Here are some messages from and about the Middle East we want to share: testimonies from the civilian front line, Arab news updates and links for background, action and protest.
the page below brings posts from December 27, 2008 till January 13, 2009.
most recent posts are here
follow these links for previous posts:
January 2008 - December 2008
October 2006 - December 2007
Mid August till end of September 2006
August 2006 14 / 13 / 12 / 11 / 10 / 9 / 8 / 7 / 6 / 5 / 4 / 3 / 1
July 2006 31 / 30 / 29 / 28 / 27 / 26 / 25 / 23 / 22 / 21 / 20 / 19 / 18 / 17 / 16 / 15 / 11 / 8 / 6 / 5
Date: Tuesday, january 13, 2009 22:39:21
Subject: Norman Finkelstein on Hamas and the war on Gaza (from counterpunch)
Seeing Through the Lies
The Facts About Hamas and the War on Gaza
By NORMAN FINKELSTEIN
The record is fairly clear. You can find it on the Israeli website, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website. Israel broke the ceasefire by going into the Gaza and killing six or seven Palestinian militants. At that point—and now I’m quoting the official Israeli website—Hamas retaliated or, in retaliation for the Israeli attack, then launched the missiles.
Now, as to the reason why, the record is fairly clear as well. According to Ha’aretz, Defense Minister Barak began plans for this invasion before the ceasefire even began. In fact, according to yesterday’s Ha’aretz, the plans for the invasion began in March. And the main reasons for the invasion, I think, are twofold. Number one; to enhance what Israel calls its deterrence capacity, which in layman’s language basically means Israel’s capacity to terrorize the region into submission. After their defeat in July 2006 in Lebanon, they felt it important to transmit the message that Israel is still a fighting force, still capable of terrorizing those who dare defy its word.
And the second main reason for the attack is because Hamas was signaling that it wanted a diplomatic settlement of the conflict along the June 1967 border. That is to say, Hamas was signaling they had joined the international consensus, they had joined most of the international community, overwhelmingly the international community, in seeking a diplomatic settlement. And at that point, Israel was faced with what Israelis call a Palestinian peace offensive. And in order to defeat the peace offensive, they sought to dismantle Hamas.
As was documented in the April 2008 issue of Vanity Fair by the writer David Rose, basing himself on internal US documents, it was the United States in cahoots with the Palestinian Authority and Israel which were attempting a putsch on Hamas, and Hamas preempted the putsch. That, too, is no longer debatable or no longer a controversial claim.
The issue is can it rule in Gaza if Israel maintains a blockade and prevents economic activity among the Palestinians. The blockade, incidentally, was implemented before Hamas came to power. The blockade doesn’t even have anything to do with Hamas. The blockade came to—there were Americans who were sent over, in particular James Wolfensohn, to try to break the blockade after Israel redeployed its troops in Gaza.
The problem all along has been that Israel doesn’t want Gaza to develop, and Israel doesn’t want to resolve diplomatically the conflict, both the leadership in Damascus and the leadership in the Gaza have repeatedly made statements they’re willing to settle the conflict in the June 1967 border. The record is fairly clear. In fact, it’s unambiguously clear.
Every year, the United Nations General Assembly votes on a resolution entitled “Peaceful Settlement of the Palestine Question.” And every year the vote is the same: it’s the whole world on one side; Israel, the United States and some South Sea atolls and Australia on the other side. The vote this past year was 164-to-7. Every year since 1989—in 1989, the vote was 151-to-3, the whole world on one side, the United States, Israel and the island state of Dominica on the other side.
We have the Arab League, all twenty-two members of the Arab League, favoring a two-state settlement on the June 1967 border. We have the Palestinian Authority favoring that two-state settlement on the June 1967 border. We now have Hamas favoring that two-state settlement on the June 1967 border. The one and only obstacle is Israel, backed by the United States. That’s the problem.
Well, the record shows that Hamas wanted to continue the ceasefire, but only on condition that Israel eases the blockade. Long before Hamas began the retaliatory rocket attacks on Israel, Palestinians were facing a humanitarian crisis in Gaza because of the blockade. The former High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, described what was going on in Gaza as a destruction of a civilization. This was during the ceasefire period.
What does the record show? The record shows for the past twenty or more years, the entire international community has sought to settle the conflict in the June 1967 border with a just resolution of the refugee question. Are all 164 nations of the United Nations the rejectionists? And are the only people in favor of peace the United States, Israel, Nauru, Palau, Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Australia? Who are the rejectionists? Who’s opposing a peace?
The record shows that in every crucial issue raised at Camp David, then under the Clinton parameters, and then in Taba, at every single point, all the concessions came from the Palestinians. Israel didn’t make any concessions. Every concession came from the Palestinians. The Palestinians have repeatedly expressed a willingness to settle the conflict in accordance with international law.
The law is very clear. July 2004, the highest judicial body in the world, the International Court of Justice, ruled Israel has no title to any of the West Bank and any of Gaza. They have no title to Jerusalem. Arab East Jerusalem, according to the highest judicial body in the world, is occupied Palestinian territory. The International Court of Justice ruled all the settlements, all the settlements in the West Bank, are illegal under international law.
Now, the important point is, on all those questions, the Palestinians were willing to make concessions. They made all the concessions. Israel didn’t make any concessions.
I think it’s fairly clear what needs to happen. Number one, the United States and Israel have to join the rest of the international community, have to abide by international law. I don’t think international law should be trivialized. I think it’s a serious issue. If Israel is in defiance of international law, it should be called into account, just like any other state in the world.
Mr. Obama has to level with the American people. He has to be honest about what is the main obstacle to resolving the conflict. It’s not Palestinian rejectionism. It’s the refusal of Israel, backed by the United States government, to abide by international law, to abide by the opinion of the international community.
And the main challenge for all of us as Americans is to see through the lies.
Norman Finkelstein is author of five books, including Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict, Beyond Chutzpah and The Holocaust Industry, which have been translated into more than 40 foreign editions. He is the son of Holocaust survivors. This article is an edited extract of the views of Finkelstein given at DemocracyNow.org.
His website is www.NormanFinkelstein.com
From: "Omar Barghouti"
Date: Tuesday, january 13, 2009 22:21:29
Subject: US to use Gaza rebuilding "opportunity" to bolster Abbas (Reuters)
While Gaza and its children burn under Israel's white phosphorous rain and all sorts of banned or experimental weapons of mass murder, the US and its local "friends" are already conspiring to use this golden opportunity of total ruin in Gaza to channel reconstruction aid through former PA President Mahmoud Abbas, thereby weakening Hamas!
And the ever so servile EU is expected, again, to shut up and foot the bill for Israel's acts of genocide and grave violations of international humanitarian law. As neocon ideologue Robert Kagan once said: Europe had better get used to the fact that the US cooks and eats while Europe does the dishes. There will be an endless supply of dishes of all sizes for Europe to clean up in Gaza.
No official attempt, European or otherwise, is made to even hold Israel accountable for wilfully destroying EU-funded infrastructure projects in Gaza without any military necessity, not to mention Israel's responsibility for killing and injuring thousands of Palestinian civilians and indiscriminately destroying many homes, neighborhoods, residential buildings, mosques, schools and government buildings.
As low as the average IQ of American officials and "think-tank experts" seems to be, it is not sufficient to explain their tendency to make the same mistake over and over again. What will it take to finally get it through their thick skulls that peoples resisting occupation, racist humiliation and mass killing cannot be simply battered into submission, or bludgeoned into surrendering their aspirations for freedom, equality and the right to self determination.
No quisling entering Gaza -- metaphorically -- on top of an Israeli-American tank will ever win the respect, not to mention the hearts and minds of the tormented people of Palestine. At best, they will only rule over a far narrower "Green Zone," perhaps built in a fortified former Israeli settlement location, surrounded by a towering wall.
Forms of resistance may vary, but not its essence.
From: "Omar Barghouti"
Date: Tuesday, january 13, 2009 12:51:55
Subject: May 30, 2007 -- Former Chief Rabbi advocates "carpet bombing Gaza" (JPost)
To all those who thought Matan Vilnai's threat to the Palestinians of a "bigger Shoah" was unrepresentative of Israel, the former Sephardi chief rabbi is quoted in this May 2007 article of the JPost giving justification for exactly that. And this is not a unique article, by any means. It reflects a prevailing sentiment expressed by politicians from the Labor Party to the extreme right.
As Ilan Pappe once argued: what is preventing Israel from satisfying its desires of getting rid of all the indigenous Palestinians (through massive ethnic cleansing or acts of genocide) is not moral, but pragmatic. They would not want to lose western public opinion to the extent that can threaten the state's lifeline of western economic, political, diplomatic, academic and cultural support.
Committing genocide against Palestinians has never been as popular as it is today in Israel. The public is READY. Mass killing of Palestinians, including civilians, is perfectly accepted, to various degrees, by solid majorities of mainstream Israelis across the spectrum: religious and secular, "left" and right, scholars and writers, journalists and pundits, workers and industrialists, Mizrahis and Ashkenazis, Russians and Ethiopians, etc.. -- all with a very tiny exception of courageous, principled Israelis who dissent from this repugn
ant fascism prevailing in Israel today and adhere to universal principles of international law and human rights. Gaza is NOT the exception. It is the rule. We have seen it all before, in 1982 and 2006, among other dark dates that litter the Palestinian/Lebanese calendar. It is exactly what the Israel is ready to do if they enjoy the level of impunity that they have now from the US and the EU (and the UN, by extension).
And Israel is no exception, either. It is merely displaying the "natural" instinct of settler-colonial communities, throughout history, to exterminate or entirely uproot the indigenous populations, to end any "claims" from the latter once and for all. Israel, however, came too late into existence to get away with genocides of the level perpetrated by European settlers in the Americas and Australia centuries before; "easy" does it becomes a necessity, particularly given the geo-strategic realities today and the international balance of powers. A gradual, slow genocide that may peak for a short period but generally proceed under the radar does not risk inviting the world's wrath at once. This is the only option available for Israel today to complete its uprooting of the indigenous people of Palestine. Or Israel can be pressured enough to learn to suppress this genocidal tendency.
Israel's diabolic cocktail of settler-colonialism, apartheid and religious fundamentalism can only lead to genocide. It must be stopped.
Eliyahu advocates carpet bombing Gaza
May. 30, 2007
Matthew Wagner , THE JERUSALEM POST
All civilians living in Gaza are collectively guilty for Kassam attacks on Sderot, former Sephardi chief rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu has written in a letter to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
Eliyahu ruled that there was absolutely no moral prohibition against the indiscriminate killing of civilians during a potential massive military offensive on Gaza aimed at stopping the rocket launchings.
The letter, published in Olam Katan [Small World], a weekly pamphlet to be distributed in synagogues nationwide this Friday, cited the biblical story of the Shechem massacre (Genesis 34) and Maimonides' commentary (Laws of Kings 9, 14) on the story as proof texts for his legal decision.
According to Jewish war ethics, wrote Eliyahu, an entire city holds collective responsibility for the immoral behavior of individuals. In Gaza, the entire populace is responsible because they do nothing to stop the firing of Kassam rockets.
The former chief rabbi also said it was forbidden to risk the lives of Jews in Sderot or the lives of IDF soldiers for fear of injuring or killing Palestinian noncombatants living in Gaza.
Eliyahu could not be reached for an interview. However, Eliyahu's son, Shmuel Eliyahu, who is chief rabbi of Safed, said his father opposed a ground troop incursion into Gaza that would endanger IDF soldiers. Rather, he advocated carpet bombing the general area from which the Kassams were launched, regardless of the price in Palestinian life.
"If they don't stop after we kill 100, then we must kill a thousand," said Shmuel Eliyahu. "And if they do not stop after 1,000 then we must kill 10,000. If they still don't stop we must kill 100,000, even a million. Whatever it takes to make them stop."
In the letter, Eliyahu quoted from Psalms. "I will pursue my enemies and apprehend them and I will not desist until I have eradicated them."
Eliyahu wrote that "This is a message to all leaders of the Jewish people not to be compassionate with those who shoot [rockets] at civilians in their houses."
This article can also be read at
From: "Omar Barghouti"
Date: Tuesday, january 13, 2009 11:55:24
Subject: Prominent British Jews: "We are reminded of the siege of the Warsaw Ghetto" (Guardian)
Letter by prominent British Jews on Israel's war on Gaza
The Guardian, Saturday 10 January 2009
We the undersigned are all of Jewish origin. When we see the dead and bloodied bodies of young children, the cutting off of water, electricity and food, we are reminded of the siege of the Warsaw Ghetto. When Dov Weisglass, an adviser to the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, talked of putting Gazans "on a diet" and the deputy defence minister, Matan Vilnai, talked about the Palestinians experiencing "a bigger shoah" (holocaust), this reminds us of Governor General Hans Frank in Nazi-occupied Poland, who spoke of "death by hunger".
The real reason for the attack on Gaza is that Israel is only willing to deal with Palestinian quislings. The main crime of Hamas is not terrorism but its refusal to accept becoming a pawn in the hands of the Israeli occupation regime in Palestine.
The decision last month by the EU council to upgrade relations with Israel, without any specific conditions on human rights, has encouraged further Israeli aggression. The time for appeasing Israel is long past. As a first step, Britain must withdraw the British ambassador to Israel and, as with apartheid South Africa, embark on a programme of boycott, divestment and sanctions.
Ben Birnberg, Prof Haim Bresheeth, Deborah Fink, Bella Freud, Tony Greenstein, Abe Hayeem, Prof Adah Kay, Yehudit Keshet, Dr Les Levidow, Prof Yosefa Loshitzky, Prof Moshe Machover, Miriam Margolyes, Prof Jonathan Rosenhead, Seymour Alexander, Ben Birnberg, Martin Birnstingl, Prof. Haim Bresheeth, Ruth Clark, Judith Cravitz, Mike Cushman, Angela Dale, Merav Devere, Greg Dropkin, Angela Eden, Sarah Ferner, Alf Filer, Mark Findlay, Sylvia Finzi, Bella Freud, Tessa van Gelderen, Claire Glasman, Ruth Hall, Adrian Hart, Alain Hertzmann, Abe Hayeem, Rosamene Hayeem, Anna Hellmann, Selma James, Riva Joffe, Yael Kahn, Michael Kalmanovitz, Ros Kane, Prof. Adah Kay, Yehudit Keshet, Mark Krantz, Bernice Laschinger, Pam Laurance, Dr Les Levidow, Prof. Yosefa Loshitzky, Prof. Moshe Machover, Beryl Maizels, Miriam Margolyes, Helen Marks, Martine Miel, Diana Neslen, O Neumann, Susan Pashkoff, Hon. Juliet Peston, Renate Prince, Roland Rance, Sheila Robin, Ossi Ron, Manfred Ropschitz, John Rose, Prof. Jonathan Rosenhead, Leon Rosselson, Michael Sackin, Ian Saville, Amanda Sebestyen, Sam Semoff, Prof. Ludi Simpson, Viv Stein, Inbar Tamari, Ruth Tenne, Norman Traub, Eve Turner, Tirza Waisel, Karl Walinets, Renee Walinets, Stanley Walinets, Philip Ward, Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, Ruth Williams, Jay Woolrich, Ben Young, Myk Zeitlin, Androulla Zucker, John Zucker
From: "Omar Barghouti"
Date: Tuesday, january 13, 2009 07:03:35
Subject: Hamid Dabashi: The Moral and Military Meltdown of Israel (Pal. Chronicle)
From: Oxfam-Magasins du monde
Date: Saturday, january 10, 2009 14:35:54
Stop aux conflits à Gaza
Manifestation nationale ce dimanche 11 janvier à Bruxelles
Le 27 décembre, l’armée israélienne a entrepris une vaste offensive contre la bande de Gaza. L’impact de ce conflit à l’encontre des civils est catastrophique : depuis le 7 janvier, plus de 640 personnes sont mortes et plus de 2 850 personnes ont été blessées. 80% de la population de Gaza dépend de l’aide humanitaire depuis l’embargo mis en place il y a maintenant 19 mois. Ce conflit aggrave la situation fragile dans laquelle les habitants de cette région se trouvent depuis longtemps. Cette nouvelle escalade de violence complique l’accès aux services de base tels que les médicaments, l’eau potable, l’agriculture et le carburant. Une crise humanitaire sans précédents est en cours. Les infrastructures médicales et sanitaires sont au bord de l’effondrement.
Cette situation ne peut plus durer ! Oxfam fait appelle à tous pour une manifestation nationale ce dimanche 11 janvier:
11 janvier 2009- 14h
Bruxelles, Gare du Midi
Stop aux conflits à Gaza
Le silence tue
Stop à l’embargo contre les palestiniens
Stop aux violences contre les civiles
Stop à l'impunité
Suspendre les accords entre l’Union européenne et Israël
Date: Friday, january 9, 2009 13:35:54
Subject: Gaza: we must end it now
We won a small victory on Gaza last night -- the Security Council joined global calls for an immediate ceasefire -- but outrageously, Bush's US administration did not vote for the UN resolution and its loopholes leave the bloodshed worsening by the hour, with neither Israel nor Hamas yet recognising this call as binding.* Latest reports say 257 children lie dead.
Action, not words is needed now. We're stepping up our efforts by launching a major media campaign for immediate action on a fair and lasting ceasefire -- starting in influential US papers, where a decent voice for peace is urgently needed, with a big ad in the Washington Post -- the Post ad costs $32,057, so if just 1000 of us donate $32 (€24) each, we can fund it together and if we raise more, we can expand the effort. It's amazing how some of the most sensible arguments and basic facts about this crisis are not carried by US media. Follow the link below now to view the ad, and let's chip in together to take our global outcry for peace into the US so that the ceasefire pressure becomes unanimous and irresistible:
(* See statements by Israeli cabinet and Hamas representatives)
If you can’t afford a small donation, please just spread the word by forwarding the message below -- if we can grow the petition to half a million signatures this week, our impact on leaders will be even greater (note that the links in the message below go to our petition page, while the link above will take you to our ad campaign):
Dear friends, the awful bloodshed in Gaza is only escalating, despite our first small victory with a resolution at the UN -- 758 Palestinians now lie dead including 257 children and 60 women, and 15 Israelis. As Israel's tanks, airplanes and artillery bombard targets in thickly populated urban areas, thousands more have been injured and 1.5 million terrified civilians have no escape from this prison-like enclave -- the borders are sealed -- and Hamas continues to fight and fire rockets, with neither side yet accepting the UN's call.
We can make a difference -- even Israel's own foreign minister admits that intense international pressure could force a ceasefire. To that end, we've delivered our 330,000-strong petition to top officials of the UN, EU and Arab League. But outrageously, the US Bush administration did not vote for the UN ceasefire proposal and its loopholes leave the bloodshed worsening by the hour: meanwhile attempts are being made to impose skewed arrangements that would legitimize the suffocating blockade of Gaza, which Hamas cite as reason for their rocket attacks.
Enough is enough: these civilian deaths can't go on, and we can't let Bush and co block a fair, negotiated ceasefire. Let's get to half a million signatures -- we'll publish our ceasefire call in a hard-hitting ad in the Washington Post and deliver it in meetings with key powers -- follow the link below to see the ad, sign the petition, and forward this message to all your friends and family:
As the international community talks and talks, civilians are dying by the day. Last year, we campaigned hard for a comprehensive ceasefire to end all attacks and rockets and lift the counterproductive blockade -- finally the sides agreed a halfway truce, rockets and incursions stopped almost completely for four months, and the borders opened a fraction -- but that deal was grudging and flawed on all sides, lacking many needed elements: it's not surprising how it started to collapse in November. We must do better this time.
And better proposals for an immediate, internationally-guaranteed ceasefire are now coming from many states in Europe and the Middle East. Yet Bush's behind-the-scenes "ceasefire" proposals reportedly seek to exclude Hamas from any deal and leave Israel a free hand, a disastrous approach that would fan the flames of hatred and guarantee that the violence continues.
To be lasting, a ceasefire must protect civilians and end all attacks -- Israeli bombings and incursions as well as the rockets Palestinian factions fire into southern Israel. International supervision is desperately needed at the borders, to reopen Gaza's borders and crossings for food, fuel, medicine and goods, to prevent weapons-smuggling (which has only grown under the blockade), and to monitor and enforce the ceasefire on both sides.
Sources say Israel could agree to such a ceasefire, and Hamas, which won elections in 2006 and now runs Gaza, has suggested it could do so too. Both should be challenged to abide by a fair deal. There is no military solution for either side -- it's time for world powers to step up and broker a ceasefire to protect civilians on all sides and let them live their lives in peace and security. Sign the petition now at the link below and send this message to everyone you know -- we'll publish it in The Washington Post and elsewhere, and seek face-to-face meetings to deliver the petition with the Obama team and European and world powers:
With hope and determination,
Paul, Graziela, Alice, Ricken, Luis, Brett, Ben, Iain, Paula, Veronique, Milena and the whole Avaaz team
P.S. We wrote to European, US and Arab leaders last week about our campaign, and received responses -- now we need to escalate the pressure. For a report on many of Avaaz's other campaigns so far, see: https://secure.avaaz.org/en/report_back_2
1. "Gaza bloodshed continues despite UN calls for ceasefire", 9 January 2009: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jan/09/gaza-fighting-un-ceasefire
Daily Telegraph (UK): "Gaza medics describe horror of strike which killed 70": http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/israel/4162193/Gaza-medics-describe-horror-of-strike-which-killed-70.html
Associated Press: "Israel Shells Near UN School, killing at least 30" (5 January 2009) http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5ioi_0jtO9RjMwPNRoXNCndRPRq3gD95HTJE00
Yediot Aharonot, "Cabinet: Gaza op to continue, Israel has not yet accepted the Egyptian-French ceasefire initiative", 7 January 2009: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3652371,00.html
2. Reuters: "US haggles with Arabs over UN action in Gaza" (8 January 2009): http://www.reuters.com/article/middleeastCrisis/idUSN08482098
Yediot Aharonot: "Israel examining international treaty to isolate Hamas" (5 January 2009) http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3650522,00.html
3. "Reigniting Violence: How Do Ceasefires End?" (6 January 2009) is a statistical analysis by an MIT professor, based on Israel's own data for rocket fire (which it shows stopped for four months) and on which side struck first. It provides useful factual background for how the Israel-Hamas truce effectively collapsed in November well before it expired (facts poorly reflected in some news reporting): http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nancy-kanwisher/reigniting-violence-how-d_b_155611.html
4. E.g. see 5 January Yediot Aharonot article above, and this from the Israeli site DEBKA: http://www.debka.com/headline.php?hid=5830
5. These parameters are advocated by a broad range of experts and policymakers. See for example International Crisis Group's Ending the War in Gaza report (5 January 2009): http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=5838&l=1
With days to go till President Obama's inauguration, this Rasmussen Reports poll is of interest: Only 31% of Democrats support offensive, most prefer a diplomatic solution: http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/general_politics/americans_closely_divided_over_israel_s_gaza_attacks
6. "Gaza: outlines of an endgame", Ghassan Khatib (6 January 2009) http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/gaza-outlines-of-an-endgame
Jerusalem Post: "Israel must get out of Gaza now", 8 January 2009: http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1231167305710&pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull
Reuters: "Hamas seeks truce but says lifting siege a must" (5 January 2009) http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/L5111105.htm
Strikingly, the US Army War College has just released a substantial report supporting the view that Hamas can and must be brought into negotiations and is capable of sustaining a long-term truce, or even peace with Israel. Linked via: http://ricks.foreignpolicy.com/node/10703
The inside story of the civil strife between Fatah and Hamas and the Bush administration's involvement in this debacle is best-told in The Gaza Bombshell, an investigative article published in the leading US magazine Vanity Fair in April 2008:
Date: Thursday, january 8, 2009 18:33:43
Subject: Three Simple Proposals from Bricmont & Johnstone
Three Simple Proposals
Gaza Seen From Paris
By JEAN BRICMONT and DIANA JOHNSTONE
There are surely millions of us, invisible to each other, enraged and powerless as we watch the massacre of Gaza and listen to our media describe it as a "retaliation against terrorism", "Israel’s right to defend itself". We have reached a point where answering the Zionist arguments is both useless and unworthy of humanity. So long as it is recognized that the shells landing on Ashkelon are likely to have been fired by descendants of the inhabitants of that region who were driven out by the Zionists in 1948, talk of peace is a smoke screen for continued Israeli assault on the survivors of that great injustice.
What then is to be done? Yet another dialogue between "moderate" Arabs and "progressive" Israelis? An umpteenth "peace plan" to be ignored? A solemn declaration from the European Union?
All such mainstream gestures are mere distractions from the ongoing strangling of the Palestinian people. But more radical demands are just as futile. The call to create an international tribunal to judge Israeli war criminals, or for an effective intervention by the United Nations or the European Union will accomplish nothing. The real existing international tribunals reflect the relationship of forces in the world, and will never be used against the cherished allies of the United States. It is the relationship of forces itself that must be changed, and this can be done only gradually. It is true that Gaza is a dire emergency, but it is also true that nothing really effective can be done today to stop it, precisely because the patient political work that should have been done before still remains to be undertaken.
On the three modest proposals that follow, two are ideological and one is practical.
1. Get rid of the illusion that Israel is "useful" to the West.
Many people, especially on the left, persist in thinking that Israel is only a pawn in an American capitalist or imperialist strategy to control the Middle East. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Israel is of no use to anybody or anything but its own fantasies of domination. There is no petroleum in Israel, or Lebanon, or Golan, or Gaza. The so-called wars for oil, in 1991 and 2003, were waged by the United States, with no help from Israel, and in 1991 with the explicit demand from the United States that Israel stay out (because Israel’s participation would have undermined Washington’s Arab coalition). For the pro-Western petro-monarchies and the "moderate" Arab regimes, Israel’s ongoing occupation of Palestinian lands is a nightmare, which radicalizes much of their populations and threatens their rule. It is Israel, by its absurd policies, that provoked the creation of both Hezbollah and Hamas and that is indirectly responsible for much of the recent growth of "radical Islam".
Moreover, the plain fact is that capitalists as a whole make more money in peace than in war. It is enough to compare the profits made by Western capitalists in China or Vietnam since making peace with those countries, compared to the past, when "Red China" was isolated and the US waged war against Vietnam. The majority of capitalists could not care less which "people" must have Jerusalem as its "eternal capital", and if peace were achieved, they would hasten into the West Bank and Gaza to exploit a qualified work force with few other opportunities.
Finally, any American citizen concerned with the influence of his or her country in the world can see quite clearly that making enemies of a billion Muslims in order to satisfy every murderous whim of Israel is scarcely a rational investment in the future.
Those who consider themselves Marxists are among the first to see in Israel a simple emanation of such general phenomena as capitalism or imperialism (Marx himself was much more cautious on the matter of economic reductionism). But it does no service to the Palestinian people to maintain such fictions – in reality, like it or not, the capitalist system is far too robust to stake its survival on the Jewish occupation of the West Bank, and capitalism has been doing just fine in South Africa since the end of Apartheid.
2. Allow non-Jews to speak their mind about Israel
If support for Israel is not based on economic or strategic interests, why do the political class and the media passively accept whatever Israel does? Many ordinary people may feel unconcerned by what happens in a faraway country. But this does not apply to the West’s leading opinion makers, who never cease criticizing what is wrong with the policies of Venezuela, Cuba, Sudan, Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas, Syria, Islam, Serbia, Russia or China. Even unproved rumors and gross exaggerations are repeated with insistence. Only Israel must be treated with kid gloves.
One explanation offered for this special treatment is Western "guilt" for past anti-Semitic persecutions, in particular the horrors inflicted on Jews during the Second World War. It is sometimes pointed out that the Palestinians are in no way responsible for those horrors and should not have to pay the price for crimes committed by others. That is true, but what is almost never said and which is obvious nevertheless, is that the overwhelming majority of French people, Germans or Catholic priests today are just as innocent of what happened during the war as the Palestinians, for the simple reason that they were either born after the war or were children at the time. The notion of collective guilt was already very questionable in 1945, but the idea of transmitting that collective guilt to subsequent generations is quite simply a religious notion. Even if it is said that the Holocaust should not justify Israeli policy, it is striking that the populations who are supposed to feel guilty for what happened (the Germans, the French and the Catholics) are most reticent to speak out.
It is strange that at the very time the Catholic Church renounced the notion of Jews as the people who killed Christ, the notion of the almost universal guilt for killing the Jews began to take over. The discourse on universal guilt for the Holocaust is like religious discourse in general in the way it legitimizes hypocrisy, by shifting responsibility from the real to the imaginary (on the model of "original sin" itself). We are all supposed to feel guilty for crimes committed in the past about which, by definition, we can do nothing. But we need not feel guilty or responsible for crimes being committed right before our eyes by our Israeli or American allies, whom we can hope to influence.
The fact that we are not all guilty of the crimes of the Third Reich is simple and obvious, but needs to be driven home to allow non-Jews to speak up freely about Palestine. As it is, non-Jews who often feel they must leave it to Jews, as the only people who have the "right" to criticize Israel, to defend the Palestinians. But given the relationship of forces between the Jewish critics of Israel, and the influential Zionist organizations claiming to speak for the Jewish people, there is no realistic hope that Jewish voices alone can save the Palestinians.
However, the main reason for the silence is surely not guilt precisely because it is so artificial, but rather fear. Fear of "what will they think", fear of slander and even of being taken to court for "anti-Semitism". If you are not convinced, take a journalist, a politician or a publisher to some spot where nobody is listening and there is no hidden camera or microphone, and ask whether he or she says in public all he or she thinks of Israel in private. And if not, why? Fear of hurting the interests of capitalism? Fear of weakening American imperialism? Fear of interrupting oil deliveries? Or, on the contrary, fear of Zionist organizations and their relentless campaigns?
We have little doubt, after dozens of discussions with such people that the last answer given above is the correct one. People do not say what they think of what calls itself the "Jewish State" for fear of being called anti-Jewish and being identified with the anti-Semites of the past. This sentiment is all the stronger inasmuch as most people who are shocked by Israeli policy are genuinely horrified by what was done to the Jews during the Second World War and are sincerely outraged by anti-Semitism. If one stops to think about it, it is clear that if there existed today, as was the case before 1940, openly anti-Semitic political movements, they would not be so intimidated. But today, not even the French National Front says it is anti-Semitic and whoever criticizes Israel usually starts by denying being anti-Semitic. The fear of being accused of anti-Semitism is deeper than fear of the Zionist lobby, it is fear of losing the respectability that goes with condemnation of anti-Semitism and the Holocaust as the highest contemporary moral value.
It is imperative to free criticism of Israel from the fear of being falsely accused of "anti-Semitism". The threat of this accusation is an insidious form of moral blackmail that perhaps constitutes the only real potential source of a widespread revival of anti-Jewish resentment.
3. The practical initiatives are summed up in three letters : BDS- Boycott, disinvestment, sanctions
The demand for sanctions is taken up by most pro-Palestinian organizations, but since such measures are the prerogative of states, it is clear that this will not happen soon. Disinvestment measures can be taken by trade unions and churches, on the decision of their members. Other enterprises that collaborate closely with Israel will not change their policy unless they are under public pressure, that is, boycotts. This brings us to the controversial issue of boycotts, not only of Israeli products but also of Israel’s cultural and academic institutions.
This tactic was used against apartheid in South Africa in a very similar situation. Both apartheid and the dispossession of the Palestinians are a late heritage of European colonialism, whose practitioners have a hard time realizing that such forms of domination are no longer acceptable to the world in general and even to public opinion in the West. The racist ideologies underlying both projects are an outrage to the majority of humanity and gives rise to endless hatreds and conflicts. One might even say that Israel is another South Africa, plus exploitation of "the Holocaust" as an excuse.
Any boycott is apt to have innocent victims. In particular, it is said that boycotting Israeli academic institutions would unjustly punish intellectuals who are for peace. Perhaps, but Israel itself readily admits that there are innocent victims in Gaza, whose innocence in no way prevents them from being killed. We do not propose killing anyone. A boycott is a perfectly non-violent act by citizens. It is comparable to conscientious objection or civil disobedience in the face of unjust power. Israel flouts all UN resolutions and our own governments, far from taking measures to oblige Israel to comply, merely reinforce their ties with Israel. We have the right, as citizens, to demand that our own governments respect international law.
What is important about sanctions, especially on the cultural level, is their symbolic value. It is a way of telling our governments that we do not accept their policy of collaboration with a state that has chosen to become an international outlaw.
Some object to a boycott on the grounds that it is opposed by both some progressive Israelis and a certain number of "moderate" Palestinians (but not Palestinian civil society as a whole). But the main question for us is not what they say, but what foreign policy we want for our own countries. The Israeli-Arab conflict is far from being a mere local quarrel and has attained a worldwide significance. It involves the basic issue of respect for international law. A boycott should be defended as a means to protest to our governments in order to force them to change their policy. We have the right to want to be able to travel without shame in the rest of the world. That is reason enough to encourage a boycott.
(A french version of this text is in preparation).
Jean Bricmont teaches physics in Belgium and is a member of the Brussels Tribunal. His book, Humanitarian Imperialism, is published by Monthly Review Press. He can be reached at Jean.Bricmont@uclouvain.be.
Diana Johnstone is the author of Fools' Crusade: Yugoslavia, Nato, and Western Delusions published by Monthly Review Press. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
From: Bart Vandeput
Date: Thursday, january 8, 2009 13:33:17
Subject: "War and Natural Gas: The Israeli Invasion and Gaza's Offshore Gas Fields."
Access to energy, the history and faith of mankind...
From: "Omar Barghouti"
Date: Friday, january 2, 2009 18:50:36
Subject:A Rubber Stamp for U.S. Dictats
UN Complicity in Israel's Massacre in Gaza
By OMAR BARGHOUTI
A friend forwarded to me the most original greeting for the New Year: “I wish in 2009 a horrible year for all war criminals and their accomplices.” I could not but think of whether some UN officials can be counted among such “accomplices.”
Over the last two days, various UN officials stated that the percentage of civilians among those Palestinians killed in the current Israeli war of aggression on Gaza is about "25%" and is "likely to increase." Assuming the best of intentions, stating such a painfully low figure reflects shabby research or scandalous incompetence. At worst, it reveals intentional deception and misinformation that can only benefit the already massive and well-oiled Israeli PR machine.
The United Nations' complicity in Israel's propaganda war is the latest, albeit hardly ever mentioned, dimension of the international organization's utter failure in defending its principles, foremost among which are the prevention of war and the promotion of peace, when performing such a duty is expected to stir the wrath of the US master and the uniquely influential Israel lobby. Not only has the UN General Secretary betrayed the very Charter of the UN and all relevant international law principles by failing to even condemn Israel's massacre of civilians and targeting of civilian institutions and residential neighborhoods; the entire UN system has so far dealt with it as a "war" between two relatively symmetric forces, where the mightier side has sufficient justification to "defend itself," but should do so more proportionately, while the weaker side is chiefly responsible for triggering the "armed conflict."
Now, senior UN officials, excluding the particularly courageous and principled UN Special Rapporteur for human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory, Richard Falk, and a few others, are only focusing on "women and children" victims of the massacre, implying, even if unintentionally, that all Palestinian men in Gaza are fair game for the Israeli killing machine. The tens of Palestinian civilian policemen that were butchered in the opening hours of the massive Israeli attack by dozens of fighter jets were, thus, conveniently dismissed by such irresponsible UN figures of casualties as Hamas “fighters,” more or less, that may be targeted with impunity. This is not to mention the scores of male teachers, doctors, workers, farmers and unemployed who were killed by Israel’s indiscriminate bombing in their workplaces, public offices, homes or streets and were not accounted for as civilian victims of Israel’s belligerent murder spree.
Above everything else, this UN discourse not only reduces close to half a million Palestinian men in that wretched, tormented and occupied coastal strip to “militants,” radical “fighters,” or whatever other nouns in currency nowadays in the astoundingly, but characteristically, biased western media coverage of the Israel “war crimes and crimes against humanity” in Gaza, as some international law experts have described them; it also treats them as already condemned criminals that deserve the capital punishment Israel has meted out on them. I am not an expert on the history of the UN, but I suspect this sets a new low, a precedent in dehumanizing an entire adult male population in a region of "conflict," thereby justifying their fatal targeting or, at least, silently condoning it. But this should surprise no one as the same UN leaders have for 18 months watched in eerie silence or even indirectly justified, one way or another, Israel’s siege of Gaza which was described by Falk as a “prelude to genocide” and compared by him to Nazi crimes.
If one wants to be truly magnanimous and give those UN officials the benefit of the doubt -- not something I would recommend at all, given the scale of the massacre and their verifiable complicity -- one has to assume that they are quite confused as to how best to categorize the thousands of Palestinian victims of Israel’s war on Gaza, whether those injured or killed. A casual overview of Israeli army press statements and human rights organizations’ reports, however, will immediately dismiss the possibility that the UN figure of 25% was the product of clinical incompetence or technical ineptness, widely recognized trademarks of the organization.
A recent article published in the Washington Post, for instance, quoted a senior Israeli military official saying: "There are many aspects to Hamas, and we are trying to hit the whole spectrum, because everything is connected and everything supports terrorism against Israel." An Israeli army spokeswoman went further stating. "Anything affiliated with Hamas is a legitimate target." Given that, in the ghetto of Gaza, Hamas is effectively the “ruling” party -- it was democratically elected, after all -- and its network of social and charitable organizations are the largest provider of social services to the impoverished and besieged population, all of Gaza’s civilian infrastructure, public schools, hospitals, universities, law and order organs, traffic police, sewage treatment and water purification stations, ministries providing vital services to the public, mosques, public theatres and many non-governmental institutions can technically be considered “affiliated” with Hamas.
Lest the reader feels that this is an exaggeration, today, in the first hours of the first day of the new year, the Israeli air force already bombed the following “targets” in Gaza: the Palestinian Legislative Council, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Justice. Earlier, several mosques were pulverised to the ground. So were main buildings in the Islamic University of Gaza, which serves 20,000 students. Ambulances and private homes were not spared either. Even B’Tselem, Israel’s leading human rights organization that often issues sanitized, “balanced” or selective reports focusing on Israel’s less criminal behaviour in the OPT, was compelled to conclude that the Israeli army was intentionally targeting “what appear to be clear civilian objects” that are not “engaged in military action against Israel,” without making the distinction between male and female civilians. A statement from the organization on December 31st said:
For example, the military bombed the main police building in Gaza and killed, according to reports, forty-two Palestinians who were in a training course and were standing in formation at the time of the bombing. Participants in the course study first-aid, handling of public disturbances, human rights, public-safety exercises, and so forth. Following the course, the police officers are assigned to various arms of the police force in Gaza responsible for maintaining public order.
Another example is yesterday’s bombing of the government offices. These offices included the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Labor, Construction and Housing. An announcement made by the IDF Spokesperson’s Office regarding this attack stated that, ‘the attack was carried out in response to the ongoing rocket and mortar-shell fire carried out by Hamas over Israeli territory, and in the framework of IDF operations to strike at Hamas governmental infrastructure and members active in the organization.’
Just to drive the point closer to home for an average western reader who may have internalized over the years a perception of Israelis -- inaccurately and quite deliberately depicted by Israeli and western propaganda as part of the “west” -- as full humans and Palestinians, along with almost all global southerners, as relative humans, perhaps the following mirroring exercise is necessary.
Imagine if the Palestinian resistance, in exercising its otherwise perfectly legitimate, UN-sanctioned right to fight Israel’s occupation and apartheid, were to regard all institutions “affiliated” with the Israeli government as legitimate targets, justifying the bombing of universities, hospitals, civilian ministries, publicly-run synagogues, neighborhoods where government or army officials live or work, and other civilian “targets,” killing in 5 days only 1,600 Israelis and wounding 8,000 (four times the current toll in Gaza, given that Israel’s population is four times as large). What would the UN do? Would UN officials only count Israeli women and children victims? Would they call on both parties to “exercise restraint” or to end “the violence”? Morally, and even legally, this is not even a fair reversal of roles, for Israel, no matter what, remains the occupier and settler-colonial oppressor, while the indigenous Palestinians remain the colonized and oppressed.
The truth is the UN leadership, in the unipolar world that we are still living in and is perhaps on its way to be transformed to more multipolar space, has effectively turned into a rubber stamp bureau for US dictates. Ban Ki-Moon will go down in history as the most subservient and morally unqualified general secretary to ever lead the international organization. The only question remaining is whether one day he and his senior staff will stand trial for being accomplices in Israel’s war crimes, together with leaders of the US, the EU and many Arab regimes. In a more just world, governed by the rule of law, not the US-dominated rule of the jungle, they should.
Omar Barghouti is a founding member of the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign www.BDSmovement.net
Date: Tuesday, december 30, 2008 09:01:43
Subject: Goebbels would be proud -- you can help
The terrorist group known as "Israeli Defense (right) Forces" is showing off their war crimes on Youtube. I shit you not. Just like Goebbels, they're using the technology of their time to sell their war crimes to the masses.
As could be expected, they closed down the comments. But you can help! Spend a few minutes to visit every video, and FLAG the damn things. You can "report this video as inappropriate" for as "violent or repulsive content: physical attack," which is exactly what it is.
Be warned: this is sickening. I do feel sick to my stomach. "Never again", they said. That was a long time ago.
From: nadia fadil
Date: Monday, december 29, 2008 18:46:04
Subject: Laatste update tekst Gaza + demonstratie
Gisteren of vandaag ontvingen jullie een oproep van mij, Ludo De Brabandere en Ludo Dewitte om een tekst over de situatie in Gaza te onderschrijven. Intussen is een eerste versie vandaag in De Morgen verschenen (zie attach), en heeft De Standaard ons laten weten dat ze een geupdate versie met de lijst ondertekenaars morgen zullen plaatsen - wat hoogst ongebruikelijk is voor de geschreven pers.
Ik stuur jullie in bijlage de tekst alsook de lijst ondertekenaars die zich sinds gisterenavond tot vandaag 17u hebben aangemeld (moment waarop we de lijst aan De Standaard moesten doorsturen). Van een initiele lijst met 40 ondertekenaars is die snel aangegroeid tot een lijst van om en bij de 100 ondertekenaars.
Intussen blijven mensen zich aanmelden, en we gaan door met de verzameling van namen tot en met woensdag, waarna we de lijst via de pers alsook aan politici zullen doorsturen. De geupdated versies zullen ook in online media zoals vredevzw (www.vrede.be) of indymedia (www.indymedia.be) verschijnen.
Verder herinner ik u aan de demonstraties die in verschillende plaatsen in ons land tijdens de komende dagen zullen doorgaan, alsook de nationale manifestatie in Brussel op woensdag 31/12 om 14u aan het Muntplein.
Dank voor uw steun,
Met een vriendelijke groet
From: "Omar Barghouti"
Date: Sunday, december 28, 2008 18:50:36
Subject: BRICUP: Gaza's Guernica
BRICUP is publishing the following Statement of Determination to Boycott Israel.
Please take up this statement and promote it wherever you can -- in newspapers, professional and trade union journals, on internet sites.
Boycott is the key sanction we as citizens can apply to Israel. Palestinian organisations are appealing to us to do it. See http://www.bricup.org.uk/documents/Gaza/HighFollowUp.pdf and http://www.bricup.org.uk/documents/Gaza/BNC_Gaza.html
We have created a page on the BRICUP website to post key documentation on the Israeli attack http://www.bricup.org.uk/GazaEmergency.html. We are not trying to replicate the the archives being created elsewhere but will post items of special significance to BRICUP's contribution to the worldwide campaign.
Let us do it!
A Statement of Determination to Boycott Israel Sponsored by The British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP)
Enough is enough
The Israeli government is sending waves of F16 fighter jets to bomb the Palestinian population of Gaza, many of whom are already weak and sick from two years of siege and encirclement by Israel. Children, says an Israeli spokeswoman, are legitimate targets because if they inhabit a house allegedly being used to manufacture home-made rockets to fire into Israel, they are 'terrorists' themselves. On Saturday December 27, Israel says it dropped 100 tonnes of bombs on Gaza.
We say enough is enough. As long as the state of Israel continues to defy humanity and international law, we, the citizens of the world, commit ourselves to boycotting Israel.
When Nazi planes firebombed the Basque town of Guernica in 1937, to advance General Franco's revolt against the democratically elected Republican government, Britain, France and other European powers continued to refuse military and political support to the Republic, and Franco and his Nazi allies prevailed.
Since our governments decline to take action against Israel, we, as citizens, must act. We declare that, in solidarity with the bombed, maimed, tortured and ethnically cleansed people of Palestine, we will, individually and collectively:
refuse to buy any fruit, vegetable, flowers, cosmetics, underwear, swimwear or piece of technology manufactured or produced in Israel or the illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, and we will inform shops that we object to them stocking Israeli products;
we will not go on holiday to Israel;
we will research which brands of computer contain Israeli-designed and manuctured components, make the information public, and and press all computer manufacturers to end research partnerships with Israel;
we will boycott Israeli films, theatre companies, dance groups and orchestras, and make known our objections to the management of theatres and cinemas;
we will campaign actively for our governments not to allow citizens of our countries to serve in the Israeli army, navy, airforce and security services;
we will lobby in our professional organisations and trade unions for Israeli institutions to be boycotted unless they state publicly that they oppose their government's actions, will not co-operate with the state (for instance by teaching courses for the security services, which all Israeli universities do), and support the establishment of a viable Palestinian state.
Professor Jonathan Rosenhead, London
Professor Haim Bresheeth, London
Abe Hayeem, London
Mike Cushman, London
Professor Keith Hammond, Glasgow
Professor Ghada Karmi, Exeter
Jenny Morgan, London
Dr. Sue Blackwell, Birmingham
28 December 2008
From: "Ludo De Brabander"
Date: Sunday, december 28, 2008 11:02:29
Subject: Reactie op Gaza
Beste, In bijlage een opiniestuk dat ik samen met Nadia Fadil schreef om te reageren om de gebeurtenissen in Gaza.
Stop de Israelische wandaden in Gaza (working title)
De Israëlische bombardementen op Gaza van dit weekend richten een ware slachting aan en voeren het Palestijns-Israëlisch bezettingsconflict daarmee nog maar eens naar een nieuw bloedig dieptepunt. Op het ogenblik dat we dit schrijven zijn er al meer dan 200 dodelijke slachtoffers gevallen en een 700-tal gewonden, wat het tot een van de bloedigste dagen in het conflict maakt sinds 1967. Intussen laat de Israëlische regering weten dat dit offensief nog maar aan haar begin staat.
Deze gebeurtenissen vinden goed twee jaar na Libanon plaats toen Tel Aviv eveneens het recept van een grootschalige militaire bommencampagne hanteerde. De parallellen tussen beide gebeurtenissen zijn treffend. Ook toen heetten de massale bombardementen van de Libanese civiele infrastructuur, de bezetting van het zuiden van het land en 1000 dodelijke slachtoffers een ‘oorlog tegen Hezbollah’. Ook toen rechtvaardigde Israël deze wandaden als een legitieme reactie op een aanval van Hezbollah in Juli 2006 waarbij 2 Israëlische soldaten het leven lieten en 3 werden ontvoerd.
Maar net zomin de Israëlische aanval op Libanon een antwoord vormde op de ontvoeringsacties van Hezbollah, zijn de huidige bombardementen van Gaza geen reactie op de raketaanvallen van Hamas die op 19 december een einde maakte aan het staakt-het-vuren. Het is inmiddels voldoende gedocumenteerd dat de aanval op Libanon lang op voorhand was gepland. Ook nu lezen we in de Israëlische krant Haaretz (28/12/08) dat defensieminister Eduh Barak het leger reeds zes maanden geleden beval zich op te maken voor de operatie, op een ogenblik dat de Israëlische regering onderhandelingen voor een staakt-het-vuren met Hamas had aangevat. Bovendien rechtvaardigt het argument dat Israël vooral Hamas militanten wil treffen op geen enkele wijze dat burgers tot doelwit worden gemaakt van strafmaatregelen en militaire operaties. In werkelijkheid wordt de hele bevolking van Gaza geraakt. Waar het echt om draait is enerzijds de aandacht afleiden van de bezetting, de uitbreiding van de kolonisatie op de Westelijke Jordaanoever en het breken van het verzet en anderzijds de verkiezingen in Israël waar de regeringspartijen met een straffe militaire actie het verloren terrein op de extreemrechtse oppositie onder leiding van Benjamin Netanyahu proberen terug te winnen.
De Israëlische regering presenteert haar eigen wandaden stelselmatig als ‘zelfverdediging’. Hierdoor slaagt Israël erin het beeld te scheppen dat zij dit geweld niet heeft gewenst, maar noodgedwongen ‘reageert’ op het geweld van Hamas. Deze voorstelling van zaken – die ook door vele media wordt overgenomen – berust op een foutieve lezing van de feiten om minstens twee redenen.
Ten eerste gaat ze voorbij aan de voorgeschiedenis. Als bezettingsmacht controleert Israël de luchtruimte, grenzen, water alsook het komen en gaan van de Palestijnen in Gaza (en de Westelijke Jordaanoever). Sinds Gaza eenzijdig tot ‘vijandig gebied’ (hostile territory) werd uitgeroepen in September 2007, na de machtsovername door Hamas, blokkeert Israël elementaire basisvoorzieningen. De gevolgen zijn dramatisch. Er is aan alles een gebrek, aan voedsel, medicijnen en petroleum om de elektriciteitsgeneratoren draaiende te houden. Een hele bevolking wordt uitgehongerd. Een recente studie stelt dat 46 procent van de kinderen lijdt aan acute bloedarmoede. “De idee is om de Palestijnen aan een dieet te onderwerpen, maar niet om hen van honger te laten sterven”, aldus een adviseur van de Israëlische premier twee jaar geleden. Maar hoe gevaarlijk dicht zitten we niet al voorbij deze schandalige doelstelling. Volgens het Rode Kruis kampt 70% van de bevolking met een gebrek aan voedsel. Het gaat hier niet om een of andere natuurramp maar om een bewuste politiek van een staat die zich graag de enige democratie in het Midden-Oosten noemt. Richard Falk, de Speciale Rapporteur van de VN spreekt van een “flagrante en massieve inbreuk op het internationaal humanitair recht.”
Ten tweede wordt de valse indruk gewekt dat Gaza en Israël zich in dit conflict als twee gelijkwaardige tegenstanders tot elkaar verhouden, wat ver afstaat van de realiteit. Israël beschikt over een van de best uitgeruste legers ter wereld, waartegen de Palestijnse milities geen partij vormen. Bij het inzetten van deze oorlogsmachine kijkt de Israëlische regering - wars van de humanitaire regels - op geen mensenleven. De laatste grootscheepse aanval op Gaza, in Februari 2008, maakte om en bij de 112 doden, waaronder een aanzienlijk aantal vrouwen en kinderen. Hoewel elk slachtoffer er een teveel is, is het ook belangrijk eraan te herinneren dat het aantal dodelijke Palestijnse slachtoffers een veelvoud bedraagt van die aan Israëlische zijde. De website van de Middle East Policy Council leert ons dat er in 2008 29 Israëlische dodelijke slachtoffers vielen, tegenover 432 doden aan Palestijnse zijde. Aan Israëlische kant gaat het om een forse daling in vergelijking met 2002 toen er 422 doden vielen. Aan Palestijnse zijde blijft de tol buitengewoon hoog: van 1072 in 2002 naar 432 in 2008 de tientallen doden van de jongste dagen niet meegerekend. Deze cijfers houden geen rekening met de vele doden als gevolg van het embargo tegen Gaza
Het moedwillig uithongeren en collectief straffen van een hele bevolking gebeurt onder de ogen van de internationale gemeenschap. Zorgvuldig en goed gedocumenteerde rapporten van de speciale rapporteur voor de Mensenrechten van de VN en mensenrechtenorganisaties worden zonder gevolg geklasseerd. De Speciale Rapporteur van de VN Falk vroeg tevergeefs naar een onmiddellijke “beschermde actie” tegen de “voortdurende en grootschalige inbreuken op het fundamentele mensenrecht op leven”. Hij stelde dat de Verenigde Naties een dringende inspanning moeten leveren om een burgerbevolking te beschermen die “collectief wordt bestraft door een beleid dat gelijkstaat aan misdaden tegen de menselijkheid”. Duidelijker kan het toch niet?
Toch hebben de VS en de EU al die tijd net het tegenovergestelde gedaan. De VS storten elk jaar 2,5 miljard dollar militaire steun door aan de Israëlische bezettingsmacht en hebben tal van militaire samenwerkingsakkoorden en projecten lopen. Washington heeft de Israëlische politiek tegen Gaza altijd gesteund en ook nu laten weten zich achter deze gruwelijke militaire campagne te scharen. Ook de EU ziet geen graten in goede relaties met Israël. Meer nog. Op de jongste top begin december heeft de Europese Raad zelfs beslist de relaties met Israël ‘op te waarderen’, alsof er geen vuiltje aan de lucht is en tegen een negatieve stemming van de Europese parlementsleden in.
Met een dergelijk cynisch beleid zijn beide grootmachten goed op weg om het Internationaal recht ten grave te dragen. Ze verspelen dan ook elk gezag om anderen in dat verband nog de les te spellen, terwijl er nu juist nood is aan een internationale druk die een einde maakt aan het moorddadige optreden van het Israëlische leger en de onmenselijke blokkade van Gaza alsook. Wij roepen dan ook op tot een krachtdadige veroordeling, opschorting van alle handels- en diplomatieke akkoorden met Israël zolang de bezettingspolitiek aanhoudt.
Ludo De Brabander is stafmedewerker van vzw Vrede en lector aan de Arteveldehogeschool Gent
Nadia Fadil is postdoctoraal onderzoekster aan de Europese Universiteit van Firenze en de KULeuven
From: "Omar Barghouti"
Date: Saturday, december 27, 2008 23:22:36
Subject: John Berger on Gaza
Dear all, I just received the following message directly from the distinguished and courageous British writer and art critic, John Berger. He requested for it to be publicized:
"We are now spectators of the latest - and perhaps penultimate - chapter of the 60 year old conflict between Israel and the Palestinian people. About the complexities of this tragic conflict billions of words have been pronounced, defending one side or the other.
Today, in face of the Israeli attacks on Gaza, the essential calculation, which was always covertly there, behind this conflict, has been blatantly revealed. The death of one Israeli victim justifies the killing of a hundred Palestinians. One Israeli life is worth a hundred Palestinian lives.
This is what the Israeli State and the world media more or less - with marginal questioning - mindlessly repeat. And this claim, which has accompanied and justified the longest Occupation of foreign territories in 20th C. European history, is viscerally racist. That the Jewish people should accept this, that the world should concur, that the Palestinians should submit to it - is one of history's ironic jokes. There's no laughter anywhere. We can, however, refute it, more and more vocally.
Let's do so."
27 December 2008
It is crucial to note that, two years ago, John Berger had mobilized dozens of prominent artists and writers worldwide to endorse the Palestinian call for an institutional cultural boycott of Israel: http://www.pacbi.org/boycott_news_more.php?id=415_0_1_0_C
From: "Omar Barghouti"
Date: Saturday, december 27, 2008 20:03:43
Subject: Haaretz: Israel's Shock and Awe
Impunity and massive power imbalances create an irreparable sense of arrogance and, hence, fatal honesty.
Here's an instance of yet another racist Israeli journalist -- a senior one, at that -- justifies in banal terms how massacring hundreds of Palestinians in occupied Gaza, including scores of school children, as merely an Israeli version of "shock and awe." He even admits that, in perpetrating this crime, "little to no weight was apparently devoted [by Israel] to the question of harming innocent civilians."
ANALYSIS / IAF strike on Gaza is Israel's version of 'shock and awe'
By Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondent
The events along the southern front which commenced at 11:30 on Saturday morning are the closest thing there is to a war between Israel and Hamas. It is difficult to ascertain (geographically) where and for how long the violence will reach before international intervention forces a halt to the hostilities. However, Israel's opening salvo is not merely another "surgical" operation or pinpoint strike. This is the harshest IDF assault on Gaza since the territory was captured during the Six-Day War in 1967.
Palestinian sources in Gaza report that 40 targets were destroyed in a span of three to five minutes. This was a massive attack much along the lines of what the Americans termed "shock and awe" during their invasion of Iraq in March 2003. Simultaneous, heavy bombardment of a number of targets on which Israel spent months gathering intelligence. The military "target bank" includes dozens of additional targets linked to Hamas, some of which will certainly come under attack in the coming days.
Like the U.S. assault on Iraq and the Israeli response to the abduction of IDF reservists Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser at the outset of the Second Lebanon War (the "night of the Fajr missiles," a reference to the IAF destruction of Hezbollah's arsenal of medium-range Fajr missiles), little to no weight was apparently devoted to the question of harming innocent civilians. From Israel's standpoint, Hamas, which persistently fires rockets while using the civilian population as cover, had plenty of opportunities to save face and lower their demands. In stubbornly continuing to launch rockets during the course of recent weeks, it brought this assault on itself.
A final decision on the precise timing of the operation was made on Saturday morning during consultations between the prime minister, the defense minister, the IDF chief of staff, and army generals. The cabinet approved the assault in its last meeting on Wednesday. Since that day, the government has waited for the opportunity to strike. Apparently, an intelligence tip indicating that members of the Hamas military wing were convening for a meeting expedited the decision-making process on giving the go-ahead to act. According to initial reports from Gaza, a number of senior Hamas officials were hit, yet the scope of the harm done to the group's leadership has yet to be precisely determined. The Israeli objective is clear: deal as serious a blow as possible to the Hamas chain of command in order to throw its operating capabilities off kilter. Ostensibly, it will not prevent heavy rocket fire on the Negev towns, but it will likely make it more difficult for Hamas to carry out more damaging attacks against Israel.
Since Saturday afternoon, the IAF has maintained a significance presence in the skies over Gaza in hopes of intercepting rocket-launching cells belonging to Hamas and Islamic Jihad. But the rocket barrage which rained down on Netivot (where one Israeli was killed by a Grad rocket which directly struck a house), Ashkelon, and the communities abutting the Gaza Strip is only the appetizer. The defense establishment is girding for a daily round of rocket fire that is expected to exceed 100 projectiles, some of which are likely to reach the maximum range currently within Hamas' capability - 40 kilometers, a distance that extends to the outskirts of Be'er Sheva and Ashdod.
It would be reasonable to assume that Hamas is preparing to spring another operational surprise a la Hezbollah: from attempting to shoot down IAF aircraft to the targeting of key strategic sites, like the Ashdod port. The IDF Home Front Command has already launched a massive deployment of its forces who are tasked with instructing the residents of the Negev to remain in their homes (the urgency of the instruction is proportional to the residents' proximity to the Gaza Strip). In addition, a few hundred reservist soldiers have received call-up notices.
Israel's continued hesitation in taking action against Hamas is rooted in the trauma it suffered in the wake of the Second Lebanon War. The major x-factor, of course, is not related to the operational capabilities of the air force, but whether or not to launch a ground invasion. Will the government resolve to do so and is the IDF capable of successfully carrying out a mission which it failed to accomplish against Hezbollah? It is reasonable to assume that the picture will become more clearer within three to four days. Until then, the IAF is expected to continue its assault which will be complimented by limited activity from relatively small ground units.
As the situation appears now, Israel has assigned modest goals for itself: weakening Hamas rule in Gaza and restoring a prolonged lull along the border under terms that are more convenient for us following an internationally imposed compromise. Hamas, in its continued strikes on the Negev in recent weeks, erred in judging Israeli intentions and has been dragged into a war that it doubtful wanted. Now, Israel needs to be careful in not falling into a trap of its own.
From: "Omar Barghouti"
Date: Saturday, december 27, 2008 18:59:17
Subject: BNC statement on Gaza (for wide distribution)
Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC)*
"Stop the Massacre in Gaza – Boycott Israel Now!"
Occupied Ramallah, Palestine - 27 December 2008: Today, the Israeli occupation army committed a new massacre in Gaza, causing the death and injury of hundreds of Palestinian civilians, including a yet unknown number of school children who were headed home from school when the first Israeli military strikes started. This latest bloodbath, although far more ruthless than all its predecessors, is not Israel’s first. It culminates months of an Israeli siege of Gaza that should be widely condemned and prosecuted as an act of genocide against the 1.5 million Palestinians in the occupied coastal strip.
Israel seems intent to mark the end of its 60th year of existence the same way it has established itself – perpetrating massacres against the Palestinian people. In 1948, the majority of the indigenous Palestinian people were ethnically cleansed from their homes and land, partly through massacres like Deir Yassin; today, the Palestinians in Gaza, most of whom are refugees, do not even have the choice to seek refuge elsewhere. Incarcerated behind ghetto walls and brought to the brink of starvation by the siege, they are easy targets for Israel’s indiscriminate bombing.
Prof. Richard Falk, the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and international law expert at Princeton University, described Israel’s siege of Gaza last year, when it was still not comparable in its severity to the current situation, as follows:
"Is it an irresponsible overstatement to associate the treatment of Palestinians with this criminalized Nazi record of collective atrocity? I think not. The recent developments in Gaza are especially disturbing because they express so vividly a deliberate intention on the part of Israel and its allies to subject an entire human community to life-endangering conditions of utmost cruelty. The suggestion that this pattern of conduct is a holocaust-in-the-making represents a rather desperate appeal to the governments of the world and to international public opinion to act urgently to prevent these current genocidal tendencies from culminating in a collective tragedy."
The most brutal episode of this “collective tragedy” is what we have seen today.
Israel’s war crimes and other grave violations of international law in Gaza as well as in the rest of the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, could not have been perpetrated without the direct or indirect complicity of world governments, particularly the United States, the European Union, Egypt, and other Arab regimes.
While the US government has consistently sponsored, bankrolled and protected from international censure Israel’s apartheid and colonial policies against the indigenous people of Palestine, the EU was able in the past to advocate a semblance of respect for international law and universal human rights. That distinction effectively ended on December 9th, when the EU Council decided unanimously to reward Israel’s criminal disregard of international law by upgrading the EU-Israel Association Agreement. Israel clearly understood from this decision that the EU condones its actions against the Palestinians under its occupation. Palestinian civil society also got the message: the EU governments have become no less complicit in Israel’s war crimes than their US counterpart.
The large majority of world governments, particularly in the global south, share part of the blame, as well. By continuing business as usual with Israel, in trade agreements, arms deals, academic and cultural ties, diplomatic openings, they have provided the necessary background for the complicity of world powers and, consequentially, for Israel’s impunity. Furthermore, their inaction within the United Nations is inexcusable.
Father Miguel D’Escoto Brockman, President of the UN General Assembly prescribed in a recent address before the Assembly the only moral way forward for the world’s nations in dealing with Israel:
“More than twenty years ago we in the United Nations took the lead from civil society when we agreed that sanctions were required to provide a nonviolent means of pressuring South Africa to end its violations. Today, perhaps we in the United Nations should consider following the lead of a new generation of civil society, who are calling for a similar non-violent campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions to pressure Israel to end its violations.”
Now, more than ever, the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee, BNC, calls upon international civil society not just to protest and condemn in diverse forms Israel’s massacre in Gaza, but also to join and intensify the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel to end its impunity and to hold it accountable for its persistent violation of international law and Palestinian rights. Without sustained, effective pressure by people of conscience the world over, Israel will continue with its gradual, rolling acts of genocide against the Palestinians, burying any prospects for a just peace under the blood and rubble of Gaza, Nablus and Jerusalem.
* The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) includes: Council of National and Islamic Forces in Palestine; General Union of Palestinian Workers; Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions; Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations' Network (PNGO); Federation of Independent Trade Unions; Union of Palestinian Charitable Organizations; Global Palestine Right of Return Coalition; Occupied Palestine and Golan Heights Advocacy Initiative (OPGAI); General Union of Palestinian Women; Palestinian Farmers Union (PFU); Grassroots Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign (STW); Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI); National Committee to Commemorate the Nakba; Civic Coalition for the Defense of Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem (CCDPRJ); Coalition for Jerusalem; and Palestinian Economic Monitor.
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