Posts Tagged ‘Gideon Levy’

Gideon Levy: Obama, you won’t make peace without talking to Hamas

September 24, 2009

By Gideon Levy, Haaretz Correspondent, Haaretz/Israel, Sep 24, 2009

It’s as if U.S. President Barack Obama did the least he had to. He “rebuked” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. That’s not how a president with star power acts. That is not how a superpower does things. America is again falling down on the job, and Obama is betraying his mission and the promise of his presidency.

True, it’s an anomaly that the United States wants a peace settlement more than the hawkish parties to the conflict, but the leader of the free world has a crucial role, and he is not fulfilling it. Nine months after Obama assumed the presidency, precious time has been totally wasted, in the Middle East at least, and suspicions are growing that the promise of his presidency is on the wane, even if the man is attractive and uproariously funny on David Letterman. Laugh, laugh, but ultimately, where are the results?

Beautiful speeches like the one last night at the UN General Assembly are no longer enough. Being America means enjoying numerous international privileges, but also involves a few obligations. One of them is to look after world peace. Just as it set off for war and occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan in the name of global goals, however dubious, and just as it is working to prevent a nuclear Iran, America is also obligated to act to settle the Middle East conflict. That is not its right but its obligation. Locals don’t want its services in either Iraq or Afghanistan, but America is shedding its own blood there nonetheless. Why? Because it believes this is essential to world security.

When he was elected, President Obama declared that the Middle East conflict was endangering world peace. Nothing is more true. The potential danger between Jenin, Gaza and Jerusalem is no less serious than that in the killing fields of Kandahar and Mosul. But what is the president doing to eliminate the fuel that feeds international terrorism? Or at least to show that he is doing something? He ruins nine whole months over the issue of a construction freeze in the settlements, and even that pathetic goal was not achieved.

It has to be one way or the other: Either Obama thinks a solution to the conflict isn’t a worthy goal and so should get out of the picture and devote his energies elsewhere or he means what he said and must use all his power and act. Meanwhile, instead of change, we have gotten distressing continuity. Instead of “yes we can,” we have gotten “no we can’t.”

Obama needs to turn things upside-down and break with convention. That’s why he was elected. Two decisive steps would change things completely: an American effort to introduce Hamas into the negotiations and pressure on Israel to end the matter of the occupation. Simplistic? Perhaps, but the complex and gradual solutions haven’t gotten us anywhere up to now. Like it or not, without Hamas peace is not possible. The fact that Obama has put his trust only in Abbas’ Fatah has guaranteed failure, which was foreseeable. History has taught us that you make peace with your worst enemy, not with those who are seen as collaborators by their own people.

You also don’t make peace with half a people, in half of the territory. Obama didn’t even try to break this unnecessary spell and automatically went, unbelievably, down the path of his predecessor, George W. Bush. The president who was willing to engage North Korea and Iran and dares Venezuela and Cuba didn’t even think about entering negotiations with Hamas. Why is it okay to talk to Iran but not to Hamas? Obama, too, thinks Hamas is fit for negotiations only over the fate of a single soldier, Gilad Shalit, but not over the fate of two peoples.

The second step, which is no less essential, is applying pressure on Israel. Given Israel’s total dependence and in the face of its blindness to the price of the occupation, Obama’s friendship with Israel is actually to be judged by the steps he would seemingly take against Israel. As Israel’s isolation in the world only grows, and the danger of Iran threatens the country, Israel’s best friend must pressure its ally and save it from itself. Instead, we got another condemnation of the Goldstone Commission report, this time from the new American ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, who had held the promise of major change.

It’s not too late. True, the initial momentum has been lost, but now, following this week’s “summit of rebukes,” America must hurry up and rebuke itself and mainly ponder how to get out of the booby trap to which it has succumbed. Now, too, only America can (and must) do it.

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Disgrace in The Hague

September 18, 2009

Gideon Levy, Haaretz/Israel, Sept 17, 2009

There’s a name on every bullet, and there’s someone responsible for every crime. The Teflon cloak Israel has wrapped around itself since Operation Cast Lead has been ripped off, once and for all, and now the difficult questions must be faced. It has become superfluous to ask whether war crimes were committed in Gaza, because authoritative and clear-cut answers have already been given. So the follow-up question has to be addressed: Who’s to blame? If war crimes were committed in Gaza, it follows that there are war criminals at large among us. They must be held accountable and punished. This is the harsh conclusion to be drawn from the detailed United Nations report.

For almost a year, Israel has been trying to argue that the blood spilled in Gaza was merely water. One report followed the other, with horrifyingly identical results: siege, white phosphorous, harm of innocent civilians, infrastructure destroyed – war crimes in each and every report. Now, after the publication of the most important and damning report of all, compiled by the commission led by Judge Richard Goldstone, Israel’s attempts to discredit them look ludicrous, and the empty bluster of its spokespersons sound pathIsatic.

So far they have focused on the messengers, not their messages: the researcher for Human Rights Watch collects Nazi memorabilia, Breaking the Silence is a business and Amnesty International is anti-Semitic. All cheap propaganda. This time, though, the messenger is propaganda-proof. No one can seriously claim that Goldstone, an active and ardent Zionist, with deep links to Israel, is an anti-Semite. It would be ridiculous.

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Although there were some propagandists who actually tried to use the anti-Semitism weapon against him, even they knew this was farcical. One had to hear the moving interview that Goldstone’s daughter Nicole gave to Razi Barkai on Army Radio Wednesday, to understand that he is in fact a lover of Israel and its true friend. She spoke, in Hebrew, of the mental anguish her father experienced and of his conviction that, had he not been there, the report would have been much worse. All he wants is an Israel that is more just, she explained.

Neither can anyone doubt his legal credentials, as a top-level international jurist with an impeccable reputation. The man who found out the truth about Rwanda and Yugoslavia has now done the same regarding Gaza. The former chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague is not only a legal authority, he is also a moral authority; therefore complaints about the judge won’t hold water. Instead, it is time to look closer at the accused. Those responsible are first and foremost Ehud Olmert, Ehud Barak and Gabi Ashkenazi. So far, incredibly, none of them has paid any price for their misdeeds.

Cast Lead was an unrestrained assault on a besieged, totally unprotected civilian population which showed almost no signs of resistance during this operation. It should have raised an immediate furor in Israel. It was a Sabra and Chatila, this time carried out by us. But there was a storm of protest in this country following Sabra and Chatila, whereas after Cast Lead mere citations were dished out.

It should have been enough just to look at the horrendous disparity in casualties – 100 Palestinians killed for every Israeli – to shake the whole of Israeli society. There was no need to wait for Goldstone to understand that a terrible thing had occurred between the Palestinian David and the Israeli Goliath. But the Israelis preferred to look away, or stand with their children on the hills around Gaza and cheer on the carnage-causing bombs.

Under the cover of the committed media, and criminally-biased analysts and experts – all of whom kept information from coming out – and with brainwashed and complacent public opinion, Israel behaved as if nothing had happened. Goldstone has put an end to that, for which we should thank him. After his job is done, the obvious practical steps will be taken.

It would be better for Israel to summon up the courage to change course while there is still time, investigating the matter genuinely and not by means of the Israel Defense Forces’ grotesque inquiries, without waiting for Goldstone. Olmert and Tzipi Livni must be brought to pay for their scandalous decision not to cooperate with Goldstone, although at this point that is spilled milk. Now that the report is on its way to the ICC and arrest warrants could soon be issued, all that remains to be done is to immediately set up a state inquiry commission in order to avert disgrace in The Hague.

Perhaps next time we set out to wage another vain and miserable war, we will take into account not only the number of fatalities we are likely to sustain, but also the heavy political damage such wars cause.

On the eve of the Jewish New Year, Israel, deservedly, is becoming an outcast and detested country. We must not forget it for a minute.

Obama’s America Is Not Delivering The Goods

August 15, 2009
Gideon Levy, Haaretz Correspondent | Haaretz/Israel, Aug 14, 2009

With great sorrow and deep consternation, we hereby declare the death of the latest hope. Perhaps rumors of its death are greatly exaggerated, to paraphrase the famous quote by Mark Twain, but the fears are being validated day after day. Barack Obama’s America is not delivering the goods. Sharing a glass of beer with a racist cop and a pat on the back of Hugo Chavez are not what we hoped for; wholesale negotiations on freezing settlement construction are also not what we expected. Just over six months after the most promising president of all began his term, perhaps hope has a last breath left, but it is on its deathbed.

He came into office amid much hoopla. The Cairo speech ignited half the globe. Making settlements the top priority gave rise to the hope that, finally, a statesman is sitting in the White House who understands that the root of all evil is the occupation, and that the root of the occupation’s evil is the settlements. From Cairo, it seemed possible to take off. The sky was the limit.

Then the administration fell into the trap set by Israel and is showing no signs of recovery.

A settlement freeze, something that should have been understood by a prime minister who speaks with such bluster about two states – a peripheral matter that Israel committed to in the road map – has suddenly turned into a central issue. Special envoy George Mitchell is wasting his time and prestige with petty haggling. A half-year freeze or a full year? What about the 2,500 apartment units already under construction? And what about natural growth? And kindergartens?

Perhaps they will reach a compromise and agree on nine months, not including natural growth though allowing completion of apartments already under construction. A grand accomplishment.

Jerusalem has imposed its will on Washington. Once again we are at the starting point – dealing with trifles from which it is impossible to make the big leap over the great divide.

We expected more from Obama. Menachem Begin promised less, and he made peace within the same amount of time after he took office. When the main issue is dismantling the settlements, the pulsating momentum that came with Obama is petering out. Instead, we are paddling in shallow water. Mitchell Schmitchel. What’s in it for peace? Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will once again meet him in London at the end of the month. A “magic formula” for a settlement freeze may be found there, but the momentum is gone.

Not in Israel, though. Here people quickly sensed that there is nothing to fear from Obama, and the fetters were taken off. Defense Minister Ehud Barak was quick to declare that there is no Palestinian partner, even after the Fatah conference elected the most moderate leadership that has ever been assembled in Palestine. Afterward, in a blatant act of provocation, he brought a Torah scroll into the heart of the Muslim Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem, in full view of television cameras, just so America can see who’s boss around here.

Deputy Prime Minister Eli Yishai and Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, another two politicians who smell American weakness, were quick to declare during a visit to Ma’aleh Adumim that Israel will not freeze any construction. To hell with Obama. The settlers continue to move into more homes in East Jerusalem, Netanyahu is silent and Israelis sense that the “danger” has passed. Israel is once again permitted to do as it pleases. The landlord has once again gone insane. Except that the landlord has gone insane because the real landlord is showing signs of weakness, signs of folding, signs of losing interest in events in the region that most endangers world peace.

Nothing remains from the speeches in Cairo and Bar-Ilan University. Obama is silent, and Yishai speaks. Even “Israel’s friends” in Washington, friends of the occupation, are once again rearing their heads.

One source familiar with Obama’s inner circle likened him this week to a man who inflates a number of balloons every day in the hope that one of them will rise. He will reach his goal. The source compared him to Shimon Peres, an analogy that should insult Obama. The trial balloons the U.S. president sends our way have yet to take off. One can, of course, wait for the next balloon, the Obama peace plan, but time is running out. And Israel is not sitting idly by.

The minute Jerusalem detected a lack of American determination, it returned to its evil ways and excuses. “There is no partner,” “Abu Mazen is weak,” “Hamas is strong.” And there are demands to recognize a Jewish state and for the right to fly over Saudi Arabia – anything in order to do nothing.

An America that will not pressure Israel is an America that will not bring peace. True, one cannot expect the U.S. president to want to make peace more than the Palestinians and Israelis, but he is the world’s responsible adult, its great hope. Those of us who are here, Mr. President, are sinking in the wretched mud, in “injury time.”

Obama emerged in Cairo as a true friend of Israel

June 5, 2009

By Gideon Levy | Haaretz/Israel, June 5, 2009

Neither Tel Aviv nor Ramallah held their breaths Thursday as the American president gave a speech in Cairo; the traffic in both crowded cities continued normally. Tel Aviv was indifferent, Ramallah sunk in desperation: Both cities have already had their fill of nice, historic speeches.

Nonetheless, no one can ignore the speech given by Barack Obama: The mountain birthed a mountain. Obama remained Obama. Only the Israeli analysts tried to diminish the speech’s importance (“not terrible”), to spread fear (“he mentioned the Holocaust and the Nakba in a single breath”), or were insulted on our behalf (“he did not mention our right to the land as promised in the Bible”). All these were redundant and unnecessary. Obama emerged Thursday as a true friend of Israel.

The prime minister ordered the ministers to say nothing, but of course they could not help but invade the studios. Uzi Landau said that a Palestinian state is tantamount to an “Iranian state.” Isaac Herzog appeared even more ridiculous when he said that the problem with the settlements is one of “public relations.” In essence, both were busy with the same problem: How can we manage to pull the new America’s leg as well? Israeli politicians have never before appeared as pathetic, as small as they did Thursday, compared to the bearer of promise in Cairo.

Indeed, there was promise in Cairo, of the dawn of a new age. A U.S. president talking about negotiations with Iran without preconditions or tacit threats, even willing to accept Iran having civilian nuclear capability; a president who talked about Hamas as a legitimate organization that represents part of Palestinian society, but that needs to relinquish violence; who spoke with empathy about Palestinian suffering; who spoke, believe it or not, about security not only for Israelis but also for Palestinians; who said that all the settlements are illegal; who called for nuclear disarmament of the entire region. All are sensational messages, headlines whose significance cannot be exaggerated, even if there are those who desperately tried to argue yesterday that “there was nothing new in his speech.”

Not enough? Obama also spoke in Cairo (!) against denying the Holocaust, about the rights of women and Copts, and on the need for democracy tailored to each society’s culture.

This is the thinking of a great leader, who walked with wisdom and sensitivity between the Holocaust and the Nakba, between Israelis and Palestinians, between Americans and Arabs, between Christians, Jews and Muslims. How easy it is to imagine his predecessor, George Bush the Terrible, in the same position: a complete opposite.

Our right-wingers were disappointed that he did not approve at least of Gush Etzion, and the peace lovers were disappointed that he did not offer a timetable. But a speech is just that, and the time for carrying things out is still to come.

But why waste words? Israeli news shows still opened Thursday with the Dudu Topaz story; that is what really interests Israelis. Never mind Obama; Israel has its own concerns.

Gaza, remember?

April 24, 2009

By Gideon Levy | Haaretz (Israel), April 23, 2009

Alyan Abu-Aun is lying in his tent, his crutches beside him. He smokes cigarettes and stares into the tiny tent’s empty space. His young son sits on his lap. Ten people are crammed into the tent, about the size of a small room. It has been their home for three months. Nothing remains of their previous home, which the Israel Defense Forces shelled during Operation Cast Lead. They are refugees for a second time; Abu-Aun’s mother still remembers her home in Sumsum, a town that once stood near Ashkelon.

Abu-Aun, 53, was wounded while trying to flee when his home in the Gaza town of Beit Lahia was bombed. He has been on crutches ever since. His wife gave birth during the height of the war, and now the baby is with them in the cold tent. The tent was sent flying during the storm that devoured the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, so the family had to put it back up. They receive water only occasionally in a container, and a tiny tin shack serves as a bathroom for the 100 families in this new refugee camp, ‘Camp Gaza,’ in Beit Lahia’s Al-Atatra neighborhood.

Abu-Aun sounded particularly bitter this past weekend; the Red Cross refused his family a bigger tent. He has also had enough of eating beans.

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For three months, the Abu-Aun family and thousands of others have been living in five tent encampments built after the war. They have not begun clearing away the ruins of their homes, let alone build new ones. Thousands live in the shadow of the ruins of their homes, thousands in tents, thousands crowded together with their relatives, tens of thousands who are newly homeless and whom the world has lost interest in. After the conference of donor countries, which convened to great fanfare in Sharm el-Sheikh a month and a half ago, which included 75 countries and agreed to transfer $1 billion to rebuild Gaza, nothing happened.

Gaza is besieged. There are no building materials. Israel and the world are setting conditions, the Palestinians are incapable of forming a unity government, as is needed, the money and concrete are nowhere to be seen and the Abu-Aun family continues to live in a tent. Even the $900 million promised by the United States is stuck in the cash register. It’s doubtful whether it will ever be taken out. America’s word.

It’s exactly three months since the much-talked-about war, and Gaza is once again forgotten. Israel has never taken an interest in the welfare of its victims. Now the world has forgotten, too. Two weeks with hardly a Qassam rocket has taken Gaza completely off the agenda. If the Gazans don’t hurry up and resume firing, nobody will take an interest in their welfare again. Although not new, this is an especially grievous and saddening message liable to spark the next cycle of violence. And then it will be certain they won’t get aid because they will be shooting.

Somebody must assume responsibility for the fate of the Abu-Aun family and other victims like them. If they had been injured in an earthquake, the world probably would have helped them recover long ago. Even Israel would have quickly dispatched aid convoys from ZAKA, Magen David Adom, even the IDF. But the Abu-Aun family was not injured by a natural disaster, but by hands and flesh and blood, made in Israel, and not for the first time. The response: no compensation, no aid, no rehabilitation. Israel and the world are too preoccupied to rebuild Gaza. They have become speechless. Gaza, remember?

From the ruins of the Abu-Aun family sprouts a new desperation. It will be more bitter than its predecessor. A decent family of eight has been destroyed, physically and psychologically, and the world stands aloof. We should not expect Israel to compensate its victims or rebuild the ruins it caused, even though this would clearly be in its interest, not to mention its moral obligation, a topic not even talked about.

The world once again has to clean up Israel’s mess. But Israel is setting more and more political conditions for providing emergency humanitarian aid; empty excuses to leave Gaza in ruins and not offer aid that Gaza deserves and desperately needs. Gaza has once again been left to its own devices, the Abu-Aun family has been left in its tent, and when the hostilities resume we will be told once again about the cruelty and brutality of … the Palestinians.

Does Zionism legitimize every act of violence?

February 16, 2009

By Gideon Levy | Haaretz, Israel,

February 16, 2009

The Israeli left died in 2000. Since then its corpse has been lying around unburied until finally its death certificate was issued, signed, sealed and delivered on Tuesday. The hangman of 2000 was also the gravedigger of 2009: Defense Minister Ehud Barak. The man who succeeded in spreading the lie about there being no partner has reaped the fruit of his deeds in this election. The funeral was held two days ago.

The Israeli left is dead. For the past nine years it took the name of the peace camp in vain. The Labor Party, Meretz and Kadima had pretensions of speaking in its name, but that was trickery and deceit. Labor and Kadima made two wars and continued to build Jewish settlements in the West Bank; Meretz supported both wars. Peace has been left an orphan. The Israeli voters, who have been misled into thinking that there is no one to talk to and that the only answer to this is force – wars, targeted killings and settlements – have had their say clearly in the election: a closing sale for Labor and Meretz. It was only the force of inertia that gave these parties the few votes they won.

There was no reason for it to be otherwise. After many long years when hardly any protest came from the left, and the city square, the same square that raged after Sabra and Chatila, was silent, this lack of protest has been reflected at the ballot box as well. Lebanon, Gaza, the killed children, cluster bombs, white phosphorus and all the atrocities of occupation – none of this drove the indifferent, cowardly left onto the street. Though ideas of the left have found a toehold in the center and sometimes even on the right, everyone from former prime minister Ariel Sharon to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has spoken in a language that once was considered radical. But the voice was the voice of the left while the hands were the hands of the right.

On the fringes of this masked ball existed another left, the marginal left – determined and courageous, but minuscule and not legitimate. The gap between it and the left was supposedly Zionism. Hadash, Gush Shalom and others like them are outside the camp. Why? Because they are “not Zionist.”

And what is Zionism nowadays? An archaic and outdated concept born in a different reality, a vague and delusive concept marking the difference between the permitted and the proscribed. Does Zionism mean settlement in the territories? Occupation? The legitimization of every act of violence and injustice? The left stammered. Any statement critical of Zionism, even the Zionism of the occupation, was considered a taboo that the left did not dare break. The right grabbed a monopoly on Zionism, leaving the left with its self-righteousness.

A Jewish and democratic state? The Zionist left said yes automatically, fudging the difference between the two and not daring to give either priority. Legitimization for every war? The Zionist left stammered again – yes to the beginning and no to the continuation, or something like that. Solving the refugee problem and the right of return? Acknowledgment of the wrongdoing of 1948? Unmentionable. This left has now, rightly, reached the end of its road.

Anyone who wants a meaningful left must first air out Zionism in the attic. Until a movement that courageously redefines Zionism arises from the mainstream, there will be no broad left here. It is not possible to be both leftist and Zionist only in accordance with the right’s definition. Who has decided that the settlements are Zionist and legitimate, and the struggle against them is neither?

This taboo must be broken. It is permissible not to be a Zionist, as commonly defined today. It is permissible to believe in the Jews’ right to a state and yet come out against the Zionism that engages in occupation. It is permissible to believe that what happened in 1948 should be put on the agenda, to apologize for the injustice and act to rehabilitate the victims. It is permissible to oppose an unnecessary war from its very first day. It is permissible to think that the Arabs of Israel deserve the same rights – culturally, socially and nationally – as Jews. It is permissible to raise disturbing questions about the image of the Israel Defense Forces as an army of occupation, and it is even permissible to want to talk to Hamas.

If you prefer, this is Zionism, and if you prefer, this is anti-Zionism. In any case, it is legitimate and essential for those who do not want to see Israel fall victim to the insanities of the right for many more years. Anyone who wants an Israeli left must say “enough” to Zionism, the Zionism of which the right has taken complete control.

Things One Sees From The Hague

January 15, 2009

By Gideon Levy | Haaretz, Israel, January 15, 2009

When the cannons eventually fall silent, the time for questions and investigations will be upon us. The mushroom clouds of smoke and dust will dissipate in the pitch-black sky; the fervor, desensitization and en masse jump on the bandwagon will be forever forgotten and perhaps we will view a clear picture of Gaza in all its grimness. Then we will see the scope of the killing and destruction, the crammed cemeteries and overflowing hospitals, the thousands of wounded and physically disabled, the destroyed houses that remain after this war.

The questions that will beg to be asked, as cautiously as possible, are who is guilty and who is responsible. The world’s exaggerated willingness to forgive Israel is liable to crack this time. The pilots and gunners, the tank crewmen and infantry soldiers, the generals and thousands who embarked on this war with their fair share of zeal will learn the extent of the evil and indiscriminate nature of their military strikes. They perhaps will not pay any price. They went to battle, but others sent them.

The public, moral and judicial test will be applied to the three Israeli statesmen who sent the Israel Defense Forces to war against a helpless population, one that did not even have a place to take refuge, in maybe the only war in history against a strip of land enclosed by a fence. Ehud Olmert, Ehud Barak and Tzipi Livni will stand at the forefront of the guilty. Two of them are candidates for prime minister, the third is a candidate for criminal indictment.

It is inconceivable that they not be held to account for the bloodshed. Olmert is the only Israeli prime minister who sent his army to two wars of choice, all during one of the briefest terms in office. The man who made a number of courageous statements about peace late in his tenure has orchestrated no fewer than two wars. Talking peace and making war, the “moderate” and “enlightened” prime minister has been revealed as one of our greatest fomenters of war. That is how history will remember him. The “cash envelopes” crimes and “Rishon Tours” transgressions will make him look as pure as snow by comparison.

Barak, the leader of the party of the left, will bear the cost of the IDF’s misdeeds under his tutelage. His account will be burdened by the bombing and shelling of population centers, the hundreds of dead and wounded women and children, the numerous targetings of medical crews, the firing of phosphorus shells at civilian areas, the shelling of a UN-run school that served as a shelter for residents who bled to death over days as the IDF prevented their evacuation by shooting and shelling. Even our siege of Gaza for a year and a half, whose ramifications are frighteningly coming into focus in this war, will accrue to him. Blow after blow, all of these count in the world of war crimes.

Livni, the foreign minister and leader of the centrist party, will be remembered as the one who pushed for, legitimized and sat silent through all these events. The woman who promised “a different kind of politics” was a full partner. This must not be forgotten.

In contrast to the claims being made otherwise, we are permitted to believe that these three leaders did not embark on war for electoral considerations. Anytime is good for war in Israel. We set out for the previous war three months after the elections, not two months before. Will Israel judge them harshly in light of the images emanating from Gaza? Highly doubtful. Barak and Livni are actually rising in the polls instead of dipping. The test awaiting these individuals will not be a local test. It is true that some international statesmen cynically applauded the blows Israel dealt. It is true America kept silent, Europe stuttered and Egypt supported, but other voices will rise out of the crackle of combat.

The first echoes can already be heard. This past weekend, the UN and the Human Rights Commission in Geneva have demanded an investigation into war crimes allegedly perpetrated by Israel. In a world in which Bosnian leaders and their counterparts from Rwanda have already been put on trial, a similar demand is likely to arise for the fomenters of this war. Israeli basketball players will not be the only ones who have to shamefully take cover in sports arenas, and senior officers who conducted this war will not be the only ones forced to hide in El Al planes lest they be arrested. This time, our most senior statesmen, the members of the war kitchen cabinet, are liable to pay a personal and national price.

I don’t write these words with joy, but with sorrow and deep shame. Despite all the slack the world has cut us since as long as we can remember, despite the leniency shown toward Israel, the world might say otherwise this time. If we continue like this, maybe one day a new, special court will be established in The Hague.

And there lie the bodies

January 5, 2009

By Gideon Levy | ZNet, Jan 5, 2008

Source: Haaretz

The legend, lest it be a true story, tells of how the late mathematician, Professor Haim Hanani, asked his students at the Technion to draw up a plan for constructing a pipe to transport blood from Haifa to Eilat. The obedient students did as they were told. Using logarithmic rulers, they sketched the design for a sophisticated pipeline. They meticulously planned its route, taking into account the landscape’s topography, the possibility of corrosion, the pipe’s diameter and the flow calibration. When they presented their final product, the professor rendered his judgment: You failed. None of you asked why we need such a pipe, whose blood will fill it, and why it is flowing in the first place.

Regardless of whether this story is legend or true, Israel is now failing its own blood pipeline test. As Israel has been preoccupied with Gaza throughout the entire week, nobody has asked whose blood is being spilled and why. Everything is permitted, legitimate and just. The moral voice of restraint, if it ever existed, has been left behind. Even if Israel wiped Gaza off the face of the earth, killing tens of thousands in the process, as a Chechnyan laborer working in Sderot proposed to me, one can assume that there would be no protest.

They liquidated Nizar Ghayan? Nobody counts the 20 women and children who lost their lives in the same attack. There was a massacre of dozens of officers during their graduation ceremony from the police academy? Acceptable. Five little sisters? Allowed. Palestinians are dying in hospitals that lack medical equipment? Peanuts. Whatever happened to the not-so-good old days of Salah Shahadeh? When we liquidated him in July 2002, we also killed 15 women and children. At least back then, moral qualms were raised for a moment.

Here lie their bodies, row upon row, some of them tiny. Our hearts have turned hard and our eyes have become dull. All of Israel has worn military fatigues, uniforms that are opaque and stained with blood and which enable us to carry out any crime. Even our leading intellectuals fail to speak out on what havoc we have wreaked. Amos Oz urges: “Cease-fire now.” David Grossman writes: “Hold your fire. Stop.” Meir Shalev wants “a punitive operation.” And not one word about our moral image, which has been horribly distorted.

The suffering in the south renders everything kosher, as if the horrible suffering in Gaza pales in comparison. Everyone is hungry for revenge, and that hunger is excused by the need for “deterrence,” after it was already proved that the killing and the destruction in Lebanon did not achieve it.

Yes, I know, war is war. After all, they brought this on themselves. They are a terrorist organization and we are not. They want to destroy us and we seek peace. Still, is there nothing here that will stop this blood pipeline? Even those whose hearts are hardened by “moral righteousness” will have to momentarily halt the bombing machine and ask: Which Israel do we have before us? What will become of its standing in the world, which is now watching the events in Gaza? What are we inflicting on the moderate Arab regimes? And what of the simmering popular hatred we are sowing throughout the world? What good will emerge from this killing and destruction?

It is doubtful whether Hamas will be cut down to size as a result of this wretched war. Yet, the face of the state has been cut down to size, as have civilian elites who are apathetic and scared. The “peace camp,” if it ever existed, has been cut down to size. Attorney General Menachem Mazuz authorized the Ghayan killing, regardless of the cost. Haim Oron, the leader of the “new left-wing movement,” supported the launch of this foolish war.

Nobody is coming to the rescue – of Gaza or even of the remnants of humanity and Israeli democracy. The statesmen, the jurists, the poets, the authors, academe, and the news media – pitch black over the abyss. When the time comes for reckoning, we will need to remember the damage this war did to Israel: The blood pipeline it laid has been completed.

What Became of Western Morality?

January 3, 2009

By Paul Craig Roberts | Information Clearing House, Jan 2, 2009

On the last day of the old year, two Israelis, Jeff Halper who heads the Israeli peace movement ICAHD and Neve Gordon who is chairman of the department of politics and government at Ben-Gurion University, asked, “Where’s the Academic Outrage Over the Bombing of a University in Gaza?” [ http://www.counterpunch.org gordon12312008.html ]

“Not one of the nearly 450 presidents of American colleges and universities who prominently denounced an effort by British academics to boycott Israeli universities in September 2007 have raised their voice in opposition to Israel’s bombardment of the Islamic University of Gaza earlier this week,” report Halper and Gordon.   They note that Columbia University president Lee C. Bollinger, who has in the past ignorantly insulted Islamic representatives, “has been silent.”

It is the goyim moralists who are silent, not the Jews.  It is the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, not the goyim media, that provides reports of Israel’s abuse of Palestinians.  Gideon Levy’s “The Neighborhood Bully Strikes Again” was published in Haaretz (29 December), not in the goyim press.  Levy’s words–“Once again, 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”–are not words that can appear in American print or TV media.  Such words, printed in Israeli newspapers, never reach the goyim.

The extent of Americans’ ignorance is breathtaking.  Israel has the Palestinians jammed into tightly controlled ghettos known as Gaza and the West Bank.  With Egypt’s help, Israel controls the inflows of food, medicines, water, and energy into Gaza.  Palestinians in Gaza are not permitted to enter Israel or Egypt.  Last week a humanitarian ship bringing food and medicine was rammed by Israeli gunboats and turned away.

In the West Bank Palestinians are walled off from their fields, jobs, medical care, education, water, and from one another by endless checkpoints, roads for “Jews only,” walls, barbed wire, and machine gun towers.  Palestinians are being evicted from their towns house by house, block by block.

Israel’s slow theft of Palestine is illegal under international law but protected by US “diplomacy.”

The Palestinians are no more of a threat to Israel than Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto were a threat to the Nazi state.  Yet, everywhere in America–Congress, the executive branch, the print and TV media, the universities, evangelical Christian institutions–there is the belief that Israel is on the verge of annihilation by Palestinian terrorists.  This ignorance, so carefully cultivated by the Israel Lobby, turns genocidal aggression into self-defense.


It fools Americans, but it doesn’t fool Israelis.  The Israelis have always known that “self-defense” is a cloak for a Zionist policy of territorial expansion.  The policy is controversial within Israel. Many Israelis object, just as many Americans object to President Bush’s illegal wars and violations of US civil liberties.  Many Israelis give voice to their moral conscience, but they are overwhelmed by vested interests.

Karl Marx declared morality to be merely a mask for vested interests.  The writings of Marx and Engels are scornful of good will and moral ideals as effective forces in history. The Israeli state epitomizes Marx’s doctrine that power alone is the effective force.

Many American conservatives share the Israeli state’s belief in the efficacy of power.  Conservatives who turned against Bush’s wars did so because the US was not brutal enough.  They turned away from Bush’s long inconclusive wars in the way that fans desert a losing team.

Americans used to say that “the pen is mightier than the sword,” but this hasn’t been the case for US and Israeli aggression.  The success the two regimes have had in instilling fear into their populations is part of the explanation for the impotence of morality.  Another part of the explanation is that vested interests are a powerful constraint on morality.

Consider the case of Lee Bollinger.  Columbia University is dependent on Jewish money, faculty and students.  If Bollinger were to take a stand against Israel’s mistreatment of the Palestinians, he would be denounced as an anti-Semite.  Presidents of competitor universities would not come to his defense. They would pile on in hopes of recruiting Columbia’s top faculty and students and redirecting the flow of financial resources from Columbia to themselves.

An American newspaper or TV network that took a stand against Israel’s abuse of Palestinians would be confronted with an advertising boycott organized by AIPAC.   American politicians who criticize Israel go down to defeat by Israel Lobby money.

Hegel gave too much emphasis to ideas, Marx too much to material interests.  Both forces operate in the world.  There are times in history when revolutionary ideas shatter material interests.  Other times the two coexist in a balance of power.  In other times material interests prevail over morality.

We are living in the latter time.  Financial interests, the military-security complex, and the Israel Lobby are the powers that rule America.  They are buttressed by neoconservatives and Christian Zionists and by the patriotic hubris that America is the main force for good operating in the world.  The evils America commits are dismissed as necessary to the service of good.  The destruction of Iraq, for example, is justified as “bringing freedom and democracy to the Iraqi people.”

A number of commentators, including myself, predict a decline in America’s economic power.  As this occurs, Israel will have to abandon its policy of violence.  With the accumulated hatred that its policies have fomented, Israel will be vulnerable.

The world will need to remember that although Israel is a Jewish state, it is a state whose policies many Jews find objectionable, just as a majority of American Jews oppose President Bush’s wars of aggression in the Middle East and his unconstitutional policies at home.  We must not confuse Israel’s Zionist government with world Jewry, just as we must not confuse the American people with the war criminals in the Bush Regime.

Consider, who do you trust with your civil liberties, the US Department of Justice or the ACLU’s phalanx of Jewish attorneys?

We must avoid the mistake that was made by blaming the German people for Hitler.  It was the aristocratic German military that tried to remove Hitler.  In contrast, Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi blocked the attempt to impeach George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.  Pelosi is a discredit to California, but shall we blame all of America for Pelosi’s defense of war criminals?  How can we do so when US Rep. Dennis Kucinich courageously read out the articles of impeachment on the House floor?

Are all Americans guilty because Kucinich did not prevail?

Ralph Nader: Letter to Bush on Gaza Crisis

January 2, 2009

Dear George W. Bush,

Cong. Barney Frank said recently that Barack Obama’s declaration that “there is only one president at a time” over-estimated the number. He was referring to the economic crisis. But where are you on the Gaza crisis where the civilian population of Gaza, its civil servants and public facilities are being massacred and destroyed respectively by U.S built F-16s and U.S. built helicopter gunships.

The deliberate suspension of your power to stop this terrorizing of 1.5 million people, mostly refugees, blockaded for months by air, sea and land in their tiny slice of land, is in cowardly contrast to the position taken by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1956. That year he single handedly stopped the British, French and Israeli aircraft attack against Egypt during the Suez Canal dispute.

Fatalities in Gaza are already over 400 and injuries close to 2000 so far as is known. Total Palestinian civilian casualties are 400 times greater then the casualties incurred by Israelis. But why should anyone be surprised at your blanket support for Israel’s attack given what you have done to a far greater number of civilians in Iraq and now in Afghanistan?

Confirmed visual reports show that Israeli warplanes and warships have destroyed or severely damaged police stations, homes, hospitals, pharmacies, mosques, fishing boats, and a range of public facilities providing electricity and other necessities.

Why should this trouble you at all? It violates international law, including the Geneva Conventions and the UN Charter. You too have repeatedly violated international law and committed serious constitutional transgressions.

Then there is the matter of the Israeli government blocking imports of critical medicines, equipment such as dialysis machines, fuel, food, water, spare parts and electricity at varying intensities for almost two years. The depleted UN aid mission there has called this illegal blockade a humanitarian crisis especially devastating to children, the aged and the infirm. Chronic malnutrition among children is rising rapidly. UN rations support eighty percent of this impoverished population.

How do these incontrovertible facts affect you? Do you have any empathy or what you have called Christian charity?

What would a vastly shrunken Texas turned in an encircled Gulag do up against the 4th most powerful military in the world? Would these embattled Texans be spending their time chopping wood?

Gideon Levy, the veteran Israeli columnist for Ha’aretz, called the Israeli attack a “brutal and violent operation” far beyond what was needed for protecting the people in its south. He added: “The diplomatic efforts were just in the beginning, and I believe we could have got to a new truce without this bloodshed…..to send dozens of jets to bomb a total helpless civilian society with hundreds of bombs-just today, they were burying five sisters. I mean, this is unheard of. This cannot go on like this. And this has nothing to do with self-defense or with retaliation even. It went out of proportion, exactly like two-and-a-half years ago in Lebanon.”

Apparently, thousands of Israelis, including some army reservists, who have demonstrated against this destruction of Gaza agree with Mr. Levy. However, their courageous stands have not reached the mass media in the U.S. whose own reporters cannot even get into Gaza due to Israeli prohibitions on the international press.

Your spokespeople are making much ado about the breaking of the six month truce. Who is the occupier? Who is the most powerful military force? Who controls and blocks the necessities of life? Who has sent raiding missions across the border most often? Who has sent artillery shells and missiles at close range into populated areas? Who has refused the repeated comprehensive peace offerings of the Arab countries issued in 2002 if Israel would agree to return to the 1967 borders and agree to the creation of a small independent Palestinian state possessing just twenty two percent of the original Palestine?

The “wildly inaccurate rockets”, as reporters describe them, coming from Hamas and other groups cannot compare with the modern precision armaments and human damage generated from the Israeli side.

There are no rockets coming from the West Bank into Israel. Yet the Israeli government is still sending raiders into that essentially occupied territory, still further entrenching its colonial outposts, still taking water and land and increasing the checkpoints This is going on despite a most amenable West Bank leader, Mahmoud Abbas, whom you have met with at the White House and praised repeatedly. Is it all vague words and no real initiatives with you and your emissary Condoleezza Rice?

Peace was possible, but you provided no leadership, preferring instead to comply with all wishes and demands by the Israeli government-even resupplying it with the still active cluster bombs in south Lebanon during the invasion of that country in 2006.

The arguments about who started the latest hostilities go on and on with Israel always blaming the Palestinians to justify all kinds of violence and harsh treatment against innocent civilians.

From the Palestinian standpoint, you would do well to remember the origins of this conflict which was the dispossession of their lands. To afford you some empathy, recall the oft-quoted comment by the founder of Israel, David Ben-Gurion, who told the Zionist leader, Nahum Goldmann:

“There has been anti-Semitism the Nazis Hitler Auschwitz but was that their [the Palestinians] fault? They only see one thing: We have come here and stolen their country. Why should they accept that?”
Alfred North Whitehead once said: “Duty arises out of the power to alter the course of events.” By that standard, you have shirked mightily your duty over the past eight years to bring peace to both Palestinians and Israelis and more security to a good part of the world.

The least you can do in your remaining days at the White House is adopt a modest profile in courage, and vigorously demand and secure a ceasefire and a solidly based truce. Then your successor, President-elect Obama can inherit something more than the usual self-censoring Washington puppet show that eschews a proper focus on the national interests of the United States.

Sincerely,
Ralph Nader


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