Posts Tagged ‘Operation Cast Lead’

Turning Back From the Point of No Return – Implications of the Threat to Bomb Iran

August 26, 2010
Jeremy R. Hammond, Foreign Policy Journal, August 26, 2010

The drums for war on Iran have been banging louder than ever lately, with a spate of articles by political commentators either directly encouraging the bombing of the Islamic Republic or otherwise offering a narrative in which this is effectively portrayed as the only option to prevent Iran from waging a nuclear holocaust against Israel. A prominent example of the latter is Jeffrey Goldberg’s article last month in the Atlantic magazine, “The Point of No Return”.[1] Goldberg’s lengthy piece essentially boils down to this: Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons poses an existential threat to Israel’s existence comparable to the Nazi Holocaust, and although the U.S. recognizes this threat, the Obama administration is weak, so Israel will have no choice but to act alone in bombing Iran to ensure its own survival.

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Top Ten Myths about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

June 19, 2010

Jeremy R. Hammond, Foreign Policy Journal, June 17, 2010

A Palestinian boy throws a stone at an Israeli  tank in the occupied West Bank.

Myth #1 – Jews and Arabs have always been in conflict in the region.

Although Arabs were a majority in Palestine prior to the creation of the state of Israel, there had always been a Jewish population, as well. For the most part, Jewish Palestinians got along with their Arab neighbors. This began to change with the onset of the Zionist movement, because the Zionists rejected the right of the Palestinians to self-determination and wanted Palestine for their own, to create a “Jewish State” in a region where Arabs were the majority and owned most of the land.

For instance, after a series of riots in Jaffa in 1921 resulting in the deaths of 47 Jews and 48 Arabs, the occupying British held a commission of inquiry, which reported their finding that “there is no inherent anti-Semitism in the country, racial or religious.” Rather, Arab attacks on Jewish communities were the result of Arab fears about the stated goal of the Zionists to take over the land.

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Israeli soldiers: Talk to Hamas

February 15, 2010

As Israeli soldiers we hang our heads in shame over last year’s attack on Gaza’s civilian population. Dialogue, not war, is needed

by Arik Diamant and David Zonsheine, The Guardian/UK, Feb 15, 2010

Gaza conflictCivilians flee during last year’s war on Gaza. Photograph: Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images

The Israeli media marked the one-year anniversary of Operation Cast Lead, the war on Gaza, almost as a celebration. The operation is recognised almost unanimously in Israel as a military triumph, a combat victory over one of Israel’s deadliest enemies: Hamas.

As combat soldiers of the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF), we have serious doubts about this conclusion, primarily because hardly any combat against Hamas took place during the operation. As soon as the operation started, Hamas went underground.

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War Criminals Are Becoming The Arbiters Of Law

October 13, 2009

Paul Craig Roberts, Information Clearing House, Oct 12, 2009

The double standard under which the Israeli government operates is too much for everyone except the brainwashed Americans. Even the very Israeli Jerusalem Post can see the double standard displayed by “all of Israel now speaking in one voice against the Goldstone report”:

“This is the Israeli notion of a fair deal: We’re entitled to do whatever the hell we want to the Palestinians because, by definition, whatever we do to them is self-defense. They, however, are not entitled to lift a finger against us because, by definition, whatever they do to us is terrorism.

“That’s the way it’s always been, that’s the way it was in Operation Cast Lead.

“And there are no limits on our right to self-defense. There is no such thing as ‘disproportionate.’

“We can deliberately destroy thousands of Gazan homes, the Gazan parliament, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Interior, courthouses, the only Gazan flour plant, the main poultry farm, a sewage treatment plant, water wells and God knows what else.

“Deliberately.

“Why? Because we’re better than them. Because we’re a democracy and they’re a bunch of Islamo-fascists. Because ours is a culture of life and theirs is a culture of death. Because they’re out to destroy us and all we are saying is give peace a chance.

“The Goldstones of the world call this hypocrisy, a double standard. How dare they! Around here, we call it moral clarity.”

A person would never read such as this in the New York Times or Washington Post or hear it from any US news source. Unlike Israeli newspapers, the US media is a complete mouthpiece for the Israel Lobby. Never a critical word is heard.

This will be even more the case now that the Israel Lobby, after years of effort, has succeeded in repealing the First Amendment by having the Hate Crime Bill attached to the recently passed military appropriations bill. This is the way the syllogism works:

It is anti-semitic to criticize Israel. Anti-semitism is a hate crime. Therefore, to criticize Israel is a hate crime.

As the Jerusalem Post notes, this syllogism has “moral clarity.”

Britain’s ambassador to the United Nations, John Sawers, stepped into the hate crime arena when he told Israel Army radio that the Goldstone report on Israel’s military assault on Gaza contains “some very serious details which need to be investigated.” A year from now when the Anti-Defamation League has its phalanx of US Department of Justice (sic) prosecutors in place, Sawers would be seized and placed on trial. Diplomatic immunity means nothing to the US, which routinely invades other countries, executes their leaders or sends them to the Hague for trial as war criminals.

In the meantime, however, the Israeli government put Sawers and the UK government on notice that British support for the Goldstone Report would result in the destruction of the double standard that protects the West and Israel and create a precedent that would place the British in the dock for war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“London,” declared the Israeli government, “could find itself in handcuffs if it supports the document [the Goldstone report].”

Once the DOJ’s hate crime unit us up and running, “self-hating Jews,” such as leaders of the Israeli peace movement and Haaretz and Jerusalem Post journalists, can expect to be indicted for anti-semitic hate crimes in US courts.

The Goldstone Report and the Battle for Legitimacy

September 24, 2009

Richard Falk, The Electronic Intifada, 22 September 2009

Jurist Richard Goldstone: “I believe deeply in the rule of law and the laws of war.” (UN Photo)

Richard Goldstone, former judge of South Africa’s Constitutional Court, the first prosecutor at The Hague on behalf of the International Criminal Court for Former Yugoslavia, and anti-apartheid campaigner reports that he was most reluctant to take on the job of chairing the United Nations fact-finding mission charged with investigating allegations of war crimes committed by Israel and Hamas during the three week Gaza war of last winter. Goldstone explains that his reluctance was due to the issue being “deeply charged and politically loaded,” and was overcome only because he and his fellow commissioners were “professionals committed to an objective, fact-based investigation,” adding that “above all, I accepted because I believe deeply in the rule of law and the laws of war,” as well as the duty to protect civilians to the extent possible in combat zones. The four-person fact-finding mission was composed of widely respected and highly qualified individuals, including the distinguished international law scholar Christine Chinkin, a professor at the London School of Economics. Undoubtedly adding complexity to Goldstone’s decision is the fact that he is Jewish, with deep emotional and family ties to Israel and Zionism, bonds solidified by his long association with several organizations active in Israel.

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Goldstone Commission Gaza Conflict Findings and Reactions

September 22, 2009

by Stephen Lendman, Dissident Voice, September 21, 2009

On April 3, 2009, a UN press release stated:

The Human Rights Council (HRC) today announced the appointment of Richard J. Goldstone….to lead an independent (four-person) fact-finding mission to investigate international human rights and humanitarian law violations related to the recent conflict in the Gaza Strip…. The team will be supported by staff of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights…. Today’s appointment comes following the adoption of a resolution by the Human Rights Council… to address ‘the grave violations of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly due to the recent Israeli military attacks against the occupied Gaza Strip.

Established by the UN General Assembly on March 15, 2006, the HRC’s 47 member states are “responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe.”

As a former South African Constitutional Court justice, Goldstone is a respected jurist. He also served as chief prosecutor for the Yugoslavia and Rwanda tribunals and is a Hebrew University board member. As a Jew, he promised to be fair and even-handed, and “hope(s) that the findings… will make a meaningful contribution to the peace process… and will provide justice for the victims.”

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Lies and Israel’s war crimes

July 29, 2009

Ben White, The Electronic Intifada, 28 July 2009

A Palestinian UN worker inspects debris after an Israeli air strike on a UN school in Gaza where civilians were seeking refuge, 17 January 2009. (Wissam Nassar/MaanImages)


This month marked six months since the “official” conclusion to Israel’s assault on the Gaza Strip, “Operation Cast Lead.” From 27 December to 18 January, the might of the one of the world’s strongest militaries laid waste to a densely-packed territory of 1.4 million Palestinians without an escape route.

The parallel propaganda battle fought by Israel’s official and unofficial apologists continued after the ceasefire, in a desperate struggle to combat the repeated reports by human rights groups of breaches of international law. This article will look at some of the strategies of this campaign of disinformation, confusion, and lies — and the reality of Israel’s war crimes in the Gaza Strip. Very early on in Operation Cast Lead, the scale of Israel’s attack became apparent. In just the first six days the Israeli Air Force carried out more than 500 sorties against targets in the Gaza Strip. That amounted to an attack from the air roughly every 18 minutes — not counting hundreds of helicopter attacks, tank and navy shelling, and infantry raids. All of this on a territory similar in size to the US city of Seattle.

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Breaking the Silence on Gaza

July 21, 2009
by César Chelala | CommonDreams.org, July 20, 2009

A new set of revelations by soldiers who participated in the Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF) operation in Gaza offers a disturbing picture of the actions carried out in that territory. Testimony regarding their conduct in Gaza by Breaking the Silence, an organization of Israeli soldiers, confirms previous denunciations by human rights organizations and signals that urgent attention must be paid to the economic and medical needs of a repeatedly abused civilian population.

Operation “Cast Lead” was initiated December 27, 2008 and ended January 18, 2009. Over 1400 Palestinians were killed, 900 of them civilians (65%), including 300 hundred children (22%). Extensive areas of Gaza were razed to the ground and thousands of people were left homeless, even months after the operation ended. The economy of Gaza was all but destroyed.

Full article

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.

The Testimony from Gaza

March 31, 2009
Israeli soldiers’ accounts of the fighting last winter further undermine the official rationale of the war.

The soldier had served as a squad commander during the Israeli army’s invasion of the Gaza Strip last winter. His unit was assigned to advance into Gaza City. His initial orders, he recalled, were that after an armored vehicle broke down the door of a building, his men were to enter, spraying fire: “I call it murdering … going up one floor after another, and anyone we spot, shoot him.” The word from his higher-ups was that anyone who hadn’t fled the neighborhood could be assumed to be a terrorist. The orders fit a pattern: In Gaza, “as you know, they used lots and lots of force and killed lots and lots of people on the way so that we wouldn’t be hurt,” he said.

Before the operation began, he recounted, the orders were softened. The building’s occupants would be given five minutes to leave and be searched on their way out. When he told his squad, some soldiers objected. “Anyone there is a terrorist; that’s a fact,” one said. The squad commander was upset. “It’s pretty frustrating that inside Gaza you’re allowed to do what you want,” he explained at a discussion in February among graduates of the Yitzhak Rabin Academy, a pre-army training course.

A transcript from that gathering, published in an academy newsletter, reached the Israeli media late last week. (The full Hebrew text is here; a Ha’aretz report in English is here.) Predictably, it set off a storm. In contrast to earlier criticism of the Gaza campaign, this time charges of disregard for civilians’ lives came not from Palestinians or the foreign media but from Israeli soldiers. Their testimony challenged the story of the war that is widely accepted in Israel and indicated a change, apparently dictated from above, in the Israel Defense Forces’ rules for fighting.

The soldiers who spoke at the academy hadn’t served together and weren’t talking about a breakdown in a single unit. Instead, they described an atmosphere in which “the lives of Palestinians were, let’s say much less important than the lives of our soldiers,” as one put it. Every civilian was presumed dangerous, a potential suicide bomber. In one segment of the testimony that received wide media attention, a soldier told of marksmen shooting a mother and her two children after they took a wrong turn as they fled their home. (In response, the army hastily announced that the brigade commander had investigated and that the marksmen had only fired warning shots, without harming the mother and children.)

There were counter-instances. A soldier identified as Binyamin (not his real name) described leading a patrol along the fence between Israel and Gaza. If the soldiers saw a Palestinian come within 300 meters of the fence, the orders were to treat him as a potential terrorist: Shoot in the air; if the “suspect” didn’t flee, shoot at his legs; then, if necessary, shoot to kill. But the 300-meter zone included farm land. Binyamin spotted an old man working in the fields. At first, the patrol’s marksman fired over the farmer’s head. The old man, apparently inured to gunfire, didn’t respond. Binyamin and the marksman looked at each other. “We simply understood that neither of us … wanted a farmer on our conscience.” The patrol drove on. Telling the story, Binyamin added, “Anyone who thinks I hurt Israeli security can come talk to me afterward.” His defensive tone suggested that his restraint was an exception to the wider atmosphere during the Gaza fighting.

Israel’s “Operation Cast Lead” in Gaza began with an air campaign in late December, followed by the ground invasion in early January. The immediate catalyst was heavy rocket fire from the Hamas-ruled Strip at southern Israeli communities, after a six-month ceasefire between Hamas and Israel ran out. (The actual chain reaction leading to war was more complex, as I wrote at the time.) From the start, Israel deflected charges of causing excessive civilian casualties with several arguments: Palestinian casualty figures were inflated; many of the supposed civilians were really combatants; and by fighting from within urban areas, Hamas had turned the civilian population into human shields. The Israeli army also feared that nearly anyone in Gaza could be a suicide bomber. None of those arguments should be dismissed out of hand. The Palestinians were also engaged in a public-relations battle. Hamas did base itself in urban areas, and it is infamous for its use of suicide bombers.

Most Israelis regarded the war as defensive, and the reports from Gaza have gained little traction in the Israeli domestic arena. The soldiers’ accounts may boost domestic criticism. As one of the soldiers commented, their experience reflected “a change in the rules for ‘purity of arms'” — meaning military ethics — compared to previous Israeli wars. Another soldier explained massive use of firepower as a response to Israel’s heavy casualties in the Second Lebanon War of 2006. “The intent was … to protect soldiers’ lives,” he said.

Any army will seek to minimize its losses. That said, the Israeli army does have a code of ethics that demands a balance between protecting its own forces and avoiding harm to noncombatants. If the code were not simply violated but superseded by new orders this time, a critical question is, who gave the orders — mid-level commanders, the top brass, or the country’s political leaders?

One lesson that generals and politicians, including Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, may have learned from Lebanon, and from wars elsewhere, is that public support for a war can turn to opposition when the number of fallen soldiers increases. Similarly, direct media coverage from the battlefield can spur political debate. During the Gaza fighting, the Israeli army prevented both local and foreign journalists from entering the Strip.

There is at least one more reason that domestic support for a war can evaporate: failing to achieve the war’s goals. At the outset of the Gaza campaign, Olmert said its purpose was to “change the situation in the south part of our country” — a deliberately modest and ambiguous goal. Other officials spoke of weakening Hamas and restoring Israeli deterrence. While Israel decided to stop the fighting unilaterally in January — just before Barack Obama’s inauguration — it sought a new ceasefire arrangement with Hamas, negotiated indirectly via Egypt. Olmert then injected the additional goal of a prisoner exchange to free captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who has been held in Gaza since 2006.

There’s still no agreed ceasefire in place. Since Israel withdrew from Gaza in January, over 180 rockets have been fired from there at southern Israel, according to the Israel Defense Forces. That’s less than the rate last November and December, as the ceasefire unraveled and expired. But it’s much more than the sporadic launchings when the truce was in place. Arguably, Gaza’s rulers have not been deterred from launching — or from allowing other groups to launch — missiles at Israel. Meanwhile, the talks on a prisoner exchange broke down last week, just before the soldiers’ testimony was published nationally.

This is the familiar arc of a poorly conceived war. At first, it looks like necessary defense. The public rallies around in the adrenaline rush of solving an intolerable problem by force. The critics are few, or foreign, and easily dismissed. As time passes, it becomes more difficult to name what has been gained amid the horror. The moral price reveals itself. Criticism becomes mainstream and respectable and is entirely too late.