Saturday, July 26, 2014

Some truths about Gaza, Occupation, crimes against humanity, and mob attacks on "leftists" in Israel



It is worth taking in what the Israeli occupation has long done to Gaza. The first of these articles is from my friend, Michael Schwartz, a brilliant writer on social movements, critic of the Iraq War, and longtime anti-war and anti-racist activist. Mike writes:

"I was particularly moved by this report because of the comment by one of the people he talked to this morning:

Umm Wael Mansour, who is also being treated at Al-Shifa, had her house destroyed by a tank shell. "I lived through the 1967 war and all the following Israeli wars, but this war is indescribable," she says. "It's crueler than the massacres of Sabra and Shatila."

What struck me so hard is that she is in a position to talk about the relative horror of various massacres. Clearly there are even more than she is mentioning here. And what this captures is the long term and continuous savagery that the Gazans have experienced, ever since they were driven off their land and put on the Gaza Reservation."

Mike brings home the parallels with the genocides against Native Americans:

"It just swept over me that various generations of American Indians had an almost identical set of experiences—the horror of a long term genocidal onslaught. Daily oppression in reservations deprived of minimal necessities for survival, punctuated by military onslaughts aimed at collective punishment and/or displacement to a reduced or new reservation."

***

The second letter is from Sara Roy, a senior researcher in the Middle East Center at Harvard, and gives some of the facts about what has happened in Gaza.

"Gaza’s deterioration, however, was not accidental or inadvertent. To the contrary, the devastation of Gaza’s economy (and environment) was deliberate and planned by Israel, imposed through separation and isolation and through a destructive economic blockade, which entered its eighth year last month. The blockade — which has been supported by the United States, the European Union, and Egypt in particular — virtually bans access to markets outside Gaza and confines the overwhelming majority of people to the Strip. This has ended all normal trade upon which Gaza’s tiny economy depends and has disabled the private sector and its capacity to generate jobs, preventing any viable recovery of Gaza’s productive sectors.

Unemployment in Gaza stands at 40.8 percent, a dramatic increase from 18.7 percent in 2000; however, for those people between 15 and 29 years of age, the unemployment rate is almost 60 percent. Because of this, poverty has increased with almost 80 percent of Gazans made dependent on humanitarian aid to survive although they are able and desperate to work.

Another way to understand the impact of the Israeli blockade is this: In 2000, UNRWA (the UN agency responsible for Palestine refugees) was feeding 80,000 people in the Gaza Strip; today it feeds over 830,000 people.
Yet, UNRWA’s food aid to almost half the population is now under threat as some international donors such as Canada have inexplicably defunded UNRWA or fund at levels that do not meet Gaza’s burgeoning need."

***

These are facts about a genocidal policy - to impose conditions designed destroy a people "in whole or in part". See the United Nations Convention against Genocide here. These conditions are created by the Israeli state but enabled by the United States and Europe though with increasing dissidence from below.

***

Roy rightly criticizes Hamas whose rockets, in so far as they kill civilians, are criminal. So far only two civilian Israelis have died from this - the rockets would be a just act of self-defense if they struck at those responsible for the Occupation but they don't (in contrast, the fighting against Israeli Occupying soldiers is just). Worse yet, they terrorize - with their now greater range - the whole Israeli population, though Israelis have shelters to go to - and can be used by Netanyahu's government as an excuse for its major war crimes and increasing "transfer" policy toward Palestinians.

For instance, declared "resident aliens" by the Occupying power, the population of the East Jerusalem has decreased markedly, perhaps by as much as a third, over the past 10 years.

***

Only mass nonviolent protest, which is growing in villages in the West Bank, as I reported on during a visit in October 2012 - see here and here - and in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, can not only isolate Israel (Israeli violence against civilians has done a startling job of producing such isolation) but stop a second "transfer."

***

Roy continues:

"Hamas’s targeting of Israeli civilians is also criminal and has achieved little for Palestinians. Instead of stopping Israel, Hamas rocket fire provides a continued rationalization for Israeli aggression on a nearly defenseless population.

Yet the terrible violence now engulfing Gaza, which has left more than 270 (predominantly civilian) dead [by yesterday, the number was 815 including in an attack on a UN school] and over 2,300 injured, feels somehow different say some of my Palestinian friends. There is an unfathomable quality to the violence from which Gaza’s people, especially children, can find no refuge. Raji Sourani, a prominent human rights lawyer in Gaza, recently wrote me, and his message demands to be shared: “Gaza is a totally unsafe place. Day and night the same: shock and terror . . . Airplanes do not leave Gaza’s skies and they are throwing death to children and women. I visited the intensive care unit at Shifa Hospital and you cannot imagine the scene; most of them will die soon. Even medicines do not exist — almost 40 percent shortages. The hospital is full of women and children; many lost [body] parts and limbs. The ceasefire will not last without ending the siege [and] opening the crossings . . . People here have nothing to lose except misery and humiliation . . . We want to live a normal life, with dignity. I believe this will go on for some time, I am sure we will pay heavily for it, but freedom has a price.”

***

Sara Woznick, an intensive care nurse from Denver with Medecins Sans Frontieres [Doctors without Border], says 40% of her patients are under 5. See here.(h/t Nader Hashemi)

***

The third is from Noura Erakat and deals with the law of Occupation. Israel took the West Bank and Gaza by an act of aggression (which justifies self-defense by the people aggressed against and discredits false claims of victimhood from the Occupiers). It has a "legal" police force, often engaged in forcing Palestinians out of the West Bank, ignoring settler children throwing shit and urine on the bazaar in Hebron - see here .

But every military invasion of Gaza by Israel is illegal - and criminal - under international humanitarian law. Israel and its American sycophants including, in this respect, President Obama (despite the blows he has taken from Netanyahu in the last election and his initial attempt to deter illegal and immoral settlements in the Territories) and John Kerry - plainly not seeking a reasonable or just peace - are trying, by force, to destroy that law.

***

Israel targets civilians with big weapons and often takes out children. It massacres little boys playing soccer as well as whole families...

By the latest "count," Israel has killed over 800 people, the Hamas rockets (and friendly fire) and now, more serious clashes with the IDF invaders 25 soldiers, three civilians. The lack of proportionality here is startling.

***

Israel is the fifth most well-equipped army in the World against a resistance movement under Occupation...

***

Netanyahu's claim that Hamas is hiding among civilians (where else could it be, particularly in densely populated and blockaded Gaza?) is a little like the US saying this about the Vietcong in Vietnam and bombing peasants from the air. It is a little like Hitler saying this about London. It is a rationale for mass murder, motivating and justifying resistance.

***

Netanyahu also goes on about tunnels. With the Israeli blockade, what else does he expect? If you keep people imprisoned and starve them, why is a crime to break out? (there was one clash in which some Israeli soldiers as well as Palestinians who came from a tunnel were killed; Netanyahu fantasizes attacks on Israeli villages while ordering slaughters of Gazan civilians...)

***

The American corporate press reports only Israel's claims - pretending Gaza is an independent country instead of a blockaded and starved place - which makes it sound like Israel is defending itself against Gaza's attacks. But that is false.

***

Israel receives $3 billion a year in US military aid - and the military regime in Egypt (Egypt gets the second largest amount of military aid - $1 billion per year - under Mubarak and Al-Sisi are tied to the American war complex) have imposed a blockade on Gaza which has killed a lot of people, long denied food and hospital care; Israel's renewed invasion is on top of this crime.

***

Read over the United Nations Convention against Genocide and you will discover that what Israel does in Gaza and in trying to force Palestinians out in the West Bank is genocidal. For instance, Article II, section c bars "Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part."

***

On Democracy Now Tuesday morning, there was an interview with a Norwegian doctor, Mats Gilbert, who did a report for the UN. He is appalled at the Israeli attack on Al Aqsa Hospital, killing 5 patients, 4 in surgery just then, 10 minutes before. Read the interview here.

***

A page 1 article in the New York Times Tuesday by Judi Ruroren, now Jerusalem chief, begins with the suggestion that the Palestinian Authority tells people to say civilians are being killed.

"In the Battleground of Words, Hatred and Muddied Reality
By JODI RUROREN

JERUSALEM — The Gaza-based interior ministry advises its supporters in a YouTube video that whenever talking about the dead, “always add ‘an innocent citizen.’” In Israel, the message is quite different: Those same victims are described as “human shields” sacrificed by the “heartless” Hamas “terrorists” that rule Gaza."

But these points are not equivalent.

Do the supposed words of the Palestinian authority make babies less dead, the crime less horrible?

***

Recall the photos of the four little boys murdered for playing soccer on a beach in the New York Times last week.

Whole families have been murdered at home and also murdered if they move; there is no protection from the Israeli army and weaponry in densely populated Gaza, and no way out....

***

In contest, Ruroren's second point about what the Israeli government says, is just a lie. Hamas (and many guerrilla forces down through history) have been in civilian populations. Mao said: guerrillas are fish that swim in the sea of the people. The Japanese aggressors said: "drain the water" and murdered some 20 million people in 3 provinces in North China in the winter of 1940-41 - see Chalmers Johnson, Peasant Nationalism in China. (Mercifully, the Israeli slaughter is less...)

Against the law of war protecting civilians as well as decency, however, this Israeli fiction gives false permission, to massacre innocents in Gaza.

***

In any case, the first point, regardless of whether the Palestinian authority tells people to say it, is true.

***

Ruroren's opening is thus a grotesque specimen of propaganda and says a lot about the overwhelming racism which tries to paint Israel's horrors in palatable colors in the United States.

***

At the end of the article, however, Ruroren briefly worries about the dehumanization of Palestinians in Israel (for this, she was attacked by the even more extreme authoritarian Right). Israeli television, she says, comments only on the "diplomatic aspects" - when international outrage will force the army to stop - and expresses no concern about the murders of children (most of the 800 dead are children, women and other civilians).

***

But this attack is special in its sheer barbarism even compared to previous massacres, in its trumped up character (Hamas had nothing to do with the murders of the 3 Jewish teenagers as JJ Goldberg revealed in the Jewish Forward here; Netanyahu knew the first day they were dead - had a police recording of the killing since one of the young men had called them - and built up false hopes among the public for 2 weeks that they were still alive while stirring up mobs chanting "death to Arabs"; some of the participants monstrously burned a 16 year old Palestinian, Mohammed Abu Khdair - see here) and by its abandonment, even by previous massacres, of bounds.

So one result is growing and fierce opposition to Israel (demonstrations all over the world, including of a thousand people in Denver last Saturday, In Paris, there are outlying attacks on Jewish stores which are criminal and emulate Nazism. But to resist the Israeli occupation is to resist the very kind of European racism from which Jews suffered just the blink of an eye ago...

***

Reactionary mobs, with government "toleration" or incitement, are now physically beating up courageous Jewish peace demonstrators in Tel Aviv ("leftists to the gas chamber," a youth soccer captain, modeling himself pretty consciously on the greatest murderer of semites in all of history..., exclaims on Facebook).

"We look at the increasingly dangerous political climate inside Israel where several peace protests have recently come under attack. On Saturday, right-wing activists burned a Palestinian flag, chanted racial slurs and threw stones at an antiwar protest in Haifa of Arabs and Israelis opposed to the bombardment of Gaza. Haifa’s deputy mayor, Dr. Suhail Assad, and his son were beaten. On Sunday, the captain of a youth soccer team in Be’er Sheva wrote on his Facebook page: "send left-wing voters to the gas chambers and clean this country of left." For the Democracy Now! interview with Rann Bar-on, a Jewish peace activist and Duke mathematics lecturer, beaten in Tel Aviv, see here.

***

"RANN BAR-ON: Hi, Amy. We were about three or four hundred left-wing activists demonstrating against the war, for peace between Arabs and Jews, refusing to be enemies. As we arrived, my partner and I saw well over a thousand activists from—militant activists from the right, surrounded by police and others, screaming, "Death to Arabs! Death to leftists!" As we were protesting, they moved towards us. The police allowed them to move towards us. The police allowed them to attack us, to throw stones at us. Later on, as we were trying to leave, the police took—the police did not attempt to allow us to leave. They took over an hour to evacuate us while we were under heavy attack by stones and other missiles. Many were injured. We’ve had over 30 injured. Two women are still in hospital. There were gangs roaming the streets, beating up anyone they thought was an Arab or member of our demonstration. The police were—

AMY GOODMAN: Rann Bar-On, can you explain why you went out into the streets to protest?

RANN BAR-ON: Absolutely. I believe that what Israel is doing in Gaza is a racist attack. It is not self-defense in any way. And it is a continuation of Israeli policy that has always discriminated against the Arab population. What happened to us at the protest is not new. This is something that is a trend that has been continuing for many years. There has been much incitement from the political class that has allowed even so-called moderate right-wingers to join cries saying, "Death to Arabs! Death to leftists!" and attacking activists and Arabs in the street."

***

See also the story of "Yossi" below, an orthodox Jew beaten at the demonstration and again in a cafe which the Rightists had destroyed in Tel Aviv. "Yossi" fears, along with others, to give his name since Rightists are hunting them on Facebook.

***

"Yossi, wary of the increasing tension, tried to leave the cafe. The customer began to laugh at him. “Were you the one injured on Saturday?” he asked. Yossi replied that he was, and was in fact hospitalized. The man began shouting and getting aggressive with Yossi, who took out his phone and snapped a picture of the enraged customer. Yossi described what happened next with a sense of shock in his voice.

The customer grabbed Yossi by the hair and threw him to the ground, insisting that he give him the phone to delete the picture. Yossi suggested he would show the owner that he was deleting the picture but the customer would have none of it and again threw him to the ground and beat him. Yossi saw a police officer outside and tried to go to him when the customer threw him down again. Yossi blacked out for a moment and when he came to the customer was trying to physically throw him outside. The owner by this point was also trying to throw Yossi out of the cafe, saying he was causing trouble. Finally, Yossi managed to leave and call friends and the police, though both he and Rotem want to make clear that they don’t trust the police and don’t believe in using them anyway.

It is a level of violence that neither Yossi nor Rotem have seen before. Not aimed at other Jewish-Israelis, at least. Rotem was particularly appalled that throughout the assault, no one lifted a hand to help Yossi or to interfere.

Both Rotem and Yossi want to make it clear, though, that they recognize violence itself is nothing new. Yossi said, “this is nothing compared to the violence used against Palestinians every day.” Even during periods of relative calm, he says, “Palestinians are attacked every day. Every day.” What’s different, Rotem said, is that it is now being visited on other Jews, “in the heart of Tel Aviv.”


***

The sense in which Israel aspires to be a "democracy," that is a democracy ostensibly for all Jews rather than all citizens though now not so much for dissident Jews i.e. those who follow the prophets, those who speak truth to power - has always been in question. For instance, Arab Israelis were long ago barred from Histadrut, the labor unions, and kibbutzim. But recently, the assertion that Israel is a "Jewish state" - not a democracy or human rights regime for all - and physical attacks on Arab representatives even inside the Knesset make clear that this is already, increasingly an authoritarian regime.

***

And colonialism and "othering" of an Occupied people come home to Israel in the destruction of democracy and human rights even among Jews.

***

Mike writes:

"Monday, July 21, 2014 12:25 PM

Below is the latest article (now featured on AlJazeeraAmerica) about the current situation. He is the source for daily news of what it looks like on the ground in Palestine, and you can subscribe to his listserve by emailing him at the address below.

I was particularly moved by this report because of the comment by one of the people he talked to this morning:

Umm Wael Mansour, who is also being treated at Al-Shifa, had her house destroyed by a tank shell. "I lived through the 1967 war and all the following Israeli wars, but this war is indescribable," she says. "It's crueler than the massacres of Sabra and Shatila."

What struck me so hard is that she is in a position to talk about the relative horror of various massacres. Clearly there are even more than she is mentioning here. And what this captures is the long term and continuous savagery that the Gazans have experienced, ever since they were driven off their land and put on the Gaza Reservation.

It just swept over me that various generations of American Indians had an almost identical set of experiences—the horror of a long term genocidal onslaught. Daily oppression in reservations deprived of minimal necessities for survival, punctuated by military onslaughts aimed at collective punishment and/or displacement to a reduced or new reservation.

"From: Mohammed Omer [mailto:moingaza@gmail.com]
Sent: Monday, July 21, 2014 10:07 AM
To: undisclosed-recipients:
Subject: ‘Tank shells were falling like hot raindrops’

On the ground report published now on Al Jazeera America

america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/7/21/gaza-shujayea-shelling.html

INTERNATIONAL

‘Tank shells were falling like hot raindrops’
Survivors of Shujayea bombardment recount horror tales amid frantic search for lost family members
July 21, 2014 8:22AM ET
by Mohammed Omer

Gaza City — Mahmoud al-Sheikh Khalil, one of the few survivors from the assault on Shujayea, stands nervously at the gates of al-Shifa hospital waiting for the next ambulance to arrive. His frightened eyes spot an ambulance making its way through the crowd with difficulty.

The ambulance doors open and the dead are lifted off. He bursts into tears as he recognizes a familiar small face and shouts out, "Samia al-Sheikh Khalil!" Three-year-old Samia's body has been torn to shreds by an Israeli tank shell. Yet she is still recognizable despite the burns.

Khalil, 36, learns that other remains, wrapped in white burial shrouds, are his cousins'. He collapses and says, "We were trying to run, but the tank shells were chasing us wherever we went."

"Around 6 a.m., I was inside my house. I heard the neighbors screaming for help after a blast. I managed to get outside to try to rescue them, but it was a massacre — women and children all torn into small pieces."

Shujayea, in the east of Gaza City, has been under horrendous attack since Israel began its assault on Gaza 14 days ago. Sunday's carnage left 72 people dead, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. Nearly all the dead were women, children and elderly men.

According to Ashraf al-Qedra, a representative for the Health Ministry, Gaza's latest death toll climbed to 512 Palestinians killed and more than 3,160 injured since the start of Israel's assault on July 8.

Those like Khalil who survived said it was a miracle.

According to several eyewitness accounts, some Shujayea residents were holding whatever white cloth they could find — shirts, undershirts or tablecloths — to wave as white flags. They wanted to get out of the targeted area under constant heavy Israeli bombardment. But most white cloths were either ripped apart or covered in blood.

Iman Mansour, another survivor and mother of three, managed to escape with her children.

"Nowhere was safe to run to," she says. Her three children, all injured, are receiving medical treatment at Al-Shifa Hospital. "We were forced to leave our house because tank shells were falling like hot raindrops."

Her mother-in-law, Umm Wael Mansour, who is also being treated at Al-Shifa, had her house destroyed by a tank shell. "I lived through the 1967 war and all the following Israeli wars, but this war is indescribable," she says. "It's crueler than the massacres of Sabra and Shatila."

When her house was hit, she screamed out. As neighbors tried to help, they were killed outside her doorstep. "The bodies of men, women and children were scattered all over, and no one could come to help save them," she says as tears fall.

The smell at Al-Shifa is of burned human flesh. The morgue is filled with all types of injuries — human body parts and limbs and burned bodies, including bad facial burns on dead children.

The morgue has more bodies than it can hold. Many of the victims are unrecognizable. Those searching for their loved ones struggle to remember any specific physical detail — skin color, old scars, facial shape, haircut or height and weight, scraps of clothing — to be able to identify an otherwise badly damaged body.

During a two-hour cease-fire, ambulance crews struggle to collect dead bodies. When they arrive, some people are still alive, and some are taking their last breaths.

A paramedic sees a stretcher on the floor and underneath it the body of his colleague Fouda Jaber, killed by an Israeli tank shelling. "Oh my God, Fouad … Fouad is one of them. He has been killed," screams the medical worker before carrying out the body of his friend.

Jaber was on a rescue mission trying to save a family of 10, most of them women and children. He died inside the house while tank shells destroyed the ambulance.

"Instead of targeting medical facilities, in violation of international law, Israeli forces must protect medics and patients and ensure that the injured can safely reach medical facilities in Gaza and when necessary, outside the Strip," says Philip Luther of Amnesty International.

At the hospital, more survivors await the ambulances, searching desperately for their family members.

Khalil stays until the end of the day looking in vain for more relatives. Paramedics confirm that seven of his cousins are dead.

All he hopes for now is another cease-fire so he can get back home to search for the missing family members'."

***

From the Boston Globe, Sara Roy tells something of the real situation in Gaza:

"THE PODIUM
Deprivation in Gaza Strip

By Sara Roy | JULY 19, 2014

A Palestinian child runs on debris from a house that was destroyed Saturday in an Israeli strike in Beit Lahiya, Gaza Strip. AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis

A Palestinian child runs on debris from a house that was destroyed Saturday in an Israeli strike in Beit Lahiya, Gaza Strip. AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis

In almost three decades of research and writing on Gaza, I have often asked myself, “Is there a language to really express the torment of Gaza and the way in which the world’s unflinching indifference and heartlessness contribute to it?

Gaza’s present anguish did not emerge in a vacuum nor in response to a single terrible event as the Israeli government would have us believe. Instead, it emanates from a context of ongoing occupation and repression that has transformed Gaza — the center of Palestinian nationalism and resistance to Israeli occupation — into one of the most impoverished, imprisoned areas of the world.

Gaza’s deterioration, however, was not accidental or inadvertent. To the contrary, the devastation of Gaza’s economy (and environment) was deliberate and planned by Israel, imposed through separation and isolation and through a destructive economic blockade, which entered its eighth year last month. The blockade — which has been supported by the United States, the European Union, and Egypt in particular — virtually bans access to markets outside Gaza and confines the overwhelming majority of people to the Strip. This has ended all normal trade upon which Gaza’s tiny economy depends and has disabled the private sector and its capacity to generate jobs, preventing any viable recovery of Gaza’s productive sectors.

Unemployment in Gaza stands at 40.8 percent, a dramatic increase from 18.7 percent in 2000; however, for those people between 15 and 29 years of age, the unemployment rate is almost 60 percent. Because of this, poverty has increased with almost 80 percent of Gazans made dependent on humanitarian aid to survive although they are able and desperate to work.

Another way to understand the impact of the Israeli blockade is this: In 2000, UNRWA (the UN agency responsible for Palestine refugees) was feeding 80,000 people in the Gaza Strip; today it feeds over 830,000 people. Yet, UNRWA’s food aid to almost half the population is now under threat as some international donors such as Canada have inexplicably defunded UNRWA or fund at levels that do not meet Gaza’s burgeoning need. Without an increase in financial support to cover a $22 million shortfall, UNRWA may have to eliminate its food distributions by the end of 2014. If this happens there should be no doubt that Palestinians in Gaza will face starvation for the first time in their history, and the violence that will ensue from their deepened agony and abandonment will be calamitous.

The profound deprivation that has long defined life in Gaza is intensifying. Israel is deliberately targeting and bombing civilian infrastructure with the aim of ensuring Gaza’s continued decay. Even before Israel’s ground invasion, water and sewage treatment facilities in 18 different locations sustained damage, and presently, 900,000 people — half of Gaza’s total population — have no access to water. Fifty percent of sewage pumping and wastewater treatment systems are no longer operational, largely affecting Northern Gaza, Gaza city and Rafah. Damaged pipelines have resulted in the mixing of sewage and water, raising the risk of water borne diseases, a serious public health hazard. Several power lines have also been disabled by bombardments, leaving 80 percent of the population with only four hours of electricity a day, and critically disrupting the delivery of basic services, especially in hospitals.

Israeli warplanes have destroyed or severely damaged between 1,660 and1,890 homes and have inflicted significant damage to at least 1,420 more, displacing around 50,000 people, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs; 48,000 of the displaced are sheltering in 43 UNRWA facilities. Israeli airstrikes have also attacked a range of institutions including: UNRWA installations, hospitals, health clinics, nursing care centers, rehabilitation centers for the disabled, schools, sports clubs, banks, mosques and office buildings.

Hamas’s targeting of Israeli civilians is also criminal and has achieved little for Palestinians. Instead of stopping Israel, Hamas rocket fire provides a continued rationalization for Israeli aggression on a nearly defenseless population.

Yet the terrible violence now engulfing Gaza, which has left more than 270 (predominantly civilian) dead and over 2,300 injured, feels somehow different say some of my Palestinian friends. There is an unfathomable quality to the violence from which Gaza’s people, especially children, can find no refuge. Raji Sourani, a prominent human rights lawyer in Gaza, recently wrote me, and his message demands to be shared: “Gaza is a totally unsafe place. Day and night the same: shock and terror . . . Airplanes do not leave Gaza’s skies and they are throwing death to children and women. I visited the intensive care unit at Shifa Hospital and you cannot imagine the scene; most of them will die soon. Even medicines do not exist — almost 40 percent shortages. The hospital is full of women and children; many lost [body] parts and limbs. The ceasefire will not last without ending the siege [and] opening the crossings . . . People here have nothing to lose except misery and humiliation . . . We want to live a normal life, with dignity. I believe this will go on for some time, I am sure we will pay heavily for it, but freedom has a price.”

Sara Roy is a senior research scholar at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard University."

***

Noura Erakat, from the Intifada website, deals specifically with some issues of international humanitarian law, in particular that the law concerning Occupation bars the use of military force:

"No, Israel Does Not Have the Right to Self-Defense In International Law Against Occupied Palestinian Territory
No, Israel Does Not Have the Right to Self-Defense In International Law Against Occupied Palestinian Territory
POSTED BY ELIAS ON JULY 19, 2014 IN NEWS & ANALYSIS, PALESTINE

Israel is distorting/reinterpreting international law to justify its use of militarized force in order to protect its colonial authority. Although it rebuffs the de jure application of Occupation Law, Israel exercises effective control over the West Bank and Gaza and therefore has recourse to police powers. It uses those police powers to continue its colonial expansion and apartheid rule and then in defiance of international law

by Noura Erakat


On the fourth day of Israel’s most recent onslaught against Gaza’s Palestinian population,President Barack Obama declared, “No country on Earth would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders.” In an echo of Israeli officials, he sought to frame Israel’s aerial missile strikes against the 360-square kilometer Strip as the just use of armed force against a foreign country. Israel’s ability to frame its assault against territory it occupies as a right of self-defense turns international law on its head.

A state cannot simultaneously exercise control over territory it occupies and militarily attack that territory on the claim that it is “foreign” and poses an exogenous national security threat. In doing precisely that, Israel is asserting rights that may be consistent with colonial domination but simply do not exist under international law.

Admittedly, the enforceability of international law largely depends on voluntary state consent and compliance. Absent the political will to make state behavior comport with the law, violations are the norm rather than the exception. Nevertheless, examining what international law says with regard to an occupant’s right to use force is worthwhile in light of Israel’s deliberate attempts since 1967 to reinterpret and transform the laws applicable to occupied territory. These efforts have expanded significantly since the eruption of the Palestinian uprising in 2000, and if successful, Israel’s reinterpretation would cast the law as an instrument that protects colonial authority at the expense of the rights of civilian non-combatants.

Israel Has A Duty To Protect Palestinians Living Under Occupation

Military occupation is a recognized status under international law and since 1967, the international community has designated the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as militarily occupied. As long as the occupation continues, Israel has the right to protect itself and its citizens from attacks by Palestinians who reside in the occupied territories. However, Israel also has a duty to maintain law and order, also known as “normal life,” within territory it occupies. This obligation includes not only ensuring but prioritizing the security and well-being of the occupied population. That responsibility and those duties are enumerated inOccupation Law.

Occupation Law is part of the laws of armed conflict; it contemplates military occupation as an outcome of war and enumerates the duties of an occupying power until the peace is restored and the occupation ends. To fulfill its duties, the occupying power is afforded the right to use police powers, or the force permissible for law enforcement purposes. As put by the U.S. Military Tribunal during the Hostages Trial (The United States of America vs. Wilhelm List, et al.)

International Law places the responsibility upon the commanding general of preserving order, punishing crime, and protecting lives and property within the occupied territory. His power in accomplishing these ends is as great as his responsibility.

The extent and breadth of force constitutes the distinction between the right to self-defense and the right to police. Police authority is restricted to the least amount of force necessary to restore order and subdue violence. In such a context, the use of lethal force is legitimate only as a measure of last resort. Even where military force is considered necessary to maintain law and order, such force is circumscribed by concern for the civilian non-combatant population. The law of self-defense, invoked by states against other states, however, affords a broader spectrum of military force. Both are legitimate pursuant to the law of armed conflict and therefore distinguished from the peacetime legal regime regulated by human rights law.

When It Is Just to Begin to Fight

The laws of armed conflict are found primarily in the Hague Regulations of 1907, the Four Geneva Conventions of 1949, and their Additional Protocols I and II of 1977. This body of law is based on a crude balance between humanitarian concerns on the one hand and military advantage and necessity on the other. The post-World War II Nuremberg trials defined military exigency as permission to expend “any amount and kind of force to compel the complete submission of the enemy…” so long as the destruction of life and property is not done for revenge or a lust to kill. Thus, the permissible use of force during war, while expansive, is not unlimited.

In international law, self-defense is the legal justification for a state to initiate the use of armed force and to declare war. This is referred to as jus ad bellum—meaning “when it is just to begin to fight.” The right to fight in self-defense is distinguished from jus in bello, the principles and laws regulating the means and methods of warfare itself. Jus ad bellum aims to limit the initiation of the use of armed force in accordance with United Nations Charter Article 2(4); its sole justification, found in Article 51, is in response to an armed attack (or an imminent threat of one in accordance with customary law on the matter). The only other lawful way to begin a war, according to Article 51, is with Security Council sanction, an option reserved—in principle, at least—for the defense or restoration of international peace and security.

Once armed conflict is initiated, and irrespective of the reason or legitimacy of such conflict, the jus in bello legal framework is triggered. Therefore, where an occupation already is in place, the right to initiate militarized force in response to an armed attack, as opposed to police force to restore order, is not a remedy available to the occupying state. The beginning of a military occupation marks the triumph of one belligerent over another. In the case of Israel, its occupation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights, and the Sinai in 1967 marked a military victory against Arab belligerents.

Occupation Law prohibits an occupying power from initiating armed force against its occupied territory. By mere virtue of the existence of military occupation, an armed attack, including one consistent with the UN Charter, has already occurred and been concluded. Therefore the right of self-defense in international law is, by definition since 1967, not available to Israel with respect to its dealings with real or perceived threats emanating from the West Bank and Gaza Strip population. To achieve its security goals, Israel can resort to no more than the police powers, or the exceptional use of militarized force, vested in it by IHL. This is not to say that Israel cannot defend itself—but those defensive measures can neither take the form of warfare nor be justified as self-defense in international law. As explained by Ian Scobbie:

To equate the two is simply to confuse the legal with the linguistic denotation of the term ”defense.“ Just as ”negligence,“ in law, does not mean ”carelessness” but, rather, refers to an elaborate doctrinal structure, so ”self-defense” refers to a complex doctrine that has a much more restricted scope than ordinary notions of ”defense.“

To argue that Israel is employing legitimate “self-defense” when it militarily attacks Gaza affords the occupying power the right to use both police and military force in occupied territory. An occupying power cannot justify military force as self-defense in territory for which it is responsible as the occupant. The problem is that Israel has never regulated its own behavior in the West Bank and Gaza as in accordance with Occupation Law.

Israel’s Attempts To Change International Law

Since the beginning of its occupation in 1967, Israel has rebuffed the applicability of international humanitarian law to the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). Despite imposing military rule over the West Bank and Gaza, Israel denied the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (the cornerstone of Occupation Law). Israel argued because the territories neither constituted a sovereign state nor were sovereign territories of the displaced states at the time of conquest, that it simply administered the territories and did not occupy them within the meaning of international law. The UN Security Council, the International Court of Justice, the UN General Assembly, as well as the Israeli High Court of Justice have roundly rejected the Israeli government’s position. Significantly, the HCJ recognizes the entirety of the Hague Regulations and provisions of the 1949 Geneva Conventions that pertain to military occupation as customary international law.

Israel’s refusal to recognize the occupied status of the territory, bolstered by the US’ resilient and intransigent opposition to international accountability within the UN Security Council, has resulted in the condition that exists today: prolonged military occupation. Whereas the remedy to occupation is its cessation, such recourse will not suffice to remedy prolonged military occupation. By virtue of its decades of military rule, Israel has characterized all Palestinians as a security threat and Jewish nationals as their potential victims, thereby justifying the differential, and violent, treatment of Palestinians. In its 2012 session, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination described current conditions following decades of occupation and attendant repression as tantamount to Apartheid.

In complete disregard for international law, and its institutional findings, Israel continues to treat the Occupied Territory as colonial possessions. Since the beginning of the second Palestinian intifada in 2000, Israel has advanced the notion that it is engaged in an international armed conflict short of war in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Accordingly, it argues that it can 1) invoke self-defense, pursuant to Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, and 2) use force beyond that permissible during law enforcement, even where an occupation exists.

The Gaza Strip Is Not the World Trade Center

To justify its use of force in the OPT as consistent with the right of self-defense, Israel has cited UN Security Council Resolution 1368 (2001)and UN Security Council Resolution 1373 (2001). These two resolutions were passed in direct response to the Al-Qaeda attacks on the United States on 11 September 2001. They affirm that those terrorist acts amount to threats to international peace and security and therefore trigger Article 51 of the UN Charter permitting the use of force in self-defense. Israel has therefore deliberately characterized all acts of Palestinian violence – including those directed exclusively at legitimate military targets – as terrorist acts. Secondly it frames those acts as amounting to armed attacks that trigger the right of self-defense under Article 51 irrespective of the West Bank and Gaza’s status as Occupied Territory.

The Israeli Government stated its position clearly in the 2006 HCJ case challenging the legality of the policy of targeted killing (Public Committee against Torture in Israel et al v. Government of Israel). The State argued that, notwithstanding existing legal debate, “there can be no doubt that the assault of terrorism against Israel fits the definition of an armed attack,” effectively permitting Israel to use military force against those entities. Therefore, Israeli officials claim that the laws of war can apply to “both occupied territory and to territory which is not occupied, as long as armed conflict is taking place on it” and that the permissible use of force is not limited to law enforcement operations. The HCJ has affirmed this argument in at least three of its decisions: Public Committee Against Torture in Israel et al v. Government of Israel, Hamdan v. Southern Military Commander, and Physicians for Human Rights v. The IDF Commander in Gaza. These rulings sanction the government’s position that it is engaged in an international armed conflict and, therefore, that its use of force is not restricted by the laws of occupation. The Israeli judiciary effectively authorizes the State to use police force to control the lives of Palestinians (e.g., through ongoing arrests, prosecutions, checkpoints) and military force to pummel their resistance to occupation.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) dealt with these questions in its assessment of the permissible use of force in the Occupied West Bank in its 2004 Advisory Opinion, Legal Consequences on the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The ICJ reasoned that Article 51 contemplates an armed attack by one state against another state and “Israel does not claim that the attacks against it are imputable to a foreign state.” Moreover, the ICJ held that because the threat to Israel “originates within, and not outside” the Occupied West Bank,

the situation is thus different from that contemplated by Security Council resolutions 1368 (2001) and 1373 (2001), and therefore Israel could not in any event invoke those resolutions in support of its claim to be exercising a right of self-defense. Consequently, the Court concludes that Article 51 of the Charter has no relevance in this case.

Despite the ICJ’s decision, Israel continues to insist that it is exercising its legal right to self-defense in its execution of military operations in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Since 2005, Israel slightly changed its position towards the Gaza Strip. The government insists that as a result of its unilateral disengagement in 2005, its occupation has come to an end. In 2007, the government declared the Gaza Strip a “hostile entity” and waged war upon the territory over which it continues to exercise effective control as an Occupying Power. Lisa Hajjar expounds on these issues here.

In effect, Israel is distorting/reinterpreting international law to justify its use of militarized force in order to protect its colonial authority. Although it rebuffs the de jure application of Occupation Law, Israel exercises effective control over the West Bank and Gaza and therefore has recourse to police powers. It uses those police powers to continue its colonial expansion and apartheid rule and then in defiance of international law cites its right to self-defense in international law to wage war against the population, which it has a duty to protect. The invocation of law to protect its colonial presence makes the Palestinian civilian population doubly vulnerable. Specifically in the case of Gaza,

It forces the people of the Gaza Strip to face one of the most powerful militaries in the world without the benefit either of its own military, or of any realistic means to acquire the means to defend itself.

More broadly, Israel is slowly pushing the boundaries of existing law in an explicit attempt to reshape it. This is an affront to the international humanitarian legal order, which is intended to protect civilians in times of war by minimizing their suffering. Israel’s attempts have proven successful in the realm of public relations, as evidenced by President Obama’s uncritical support of Israel’s recent onslaughts of Gaza as an exercise in the right of self-defense. Since international law lacks a hierarchal enforcement authority, its meaning and scope is highly contingent on the prerogative of states, especially the most powerful ones. The implications of this shift are therefore palpable and dangerous.

Failure to uphold the law would allow states to behave according to their own whim in furtherance of their national interest, even in cases where that is detrimental to civilian non-combatants and to the international legal order. For better or worse, the onus to resist this shift and to preserve protection for civilians rests upon the shoulders of citizens, organizations, and mass movements who can influence their governments enforce international law. There is no alternative to political mobilization to shape state behavior.

Source: Jadaliyya.com

__________________________________

About the author

No, Israel Does Not Have the Right to Self-Defense In International Law Against Occupied Palestinian Territory Noura Erakat is a human rights attorney and writer. She is currently a Freedman Teaching Fellow at Temple University, Beasley School of Law and is a member of the Legal Support Network for the Badil Center for Palestinian Refugee and Residency Rights. She has taught International Human Rights Law and the Middle East at Georgetown University since Spring 2009. Most recently she served as Legal Counsel for a Congressional Subcommittee in the House of Representatives, chaired by Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich. She has helped to initiate and organize several national formations including Arab Women Arising for Justice (AMWAJ) and the U.S. Palestinian Community Network (USPCN). She is a board member of the Trans-Arab Research Institute (TARI); a Policy Advisor of Al-Shabaka; a founding member of the DC Palestinian Film and Arts Festival; the development consultant for Legal Agenda; and a contributor to IntLawGrrls. Noura has appeared on MSNBC’s “Up With Chris Hayes,” Fox’s “The O’ Reilly Factor,” NBC’s “Politically Incorrect,” Democracy Now, and Al-JazeeraArabic and English. Her scholarly publications include: “Litigating the Arab-Israeli Conflict: The Politicization of U.S. Federal Courts” in the Berkeley Law Journal of Middle Eastern and Islamic Law, “BDS in the USA: 2001-2010,” in the Middle East Report, and “U.S. vs. ICRC-Customary International Humanitarian Law and Universal Jurisdiction” forthcoming in the Denver Journal of International Law & Policy. She is a Co-Editor of Jadaliyya.com. You can follow her on Twitter at @4noura."

***

‘Are you a fucking leftist?’ –Israeli fascists target anti-occupation activists in Tel Aviv
Bekah Wolf on July 18, 2014 21


Right wing protesters attacking an anti-war on Gaza demonstration in Tel Aviv. (Photo: Twitter/ActiveStills.org)
Right wing protesters attacking an anti-war on Gaza demonstration in Tel Aviv. (Photo: Twitter/ActiveStills.org)

Yossi* wants to make it very clear from the beginning of our discussion that I cannot use his real name. Rotem, his friend who is also translating, explains, “He is afraid. We’re all afraid. The fascists are searching for our Facebook profiles, for any information about us on the internet. They are hunting us.”

What first may seem like hyperbole is in fact exactly what pro-Palestinian, anti-occupation Jewish-Israeli activists have been describing for the last week: mobs of right-wing fascists chasing peaceful protesters and violently attacking them in the centers of West Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

On Saturday night, July 12, a few hundred demonstrators gathered in Habima Square in Tel Aviv to protest the ongoing massacre in Gaza, organized by the Coalition of Women for Peace. Habima Square, according to Rotem, is the place for “mainstream” protests in Tel Aviv. Hundreds of demonstrations have been held there, though none in recent memory had turned as violent and ugly as Saturday night’s. While demonstrators chanted and held signs in the square, a group of approximately 60 counter-protesters, some wearing shirts with fascist logos prominently displayed, arrived and began menacing the crowd. Police were not doing much to separate the two groups. Some of the demonstrators had already dispersed, sensing the tension with the counter-protestors, and then a siren sounded, indicating an incoming rocket from the resistance in Gaza.

“The police were just cowards,” Rotem said. “They left us to face a group of fascists who wanted to kill us. They actually told us that.” The demonstrators there to support the people of Gaza tried to leave the area. Yossi explained what happened next. “We ran down the street and the fascists followed us. We ran into a cafe and about 20 of the fascists came inside after us. They completely destroyed the cafe.” A chair was raised and crashed over Yossi’s head. It was only when he lost consciousness that the police were called. Yossi was evacuated by friends to the hospital.

On Monday, Yossi decided he wanted to return to the cafe and apologize.

“I felt bad,” he said. “It is a cafe in my neighborhood. It wasn’t the owner’s fault that the fascists got violent. I wanted to apologize.”

Yossi describes himself as rather “strange” for a “left-wing activist”. He comes from a religious family and wears a yarmulke, a rare sight among the largely secular Jewish-Israeli left. He’s in his early twenties and says he’s been going to demonstrations in support of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories and inside Israel, as well as social justice issues. He went to the cafe and was chatting with the owner without incident until the bartender asked him, “are you a leftist?” Yossi replied that he was, which the bartender found odd, considering that Yossi was religious. Yossi gave the example to the bartender of the Naturei Karta, an orthodox sect that is strictly anti-Zionist when a customer in the cafe got up to confront him.

“Are you a fucking leftist?” he asked. “Do you love this country?”

Yossi replied that he did not, in fact, love the state, and said in English, “Judaism is not Zionism.” Rotem interjects at this point to explain, “this may seem like an obvious thing to say, but in Israel, it’s not.”

Yossi, wary of the increasing tension, tried to leave the cafe. The customer began to laugh at him. “Were you the one injured on Saturday?” he asked. Yossi replied that he was, and was in fact hospitalized. The man began shouting and getting aggressive with Yossi, who took out his phone and snapped a picture of the enraged customer. Yossi described what happened next with a sense of shock in his voice.

The customer grabbed Yossi by the hair and threw him to the ground, insisting that he give him the phone to delete the picture. Yossi suggested he would show the owner that he was deleting the picture but the customer would have none of it and again threw him to the ground and beat him. Yossi saw a police officer outside and tried to go to him when the customer threw him down again. Yossi blacked out for a moment and when he came to the customer was trying to physically throw him outside. The owner by this point was also trying to throw Yossi out of the cafe, saying he was causing trouble. Finally, Yossi managed to leave and call friends and the police, though both he and Rotem want to make clear that they don’t trust the police and don’t believe in using them anyway.

It is a level of violence that neither Yossi nor Rotem have seen before. Not aimed at other Jewish-Israelis, at least. Rotem was particularly appalled that throughout the assault, no one lifted a hand to help Yossi or to interfere.

Both Rotem and Yossi want to make it clear, though, that they recognize violence itself is nothing new. Yossi said, “this is nothing compared to the violence used against Palestinians every day.” Even during periods of relative calm, he says, “Palestinians are attacked every day. Every day.” What’s different, Rotem said, is that it is now being visited on other Jews, “in the heart of Tel Aviv.”

I asked what they saw as the cause of the surge of violence and fascist rhetoric in Israeli society. Yossi explained it this way: “The differen[ce] between the pilots bombing Gaza every day and the hooligans in the street is that the hooligans aren’t killing people.” In other words, the mentality required to massacre Gazans and that which leads to assaulting those who you don’t agree with are one in the same. Rotem lays the blame at the increasingly right-wing government and their direct incitement. “[Naftali] Bennett and others like him are encouraging this kind of violence. They are calling Palestinians animals and us traitors.” He believes it’s part of a coordinated campaign to incite violence. “It used to not be politically correct to talk like this. You used to only say these things behind closed doors. Now it’s out in the open.” The people on the streets attacking Palestinians and left-wing Israelis, he said, “are just the soldiers.” This is the result of “twenty years of denying democracy, of working against the Supreme Court, against minorities” he said.

“I don’t want to say it will get worse before it gets better, but….” Rotem said, his voice trailing off. The sense of urgency then returns to his voice. “It’s only going to get worse if the left doesn’t stand against it,” he said. “We are trying to organize. People can’t be afraid to be loyal to Palestinians. I don’t care if we get beaten again and again. We need to stand against the fascists.” “I’m a teacher,” he told me, “I wasn’t even really an activist. But I am now.”

*Not his real name

About Bekah Wolf
Bekah Wolf has worked in Palestine since 2003. In 2006 she co-founded the Palestine Solidarity Project with her husband, former administrative detainee and current popular committee leader Mousa Abu Maria. She lived for 4 years in her husband's village of Beit Ommar, Hebron District and currently splits her time between the U.S. and Beit Ommar with her daughter Rafeef."

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Audiotape of Marc Steiner show on Frederick Douglass and July 4th



The link to the Marc Steiner show in a previous post did not work for several people.

"We commemorate the upcoming 4th of July weekend with a discussion on what American Independence Day means to different people in this country. You will hear a passage from Frederick Douglass’ “The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro” interpreted by actor, narrator, writer, and social commentator Keith Snipes, and then Keith is joined on the panel by: Dr. Alan Gilbert, John Evans Professor in the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver and author of Black Patriots and Loyalists; and A. Adar Ayira, project manager of the More in the Middle Campaign for Associated Black Charities and facilitator and analyst at Baltimore Racial Justice Action, a program of Fusion Partnerships."

***

Our discussion reached considerable agreement about telling the truth in history - that as Douglass says, slavery is no thing to celebrate and no part of freedom, and that genocide toward indigenous people has also been part of the holiday. The Bill of Rights is important if it is extended to each person (far from the initial situation). It is only through struggle from below, often led by blacks and indigenous people (the most oppressed), which gives rise to this slow realization.

***

And American patriotism - as the Obama administration and the Senate's barbarous support for the Israeli government's calculated slaughter in Gaza indicates - is often retrograde, and in such cases, we all need to dissent from it. See here.

***

Here is the right link.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Here is the right link to 3:AM in the last post on Amnesia: Spain, Sand Creek, Oklahoma and Germany



Many thanks to Irene Rodriguez and others who have pointed out that the link to my column on Amnesia: Spain, Sand Creek, Oklahoma and Germany does not work. Here is the right one: http://www.3ammagazine.com/3am/amnesia-spain-sand-creek-oklahoma-germany/

3:AM magazine: Amnesia: Spain, Sand Creek, Oklahoma, Germany



For my second and now regular column - the first on Remembering Vincent Harding is here - 3:AM magazine in London published Amnesia: Spain, Sand Creek, Oklahoma, Germany and the letter from Silas Soule to Major Ned Wynkoop following the Sand Creek Massacre, see here.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Poem: beloved




Vincent saw each one of us

not as a bent tree

leaves aslant

on a high peak


or crumpled in a thin basement

stripped of resource


urged a rent party

for a desolate artist

eating greens with friends


slept on a cot

near a young man

menaced


burgeoning

doing the job of life

making the

here and

not yet


belov ed community



Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The repulsiveness of Israeli expansion: sign the Jewish Voice for Peace petition and demonstrate Saturday



As a jew and a long standing opponent of the Occupation of Palestinian Territories by Israel as well as of the denial of human rights and well-being to Palestinians even within Israel, I still find it hard to write about the latest Netanyahu criminality. I am not alone in this.

***

In the Occupied Territories, Israel is the self-conscious imitator of the American West and the extermination of indigenous people. It is at least a subconscious imitator of the Nazis and the Tsars toward Jews. Uri Avnery writes, in some despair below, of how if in today's Germany, neo-Nazis had kidnapped and burned a Jewish child to death, there would be outrage. In America today, unlikely crowds shouting "death to Jews" - those in Israel stirred by Netanyahu screaming "death to Arabs" - would produce a fierce response.

***

Avnery has to go back to the Spanish inquisition and the auto-da-fes (burnings) of Jewish children for a precedent (see Montesquieu, Spirit of the Laws, book 25 for a satire on "things so clear they are sure never to convince" on the burning of a young girl).

Mohammed Abu Khdair was the 16 year old boy kidnapped, murdered and burned.

***

Avnery names the truth.

***

It is hard to think of the country that carried out the holocaust - I, without reflection, rooted for Argentina in the World Cup (colonialism and fascism are a heavy heritage) against Deutschland - being so much more decent than the country against whose parents and grandparents genocide was committed.

It is hard to think that what the leaders of the wretched state of Israel learned from the genocide was that it was okay to form an exclusive Jewish regime - down to exclusive unions and exclusive kibbutzim, once upon a time, though now Netanyahu's regime works overtimes on inequality for the .001% - and commit ethnic cleansing against Palestinians (see the work of Benny Morris and Ilan Pappe).

***

Suffering a Founding Amnesia ("a people without land for a land without people"), Israel seized Palestinian land, driving out or murdering some 800,000 - the first ethnic cleansing - and then illegally and immorally Occupied the West Bank and Gaza in 1967. Israel has planted 500 gleaming settlements above a walled off, open air concentration camp.
See here and here.

***

The murders of three Israeli teenagers - going to religious school in the Territories - were horrifying. But as JJ Goldberg has pointed out in a revelatory article below, those murders were known about, a kidnapping gone wrong because one of the boys called the police on his cell phone immediately. Yet Netanyahu falsely blamed the kidnapping on Hamas and then whipped up a racist frenzy for two weeks (worse than his 2012 murderous Operation "Pillar of 'Defense'").

***

There are arrests, but Avnery's point - the mobs are the Inquisition - is buried in the tepid press (worse in the U.S., though the New York Times yesterday did finally run a front page story about it here, but then removed the print title "A Boy Set Ablaze"...).

***

For the Jewish Voice for Peace petition, sign here, or see the second item below.

For a demonstration - a prayer and a march - in Denver (everyone should check their own city; the protest is worldwide and growing) against the Occupation and killings this Saturday at 12:45 at the Colorado State Capitol, see here.

***

Netanyahu, as it were, displayed the corpses of the three Jewish teenagers as Denver officials in 1864 did the Hungate family (murdered they said by "generic Indians") and used this to stir the Sand Creek mutilation of bodies.

The display of corpses in America was used, from well before the Revolution, to sanction mass extinctions starting with the 1638 Pequot Massacre of 500 and the founding of Harvard (see Peter Silver, Our Savage Neighbors, 2012; Craig Steven Wilder, Ebony and Ivy).

***

Curiously, Hitler, like David Ben Gurion, was a fan of American extermination of indigenous people. Hitler read the novels of Karl May in this way and called the Poles and Russians "redskins," although my recent post on this, see here - accurate on Hitler - was wrong about May who idealized noble indians (h/t Uwe Meizner; in contemporary Europe, calling Reagan a "cowboy" was not a friendly remark).

***

Even military officials like Brigadier General Moti Almoz, as Goldberg underlines, resisted the dreadful, counterproductive commands of the explicitly "Jews-only" government of Israel. The statements of government ministers in the Netanyahu government, as Ury Avnery says below, would rightly be called fascist anywhere else.

As Goldberg puts it, "few statements were more blunt, or more telling, than this throwaway line by the chief spokesman of the Israeli military, Brigadier General Moti Almoz, speaking July 8 on Army Radio’s morning show: 'We have been instructed by the political echelon to hit Hamas hard.'”

***

It is hard to think of how Netanyahu could have done more damage to ordinary Israelis than through this policy. It makes everyone else regard the "good Germans," the "good Americans" during Vietnam with horror; many oppose the policy, but it must be hard for a decent person to look in the mirror this morning...

***

In Gaza,

"The Palestinian death toll stands at more than 200, including 31 children. On Tuesday, funerals continued for the victims in Gaza, including a 10-year-old boy. Two members of the al-Hajj family, a son and an uncle, spoke out about an Israeli bombing of a home that killed eight family members, including two parents and five siblings.

Yasser al-Hajj: 'After losing both my parents and my brothers and sisters, I am now all by myself. I have no one except a sister who is married and lives in Rafah, and that’s far away. Life is going to be difficult from here on out.'

Mohammad al-Hajj: 'Imagine the feeling when someone carries his sister and her sons and daughters, who are children, 18, 16 and 14 years old. I carried them when their bodies were ripped apart. It was horrifying.'" (Democracy Now, July 16, 2014)

***

In Gaza, no one is safe. The International Red Cross also warns that the water supply is threatened.

***

Gideon Levy below shudders about this "Jews-only" regime...

***

The futile Hamas rockets strike fear into Israel - they hit no one until they wounded two Arab-Israelis yesterday and today killed the first Israeli who was aiding the army - but they strengthen the most reactionary forces in Israel. In addition, they can be used in mindless US government and media proclamations of "moral equivalence" to cover up burning and blowing apart children.

***

Nonviolent resistance would isolate the Israeli government even internally. See here.

***

But one has to be in a fog of racism to equate the murder of 200 people and lots of children with 1 murder so far. And in even more of a fog to equate the Occupier of the Territories today with independent Mexico. In the war of 1846-48, US aggression stole a large part of Mexico: California, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado - an equivalent today would be something like feeble rocket fire from Chicanos in the Southwest...

Chicanos are oppressed, but it might be useful to think of what conditions would have to be to provoke this....

***

Avnery is not way out in his analogy about the burning - for Jews particularly terrible since this is what the Inquisition did to children - nor is the Jewish Forward in printing the truth. People who do not take in the vigilante nature of Israel, led by the government, the burning of an innocent young man as "revenge" and the unprovoked, wanton and continuing slaughter in Gaza are simply not looking at the truth.

***

Mr. Netanyahu likes to talk about how Christians are tolerated in Israel as a (race, national social) "democracy." How about Muslims?

How about Palestinians (including Christians)...?

***

Obama could pull the plug on aid to Israel. The US gives $3 billion a year, largely spent on American weapons; every helicopter in the Occupied Territories is an "Apache," the name a "return of the repressed" genocide in the United States. That would be a reasonable response.

The American elite and media, self-destructively invested in Israel "right or wrong," so far forbids this.

***

Israel is today engaged in a calculated transfer - ethnic cleansing, genocide - in the illegally and immoral Occupied territories.

Unless it is stopped, this murder and expulsion will get worse. Sign the petition, demonstrate and express nonviolent outrage at the Occupation in any way available (it would be good if 100,000 sat down around the White House over this policy...).

***

How dangerous for all of us is this situation? Israel also has the lone stockpile of nuclear weapons in the Middle East. If peace is not made with the Palestinians - one that most importantly, restores for Palestinians as well as preserves for others the human rights of each person - the likelihood is that Israel, despite its weaponry, will find itself in a long unwinnable war - live by the sword, die by the sword... It will find itself rightly detested by ordinary people in Europe and even here for apartheid (even the usually banal John Kerry rightly named this "apartheid").

In this situation, the likelihood that the racists at the helm will use nuclear weapons, grows apace.

Radiation travels....

***

And an international and internal movement against apartheid - Anarchists against the Wall is a noble organization of Israelis in this cause - and for one democratic state based on equal rights for each individual is the sole decent alternative which the Netanyahu leadership has now motivated.

***

About Obama and the noble victories for the rights of gays and lesbians, Andrew Sullivan often signs off on his posts: know hope. In the brief post below, he says of Israel and the US: "know despair."

I share his feeling (and my friend Mike Schwartz's), but we must all gather the courage to act.

***

I am also inspired by Palestinian activists and Palestinian endurance of and courage against these horrors, and by the students - including Jewish students - who are part of the growing campus divestment movement - and by organizations like Jewish Voice for Peace who stand up against Israel and the US government. We should all do so.

***

"Gush Shalon - Israeli Peace Bloc

Uri Avnery's Column

The Atrocity
12/07/2014

BOMBS ARE raining on Gaza and rockets on Southern Israel, people are dying and homes are being destroyed.

Again.

Again without any purpose. Again with the certainty that after it's all over, everything will essentially be the same as it was before.

But I can hardly hear the sirens which warn of rockets coming towards Tel Aviv. I cannot take my mind off the awful thing that happened in Jerusalem.

IF A gang of neo-Nazis had kidnapped a 16-year old boy in a London Jewish neighborhood in the dark of the night, driven him to Hyde Park, beaten him up, poured gasoline into his mouth, doused him all over and set him on fire -- what would have happened?

Wouldn't the UK have exploded in a storm of anger and disgust?

Wouldn't the Queen have expressed her outrage?

Wouldn't the Prime Minister have rushed to the home of the bereaved family to apologize on behalf of the entire nation?

Wouldn't the leadership of the neo-Nazis, their active supporters and brain-washers be indicted and condemned?

Perhaps in the UK. Perhaps in Germany.

Not here.

THIS ABOMINABLE atrocity took place in Jerusalem. A Palestinian boy was abducted and burned alive. No racist crime in Israel ever came close to it. (my italics).

Burning people alive is an abomination everywhere. In a state that claims to be "Jewish", it is even worse.

In Jewish history, only one chapter comes close to the Holocaust: the Spanish inquisition. This Catholic institution tortured Jews and burned them alive at the stake. Later, this happened sometimes in the Russian pogroms. Even the most fanatical enemy of Israel could not imagine such an awful thing happening in Israel. Until now.

Under Israeli law, East Jerusalem is not occupied territory. It is a part of sovereign Israel.

THE CHAIN of events was as follows:

Two Palestinians, apparently acting alone, kidnapped three Israeli teenagers who were trying to hitchhike at night from a settlement near Hebron. The objective was probably to use them as hostages for the release of Palestinian prisoners.

The action went awry when one of the three succeeded in calling the Israeli police emergency number from his mobile phone. The kidnappers, assuming that the police would soon be on their tracks, panicked and shot the three at once. They dumped the bodies in a field and fled. (Actually the police bungled things and only started their hunt the next morning.)

All of Israel was in an uproar. Many thousands of soldiers were employed for three weeks in the search for the three youngsters, combing thousands of buildings, caves and fields.

The public uproar was surely justified. But it soon degenerated into an orgy of racist incitement, which intensified from day to day. Newspapers, radio stations and TV networks competed with each other in unabashed racist diatribes, repeating the official line ad nauseam and adding their own nauseous commentary -- every day, around the clock.

The security services of the Palestinian Authority, which collaborated throughout with the Israeli security services, played a major role in discovering early on the identity of the two kidnappers (identified but not yet caught). Mahmoud Abbas, the PA president, stood up in a meeting of the Arab countries and condemned the kidnapping unequivocally and was branded by many of his own people as an Arab Quisling. Israeli leaders, on the other hand, called him a hypocrite.

Israel's leading politicians let loose a salvo of utterances which would be seen anywhere else as outright fascist. A short selection:

Danny Danon, deputy Minister of Defense: "If a Russian boy had been kidnapped, Putin would have flattened village after village!"

"Jewish Home" faction leader Ayala Shaked: "With a people whose heroes are child murderers we must deal accordingly." ("Jewish Home" is a part of the government coalition.)

Noam Perl, world chairman of Bnei Akiva, the youth movement of the settlers: "An entire nation and thousands of years of history demand: Revenge!"

Uri Bank, former secretary of Uri Ariel, Housing Minister and builder of the settlements: "This is the right moment . When our children are hurt, we go berserk, no limits, dismantling of the Palestinian Authority, annexation of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), execution of all prisoners who have been condemned for murder, exile of family members of terrorists!"

And Binyamin Netanyahu himself, speaking about the entire Palestinian people: "They are not like us. We sanctify life, they sanctify death!"

When the bodies of the three were found by tourist guides, the chorus of hatred reached a new crescendo. Soldiers posted tens of thousands of messages on the internet calling for "revenge", politicians egged them on, the media added fuel, lynch mobs gathered in many places in Jerusalem to hunt Arab workers and rough them up.

Except for a few lonely voices, it seemed that all Israel had turned into a soccer mob, shouting "Death to the Arabs!"

Can anyone even imagine a present-day European or American crowd shouting "Death to the Jews?"

THE SIX arrested until now for the bestial murder of the Arab boy had come straight from one of these "Death to the Arabs" demonstrations.

First they had tried to kidnap a 9-year old boy in the same Arab neighborhood, Shuafat. One of them caught the boy in the street and dragged him towards their car, choking him at the same time. Luckily, the child succeeded in shouting "Mama!" and his mother started hitting the kidnapper with her cell phone. He panicked and ran off. The choking marks on the boy's neck could be seen for several days.

The next day the group returned, caught Muhammad Abu-Khdeir, a cheerful 16-year old boy with an engaging smile, poured gasoline in his mouth and burned him to death.

(As if this was not enough, Border Policemen caught his cousin during a protest demonstration, handcuffed him, threw him on the ground and started kicking his head and face. His wounds look terrible. The disfigured boy was arrested, the policemen were not.)

THE ATROCIOUS way Muhammad was murdered was not mentioned at first. The fact was disclosed by an Arab pathologist who was present at the official autopsy. Most Israeli newspapers mentioned the fact in a few words on an inner page. Most TV newscasts did not mention the fact at all.

In Israel proper, Arab citizens rose up as they have not done in many years. Violent demonstrations throughout the country lasted for several days. At the same time, the Gaza Strip frontline exploded in a new orgy of rockets and aerial bombings in a new mini-war which already has a name: "Solid Cliff". (The army's propaganda section has invented another name in English.) The new Egyptian dictatorship is collaborating with the Israeli army in choking the Strip.

THE NAMES of the six suspects of the murder-by-fire -- several of whom have already confessed to the appalling deed -- are still being withheld. But unofficial reports say that they belong to the Orthodox community. Apparently this community, traditionally anti-Zionist and moderate, has now spawned neo-Nazi offspring, which surpass even their religious-Zionist competitors.

Yet terrible as the deed itself is, to my mind the public reaction is even worse. Because there isn't any.

True, a few sporadic voices have been heard. Many more ordinary people have voiced their disgust in private conversations. But the deafening moral outrage one could have expected did not materialize.

Everything was done to minimize the "incident", prevent its publication abroad and even inside Israel. Life went on as usual. A few government leaders and other politicians condemned the deed in routine phrases, for consumption abroad. The soccer world cup contest elicited far more interest. Even on the Left, the atrocity was treated as just another item among the many misdeeds of the occupation.

Where is the outcry, the moral uprising of the nation, the unanimous decision to stamp out the racism that makes such atrocities possible?

THE NEW flare-up in and around the Gaza Strip has obliterated the atrocity altogether.

Sirens sound in Jerusalem and in towns north of Tel-Aviv. The missiles aimed at Israeli population centers have successfully (up to now) been intercepted by counter-missiles. But hundreds of thousands of men, women and children are running to the shelters. On the other side, hundreds of daily sorties of the Israeli Air Force turn life in the Gaza Strip into hell.

WHEN THE cannon roar, the muses fall silent.

Also the pity for a boy burnt to death."

***

"The roots of the rising violence in Gaza and Israel
Submitted by Cecilie Surasky on Thu, 07/10/2014 - 1:57pm
Rebecca Vilkomerson, Jewish Voice for Peace executive director on the occupation and rising death toll

The last several days have been devastating. The weeks leading up to it have been horrifying. Since the beginning of the Israel’s Operation Protective Edge on July 8, 2014 upwards of 80 Palestinians have been killed and approximately 500 wounded by Israeli missiles and 2 Israelis have been wounded from rockets fired from Gaza. We have watched with sadness and anger as the deaths of children have mounted, racist mobs have rampaged, the fears of people throughout both Israel and Palestine have reached unbearable levels, and the collective punishment of the Palestinian people has intensified.

In just the last few days, scores of Palestinians--with no place to hide--have been killed, while the entire population of Gaza experiences the terror of widespread bombing. Israelis have had to endure the fear of never knowing when or where the next rocket will fall.

What is worse, reports from Israel and the Jewish Daily Forward (http://forward.com/articles/201764/how-politics-and-lies-triggered-an-unintended-war) in the US are now confirming that this entire escalation was artificially created by Israeli political leaders and built on a foundation of lies.

None of this should be happening. As we mourn all who have died, we also reaffirm that all Israelis and Palestinians deserve security, justice, and equality.

To end violence - and truly mourn its victims - we must acknowledge, and challenge the root causes beneath it. The occupation, with US military and financial support, is the root cause. The daily structural violence of the occupation systematically denies the very humanity of Arabs, while valuing Jewish lives at the expense of others. Our unshakeable belief in justice - as Jews and as human beings - compels us to acknowledge that the root of this violence lies in the Israeli government’s commitment to occupation over the well-being of Palestinians or Israelis. Where our leaders have so thoroughly refused that truth, it is our responsibility to hold it up.

This is why my organization, Jewish Voice for Peace, is calling for signatures to an Open Letter demanding an end to the Occupation. When we reach 18,000 signatures, we’ll publish the letter in Ha’aretz and The Forward - and call on our communities stand up with us.

The media is portraying the current violence as the most recent flare-up of a long running conflict between two-sides using equal force against the other. We know the truth to be different. The relative ‘calm’ in Israeli and international media for the last 7 years or so has not been calm for Palestinian communities. The ongoing occupation inflicts both direct and structural violence, making daily life and the struggle for existence into an act of resistance.

The recent and very public violence against Palestinians in the streets of Jerusalem and elsewhere did not happen in a vacuum. Anti-Palestinian bigotry is not only acceptable but a powerful political tool in Israel. Long before this latest escalation, everyday life for Palestinians meant increasing numbers of settlements taking over their lands and homes, and a web of violence and control which reached into every area of life, simply because they are not Jewish.

Those few Israelis who are bravely speaking out against their governments’ inhumane policies need to know that they have our support. Those Palestinians who are under daily assault need to know that we see them.

As Americans, and especially as Jews, we can not wait one more moment to speak up. In such a terrible moment, we must join what we feel with what we know.

Please join me in signing this urgent Open Letter that says:

Only by ending the occupation, which is funded by unconditional US military aid and diplomatic support, and embracing equality can this terrible bloodshed end."

Sign here.


***

"Daily Digest
Haaretz: Gideon Levy: Our wretched Jewish state
http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.603232

Haaretz | 06.07.14

Our wretched Jewish state

Now we know: In the Jewish state, there is pity and humane feelings only for Jews, rights only for the Chosen People. The Jewish state is only for Jews.

By Gideon Levy

The youths of the Jewish state are attacking Palestinians in the streets of Jerusalem, just like gentile youths used to attack Jews in the streets of Europe. The Israelis of the Jewish state are rampaging on social networks, displaying hatred and a lust for revenge, unprecedented in its diabolic scope. Some unknown people from the Jewish state, purely based on his ethnicity. These are the children of the nationalistic and racist generation – Netanyahu’s offspring.

For five years now, they have been hearing nothing but incitement, scaremongering and supremacy over Arabs from this generation’s true instructor, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Not one humane word, no commiseration or equal treatment.

They grew up with the provocative demand for recognition of Israel as a “Jewish state,” and they drew the inevitable conclusions. Even before any delineation of what a “Jewish state” means – will it be a state that dons tefillin (phylacteries), kisses mezuzot (doorpost fixtures with prayer scrolls), sanctifies charms, closes down on the Sabbath and keeps strict kashrut laws? – the penny has dropped for the masses.

The mob was the first to internalize its true significance: a Jewish state is one in which there is room only for Jews. The fate of Africans is to be sent to the Holot detention center in the Negev [!], while that of Palestinians is to suffer from pogroms. That’s how it works in a Jewish state: only this way can it be Jewish.

In the Jewish state-in-the-making, there is no room even for an Arab who strives his utmost to be a good Arab, such as the writer Sayed Kashua. In a Jewish state, the chairman of the Knesset plenary session, MK Ruth Calderon (from Yesh Atid – the “center” of the political map, needless to say), cuts off Arab MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta’al), who has just returned all shaken up from a visit to the family of the murdered Arab boy from Shoafat, impudently preaching to him that he must also refer to the three murdered Jewish teens (even after he did just that).

In a Jewish state, the High Court of Justice approves the demolition of a murder suspect’s family home even before his conviction. A Jewish state legislates racist and nationalist laws.

The media in the Jewish state wallows in the murder of three yeshiva students, while almost entirely ignoring the fates of several Palestinian youths of the same age who have been killed by army fire over the last few months, usually for no reason.

No one was punished for these acts – in the Jewish state there is one law for Jews and another for Arabs, whose lives are cheap. There is no hint of abiding by international laws and conventions. In the Jewish state, there is pity and humane feelings only for Jews, rights only for the Chosen People. The Jewish state is only for Jews.

The new generation growing in its shadow is a dangerous one, both to itself and its surroundings. Netanyahu is its education minister; the militaristic and nationalist media serves as its pedagogic epic poem; the education system that takes it to Auschwitz and Hebron serves as its guide.

The new sabra (native-born Israeli) is a novel species, prickly both on the outside and the inside. He has never met his Palestinian counterpart, but knows everything about him – the sabra knows he is a wild animal, intent only on killing him; that he is a monster, a terrorist.

He knows that Israel has no partner for peace, since this is what he’s heard countless times from Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett. From Yair Lapid he’s heard that they are “Zoabis” – referring dismissively to MK Haneen Zoabi (Balad).

Being left wing or a seeker of justice in the Jewish state is deemed a crime, civil society is considered treacherous, true democracy an evil. In a Jewish state – dreamed of not only by the right wing but also by the supposed center-left, including Tzipi Livni and Lapid – democracy is blurred.

It’s not the skinheads that are the Jewish state’s main problem, it’s the sanctimonious eye-rollers, the thugs, the extreme right wing and the settlers. It’s not the margins but the mainstream, which is partly very nationalistic and partly indifferent.

In the Jewish state, there is no remnant of the biblical injunction to treat the minority or the stranger with justice. There are no more Jews left who marched with Martin Luther King or who sat in jail with Nelson Mandela.[there are still such people in Israel and they need to act...] The Jewish state, which Israel insists the Palestinians recognize, must first recognize itself. At the end of the day, at the end of a terrible week, it seems that a Jewish state means a racist, nationalistic state, meant for Jews only."

***

"Andrew Sullivan
The Revenge Doctrine, Ctd
JUL 11 2014 @ 12:20PM

J.J. Goldberg reveals that the official story of what happened after those three Israeli yeshiva students were kidnapped is more hasbara than fact:

Once the boys’ disappearance was known, troops began a massive, 18-day search-and-rescue operation, entering thousands of homes, arresting and interrogating hundreds of individuals, racing against the clock. Only on July 1, after the boys’ bodies were found, did the truth come out: The government had known almost from the beginning that the boys were dead. It maintained the fiction that it hoped to find them alive as a pretext to dismantle Hamas’ West Bank operations.

What more do you need to know about the bigotry, callousness and hubris of Netanyahu? Well, this, maybe:

"It was clear from the beginning that the kidnappers weren’t acting on orders from Hamas leadership in Gaza or Damascus. Hamas’ Hebron branch — more a crime family than a clandestine organization — had a history of acting without the leaders’ knowledge, sometimes against their interests. Yet Netanyahu repeatedly insisted Hamas was responsible for the crime and would pay for it."

So Netanyahu knew that the kidnapping wasn’t by Hamas proper, insisted that it was anyway, withheld the truth about the boys’ deaths in order to sustain a massive process of collective punishment of Palestinians in the West Bank, and then unleashed yet another brutal, lop-sided pulverization of Gaza. This is not a rational regime; and it is not a civilized government. J.J. Goldberg notes the Israeli military’s profound ambivalence about where Netanyahu is taking the country, along with the religious fanatics and racist haters who propel him forward.

And yes, yes, and yes again to the notion that Hamas should not be firing rockets into Israel at all, let alone at civilians directly, even though they have incurred no casualties and have bounced off the Iron Dome when they encroached too far into Israel proper. But in this instance, there is no equivalence. One side deliberately and deceptively instigated absolutely unjustified collective punishment of an entire population, and pre-meditatedly whipped up nationalistic and racist elements to back them up. They then went on to bombard Gaza – and many civilians – into another submission – after a period of relative calm and peace. [And this leaves out the illegality and immorality of the Occupation itself...]. The result is another disproportionate slaughter: around 100 Palestinians dead so far, and no Israelis. If you see nothing wrong with this, your moral compass is out of whack.

Meanwhile, Obama and other world leaders have offered to broker a ceasefire, but Netanyahu has made it clear he’s not interested. An unnamed Israeli official tells Raphael Ahren that the goal of the bombardment this time is to permanently dismantle Hamas’s ability to strike Israel (didn’t they say the same thing last time?):

“It is quite possible that Hamas would agree to an immediate ceasefire — we’re hitting them hard, they want the situation to cool down,” the senior official told The Times of Israel, speaking on condition of anonymity. Brokering a ceasefire with Hamas would have been possible a week or a two ago, but an agreement that would leave in place the group’s offensive capacities not what Israel wants, the official said.

“Today, we’re not interested in a Band-Aid. We don’t want to give Hamas just a timeout to rest, regroup and recharge batteries, and then next week or in two weeks they start again to shoot rockets at Israel. Such a quick-fix solution is not something we’re interested in.” While refusing to discuss concrete steps the Israel Defense Forces plan to take in the coming hours and days, the official said that the government is discussing a ground invasion of Gaza “very seriously.”

Robert Naiman wants more US pressure on Israel to end the escalation:

'The United States government has many levers on Netanyahu. Of course the U.S. gives Netanyahu billions of U.S. taxpayers’ dollars a year, but while it would be politically difficult (to put it mildly) to cut off U.S. military aid – the Obama Administration could not bring itself to cut off military aid to the Egyptian military coup, even when clearly required to do so by U.S. law – the Administration has many other, more subtle levers on Netanyahu that it could deploy without giving AIPAC, the ADL and their allies a convenient target for counterattack. The Administration could raise the volume of its public criticism of Netanyahu. The Administration could let it be known that it might refrain from vetoing a U.N. resolution that condemned Netanyahu. The Administration could “leak” that it is deepening efforts to engage Hamas politically, then issue a non-denial denial when these efforts are criticized. The Administration knows full well that it has all these levers and more. All it lacks is sufficient public political pressure to use them to force an end to the killing."

Au contraire. Most of the political pressure will come from those defending this latest slaughter built on a knowingly false pretext. Know despair. [my italics]

(Photo: A Palestinian man sits next to the body of five-year-old Abdallah Abu Ghazal killed in an Israeli air strike, during his funeral at a mosque in Beit Lahiya, in the northern Gaza Strip, on July 10, 2014. By Ashraf Amra/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images.)"

***

"The Forward
How Politics and Lies Triggered an Unintended War in Gaza
Kidnap, Crackdown, Mutual Missteps and a Hail of Rockets

GETTY IMAGES

By J.J. Goldberg
Published July 10, 2014, issue of July 18, 2014.

In the flood of angry words that poured out of Israel and Gaza during a week of spiraling violence, few statements were more blunt, or more telling, than this throwaway line by the chief spokesman of the Israeli military, Brigadier General Moti Almoz, speaking July 8 on Army Radio’s morning show: “We have been instructed by the political echelon to hit Hamas hard.”

That’s unusual language for a military mouthpiece. Typically they spout lines like “We will take all necessary actions” or “The state of Israel will defend its citizens.” You don’t expect to hear: “This is the politicians’ idea. They’re making us do it.”

Admittedly, demurrals on government policy by Israel’s top defense brass, once virtually unthinkable, have become almost routine in the Netanyahu era. Usually, though, there’s some measure of subtlety or discretion. This particular interview was different. Where most disagreements involve policies that might eventually lead to some future unnecessary war, this one was about an unnecessary war they were now stumbling into.

Spokesmen don’t speak for themselves. Almoz was expressing a frustration that was building in the army command for nearly a month, since the June 12 kidnapping of three Israeli yeshiva boys. The crime set off a chain of events in which Israel gradually lost control of the situation, finally ending up on the brink of a war that nobody wanted — not the army, not the government, not even the enemy, Hamas.

The frustration had numerous causes. Once the boys’ disappearance was known, troops began a massive, 18-day search-and-rescue operation, entering thousands of homes, arresting and interrogating hundreds of individuals, racing against the clock. Only on July 1, after the boys’ bodies were found, did the truth come out: The government had known almost from the beginning that the boys were dead. It maintained the fiction that it hoped to find them alive as a pretext to dismantle Hamas’ West Bank operations.

The initial evidence was the recording of victim Gilad Shaer’s desperate cellphone call to Moked 100, Israel’s 911. When the tape reached the security services the next morning — neglected for hours by Moked 100 staff — the teen was heard whispering “They’ve kidnapped me” (“hatfu oti”) followed by shouts of “Heads down,” then gunfire, two groans, more shots, then singing in Arabic. That evening searchers found the kidnappers’ abandoned, torched Hyundai, with eight bullet holes and the boys’ DNA. There was no doubt.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu immediately placed a gag order on the deaths. Journalists who heard rumors were told the Shin Bet wanted the gag order to aid the search. For public consumption, the official word was that Israel was “acting on the assumption that they’re alive.” It was, simply put, a lie.

Moti Almoz, as army spokesman, was in charge of repeating the lie. True, others backed him up, including Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon. But when the truth came out on July 1, Almoz bore the brunt of public derision. Critics said his credibility was shot. He’d only been spokesman since October, after a long career as a blunt-talking field commander with no media experience. Others felt professional frustration. His was personal.

Nor was that the only fib. It was clear from the beginning that the kidnappers weren’t acting on orders from Hamas leadership in Gaza or Damascus. Hamas’ Hebron branch — more a crime family than a clandestine organization — had a history of acting without the leaders’ knowledge, sometimes against their interests. Yet Netanyahu repeatedly insisted Hamas was responsible for the crime and would pay for it.

This put him in a ticklish position. His rhetoric raised expectations that after demolishing Hamas in the West Bank he would proceed to Gaza. Hamas in Gaza began preparing for it. The Israeli right — settler leaders, hardliners in his own party — began demanding it.

But Netanyahu had no such intention. The last attack on Gaza, the eight-day Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012, targeted Hamas leaders and taught a sobering lesson. Hamas hadn’t fired a single rocket since, and had largely suppressed fire by smaller jihadi groups. Rocket firings, averaging 240 per month in 2007, dropped to five per month in 2013. Neither side had any desire to end the d├ętente. Besides, whatever might replace Hamas in Gaza could only be worse.

The kidnapping and crackdown upset the balance. In Israel, grief and anger over the boys’ disappearance grew steadily as the fabricated mystery stretched into a second and third week. Rallies and prayer meetings were held across the country and in Jewish communities around the world. The mothers were constantly on television. One addressed the United Nations in Geneva to plead for her son’s return. Jews everywhere were in anguish over the unceasing threat of barbaric Arab terror plaguing Israel.

This, too, was misleading. The last seven years have been the most tranquil in Israel’s history. Terror attacks are a fraction of the level during the nightmare intifada years — just six deaths in all of 2013. But few notice. The staged agony of the kidnap search created, probably unintentionally, what amounts to a mass, worldwide attack of post-traumatic stress flashback.

When the bodies were finally found, Israelis’ anger exploded into calls for revenge, street riots and, finally, murder.
Amid the rising tension, cabinet meetings in Jerusalem turned into shouting matches. Ministers on the right demanded the army reoccupy Gaza and destroy Hamas. Netanyahu replied, backed by the army and liberal ministers, that the response must be measured and careful. It was an unaccustomed and plainly uncomfortable role for him. He was caught between his pragmatic and ideological impulses.

In Gaza, leaders went underground. Rocket enforcement squads stopped functioning and jihadi rocket firing spiked. Terror squads began preparing to counterattack Israel through tunnels. One tunnel exploded on June 19 in an apparent work accident, killing five Hamas gunmen, convincing some in Gaza that the Israeli assault had begun while reinforcing Israeli fears that Hamas was plotting terror all along.

On June 29, an Israeli air attack on a rocket squad killed a Hamas operative. Hamas protested. The next day it unleashed a rocket barrage, its first since 2012. The cease-fire was over. Israel was forced to retaliate for the rockets with air raids. Hamas retaliated for the raids with more rockets. And so on. Finally Israel began calling up reserves on July 8 and preparing for what, as Moti Almoz told Army Radio, “the political echelon instructed.”
Later that morning, Israel’s internal security minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch told reporters that the “political echelon has given the army a free hand.” Almoz returned to Army Radio that afternoon and confirmed that the army had “received an absolutely free hand” to act.

And how far, the interviewer asked, will the army go? “To the extent that it’s up to the army,” Almoz said, “the army is determined to restore quiet.” Will simply restoring quiet be enough? “That’s not up to us,” he said. The army will continue the operation as long as it’s told.

The operation’s army code-name, incidentally, is “Protective Edge” in English, but the original Hebrew is more revealing: Tzuk Eitan, or “solid cliff.” That, the army seems to feel, is where Israel is headed.
Contact J.J. Goldberg at goldberg@forward.com

Read more: http://forward.com/articles/201764/how-politics-and-lies-triggered-an-unintended-war/?p=all#ixzz37BmKpZh8"


***

"Andrew Sullivan
Understanding The Permanence Of Greater Israel
JUL 14 2014 @ 12:39PM
Israeli air strikes on Gaza

My old sparring partner, Jeffrey Goldberg, has been busy pondering why Hamas has sent hundreds of rockets – with no fatalities – into Israel. He argues that it does this in order to kill Palestinians. It’s an arresting idea, and it helps perpetuate the notion that there are no depths to which these Islamist fanatics and war criminals will not sink.

It also helps distract from the fact that Hamas itself did not kill the three Israeli teens which was the casus belli for the latest Israeli swoop through the West Bank; that Netanyahu had called for generalized revenge in the wake of the killings, while concealing the fact that the teens had been murdered almost as soon as they had been captured; and that Israeli public hysteria, tapping into the Gilad-like trauma of captivity, then began to spawn increasingly ugly, sectarian and racist acts of revenge and brutality. It also side-steps the rather awful fact that this nihilist and futile war crime is all that Hamas has really got left.

Yes, they conceal armaments and rockets and weapons in civilian areas – and that undoubtedly increases civilian deaths. But what alternative do they have exactly, if they wish to have any military capacity at all? Should they build clearly demarcated camps and barracks and munitions stores, where the IDF could just destroy them at will? As for the argument that no democratic society could tolerate terrorist attacks without responding with this kind of disproportionate force, what about the country I grew up in, where pubs and department stores in the mainland were blown up, where the prime minister and her entire cabinet were bombed and some killed in a hotel? I don’t recall aerial bombing of Catholic areas in Belfast, do you? Or fatality numbers approaching 200 – 0? Democratic countries are marked by this kind of restraint – not by calls for revenge and bombardment of a densely populated urban area, where civilian casualties, even with the best precision targeting and warnings, are inevitable.

And there is, for all the talk of aggression on both sides, no serious equivalence in capabilities between Hamas and the IDF. The IDF has the firepower to level Gaza to the ground if it really wants to. Hamas, if it’s lucky, might get a rocket near a town or city. I suppose Israel’s reluctance just to raze Gaza for good and all is why John McCain marveled that in a war where one side has had more than 170 fatalities, 1,200 casualties, 80 percent of whom are civilians, and the other side has no fatalities and a handful of injuries, Israel has somehow practiced restraint. One wonders what no restraint would mean.

And look at the image above. Part of our skewed perspective is revealed by it. Imagine for a second that Hamas had leveled a synagogue. Can you imagine what Israel would feel justified in doing as a response? Or imagine if a Jewish extended family of 18 had been massacred by Hamas, including children? Would we not be in a major international crisis? At some point the lightness with which we treat Palestinian suffering compared with Jewish suffering needs to be addressed as an urgent moral matter. The United States is committed to human rights, not rights scaled to one’s religious heritage or race.

But this morning, as if to balance Hamas’s blame for every single death in the conflict, Goldblog feels the need to chide the Israeli prime minister for his “mistake” in having utter contempt for any two-state solution. “Mistake” is an interesting word to use.

It implies a relatively minor slip-up, a miscalculation, a foolish divergence from sanity. But it is perfectly clear to anyone not always finding excuses for the Israeli government that Netanyahu wasn’t making a mistake. He was simply reiterating his longstanding view that Israel will never, ever allow a sovereign Palestinian state to co-exist as a neighbor. And unless you understand that, nothing he has done since taking office makes any sense at all. Everything he has said and done presupposes permanent Greater Israel. And he is not some outlier. Israel’s entire political center of gravity is now firmly where Netanyahu is. The rank failure of the peace process simply underlines this fact. As do half a million Jewish settlers and religious fanatics on the West Bank. Which means that US policy is completely incoherent. Since the whole idea of a two-state solution is as dead as the infamous parrot, why on earth are Americans still pursuing it?

I think because many want Israel to be other than what it plainly is. They understand that this project of a bi-national state with Jim Crow segregation and disenfranchisement is a horrible fate. Jeffrey is as eloquent on this today as he has ever been:

"If Netanyahu has convinced himself that a Palestinian state is an impossibility, then he has no choice but to accept the idea that the status quo eventually brings him to binationalism, either in its Jim Crow form—Palestinians absorbed into Israel, except without full voting rights—or its end-of-Israel-as-a-Jewish-state form, in which the two warring populations, Jewish and Arab, are combined into a single political entity, with chaos to predictably ensue."

But this is clearly the reality. The Obama administration was the last hope for some kind of agreement, and the Israelis have told the president to go fuck himself on so many occasions the very thought of accommodation is preposterous. With the acceleration of the settlements, and the ever-rising racism and religious fundamentalism in Israel itself, this is what Israel now is. And what it will always be. Anyone still assuming that a two-state solution is actually in the minds of the leaders of Israel is therefore whistling in the wind. One wonders simply how many Palestinians have to die and how much largess we must keep sending to Israel before that whistling eventually stops.

A reader adds:

"This is what really put Israel’s occupation and settlement of the West Bank in perspective for me: Israel has possessed the West Bank for almost precisely the same proportion of its national existence as the United States has possessed Texas and California. About seven-tenths. That is, Israel has occupied the West Bank for 71 percent of the time since national independence in 1948; the United States has possessed Texas and California for 69 percent of the time since national independence in 1776.

Imagine an American claiming that possession of Texas and California was not in some way fundamental to the character of the nation. Imagine if American border politics was predicated on the claim that possession of Texas and California was temporary and both would someday be returned to Mexican sovereignty. Preposterous! A United States without Texas and California would not be the United States anymore. Though it might keep its name, it would be a fundamentally different nation. Even more, the United States would first have to become an existentially different nation before it would even consider peaceably permitting California and Texas to leave the union.

Just so with Israel. Despite protestations otherwise, possession of the West Bank has become a fundamental and existential part of the character of Israeli nationhood. Possession of the West Bank is not temporary, it is not contingent, and it is not an exception to the general rule of the character of Israeli nationhood. Occupation and settlement are as central to the Israeli nation, its politics and culture, as burritos, Hollywood, and Sunbelt conservatism are to American politics, culture, and national identity."

And this was the vision of many of the Jewish state’s founders. To see what is in front of one’s nose …

(Photo: A Palestinian boy inspects the Al-Noor Mosque destroyed in air attacks staged by Israel army within the scope of “Operation Protective Edge” on July 14, 2014 in Deir Al-Balah district of Gaza City, Gaza. By Belal Khaled/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images.)