Posts Tagged ‘Haaretz’

Haaretz reporter Amira Hass arrested upon leaving Gaza

May 13, 2009

Amira Hass
(Ariel Schalit)

By Haaretz Service, Israel, May 12, 2009
Israel Police on Tuesday detained Haaretz correspondent Amira Hass upon her exit from the Gaza Strip, where she had been living and reporting over the last few months.

Hass was arrested and taken in for questioning immediately after crossing the border, for violating a law which forbids residence in an enemy state. She was released on bail after promising not to enter the Gaza Strip over the next 30 days.

Hass is the first Israeli journalist to enter the Gaza Strip in more than two years, since the Israel Defense Forces issued an entry ban following the abduction of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit in a 2006 cross-border raid by Palestinian militants.

Last December, Hass was arrested by soldiers at the Erez Checkpoint as she tried to cross into Israel after having entered the Gaza Strip aboard a ship run by peace activists from Europe.

Upon discovering that she had no permit to be in Gaza, the soldiers transferred her to the Sderot police.

When questioned, Hass pointed out that no one had stopped her from entering the Strip, which she did for work purposes.

Hass was released then under restriction, and Nahmani said her case would be sent to court.

Israel Press Council chairwoman Dalia Dorner, a former Supreme Court justice, commented then that even journalists are subject to the law and the council cannot defend a reporter who breaks the law. Instead, she said, local journalists ought to petition the High Court of Justice against the army’s order.

Israel has a case to answer

March 24, 2009


The Guardian, UK,  Tuesday 24 March 2009

Evidence that Israel committed war crimes in its 23-day operation in Gaza mounts by the week. Amnesty and Human Rights Watch have both appealed for a United Nations inquiry, after conducting their own investigations. Last week Ha’aretz published the testimonies of Israeli soldiers who alleged that a sniper shot a Palestinian mother and her two children, and that a company commander ordered an elderly woman to be killed. Yesterday Physicians for Human Rights accused soldiers of ignoring the special protection that Palestinian medical teams are entitled to receive. Today the Guardian releases three films in which our reporter Clancy Chassay reveals evidence that Israel used drones to fire at civilian targets, killing at least 48; he interviews three Palestinian youths used by Israeli soldiers as human shields and alleges that soldiers targeted paramedics and hospitals.

None of this is to deny that a case also exists against Hamas and other militant groups in Gaza. Firing unaimable rockets at civilians in southern Israel is also a war crime. But there is no symmetry of guilt. Israel has weapons it can place to within a metre of its intended targets. Its drones have high-quality optics that can see the colour of the target’s sweater. And they film everything both before and after each attack. The army has the means to refute these allegations, but feels no obligation to do so. An international inquiry should be launched for no other reason than to hold it accountable.

Israel has not got a history of co-operating with international inquiries into the actions of its army, but it has reacted twice to domestic allegations. It admitted that one of its tanks fired two shells at the apartment of a Hebrew-speaking Palestinian doctor whose three daughters were killed and whose grief touched the nation, but it concluded that the action was “reasonable”. The Ha’aretz material prompted a criminal inquiry by the military advocate, and two unusual statements by the outgoing defence minister, Ehud Barak, and the chief of staff, General Gabi Ashkenazi, each of whom praised the “moral” actions of the army. The prospects of a full international investigation of these allegations are mixed. The international criminal court has received more than 220 complaints from the Palestinian National Authority, the Arab League and the Palestinian justice minister. But whether the court has jurisdiction is another matter.

If the ICC route fails, there is always the UN, whose schools and stores found themselves in the line of fire. The secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, will this week receive the results of a private board of inquiry. This is narrow in scope, only examining incidents at UN facilities. But what happened there was bad enough, including the use of white phosphorus shells.

There are five reasons why we should have an international inquiry into the Israeli assault on Gaza. First, the conflict has not gone away. It could reignite at any moment under a prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, who is determined to finish the job. Second, the weight of evidence points not to isolated incidents, but to a new and deadly relaxation of the rules of engagement. This emerges from the soldiers’ own testimony in Ha’aretz. “That’s what is so nice, supposedly, about Gaza,” one soldier said. “You see a person on a road … He doesn’t have to be with a weapon. You don’t have to identify him with anything. You can just shoot him.” Gaza was fought to a certain mood music. It suggested that the lives of Palestinian civilians did not matter when weighed against those of Israeli soldiers. Third, Israel is not immune to international opinion. A narrow rightwing coalition under Mr Netanyahu will be sensitive to criticism from Barack Obama, who has yet to reveal his cards. Fourth, what Israel does or is allowed to get away with doing affects attempts to establish the rule of international law in other conflicts. Fifth, we know what doing nothing leads to: another war, and ultimately a third intifada.

Crime and accountability in Gaza

February 26, 2009

Toufic Haddad, The Electronic Intifada, 24 February 2009

Will Israel be held accountable for its destruction in Gaza? (Matthew Cassel)

Now that the smoke has at least temporarily cleared from Gaza’s skies, credible human rights reports have filtered in describing the utter devastation that took place throughout the course of Israel’s 22 day assault “Operation Cast Lead.” The figures are truly shocking. According to statistics by the Gaza-based Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, at least 1,285 Palestinians were killed, of which 895 were civilians, including 280 children and 111 women. Another 167 of the dead were civil police officers, most of whom were killed on the first day of the bombing when they were graduating from a training course. More than 2,400 houses were completely destroyed, as were 28 public civilian facilities, (including ministries, municipalities, governorates, fishing harbors and the Palestinian Legislative Council building), 29 educational institutions, 30 mosques, 10 charitable societies, 60 police stations and 121 industrial and commercial workshops.

Casualty statistics by Palestinian military groups appear to corroborate the number of civilians killed versus militants. According to their respective Arabic-language websites, Hamas lost 48 fighters, Islamic Jihad, 34, the Popular Resistance Committees, 17, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, one. It is not known how many fighters Fatah lost, though their participation in the resistance was certainly less than that of Hamas, which clearly led the Palestinian side. These reports should also be considered credible because it is highly unlikely a group would suppress its casualty figures given that their fighters’ deaths are perceived as acts of martyrdom, for which the faction proudly advertises its sacrifices. Family members of dead fighters would also not accept any other classification. We can safely assume therefore that the remaining killed militants were Fatah members, former or current security force personnel, or individuals who took up arms when the fighting erupted.

Information from Israeli sources has also surfaced regarding different aspects of the planning and functioning of the Israeli military during the campaign. It is now known for example that the idea to bomb the closing ceremony of a Gaza police training course was planned and internally criticized within the Israel army months before the attack. According to the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz correspondent Barak Regev, “A military source involved in the planning of the attack, in which dozens of Hamas policemen were killed, says that while military intelligence officers were sure the operation should be carried out and pressed for its approval, the [Israeli army’s] international law division and the military advocate general were undecided.” Israel went ahead with the bombing anyway, killing dozens of civil police officers whose limp dismembered bodies were captured in chilling images broadcast the first day of Israel’s campaign.

It was also revealed by Haaretz that “Israel used text messages, dropped flyers from the air and made a quarter of a million telephone calls to warn Gaza residents.” Given that 50 percent of Gaza’s residents are below the age of 16 and are unlikely to have independent telephone lines, a quarter million telephone calls covers a considerable portion of Gaza’s households. This is a backhanded acknowledgment of the fact that almost everybody in Gaza was threatened in Israel’s campaign.

Israeli politicians also appear aware of the devastation they have wrought in Gaza, and the war crimes charges they are likely to face because of their targeting of the civilian population. One minister told Israeli military correspondent Amos Harel “When the scale of the damage in Gaza becomes clear, I will no longer take a vacation in Amsterdam, only at the international court in The Hague.” According to Harel, “It was not clear whether he was trying to make a joke or not.”

How is one to approach the existence of indisputable evidence showing that Palestinian civilians were a deliberate target in Israel’s campaign? This is not the case of “collateral damage,” nor is this the case of one of the most sophisticated and powerful armies operating in one of the most densely populated areas of the world.

The technicalities of the legal cases pressing for war crimes charges should be left to qualified lawyers and human rights workers. Indeed the process is well on its way, with one petition already filed in Belgium. The Israeli government is also set to approve a bill that will grant aid to officers who do face suits for alleged war crimes. The military censor has already issued orders to the press not to reveal the identities of officers involved in the Gaza campaign.

As these debates begin, it’s important to stress three points. First, the policy of targeting civilians in Gaza was nothing new. The medieval siege which was clamped on Gaza since the Hamas victory in the 2006 elections preventing access to fuels, foods and medical supplies, was part and parcel of the same policy directed at the civilian population. Adding the military dimension whereby Israeli army personnel sitting in bunkers in Tel Aviv bomb civilian areas with unmanned drones, is only a difference of degree, not principle.

Second, it is important to point out the modus operandi used in Gaza was entirely predictable, based on how Israeli and American military analysts and journalists were openly discussing the results of Israel’s failed campaign in Lebanon in 2006. For example, Anthony Cordesman, a military analyst for the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, visited Israel after the July 2006 war and interviewed its military personnel to assess its setbacks. His subsequent recommendations for correcting Israel’s tactics in future confrontations read like a blueprint for what Israel was doing to Gaza. “From Israel’s viewpoint you have to use force even more against civilian targets,” Cordesman explains. “You have to attack deep. You have to step up the intensity of combat and you have to be less careful and less restrained.”

Cordesman’s conclusions derived from his belief that Israel’s “deterrence” had suffered serious erosion throughout the course of the second Palestinian intifada and especially during the July 2006 war. In the latter case, the support provided by the Lebanese civilian population to Hizballah was seen as instrumental in the movement’s ability to embed itself locally before and during the war. This enabled it to build up a formidable civilian and military infrastructure, and importantly, to deprive Israel of sufficient intelligence regarding its activities. As The New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman explained, deliberately attacking civilians was necessary in order “to educate” them not to allow Hizballah to operate from their areas. If they don’t learn the lesson, their areas would be bombed again. Israel also tried to teach Palestinians a lesson in Gaza again, though its students are still just as unlikely to get the point.

That this military doctrine could have been identified, criticized and stopped before it was allowed to be put into action one more destructive time, leads to the third and final point. A military strategy that overtly embraces tactics aimed at bludgeoning a civilian population into submission, could not stand on its own were it not for a deeper more sinister logic which has prepared the acceptance of such crimes in advance — both vis-a-vis the international community and domestically within Israel. Here there are many culprits, and even more accomplices. But it suffices to say that the dehumanization of Palestinians in general, and those in Gaza in particular, reached unconscionable levels in years past.

During the first Palestinian intifada, the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin famously wished that “Gaza would just sink into the sea.” During the second intifada, Israeli chief of staff Moshe Ya’alon defined the Palestinians as a threat akin to “cancer” which Israel was applying “chemotherapy” to, but one day might be forced to use “amputation.” He also emphasized that Israel’s strategy towards the Palestinians needed to “burn into consciousness” their own defeat as a people.

After the January 2006 election of Hamas, and particularly after the Islamic movement’s take over of Gaza as it sought to pre-empt a US-sponsored coup against it, the rhetoric against the Palestinians of Gaza was ramped up to feverish pitches. Gaza became “Hamastan, Hizballahstan and al-Qaedastan” wrapped into one, according to Ya’alon, with Iran at Israel’s southern doorstep. The people of Gaza were to be put “on a diet,” according to Dov Weissglas, an adviser to former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, “but not to make them die of hunger.”

The list of dehumanizing quotations is long and demeaning. If these ideas were restricted to the confines of Israeli military and political circles, while they would remain reprehensible, they could at least be contained. The problem is that they have been allowed to flourish throughout the US beneath the much broader discursive umbrella of the “War on Terror.” Principled opposition to the farce of this “war” has virtually been non-existent within the Republican and Democratic parties. All we heard during last year’s election campaign was how one party was going to fight it better than the other. No mainstream media organization has also dared to expose the “War on Terror” as a tool to implement American imperial ambitions, despite the acknowledgement by the former Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan, that invasion of Iraq was about oil.

All of a sudden the Palestinian question, whose basis is rooted in a classic anti-colonial nationalist struggle having to do with fighting an occupation for freedom and self-determination, is transformed into a pathogen which must be eradicated. How easy is it to forget that substantial numbers of countries throughout the world today only achieved independence after bitter armed struggles against occupation and their colonial masters. How convenient to elide that Europe itself had to believe in and organize an armed resistance to occupation when Nazism covered more than half of its landmass.

The transformation of the Palestinian struggle from its colonial birth, to its modern day public execution broadcast on CNN is facilitated through an insipid daily process whereby Palestinians, and people who look and sound like them — non-English speaking Arabs and Muslims — are constantly imagined and reproduced through a litany of military experts, commentators, Hollywood movies, drama series and even video games. The goal is to divide, stereotype and dehumanize at all cost, because providing nuance, history and context is the cardinal sin of the current corporate media age. America and Israel need terror to end now. Arabs and Palestinians need to accept their fate as subhuman entities, who become the object by which other countries erect their deterrence, as though it were a question of national virility.

Gaza never had a chance. It has always been the slum of slums, with its million and a half residents crammed into a plot of land with no real means of sustaining itself. After 60 years of dispossession, and 41 years of military occupation, who was really listening to the residents of its eight refugee camps, 40 percent of whom are unemployed, 80 percent of whom live on UN handouts? Who needs to ask these questions anyway? Palestinians know they have Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni looking after their best interests. During the war, she openly declared that what was happening in Gaza was good for the Palestinians.

Serious questions of accountability lie embedded in how Israel was allowed to deliberately target Gaza’s civilian population. The world’s ability — or inability — to address these questions leaves a stark dichotomy difficult to avoid: either the world upholds a moral stance that civilians are an illegitimate target in war, by which account Israel’s political and military leaders must be tried and sentenced for their crimes. Or the world allows this principle to be violated, as it was in Gaza, and accepts the consequences of a world in which power and violence definitively determine right from wrong.

Toufic Haddad is a Palestinian-American journalist based in the West Bank town of Bethlehem. He is also the co-author of Between the Lines: Israel, the Palestinians and the US “War on Terror” with Israeli author Tikva Honig Parnass, published by Haymarket Books, 2007. He can be reached at tawfiq_haddad AT yahoo DOT com.

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.

Amira Hass: Palestinian doctor killed by IDF while treating Gaza wounded

February 15, 2009

Amira Haas | Haaretz, Israel,

Click here for more articles by Amira Hass

A 28-year-old Palestinian doctor in the Gaza refugee camp of Jabalya was killed by Israel Defense Forces fire this week while on his way to remove casualties from a building being targeted by Israeli missiles, according to the Mizan human rights group in Gaza.

His death raises the death toll of medical personnel killed by the IDF to seven since December 27, human rights groups said. In addition, three hospitals and four health clinics were damaged by gunfire in the last few days, Palestinian sources said.

Dr. Issa Salah, a member of the Palestinian civil defense services, and his team reached the building where the casualties were located around 4:30 P.M. Monday, a few minutes after it was hit by a missile fired by an Israeli helicopter.

The residents ran out, having learned that the first such missile is a warning to residents to evacuate the building, before additional missiles demolish it.

But not everyone made it in time; an 18-year-old girl was killed and four residents, including two children, were wounded in the second missile strike.

Salah was killed, and one of his colleagues wounded, in the third missile strike, while on their way to remove the woman and the four residents from the site and get them medical treatment.

Meanwhile, the dead woman’s 23-year-old sister and another woman, 20, were killed in continued Israeli shelling of the building.

Five others were wounded.

Salah’s death underscores the difficulty Palestinians face in removing casualties from the scene.

As of last night, Palestinian sources said, Palestinian rescue forces have so far been unable to coordinate the evacuation of casualties with the IDF in at least four locations, where the IDF has encountered resistance: Jabalya and the Gaza City neighborhoods of Sajaiyeh, Tufah and Zeitun.

Related articles:

· Amira Hass / Gazans doing their best to avoid becoming death statistics

· Human Rights Watch: IDF phosphorous bombs in Gaza violate int’l law

· Life in the Gaza war zone

· Hamas executes collaborators and restricts Fatah movement

Lieberman was a member of the Kach Terrorist Group

February 6, 2009
author Wednesday February 04, 2009 03:11author by Saed Bannoura – IMEMC & Agencies Report this post to the editors
Israeli online daily, Haaretz, reported Tuesday that Avigdor Lieberman, head of the Yisrael Betinu Party and a current candidate for Prime Minister in the upcoming elections, was a member of the Kach terrorist group which is outlawed by Israel.

Image source - Knesset website
Image source – Knesset website

Yossi Dayan, secretary-general of the movement, said that when Lieberman first immigrated into Israel, he joined the movement, and Dayan himself was the person who issued his membership ID card.

At the time, Lieberman emigrated from Moldovia, and became an active member in the movement.

Dayan added that he is willing to testify in front of any committee to confirm his statements, and added that Lieberman was a Kach member for a short period.

Also, Ultra-nationalist activist, Avigdor Eskin, said that he met Lieberman several times at the movement’s office in Jerusalem, Haaretz reported.

Eskin described Lieberman as a nice man, and that he was only a “Kach member in his ideology that hates Arabs”.

He added that Lieberman was active in the movement for several months, adding that part of his activities included distributing statements and leaflets for the movement at the Jerusalem University.

Kach members refuse statements that attempt to place resemblance between Lieberman and the former leader of the terrorist movement, Me’er Kahane, who immigrated to Israel from the United States.

The Kach movement is a group that believes in greater Israel, expelling all Arabs from the area and using violence to achieve these goals. It was formed in 1971 by Me’er Kahana, shortly after he immigrated to Palestine. He was assassinated in the United States in 1990.

When the movement was established, it set its goal to have a Jewish state in both banks of the Jordan River, which means taking over Jordan and Palestine.

The Kach movement participated in the 1984 elections in Israel and won one seat; in 1988 the movement was barred from participating in the elections for its racist ideology and was officially declared a terrorist movement in 1994.

After Kahane was killed, the Kach movement was divided, and Zeev Kahane formed the Kahane Hai (Kahane is alive) movement after rifts erupted on who should lead the movement.

Lieberman is well known for his ideas and speeches against Arabs and Palestinians. He considers them as demographical threat to the state of Israel and has always called for the massive expulsion of all Arabs and Palestinians from “Greater Israel”.

Attacks Are Inhuman, Peace Activists Tell Olmert, Barak

January 16, 2009

by Jason Koutsoukis

Despite graphic images of the carnage in Gaza being shown around Israel and the high number of Palestinian casualties, public support for the war remains high.

[Israeli left-wing activists protest outside President Shimon Peres' residence in Jerusalem. Israel's offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip has caused unprecedented suffering to civilian residents of the Palestinian territory, local human rights groups said on Wednesday. (AFP/Gali Tibbon)]Israeli left-wing activists protest outside President Shimon Peres’ residence in Jerusalem. Israel’s offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip has caused unprecedented suffering to civilian residents of the Palestinian territory, local human rights groups said on Wednesday. (AFP/Gali Tibbon)

A poll commissioned by the liberal daily newspaper Haaretz yesterday found 82 per cent of people surveyed believe that Israel has not gone too far with its use of military force during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza.The war in Gaza also appears to have gone some way towards rebuilding public confidence in the military following the perceived failures of Israel’s 2006 war in Lebanon, with 78 per cent of people judging the war a success.

But not all Israelis are in favour of the war.

On Wednesday a coalition of nine Israeli human rights groups convened to urge an immediate halt to the fighting in the Gaza Strip which they said was on the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe.

In an open letter to the Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert. and the Defence Minister, Ehud Barak, the groups said a commission of inquiry would be needed after the conflict ended to investigate alleged Israeli war crimes.

Michael Sfard, a lawyer with the Israeli human rights group Yesh Din that was a part of Wednesday’s press conference, told the Herald it was time Israelis looked into the mirror.

“I think we have become so used to violence that when the sort of things that are happening in Gaza are shown, people don’t care any more,” Mr Sfard said.

“Several years ago, the killing of 15 Hamas militants by the IDF [Israel Defence Forces] caused a major moral revision here within Israel.

“Now [there have been] 1000 people killed in Gaza, many of them children, and there is very little national debate about whether this is right or wrong.”

The groups, which also included Amnesty International, B’Tselem, Gisha, and Physicians for Human Rights, also presented six cases in which they say IDF troops fired on medical personnel, killing 12 people.

They said there have been 15 hits on medical facilities during the conflict, including clinics and medical storage facilities.

“I care about humanity, and what is happening here is inhuman,” said Professor Zvi Bentwich, the head of the Centre for Tropical Diseases and AIDS at Ben Gurion University.

“There is no sense whatsoever of proportionality, it’s a dreadful and callous disregard for human life,” Professor Bentwich said.

Copyright © 2009. The Sydney Morning Herald

Calling Out Bush’s War in Gaza

January 6, 2009

by Robert Naiman

It may well be that in denouncing “Israel’s” attack on Gaza one, in an important way, unwittingly does a disservice to the cause of holding the Bush Administration accountable for its crimes.

Is there any doubt that the Bush Administration approved this assault? Is there any doubt that it could not have taken place without the Bush Administration’s approval?

Is there any doubt that it could not continue without the support of the Bush Administration and the protective umbrella of its veto at the UN Security Council? Is there any doubt that it will stop the very day that the Bush Administration says that it must?

If so, is it in the interest of humanity that we Americans engage in the charade that the Israeli government is an autonomous actor in this matter?

All these observations are true in general, but we have plenty of specific evidence in this case.

In August, Haaretz reported that the U.S. had “rejected an Israeli request for military equipment and support that would improve Israel’s ability to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities.”

The Americans viewed the request, which was transmitted (and rejected) at the highest level, as a sign that Israel is in the advanced stages of preparations to attack Iran. They therefore warned Israel against attacking, saying such a strike would undermine American interests. They also demanded that Israel give them prior notice if it nevertheless decided to strike Iran.

In early September, Haaretz reported that the request had included GBU-28 “bunker-buster” bombs.

In mid-September, the U.S. agreed instead to sell Israel 1000 GBU-39 “bunker buster” bombs which Israeli military experts said “could provide a powerful new weapon” in Gaza, AP reported.

These bombs have been used to bomb tunnels in Gaza in the current offensive, the Jerusalem Post reports. Israel claims that its goal in bombing tunnels is to stop the smuggling of weapons, but tunnels are also used to bring in goods, so blowing up tunnels has the effect of reinforcing the blockade on Gaza.

So: when Israel requested weapons that the U.S. expected would be used for bombing Iran, the U.S. said no, and added explicitly that it did not want to see an Israeli attack on Iran. And there was no Israeli attack on Iran.

Instead, the U.S. provided bombs that it had every reason to believe would be used for an attack on Gaza. And now there is an Israeli attack on Gaza, using those very bombs.

And therefore, there is no reason to doubt the active approval of the United States government for the current attack.

So, if one happens to be living in the United States, it seems clear that one’s complaints ought to be addressed to U.S. officials. You can write to President Bush and your Congressional representatives here and to President-elect Obama here.

Robert Naiman is Senior Policy Analyst at Just Foreign Policy.

Israel is Immune From Criticism

January 5, 2009

A Galaxy of Partisan Propagandists

By BRIAN CLOUGHLEY | Counterpunch, January 5, 2008

The state of Israel has descended – plummeted – to one of the lowest levels of conscious barbarity that is currently evident in this horrible world.

Any nation that has behaved towards a subject people, as Israel has to Palestinians, is worthy only of utter contempt. On Sunday January 4 I heard a rabbi on the BBC’s morning religious program saying that he supported Israel’s air strikes on Gaza. A man of God actually endorsed the killing of hundreds of people. To say that I was – and am – aghast at the sentiment expressed is to put it very mildly. This religious leader, a person supposed to spread and preach tolerance, patience, charity and peace, was supporting war crimes of immense gravity. His approval of the killing of Arabs was blood-chilling.

And this rabbi was British. Here we have a British citizen supporting hatred and bigotry on a BBC religious program. But of course he isn’t really British. He is an Israeli religious propagandist of British citizenship whose main allegiance is to Israel. There are thousands like him in the UK and the US. They unconditionally promote Tel Aviv’s plans and policy and wield amazing influence over politicians and businesses. Killing Palestinians is Israeli policy, and these people spare no effort to justify it.

Here’s a resident of Gaza talking to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz about the horrors experienced by Palestinians (and congratulations to Haaretz for having the courage to print it): “I keep the children away from the windows because the F-16s are in the air; I forbid them to play below because it’s dangerous. They’re bombing us from the sea and from the east, they’re bombing us from the air. When the telephone works, people tell us about relatives or friends who were killed. My wife cries all the time. At night she hugs the children and cries. It’s cold and the windows are open; there’s fire and smoke in open areas; at home there’s no water, no electricity, no heating gas. And you [the Israelis] say there’s no humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Tell me, are you normal?”

No, they’re not, is the short answer, and the ruthlessness is epitomised by the evil Israeli foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, who is using the Gaza war to establish her credentials as a reliably hard-nosed barbarian. She declares “there is no humanitarian crisis in the [Gaza] Strip and therefore there is no need for a humanitarian truce.”

It was reported on January 5 that Israeli troops are using white phosphorus (WP) artillery shells in Gaza, supposedly to create smoke screens to conceal their advance.

American troops used WP – fondly known as Willy Pete – in their destruction of the Iraqi city of Fallujah, and the US tried to lie its way out of the war crime, but junior officers unintentionally blew the lies apart by writing in the magazine Field Artillery that “WP proved to be an effective and versatile munition. We used it for screening missions . . . and, later in the fight, as a potent psychological weapon against insurgents in trench lines and spider holes . . . We fired ‘shake and bake’ missions at the insurgents using WP to flush them out and high explosive shells (HE) to take them out.” In fact WP is an effective killer, and anyone who inhales particles will suffer a particularly hideous and painful death. As recorded by The Independent newspaper in Britain “In the aftermath of the battle [at Fallujah], the State Department’s Counter Misinformation Office issued a statement saying that WP was only “used very sparingly in Fallujah, for illumination purposes. They were fired into the air to illuminate enemy positions at night [which isn’t the propose of a smoke-shell], not at enemy fighters.” When The Independent confronted the State Department with the first-hand accounts of soldiers who participated, an official accepted the mistake and undertook to correct its website.” Big deal. Lie, lie and lie again, until you’re found out and it’s impossible to deny the facts. And the Israelis seem to be taking the example, as usual, and are stoutly denying what has been seen by independent witnesses.

Article two, Protocol III of the 1980 UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons states: “It is prohibited in all circumstances to make the civilian population as such, individual civilians or civilian objects, the object of attack by incendiary weapons.” But Israel is only following the US example. “Shake and bake” is such an attractive military option that it would be a shame to spoil their fun, especially when it has rabbinical approval.

Here is part of what is laid out in Protocol 1, Additional to the Geneva Conventions, 1977 . . . General Protection Against Effects of Hostilities: “Among others, the following types of attacks are to be considered as indiscriminate: An attack which may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects, or a combination thereof, which would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated.”

Israel, supported energetically by Washington (and using US-supplied aircraft, bombs and rockets), has caused “incidental loss of life” and general civilian casualties on an enormous scale. The Israeli military and the Israeli people knew full well that their genocidal attack on Gaza would kill civilians. The use of white phosphorous in built-up areas is worthy of the Nazis at their most brutal. Stalin and Mao would nod approvingly. It wasn’t considered important that there would be countless civilian deaths. Nobody cares, and least of all American politicians. The next secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, refuses to comment on the atrocities. The incoming vice-president has been silent. President-elect Obama? As Reuters reported : “Obama . . . has not commented on the Middle East crisis since Israel launched attacks on Gaza nine days ago. His advisers insist that only President George W Bush can speak for America until then.” But it was noted that “The president-elect has commented on the global economic crisis and his plans to try to pull the US economy out of recession.”

Of course he has. And were it not for the power of Israel in America he would no doubt comment adversely on the slaughter in Gaza, because he is a decent man.

But Mr Obama dare not criticize Israel, even for its use of chemical shells. Nor can any American who wishes to enter or remain engaged in politics. The kiss of political death in the United States of America is to censure Israel. It can’t be done.

And that is why apartheid is permitted in Israel; it’s why the mass-punishment blockade was enforced months before the attack went in; and it’s why the near-genocide in Gaza is allowed to continue.

Does anyone remember the hearing on the so-called Israeli-Palestine peace process in the US House of Representatives in February 2007? Of course not. It was a farce. And why was it such a revolting and hideous charade? – Because it was a three card trick.

The main witness, of the three cards who were called, was one Martin Indyk, a former official of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee which is the richest and most powerful lobby group in the country (two of whose members are currently under a mysteriously delayed investigation for spying for Israel). From there, inevitably, he went to be US ambassador in Tel Aviv. (And, incidentally, whose book on the Middle East was the subject of a glowing review in last week’s Economist.) Another witness was David Makovsky of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (founded by Indyk; it’s all very chummy in pro-Israel sewers), which is funded extensively by American interests that support Zionism. (Among other connections, it is closely associated with the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University.) And was the third witness a counter-balance to two energetic supporters of Zion? Could he or she present a rather less biased view of the Middle East? Perhaps a person who would make the point that Israel has contemptuously ignored UN Security Council resolutions concerning illegal occupation of Palestinian lands?

Not a bit. The third member was a comic quasi-intellectual character called Daniel Pipes who once declared that Muslim immigrants to the US were “brown-skinned peoples cooking strange foods and not exactly maintaining Germanic standards of hygiene.” (Germanic? – How quaint.) Pipes founded the Middle East Forum (MEF) which encourages university students in America to report lecturers and professors who they consider to be anti-Israel or pro-Palestinian. (In Hitler’s Germany there were awards given to young people who identified and reported those they thought to be pro-Jewish; I know a very elderly German lady who did this when she was 15. She is now terribly ashamed at the memory, because she actually informed on her own father. How times change. Or don’t, of course.)

In 2006 Pipes was given the ‘Guardian of Zion’ award, an annual prize to a prominent supporter of Israel, by the Rennert Center for Jerusalem Studies at Bar-Ilan University in Israel.

With a galaxy of partisan propagandists like Indyk, Makovsky and Pipes being the only people selected to give evidence on Israel-Palestine to the nation’s legislators in Washington, there was no chance whatever that the Congressional Sub-Committee would be presented with a balanced view of the Israel-Palestine problem. The deck was stacked, and the legislators listened. They had no choice, because of the power of the Israel lobby. They’ve been shaken and baked.

There is little doubt that the bias towards Israel will continue in the legislature and administration of the United States of America, no matter what Obama might really think, and no matter how many Palestinian children the Zionists have slaughtered. The Israelis are behaving like genocidal filth, but those who stay silent about their atrocities are not far behind in the gutter stakes.

Brian Cloughley‘s book about the Pakistan army, War, Coups and Terror, has just been published by Pen & Sword Books (UK) and will be published in the US in May by Skyhorse (New York).

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?” [ 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?

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