deemed illegal under international law, arguing that they were not helpful to the peace process.

“The settlement activity is not conducive to creating an environment for negotiations,” Rice said at a news conference with Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Earlier in Jerusalem, after talks with Tzipi Livni, the Israeli foreign minister, Rice referred to settlements, saying “anything that undermines confidence between the parties ought to be avoided”.

A US-backed “road map” for peace calls on Israel to halt all settlement activity in the West Bank and for Palestinians to rein in armed groups.

Settlement ‘noise’

The report by Peace Now, a non-governmental organisation, said that at least 2,600 new homes for Israelis are currently under construction in the West Bank, an increase of 80 per cent over last year.

In occupied East Jerusalem, which Palestinians want as the capital of their future state, the number of new government bids for construction has increased from 46 in 2007 to 1,761 so far this year.

Palestinians say the construction of Israeli homes undermines final status talks as it runs counter to earlier agreements.

But Tzipi Livni, the Israeli foreign minister, said the construction will not affect talks.

“The peace process is not, and should not be, affected by any kind of settlement activities,” Livni said.

Livni urged the Palestinians not to use settlement building “as an excuse” to avoid negotiations, but added she understood “their frustration” at times.

Peace process

Nour Odeh, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Ramallah, said the issue of settlement building played into larger concerns.

“The issue of settlement building is not just that they exist on occupied land in the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem, it’s about control over water and the territorial contiguity of any possible future [Palestinian] state,” she said.

“It’s difficult for Palestinians to have any confidence in the committment to reach a solution when settlement activity has almost doubled – and by the Palestinain count more than doubled.”

Rice said she still aims to reach a peace accord by January, when George Bush, the US president, leaves office, but she has played down chances of striking any partial accord in time for the September UN General Assembly.

Egypt talks

Separately, Ehud Barak, Israel’s defence minister, travelled to Egypt on Tuesday where he met Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, to discuss the ceasefire in Gaza that has been in effect since mid-June.

Barak hailed Egyptian efforts along the porous border which “have visibly been effective”, a statement from the Israeli defence ministry said.

But Barak also said that “more effort should be put in order to further reduce” weapons smuggling into Gaza.

The two leaders also discussed ways to renew talks on the release of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier captured by Hamas fighters near Gaza in June 2006.

On Monday, Barak ordered the closure of all border crossings into Gaza after two rockets were fired from the strip.


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