Noam Chomsky: What the American Media Won’t Tell You About Israel December 4, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in History, Israel, Gaza & Middle East, Media.
Tags: abba eban, gaza, golda meir, hamas, history, israel, Media, moshe dayan, Noam Chomsky, Palestine, roger hollander
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The Israeli air force struck a UN building during the assault on Gaza in 2008-09. Photo Credit: ISM Palestine/Wikimedia Commons
The old man’s message provides the proper context for the latest episode in the savage punishment of Gaza. The crimes trace back to 1948, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled from their homes in terror or were expelled to Gaza by conquering Israeli forces, who continued to truck Palestinians over the border for years after the official cease-fire.
The punishment took new forms when Israel conquered Gaza in 1967. From recent Israeli scholarship (primarily Avi Raz’s “The Bride and the Dowry: Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinians in the Aftermath of the June 1967 War”), we learn that the government’s goal was to drive the refugees into the Sinai Peninsula – and, if feasible, the rest of the population too.
Expulsions from Gaza were carried out under the direct orders of Gen. Yeshayahu Gavish, commander of the Israel Defense Forces Southern Command. Expulsions from the West Bank were far more extreme, and Israel resorted to devious means to prevent the return of those expelled, in direct violation of U.N. Security Council orders.
The reasons were made clear in internal discussions immediately after the war. Golda Meir, later prime minister, informed her Labor Party colleagues that Israel should keep the Gaza Strip while “getting rid of its Arabs.” Defense Minister Moshe Dayan and others agreed.
Prime Minister Levi Eshkol explained that those expelled could not be allowed to return because “we cannot increase the Arab population in Israel” – referring to the newly occupied territories, already considered part of Israel.
In accord with this conception, all of Israel’s maps were changed, expunging the Green Line (the internationally recognized borders) – though publication of the maps was delayed to permit Abba Eban, an Israeli ambassador to the U.N., to attain what he called a “favorable impasse” at the General Assembly by concealing Israel’s intentions.
The goals of expulsion may remain alive today, and might be a factor in contributing to Egypt’s reluctance to open the border to free passage of people and goods barred by the U.S.-backed Israeli siege.
The current upsurge of U.S.-Israeli violence dates to January 2006, when Palestinians voted “the wrong way” in the first free election in the Arab world.
Israel and the U.S. reacted at once with harsh punishment of the miscreants, and preparation of a military coup to overthrow the elected government – the routine procedure. The punishment was radically intensified in 2007, when the coup attempt was beaten back and the elected Hamas government established full control over Gaza.
Ignoring immediate offers from Hamas for a truce after the 2006 election, Israel launched attacks that killed 660 Palestinians in 2006, most of whom were civilians (a third were minors). According to U.N. reports, 2,879 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire from April 2006 through July 2012, along with several dozen Israelis killed by fire from Gaza.
A short-lived truce in 2008 was honored by Hamas until Israel broke it in November. Ignoring further truce offers, Israel launched the murderous Cast Lead operation in December.
So matters have continued, while the U.S. and Israel also continue to reject Hamas calls for a long-term truce and a political settlement for a two-state solution in accord with the international consensus that the U.S. has blocked since 1976 when the U.S. vetoed a Security Council resolution to this effect, brought by the major Arab states.
This week, Washington devoted every effort to blocking a Palestinian initiative to upgrade its status at the U.N. but failed, in virtual international isolation as usual. The reasons were revealing: Palestine might approach the International Criminal Court about Israel’s U.S.-backed crimes.
One element of the unremitting torture of Gaza is Israel’s “buffer zone” within Gaza, from which Palestinians are barred entry to almost half of Gaza’s limited arable land.
From January 2012 to the launching of Israel’s latest killing spree on Nov. 14, Operation Pillar of Defense, one Israeli was killed by fire from Gaza while 78 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire.
The full story is naturally more complex, and uglier.
The first act of Operation Pillar of Defense was to murder Ahmed Jabari. Aluf Benn, editor of the newspaper Haaretz, describes him as Israel’s “subcontractor” and “border guard” in Gaza, who enforced relative quiet there for more than five years.
The pretext for the assassination was that during these five years Jabari had been creating a Hamas military force, with missiles from Iran. A more credible reason was provided by Israeli peace activist Gershon Baskin, who had been involved in direct negotiations with Jabari for years, including plans for the eventual release of the captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
Baskin reports that hours before he was assassinated, Jabari “received the draft of a permanent truce agreement with Israel, which included mechanisms for maintaining the cease-fire in the case of a flare-up between Israel and the factions in the Gaza Strip.”
A truce was then in place, called by Hamas on Nov. 12. Israel apparently exploited the truce, Reuters reports, directing attention to the Syrian border in the hope that Hamas leaders would relax their guard and be easier to assassinate.
Throughout these years, Gaza has been kept on a level of bare survival, imprisoned by land, sea and air. On the eve of the latest attack, the U.N. reported that 40 percent of essential drugs and more than half of essential medical items were out of stock.
In November one of the first in a series of hideous photos sent from Gaza showed a doctor holding the charred corpse of a murdered child. That one had a personal resonance. The doctor is the director and head of surgery at Khan Yunis hospital, which I had visited a few weeks earlier.
In writing about the trip I reported his passionate appeal for desperately needed medicine and surgical equipment. These are among the crimes of the U.S.-Israeli siege, and of Egyptian complicity.
The casualty rates from the November episode were about average: more than 160 Palestinian dead, including many children, and six Israelis.
Among the dead were three journalists. The official Israeli justification was that “The targets are people who have relevance to terror activity.” Reporting the “execution” in The New York Times, the reporter David Carr observed that “it has come to this: Killing members of the news media can be justified by a phrase as amorphous as ‘relevance to terror activity.’ ”
The massive destruction was all in Gaza. Israel used advanced U.S. military equipment and relied on U.S. diplomatic support, including the usual U.S. intervention efforts to block a Security Council call for a cease-fire.
With each such exploit, Israel’s global image erodes. The photos and videos of terror and devastation, and the character of the conflict, leave few remaining shreds of credibility to the self-declared “most moral army in the world,” at least among people whose eyes are open.
The pretexts for the assault were also the usual ones. We can put aside the predictable declarations of the perpetrators in Israel and Washington. But even decent people ask what Israel should do when attacked by a barrage of missiles. It’s a fair question, and there are straightforward answers.
One response would be to observe international law, which allows the use of force without Security Council authorization in exactly one case: in self-defense after informing the Security Council of an armed attack, until the Council acts, in accord with the U.N. Charter, Article 51.
Israel is well familiar with that Charter provision, which it invoked at the outbreak of the June 1967 war. But, of course, Israel’s appeal went nowhere when it was quickly ascertained that Israel had launched the attack. Israel did not follow this course in November, knowing what would be revealed in a Security Council debate.
Another narrow response would be to agree to a truce, as appeared quite possible before the operation was launched on Nov. 14.
There are more far-reaching responses. By coincidence, one is discussed in the current issue of the journal National Interest. Asia scholars Raffaello Pantucci and Alexandros Petersen describe China’s reaction after rioting in western Xinjiang province, “in which mobs of Uighurs marched around the city beating hapless Han (Chinese) to death.”
Chinese president Hu Jintao quickly flew to the province to take charge; senior leaders in the security establishment were fired; and a wide range of development projects were undertaken to address underlying causes of the unrest.
In Gaza, too, a civilized reaction is possible. The U.S. and Israel could end the merciless, unremitting assault, open the borders and provide for reconstruction – and if it were imaginable, reparations for decades of violence and repression.
The cease-fire agreement stated that the measures to implement the end of the siege and the targeting of residents in border areas “shall be dealt with after 24 hours from the start of the cease-fire.”
There is no sign of steps in this direction. Nor is there any indication of a U.S.-Israeli willingness to rescind their separation of Gaza from the West Bank in violation of the Oslo Accords, to end the illegal settlement and development programs in the West Bank that are designed to undermine a political settlement, or in any other way to abandon the rejectionism of the past decades.
Someday, and it must be soon, the world will respond to the plea issued by the distinguished Gazan human-rights lawyer Raji Sourani while the bombs were once again raining down on defenseless civilians in Gaza: “We demand justice and accountability. We dream of a normal life, in freedom and dignity.”
GAZA CEASEFIRE: PALESTINE HOLDS STRONG IN THE FACE OF U.S.-BACKED ISRAELI TERROR CAMPAIGN November 21, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Genocide, Israel, Gaza & Middle East.
Tags: gasa massacre, gaza, gaza blockade, hamas, hillary clinton, israel, israel military, netanyahu, Palestine, palestinian casualties, richard becker, roger hollander
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|An Egyptian boy leads protesters in chanting slogans against the Israeli invasion of Gaza. Washington feared uprisings in Egypt, Jordan and other countries in the region.|
By Richard Becker
A ceasefire agreement between the Hamas-led Palestinian government in Gaza and Israel was announced today, Nov. 21, in Cairo by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohammed Kamel Amr.
Clinton made an emergency trip to the Middle East with the aim of brokering a truce, a clear sign of the Obama administration’s fears that the continuation of the brutal Israeli assault on Gaza was endangering U.S. imperialist interests in the region.
|Read Richard Becker’s important book ‘Palestine, Israel and the U.S. Empire.’|
Since Israel’s latest intense bombing campaign began last week, Clinton, President Obama, and Republican and Democratic congressional leaders have repeatedly expressed all-out support for the Israeli side, while pointedly ignoring far higher Palestinian casualties.
The House of Representatives “passed” a resolution expressing its “unwavering commitment” to Israel. House Resolution 813 was introduced at 12:04 p.m. on Nov. 16, and declared adopted at 12:05 p.m. the same day!
Since Nov. 14, at least 146 Palestinians have been killed, more than 1,000 wounded, and much of Gaza’s infrastructure and public facilities destroyed by a coordinated air, sea and land-based bombardment. On the Israeli side, there have been five killed and more than 100 wounded.
To hear U.S. officials talk, you would think it was the other way around. But despite their obscenely pro-Israel rhetoric, it was also clear that Washington was fearful that a new Israeli ground invasion of Gaza might provoke rebellions in Egypt, Jordan and other neighboring Arab countries, and possibly lead to a wider war.
Despite the death and destruction inflicted by Israel, and despite the fact that it has no air force, navy, armored units or anti-aircraft defenses, the Palestinian forces have not been defeated. Virtually all news reports from inside Gaza reflect a strong determination to resist among the population.
The terms of the temporary agreement reportedly call for a halt to the fighting, an end to Israeli targeted assassinations of Palestinian leaders, and undefined steps to lift the Israeli blockade that has inflicted massive suffering on the 1.6 million Palestinians in Gaza.
Lifting the blockade is a critical issue for the people of Gaza. Whether there will be any real movement toward ending the blockade remains in doubt, as does the durability of the truce as a whole.
ISRAEL’S BLOCKADE: USING FOOD AS A WEAPON
While Israel withdrew its settlers and bases from Gaza in 2005, it has kept the area surrounded and blockaded ever since. As result, half of all school children are malnourished and two-thirds of infants are anemic. Eighty percent of Gaza’s population are refugees — those driven out of other parts of Palestine by the Zionist military forces in 1948 and their descendants.
After the Hamas party won the January 2006 Palestinian parliamentary election, Israel imposed a complete blockade on Gaza, with the support of the United States, European Union and the client government of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt. That the aim of the blockade was to make the people of Gaza suffer was highlighted by an article in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz the following month. It reported on a meeting of top Israeli government officials where the top advisor to then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Dov Weisglass, said: “It’s like an appointment with a dietician. The Palestinians will get a lot thinner but won’t die.” According to the Haaretz report, the assembled officials “rolled with laughter,” at Weislglass’s grotesque “joke.”
THE MYTH OF ISRAEL AS VICTIM
In the 1960s, the Black Panther Party had a saying about racist cops justifying their routine killing and brutalizing of Black people by “masquerading as the victim of an unprovoked attack.” It is a description that perfectly fits Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his predecessors going back to the creation of the Israeli state in 1948.
In the U.S. corporate media, Israel is invariably depicted as the “victim.” Its brutal and cowardly military assaults are justified as “retaliation,” inferring that Israel’s actions are “self-defense.” Over and over, since the early 1950s, successive Israeli governments have staged provocations to prompt responses that could then be used to justify massive attacks while presenting Israel as the “victim of an unprovoked attack.” The aim has generally been to gain new territory and/or crush any state or movement perceived as a threat to Israeli military domination.
This familiar pattern was repeated in November 2008. The murder of five Palestinian civilians on the day after the 2008 U.S. election broke a ceasefire and set in motion a train of events that led to an all-out assault on Gaza by the Israeli military. A vast array of weaponry, including white phosphorous and depleted uranium munitions, was unleashed on a trapped population. More than 1,400 Palestinians were killed, while Israeli forces had 13 killed -– a ratio of more than 100 to 1.
This time, the fatal shooting of a mentally disabled young man on Nov. 5 and a 12-year-old boy on Nov. 9, both killed by the Israeli army inside Gaza, set off the new round of fighting. Then, on Nov. 14, Israel assassinated a top Hamas leader, Ahmed Al-Jaabari, the very same day that he had been presented with a proposal for a long-term ceasefire by a joint Israeli-Egyptian commission.
These provocations were no doubt approved at the highest level of the Israeli government. The extreme right-wing Netanyahu-Lieberman government desired a new conflict both to further devastate the Palestinian infrastructure in Gaza and to advance their political prospects in the January 2013 Israeli election. That hundreds of Palestinians and some Israelis as well would die in order to achieve these objectives was incidental to the Israeli leaders.
Whether the present ceasefire holds and for how long can’t be known at this point. The only real long-term solution to the crisis is an to end to colonial occupation and real self-determination for the Palestinian people, including the right to return to their homeland.
Gaza crisis: Grandfather in mourning after family of 11 killed in Israeli airstrike on their home November 20, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Genocide, Israel, Gaza & Middle East.
Tags: gaza, gaza blockade, gaza massacre, hamas, israeli, israeli military, israeli missile, jamal dalou, mitch potter, netanyahu, roger hollander
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Roger’s note: According to the Israeli government, a nine month old baby who allows his fellow Gazans to vote for Hamas deserves to die. And, of course, as President Obama so eloquently stated, Israel has the right to defend itself from a virtually hopeless and beseiged people who have about 1% of the military resources that Israel does.
Patriarch of a family that is no longer, Dalou, 50, stared into the pancaked rubble that a day earlier was his three-storey home, his face a mask of alternating shock, sorrow and stunned defiance.
None of it had really sunk in yet, even as the Palestinian cause had hoisted him instantly from obscure market vendor to become the totem of Gaza’s newest misery. The chaotic funeral procession was over, and with it, Dalou’s last glimpse of his wife Tahani, his sister Suheila, his son Mohammed, and four grandkids, including his 9-month-old namesake, Jamal.
Eleven family members in all, with one body still believed trapped under the three-metre-high mound of broken concrete and twisted steel. And parts of the others, one neighbour whispered quietly in an aside to the Toronto Star.
All from a single Sunday afternoon missile strike the Israel Defense Forces said was meant for a local militant commander responsible for 200 to 300 rockets fired from Gaza in recent days. Faced with widening outrage a day later, the IDF said it was “still looking into” what happened but characterized the civilian casualties as an accident.
The two sides offered contradictory narratives as to whether any such commander even lives in these streets of Gaza City’s North Rimal neighbourhood.
Dalou readily acknowledged his son’s ties to Gaza’s Hamas-controlled government. But he and his neighbours insisted the 28-year-old served simply as a local police officer and not a member of the militant Qassam brigades.
The question alone prompted contempt from Dalou, as he and his three surviving sons received condolences under a mourning tent.
“Does a nine-month-old baby feeding at his mother’s breast have a gun in his hand?” Dalou said. “This area is empty of rockets, we have nothing.
“Israel is the stronger party — the sky, the sea, the land, everything is in their hands. And now they have destroyed my family. All the women, all the children. Gone.”
Thousands joined in the frenzied funeral procession, thrusting fists in the air in a codified ritual of martyrdom so familiar to Gaza. A Hamas minister spoke of vengeance, telling mourners: “This blood which was provided by your family will not go in vain. The rights of these children, these flowers, is on our neck.”
What was different this time was the presence of an Egyptian delegation, which later visited the Dalou mourning tent, offering bear-hugs for the patriarch and a blistering message from the neighbouring Arab Spring, intended for global consumption.
“We come here from the Muslim Brotherhood, from the salafists, from the liberals — all the parties of the Egyptian revolution — to say we are with you,” Egyptian activist Safuat Hijazi told the mourners.
“Down, down with Israel. We say, generation after generation, destroy Tel Aviv. And we ask, where are the others — the ones living in the palaces? The Gulf kings, the emirs with money filling up American banks. We want you to stand with us.”
As the six-day death toll rose to more than 100 Palestinians and three Israelis, Egyptian mediators working toward a negotiated ceasefire in Cairo signalled that a breakthrough may be in sight.
A survey by Israeli newspaper Haaretz showed that while 84 per cent of Israelis support an air campaign aimed at suppressing rockets from Gaza, only 30 per cent favour a ground invasion. That, coupled with the fact that the country is vectoring toward new elections in January, appeared to leave at least some space for compromise on the Israeli side.
“We prefer the diplomatic solution if it’s possible. If not we can escalate,” an Israeli official told the Associated Press. But Israel is demanding “international guarantees” that Hamas will not simply rearm or use the Egyptian Sinai next door to renew attacks in the coming months.
Khaled Meshal, the exiled Hamas leader, maintained a firm stance in Cairo, telling reporters that Israel must satisfy the group’s demands for an end to the blockade of Gaza if it expects the rocket barrage to end.
“We don’t accept Israeli conditions because it is the aggressor,” Meshal said. “We want a ceasefire along with meeting our demands.”
With the diplomatic window still ajar, the tempo of violence eased slightly Monday. But as night fell over Gaza a series of concussion explosions resumed.
Israeli officials, meanwhile, said at least 100 rockets were fired toward Israel during the day, bringing to more than 1,000 the number fired since Wednesday.
Some 35,000 Israeli army regulars and reservists, meanwhile, remain mobilized on the edge of the narrow Gaza Strip, awaiting orders to move in or stand down. And inside Gaza itself, the broken bones of bombarded Hamas government infrastructure, from police stations to political offices and even the Gaza City football stadium, suggest Israel may be near to exhausting its list of aerial targets.
For Jamal Dalou, who still has barely begun to process his loss, the idea of ceasefire sparked only an exhausted shrug.
“We want to work to relax, to live our lives. Not to come home and see our kids buried. But I still have God. That’s all I can say.”
Gilad Sharon, Son Of Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Writes Op-Ed: ‘We Need To Flatten Entire Neighborhoods In Gaza’ November 19, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Genocide, Israel, Gaza & Middle East.
Tags: adam goldberg, foreign policy, gaza, gaza massacre, genocide, gilad sharon, hamas, israel, israeli massacre, israeli military, netanyahu, roger hollander
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Roger’s note: I’ll try not to post more than once a day on the Israeli government’s genocidal attack on Gaza. Go to my source for this, and read the comments: http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2012/11/18-2 . And Americans should keep in mind that they are financing this slaughter of civilian men, women and children.
Published on Sunday, November 18, 2012 by Huffington Post
Gilad Sharon, son of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, wrote an op-ed on Sunday calling for even more aggressive Israeli strikes in Gaza.
Destruction in Gaza. (Photo: REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah) “We need to flatten entire neighborhoods in Gaza. Flatten all of Gaza,” states Sharon in The Jerusalem Post.
The violence between Israel and Hamas this week has reportedly claimed the lives of 73 Palestinians, including 37 civilians, as well as 3 Israeli civilians. Current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that “the Israeli military is prepared to significantly expand the operation.”
Sharon writes in his op-ed that “the residents of Gaza are not innocent, they elected Hamas. The Gazans aren’t hostages; they chose this freely, and must live with the consequences.” After saying that Israel needs to “flatten all of Gaza,” he goes on to say, “The Americans didn’t stop with Hiroshima – the Japanese weren’t surrendering fast enough, so they hit Nagasaki, too.”
He concludes his defense of Israel’s actions with a hawkish message:
There is no middle path here – either the Gazans and their infrastructure are made to pay the price, or we reoccupy the entire Gaza Strip. Otherwise there will be no decisive victory. And we’re running out of time – we must achieve victory quickly. The Netanyahu government is on a short international leash. Soon the pressure will start – and a million civilians can’t live under fire for long. This needs to end quickly – with a bang, not a whimper.
A bio on the website for HarperCollins Publishers describes Sharon as follows:
Gilad Sharon is the youngest of former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon’s sons. Gilad holds a master’s degree in economics and writes a column for the prominent Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth. A major in the Israel Defense Force reserves, he currently manages his family’s farm in Israel.
Sharon isn’t alone in his militant tone. Israel’s Deputy Prime Minister Eli Yishai is reported by The Yeshiva World News to have said, “We must blow Gaza back to the Middle Ages, destroying all the infrastructure including roads and water.” Haaretz also reports that Yishai stated, “The goal of the operation is to send Gaza back to the Middle Ages.”
President Barack Obama said on Sunday that the United States is “fully supportive of Israel’s right to defend itself.”
The violent conflict continued on Sunday as Palestinian militants fired more than 100 rockets into Israel, and one of Israel’s missile strikes killed at least 11 civilians.
Tags: gaza, gaza blockade, gaza flotilla, glenn greenwald, hamas, hillary clinton, humanitarian aid, idf, irish government, israel, israel commandos, israeli government, joshua trevino, journalists, mavi marmara, Media, protest, roger hollander
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A co-founder of the right-wing blog RedState (and former Bush speechwriter) created a mini-controversy over the weekend when he issued a sociopathic endorsement of Israel’s possible shooting of his fellow unarmed citizens on a flotilla currently sailing to Gaza; that flotilla is trying to deliver humanitarian supplies to Gazans and protest the ongoing Israeli blockade:
When asked by Israeli-American journalist Joseph Dana — who is covering the flotilla for The Nation — whether that sentiment applies to the shooting of journalists on board the ships, this was the reply:
Condemnation of this outburst was pervasive but also easy: cheering for a foreign army to shoot unarmed protesters — one’s fellow citizens — is self-evidently warped; that this came from a right-wing war-cheerleader-from-a-safe-distance with endless pretenses to uber-patriotism just added a layer of irony (Dear Foreign Nation: go ahead and shoot and kill Americans).
But over the weekend, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also gave her views on the flotilla, and while her rhetoric was somewhat more restrained than that quoted above, she also seemed to endorse possible violence by this foreign nation against her own country’s peacefully protesting citizens:
Well, we do not believe that the flotilla is a necessary or useful effort to try to assist the people of Gaza. Just this week, the Israeli Government approved a significant commitment to housing in Gaza. There will be construction materials entering Gaza and we think that it’s not helpful for there to be flotillas that try to provoke actions by entering into Israeli waters and creating a situation in which the Israelis have the right to defend themselves.
Though Clinton’s language was draped with the subtleties of diplomatese, there is little doubt that she, too, is justifying a potential attack by a foreign government on unarmed American protesters (ironically, Clinton’s remarks came at the same Press Conference where she impugned the patriotism of others — namely, critics of the Libya War — by branding them as “on Gadaffi’s side”).
The perception that Clinton endorsed possible Israeli violence against Americans is bolstered by the conduct of the U.S. Government in the wake of Israel’s attack on the prior Gaza flotilla, when Israel killed 9 people, including the unarmed 19-year-old American citizen (and Turkish citizen) Furkan Dogan. While most governments instinctively condemn the killing of their own unarmed citizens by foreign armies — Turkey was furious at Israel for months and world leaders in virtual consensus harshly condemned the Israeli aggression — the Obama administration almost immediately took Israel’s side, culminating with Joe Biden’s disgusting rhetorical question, posed before the American teenager was even buried: “what’s the big deal here”?
Worse, the Clinton State Department is now explicitly threatening Americans who participate in the flotilla with criminal prosecution (h/t Jason Ditz):
The United States on Friday warned activists against plans to send a new aid flotilla to challenge Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip, saying it would be irresponsible and dangerous. . . . “We underscore that delivering or attempting or conspiring to deliver material support or other resources to or for the benefit of a designated foreign terrorist organization, such as Hamas, could violate U.S. civil and criminal statutes and could lead to fines and incarceration,” [State Department Spokesperson Victoria] Nuland said.
In contrast to the Israel-must-always-be-defended mindset of U.S. political officials, compare how other governments view the possible shooting of their citizens by a foreign country:
As the second “Gaza Freedom Flotilla” gets ready to sail this week, Irish Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore urged Israel to avoid any repeat of last year’s actions against the convoy, Irish media reported Sunday.
“Israel must exercise all possible restraint and avoid any use of military force if attempting to uphold their naval blockade,” Gilmore, who also holds the post of trade minister, said after meeting with Israeli Ambassador to Dublin Boaz Moda.
“In particular, I would expect that any interception of ships is conducted in a peaceful manner and does not endanger the safety of our citizens or other participants,” he added, reiterating the country’s position that the Gaza blockade was “unjust and counterproductive’” and that the violence that marked last year’s flotilla venture was “completely unacceptable and unjustified.”
That type of uncontroversial statement — you shouldn’t shoot our unarmed citizens — is inconceivable when it comes to the U.S. and Israel. So devoted is the U.S. Government to defending the actions of Israel’s that it will even preemptively justify violent attacks on its own citizens, threaten Americans protesting Israel’s policies with prosecution for aiding Terrorism, and isolate itself from the world to defend them.
Meanwhile, like the U.S., Israel is issuing its own menacing threats. Yesterday, Israel announced that any journalists who are on the flotilla merely to cover it will be subject to a 10-year-ban from the country and the confiscation of their equipment. As noted this morning by the New York Times — one of whose reporters intends (or at least intended) to be on the flotilla — this is but the latest Israeli attack on press freedoms as a means of suppressing reports and examination of their conduct:
Two and a half years ago, when Israel invaded Gaza to stop Hamas from shooting rockets at Israeli communities — about 8,000 had been fired — the Israeli military barred reporters from entering Gaza to report on the war.
There was no public outcry, but the Foreign Press Association took the case to the Israeli Supreme Court, which ruled that the army had acted improperly. It ordered the army to admit a small groups of reporters. Commanders kept saying that it was unsafe, and it was not until the last day of the war that the foreign journalists were allowed to enter.
Israel did the same thing in the wake of the last flotilla attack, confiscating all video and other evidence from passengers and detaining on-board journalists, all to prevent the world from learning what it really did, ensuring that the heavily edited propaganda video the IDF produced and released to the world could not be critically examined. It’s strange that a country which incessantly claims that it acted properly is so fixated on suppressing journalistic freedoms and reports about what it did. And one thing is certain: if Israel does make good on its threats to violently attack protesting passengers and/or punish journalists for covering the event, the U.S. — even as it lectures the world on the evils of identical behavior — will have nothing but praise to offer.
UPDATE: Israel now appears to be backing away from its threat to impose a 10-year ban on journalists, instead announcing it will “find a formula” to determine the proper sanction (h/t sysprog). What’s most remarkable about all of this is that this flotilla (like the last one) has no intention of entering Israeli waters, nor is it delivering anything other than basic humanitarian supplies. It is, manifestly, a theatrical, non-threatening form of peaceful protest against the blockade. Yet Israeli and U.S. officials continue to bloviate about “self-defense,” “entering into Israeli waters,” and criminally aiding Hamas; all of that is nothing more than a by-product of the notion that they own the world, and anyone who fails to honor that claim is either a Terrorist-sympathizer or even a Terrorist.
Tags: audacity of hope, collective punishment, dr. king, gaza, gaza blockade, gaza flotilla, gaza freedom, gaza strip, geneva convention, hamas, israel, israeli military, mavi marmara, medea benjamin, mlk, Palestine, palestinian refugees, Palestinians, roger hollander
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“I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsam and jetsam in the river of life, unable to influence the unfolding events which surround him,” said Dr. Martin Luther King as he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. These words will guide me and other passengers aboard the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, a fleet of nine boats scheduled to set sail for Gaza on June 25 from various Mediterranean ports. While the Israelis try to label us provocateurs, terrorists and Hamas supporters, we are simply nonviolent advocates following the teachings of Dr. King. We refuse to sit at the docks of history and watch the people of Gaza suffer.
The U.S. boat, which will carry 50 Americans, is called The Audacity of Hope. It is named after Obama’s bestselling political autobiography in which he lauds our collective audacity of striving to become a better nation. But I prefer to think of our boat as part of Dr. King’s legacy. He, too, talked about audacity, about his audacious faith in the future. “I refuse to accept the idea that the ‘isness’ of man’s present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal ‘oughtness’ that forever confronts him,” Dr. King said.
Our intrepid group has its moral compass aimed at the way things ought to be. Our cargo is not humanitarian aid, as some of the other ships are carrying, but thousands of letters from the U.S. people, letters of compassion, solidarity and hope written to people living in the Gaza Strip. We travel with what Dr. King called “unarmed truth and unconditional love.”
We focus on Gaza because since 2007 the Israeli government has enforced a crippling blockade on its 1.5 million residents. Inflicting collective punishment on civilians is morally wrong and is a gross violation of international humanitarian law under Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Yet the world’s democracies do nothing to stop Israel’s extraordinarily cruel behavior, and in fact did nothing for 22 days in 2009 while the Israel military unleashed a tidal wave of carnage that left 1,400 Palestinians dead. They continue to sit by while the people of Gaza remain isolated and unable to secure access to building materials and basic living supplies, and while Israeli soldiers shoot at Gaza’s farmers trying to till their land along the border and attack fisherman trying to make a living in waters off their shore. And in the case of the United States, our government is not simply sitting by, but supporting the Israeli military with $3 billion in military aid a year.
The Palestinians’ plea for help has been ignored by world governments, but it has pricked the conscience of civil society. Caravans have crisscrossed Europe and Africa, carrying tons of aid. Boats have braved Israeli war ships and tried to dock in Gaza’s ports. Over 1,000 people joined the Gaza Freedom March, an attempt to break the siege that was brutally stopped by Egyptian police during the rule of Hosni Mubarak.
In May, 2010, seven ships and nearly 700 passengers carrying humanitarian aid tried to breach Israel’s naval blockade. The Israeli military violently intercepted the ships, killing nine passengers aboard the Turkish boat, including a 19-year-old American citizen. The rest of passengers were roughed up, arrested, thrown in Israeli prisons, and deported.
For a brief moment, this tragedy in international waters focused the world spotlight on Gaza. Israel said it would ease the draconian siege, allowing more goods to enter the beleaguered strip. But just this month, the health authorities in Gaza proclaimed a state of emergency due to an acute shortage of vital medicines and also this month, a report from the UN Agency for Palestinian Refugees, UNRWA, found unemployment in Gaza at a staggering 45.2 percent, among the highest in the world. UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness said the number of abject poor living on just over one dollar a day has tripled to 300,000 since the blockade was imposed in 2007. “It is hard to understand the logic of a man-made policy which deliberately impoverishes so many and condemns hundreds of thousands of potentially productive people to a life of destitution,” Gunness said.
Hopes inside Gaza were buoyed by the Egyptian revolution. A groundswell of grassroots solidarity by Egyptians pushed the new government to announce that it would open its border with Gaza. But that promise remains elusive, asthousands are still blocked from crossing, and all imports and exports must still pass through the Israeli side. Israel remains the warden for the world’s largest open-air prison. It continues to decide what goods can enter, what exports can come out, and which people can get exit visas. It continues to control Gaza’s electricity, water supply, airspace and access to the Mediterranean.
Although the Israelis know that our boats will not carry arms and we, the passengers, are committed to nonviolence, they have nonetheless vowed to stop us with a dizzying array of force—water cannons, commandos, border police, snipers, and attack dogs from the military’s canine unit.
Equally astonishing is the U.S. government’s reaction. Instead of demanding safe passage for unarmed U.S. citizens participating in what passenger and writer Alice Walker calls the Freedom Ride of our era,” the State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner has labeled our actions “irresponsible and provocative” and the U.S. government has joined Israel in strong-arming countries in the Mediterranean to prevent us from sailing.
This pressure is having an impact. At the urging of the Turkish government, our flagship, the Mavi Marmara, the same ship that was so violently attacked last year, recently announced that it will not be joining the flotilla. The Mavi Marmara was going to carry 500 people; its absence cuts our numbers in half. And there may be more ships forced to drop out.
All this bullying, however, only strengthens our resolve. We may be fewer boats, we may have fewer passengers, we may be threatened with violence, but we will sail. And if the Israelis intercept our boats, we call on people around the world to gather at Israeli embassies and consulates to express their outrage.
Like the inexorable rhythm of the ocean, the Palestinians will continue to lap at the shores of injustice. They will keep coming back, wave after wave, demanding the right to rebuild their tattered communities, the right to live in dignity. Shoring them up will be the international community, including activists like us who join their nonviolent resistance. The real question is: How long will the Israelis, with U.S. backing, continue to swim against the tide?
Medea Benjamin (email@example.com) is cofounder of Global Exchange (www.globalexchange.org) and CODEPINK: Women for Peace (www.codepinkalert.org). She is author of Don’t Be Afraid Gringo: A Honduran Woman Speaks from the Heart.
Who Cares in the Middle East What Obama Says? May 30, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East.
Tags: 1967 borders, algeria, arab revolts, arab revolutions, arab spring, bahrain, bouteflika, egypt, gaza, hamas, intifada, Iran, israel, israeli settlements, jewish state, jordan, kurds, libya, Mahmoud Abbas, Middle East, netanyahu, Obama, Palestine, palestine papers, palestinian statehood, Palestinians, qatar, robert fisk, roger hollander, saudi arabia, Syria, tunisia, turkey, yemen
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Roger’s note: I don’t think you will find a better commentary on the situation in the Middle East than what follows. Robert Fisk, who has lived in and written about the Middle East for decades, is an amazing journalist, unfortunately a rare breed (at least in North America).
This month, in the Middle East, has seen the unmaking of the President of the United States. More than that, it has witnessed the lowest prestige of America in the region since Roosevelt met King Abdul Aziz on the USS Quincy in the Great Bitter Lake in 1945.President Obama at Middle East peace talks in Washington last year with Benjamin Netanyahu, Mahmoud Abbas, Hosni Mubarak, and King Abdullah. (EPA)
President Obama at Middle East peace talks in Washington last year with Benjamin Netanyahu, Mahmoud Abbas, Hosni Mubarak, and King Abdullah. (EPA)
While Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu played out their farce in Washington – Obama grovelling as usual – the Arabs got on with the serious business of changing their world, demonstrating and fighting and dying for freedoms they have never possessed. Obama waffled on about change in the Middle East – and about America’s new role in the region. It was pathetic. “What is this ‘role’ thing?” an Egyptian friend asked me at the weekend. “Do they still believe we care about what they think?”
And it is true. Obama’s failure to support the Arab revolutions until they were all but over lost the US most of its surviving credit in the region. Obama was silent on the overthrow of Ben Ali, only joined in the chorus of contempt for Mubarak two days before his flight, condemned the Syrian regime – which has killed more of its people than any other dynasty in this Arab “spring”, save for the frightful Gaddafi – but makes it clear that he would be happy to see Assad survive, waves his puny fist at puny Bahrain’s cruelty and remains absolutely, stunningly silent over Saudi Arabia. And he goes on his knees before Israel. Is it any wonder, then, that Arabs are turning their backs on America, not out of fury or anger, nor with threats or violence, but with contempt? It is the Arabs and their fellow Muslims of the Middle East who are themselves now making the decisions.
Turkey is furious with Assad because he twice promised to speak of reform and democratic elections – and then failed to honour his word. The Turkish government has twice flown delegations to Damascus and, according to the Turks, Assad lied to the foreign minister on the second visit, baldly insisting that he would recall his brother Maher’s legions from the streets of Syrian cities. He failed to do so. The torturers continue their work.
Watching the hundreds of refugees pouring from Syria across the northern border of Lebanon, the Turkish government is now so fearful of a repeat of the great mass Iraqi Kurdish refugee tide that overwhelmed their border in the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf war that it has drawn up its own secret plans to prevent the Kurds of Syria moving in their thousands into the Kurdish areas of south-eastern Turkey. Turkish generals have thus prepared an operation that would send several battalions of Turkish troops into Syria itself to carve out a “safe area” for Syrian refugees inside Assad’s caliphate. The Turks are prepared to advance well beyond the Syrian border town of Al Qamishli – perhaps half way to Deir el-Zour (the old desert killing fields of the 1915 Armenian Holocaust, though speak it not) – to provide a “safe haven” for those fleeing the slaughter in Syria’s cities.
The Qataris are meanwhile trying to prevent Algeria from resupplying Gaddafi with tanks and armoured vehicles – this was one of the reasons why the Emir of Qatar, the wisest bird in the Arabian Gulf, visited the Algerian president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, last week. Qatar is committed to the Libyan rebels in Benghazi; its planes are flying over Libya from Crete and – undisclosed until now – it has Qatari officers advising the rebels inside the city of Misrata in western Libya; but if Algerian armour is indeed being handed over to Gaddafi to replace the material that has been destroyed in air strikes, it would account for the ridiculously slow progress which the Nato campaign is making against Gaddafi.
Of course, it all depends on whether Bouteflika really controls his army – or whether the Algerian “pouvoir”, which includes plenty of secretive and corrupt generals, are doing the deals. Algerian equipment is superior to Gaddafi’s and thus for every tank he loses, Ghaddafi might be getting an improved model to replace it. Below Tunisia, Algeria and Libya share a 750-mile desert frontier, an easy access route for weapons to pass across the border.
But the Qataris are also attracting Assad’s venom. Al Jazeera’s concentration on the Syrian uprising – its graphic images of the dead and wounded far more devastating than anything our soft western television news shows would dare broadcast – has Syrian state television nightly spitting at the Emir and at the state of Qatar. The Syrian government has now suspended up to £4 billion of Qatari investment projects, including one belonging to the Qatar Electricity and Water Company.
Amid all these vast and epic events – Yemen itself may yet prove to be the biggest bloodbath of all, while the number of Syria’s “martyrs” have now exceeded the victims of Mubarak’s death squads five months ago – is it any surprise that the frolics of Messrs Netanyahu and Obama appear so irrelevant? Indeed, Obama’s policy towards the Middle East – whatever it is – sometimes appears so muddled that it is scarcely worthy of study. He supports, of course, democracy – then admits that this may conflict with America’s interests. In that wonderful democracy called Saudi Arabia, the US is now pushing ahead with a £40 billion arms deal and helping the Saudis to develop a new “elite” force to protect the kingdom’s oil and future nuclear sites. Hence Obama’s fear of upsetting Saudi Arabia, two of whose three leading brothers are now so incapacitated that they can no longer make sane decisions – unfortunately, one of these two happens to be King Abdullah – and his willingness to allow the Assad family’s atrocity-prone regime to survive. Of course, the Israelis would far prefer the “stability” of the Syrian dictatorship to continue; better the dark caliphate you know than the hateful Islamists who might emerge from the ruins. But is this argument really good enough for Obama to support when the people of Syria are dying in the streets for the kind of democracy that the US president says he wants to see in the region?
One of the vainest elements of American foreign policy towards the Middle East is the foundational idea that the Arabs are somehow more stupid than the rest of us, certainly than the Israelis, more out of touch with reality than the West, that they don’t understand their own history. Thus they have to be preached at, lectured, and cajoled by La Clinton and her ilk – much as their dictators did and do, father figures guiding their children through life. But Arabs are far more literate than they were a generation ago; millions speak perfect English and can understand all too well the political weakness and irrelevance in the president’s words. Listening to Obama’s 45-minute speech this month – the “kick off’ to four whole days of weasel words and puffery by the man who tried to reach out to the Muslim world in Cairo two years ago, and then did nothing – one might have thought that the American President had initiated the Arab revolts, rather than sat on the sidelines in fear.
There was an interesting linguistic collapse in the president’s language over those critical four days. On Thursday 19 May, he referred to the continuation of Israeli “settlements”. A day later, Netanyahu was lecturing him on “certain demographic changes that have taken place on the ground”. Then when Obama addressed the American Aipac lobby group (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) on the Sunday, he had cravenly adopted Netanyahu’s own preposterous expression. Now he, too, spoke of “new demographic realities on the ground.” Who would believe that he was talking about internationally illegal Jewish colonies built on land stolen from Arabs in one of the biggest property heists in the history of “Palestine”? Delay in peace-making will undermine Israeli security, Obama announced – apparently unaware that Netanyahu’s project is to go on delaying and delaying and delaying until there is no land left for the “viable” Palestinian state which the United States and the European Union supposedly wish to see.
Then we had the endless waffle about the 1967 borders. Netanyahu called them “defenceless” (though they seemed to have been pretty defendable for the 18 years prior to the Six Day War) and Obama – oblivious to the fact that Israel must be the only country in the world to have an eastern land frontier but doesn’t know where it is – then says he was misunderstood when he talked about 1967. It doesn’t matter what he says. George W Bush caved in years ago when he gave Ariel Sharon a letter which stated America’s acceptance of “already existing major Israeli population centres” beyond the 1967 lines. To those Arabs prepared to listen to Obama’s spineless oration, this was a grovel too far. They simply could not understand the reaction of Netanyahu’s address to Congress. How could American politicians rise and applaud Netanyahu 55 times – 55 times – with more enthusiasm than one of the rubber parliaments of Assad, Saleh and the rest?
And what on earth did the Great Speechifier mean when he said that “every country has the right to self-defence” but that Palestine would be “demilitarised”? What he meant was that Israel could go on attacking the Palestinians (as in 2009, for example, when Obama was treacherously silent) while the Palestinians would have to take what was coming to them if they did not behave according to the rules – because they would have no weapons to defend themselves. As for Netanyahu, the Palestinians must choose between unity with Hamas or peace with Israel. All of which was very odd. When there was no unity, Netanyahu told us all that he had no Palestinian interlocutor because the Palestinians were disunited. Yet when they unite, they are disqualified from peace talks.
Of course, cynicism grows the longer you live in the Middle East. I recall, for example, travelling to Gaza in the early 1980s when Yasser Arafat was running his PLO statelet in Beirut. Anxious to destroy Arafat’s prestige in the occupied territories, the Israeli government decided to give its support to an Islamist group in Gaza called Hamas. In fact, I actually saw with my own eyes the head of the Israeli army’s Southern Command negotiating with bearded Hamas officials, giving them permission to build more mosques. It’s only fair to say, of course, that we were also busy at the time, encouraging a certain Osama bin Laden to fight the Soviet army in Afghanistan. But the Israelis did not give up on Hamas. They later held another meeting with the organisation in the West Bank; the story was on the front page of the Jerusalem Post the next day. But there wasn’t a whimper from the Americans.
Then another moment that I can recall over the long years. Hamas and Islamic Jihad members – all Palestinians – were, in the early 1990s, thrown across the Israeli border into southern Lebanon where they spent more than a year camping on a freezing mountainside. I would visit them from time to time and on one occasion mentioned that I would be travelling to Israel next day. Immediately, one of the Hamas men ran to his tent and returned with a notebook. He then proceeded to give me the home telephone numbers of three senior Israeli politicians – two of whom are still prominent today – and, when I reached Jerusalem and called the numbers, they all turned out to be correct. In other words, the Israeli government had been in personal and direct contact with Hamas.
But now the narrative has been twisted out of all recognition. Hamas are the super-terrorists, the “al-Qa’ida” representatives in the unified Palestinian leadership, the men of evil who will ensure that no peace ever takes place between Palestinians and Israeli. If only this were true, the real al-Qa’ida would be more than happy to take responsibility. But it is not true. In the same context, Obama stated that the Palestinians would have to answer questions about Hamas. But why should they? What Obama and Netanyahu think about Hamas is now irrelevant to them. Obama warns the Palestinians not to ask for statehood at the United Nations in September. But why on earth not? If the people of Egypt and Tunisia and Yemen and Libya and Syria – we are all waiting for the next revolution (Jordan? Bahrain again? Morocco?) – can fight for freedom and dignity, why shouldn’t the Palestinians? Lectured for decades on the need for non-violent protest, the Palestinians elect to go to the UN with their cry for legitimacy – only to be slapped down by Obama.
Having read all of the “Palestine Papers” which Al-Jazeera revealed, there is no doubt that “Palestine’s” official negotiators will go to any lengths to produce some kind of statelet. Mahmoud Abbas, who managed to write a 600-page book on the “peace process” without once mentioning the word “occupation”, could even cave in over the UN project, fearful of Obama’s warning that it would be an attempt to “isolate” Israel and thus de-legitimise the Israeli state – or “the Jewish state” as the US president now calls it. But Netanyahu is doing more than anyone to delegitimise his own state; indeed, he is looking more and more like the Arab buffoons who have hitherto littered the Middle East. Mubarak saw a “foreign hand” in the Egyptian revolution (Iran, of course). So did the Crown Prince of Bahrain (Iran again). So did Gaddafi (al-Qa’ida, western imperialism, you name it), So did Saleh of Yemen (al-Qa’ida, Mossad and America). So did Assad of Syria (Islamism, probably Mossad, etc). And so does Netanyahu (Iran, naturally enough, Syria, Lebanon, just about anyone you can think of except for Israel itself).
But as this nonsense continues, so the tectonic plates shudder. I doubt very much if the Palestinians will remain silent. If there’s an “intifada” in Syria, why not a Third Intifada in “Palestine”? Not a struggle of suicide bombers but of mass, million-strong protests. If the Israelis have to shoot down a mere few hundred demonstrators who tried – and in some cases succeeded – in crossing the Israeli border almost two weeks ago, what will they do if confronted by thousands or a million. Obama says no Palestinian state must be declared at the UN. But why not? Who cares in the Middle East what Obama says? Not even, it seems, the Israelis. The Arab spring will soon become a hot summer and there will be an Arab autumn, too. By then, the Middle East may have changed forever. What America says will matter nothing.
Tags: american jewish committee, collective punishment, david harris, fatah, gaza, gaza blockade, gaza freedom flotilla, geneva conventions, haman rights, hamas, International law, israeli military, israeli security, Palestine, palestinian civilians, Palestinians, rachel corrie, robert naiman, unalienable rights
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Obama’s Prizes for Israel Are Not ‘Pressure’ July 16, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Israel, Gaza & Middle East.
Tags: ali abunimah, arab-israeli conflict, gaza, geneva conventions, george mitchel, hamas, israel, israel colonization, israel settlements, obama administration, Palestine, Palestinians, roger hollander, west bank
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On 13 July, President Barack Obama received 16 leaders of the most prominent pro-Israel organizations at the White House. The gathering was an effort to assuage American Jewish concerns about US pressure on Israel over a settlement freeze in the occupied West Bank.
One participant argued that in the past any progress toward peace has only been made when there was “no light” between American and Israeli positions. “I disagree,” the president responded according to one witness, and pointed out that during eight years of the Bush administration, “there was no light between the United States and Israel, and nothing got accomplished.”
Obama reaffirmed his commitment to achieving a settlement to the Arab-Israeli conflict and emphasized the short window and special opportunity that he had to produce one given his outreach efforts to Arabs and Muslims.
All of this will reinforce the faith of those convinced that Obama’s policies mark a decisive shift from his predecessors, a rupture in the Israeli-American relationship, and can produce what has eluded all others: a workable and agreed two-state solution.
Obama has consistently stressed his belief in the “unbreakable” US-Israeli relationship. Considering his actions and words so far, there is little reason to doubt him. But unless he is prepared to go much further than anyone has publicly contemplated in pressuring Israel, his peace initiative has negligible chances of success.
For months the focus has been on Obama’s demand that Israel agree to a complete cessation of settlement construction, including the subterfuge called “natural growth.” It was during a similar “freeze” in the early 1990s that Israel built thousands of settler housing units on occupied land. Arab optimism and Israeli anxiety were amplified as Obama and his Middle East Envoy George Mitchell said repeatedly that this time they wanted a total halt.
Yet the firmness shows signs of erosion. Israeli press reports spoke of a “compromise” taking shape in which Israel would be allowed to complete thousands of already planned housing units. Although those reports were denied by the United States, several participants in the White House meeting said Obama alluded to an unspecified compromise in the works.
Anything short of a complete cessation of settlement construction will mark an achievement for Israel; what is important is not the number of units the United States may approve, but the principle that this administration, like its predecessors, will license Israel’s illegal colonization. Once that principle is established, Israel may present more faits accomplis and build at will.
And even if Israel does agree to a verifiable cessation, the US has structured the matter as a quid pro quo in which Israel is not required to do anything without receiving a reward. The president has appealed to Arab states to normalize ties with Israel if it freezes settlements, including opening diplomatic missions and allowing overflights by El Al aircraft (recall that when en route to bomb Iraq’s nuclear reactor in 1981, Israeli warplanes reportedly falsely identified themselves as commercial aviation). Given how little leverage the Arab side has, it would be totally disarmed if it conceded any such gestures in exchange for so little.
Israel’s settlements violate numerous UN Security Council resolutions and the Fourth Geneva Convention. It should no more be rewarded for ending settlement construction than Iraq should have been rewarded for withdrawing from Kuwait after Iraq invaded in 1990. While today US-occupied, war-torn Iraq is still paying Kuwait billions of dollars annually in compensation for a seven-month long occupation that ended almost two decades ago, the US is offering Israel prizes not for ending a 42-year-old occupation but merely for ceasing to commit some crimes.
This can hardly be described as anything other than a net gain for Israel, especially since the settlement project is reaching its natural conclusion. There are already 500,000 settlers in the West Bank, who with their infrastructure consume more than 42 percent of the land. Nothing Obama has ever said indicates he will deviate from his predecessors’ policy of recognizing these facts and demanding that Palestinians agree to let Israel keep settlements already built.
While all the attention is focused on the freeze, Israel maintains its siege of Gaza — despite Obama’s calls to loosen it — and continues to build the West Bank wall five years after the International Court of Justice ordered it torn down. The United States itself continues to undermine chances for intra-Palestinian reconciliation, and therefore credible negotiations, by fueling the smoldering civil war between US-backed Palestinian militias on the one hand and resistance factions led by Hamas on the other.
On the outside Israelis may be crying about US “pressure” but on the inside they must be quietly smiling.
© 2009 Electronic Intifada
Ali Abunimah is the author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse and a fellow with the Palestine Centre in Washington, DC. Abunimah is Executive Director of The Electronic Intifada.