Imploding the Myth of Israel November 4, 2013Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, Racism.
Tags: Avigdor Lieberman, children casualties, chris hedges, gaza, idf, isaiah berlin, israel, israel military, israel settlements, mavi marmara, max blumenthal, meir kahane, Middle East, netanyahu, palestinian civilians, Palestinians, racism, roger hollander, west bank, white phosprorous, Yeshayahu Leibowitz, zionism
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Roger’s note: Chris Hedges always writes with passion and sometimes hyperbole. This article is a comprehensive and powerful indictment of today’s Israel. You will have to decide for yourself how accurate it is; but on the whole it rings true to me. A very sad and tragic truth.
Posted on Nov 4, 2013
Israel has been poisoned by the psychosis of permanent war. It has been morally bankrupted by the sanctification of victimhood, which it uses to justify an occupation that rivals the brutality and racism of apartheid South Africa. Its democracy—which was always exclusively for Jews—has been hijacked by extremists who are pushing the country toward fascism. Many of Israel’s most enlightened and educated citizens—1 million of them—have left the country. Its most courageous human rights campaigners, intellectuals and journalists—Israeli and Palestinian—are subject to constant state surveillance, arbitrary arrests and government-run smear campaigns. Its educational system, starting in primary school, has become an indoctrination machine for the military. And the greed and corruption of its venal political and economic elite have created vast income disparities, a mirror of the decay within America’s democracy.
And yet, the hard truths about Israel remain largely unspoken. Liberal supporters of Israel decry its excesses. They wring their hands over the tragic necessity of airstrikes on Gaza or Lebanon or the demolition of Palestinian homes. They assure us that they respect human rights and want peace. But they react in inchoate fury when the reality of Israel is held up before them. This reality implodes the myth of the Jewish state. It exposes the cynicism of a state whose real goal is, and always has been, the transfer, forced immigration or utter subjugation and impoverishment of Palestinians inside Israel and the occupied territories. Reality shatters the fiction of a peace process. Reality lays bare the fact that Israel routinely has used deadly force against unarmed civilians, including children, to steal half the land on the West Bank and crowd forcibly displaced Palestinians into squalid, militarized ghettos while turning their land and homes over to Jewish settlers. Reality exposes the new racial laws adopted by Israel as those once advocated by the fanatic racist Meir Kahane. Reality unveils the Saharonim detention camp in the Negev Desert, the largest detention center in the world. Reality mocks the lie of open, democratic debate, including in the country’s parliament, the Knesset, where racist diatribes and physical threats, often enshrined into law, are used to silence and criminalize the few who attempt to promote a civil society. Liberal Jewish critics inside and outside Israel, however, desperately need the myth, not only to fetishize Israel but also to fetishize themselves. Strike at the myth and you unleash a savage vitriol, which in its fury exposes the self-adulation and latent racism that lie at the core of modern Zionism.
There are very few intellectuals or writers who have the tenacity and courage to confront this reality. This is what makes Max Blumenthal’s “Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel” one of the most fearless and honest books ever written about Israel. Blumenthal burrows deep into the dark heart of Israel. The American journalist binds himself to the beleaguered and shunned activists, radical journalists and human rights campaigners who are the conscience of the nation, as well as Palestinian families in the West Bank struggling in vain to hold back Israel’s ceaseless theft of their land. Blumenthal, in chapter after chapter, methodically rips down the facade. And what he exposes, in the end, is a corpse.
I spent seven years in the Middle East as a correspondent, including months in Gaza and the West Bank. I lived for two years in Jerusalem. Many of the closest friends I made during my two decades overseas are Israeli. Most of them are among the Israeli outcasts that Blumenthal writes about, men and women whose innate decency and courage he honors throughout his book. They are those who, unlike the Israeli leadership and a population inculcated with racial hatred, sincerely want to end occupation, restore the rule of law and banish an ideology that creates moral hierarchies with Arabs hovering at the level of animal as Jews—especially Jews of European descent—are elevated to the status of demigods. It is a measure of Blumenthal’s astuteness as a reporter that he viewed Israel through the eyes of these outcasts, as well as the Palestinians, and stood with them as they were arrested, tear-gassed and fired upon by Israeli soldiers. There is no other honest way to tell the story about Israel. And this is a very honest book.
“Goliath” is made up of numerous vignettes, some only a few pages long, that methodically build a picture of Israel, like pieces fit into a puzzle. It is in the details that Israel’s reality is exposed. The Israeli army, Blumenthal points out in his first chapter, “To the Slaughter,” employs a mathematical formula to limit outside food deliveries to Gaza to keep the caloric levels of the 1.5 million Palestinians trapped inside its open air prison just above starvation; a government official later denied that he had joked in a meeting that the practice is “like an appointment with a dietician.” The saturation, 22-day bombing of Gaza that began on Dec. 27, 2008, led by 60 F-16 fighter jets, instantly killed 240 Palestinians, including scores of children. Israel’s leading liberal intellectuals, including the writers Amos Oz, A.B. Yehoshua and David Grossman, blithely supported the wholesale murder of Palestinian civilians. And while Israelis blocked reporters from entering the coastal Gaza Strip—forcing them to watch distant explosions from Israel’s Parash Hill, which some reporters nicknamed “the Hill of Shame”—the army and air force carried out atrocity after atrocity, day after day, crimes that were uncovered only after the attack was over and the press blockade lifted. This massive aerial and ground assault against a defenseless civilian population that is surrounded by the Israeli army, a population without an organized military, air force, air defenses, navy, heavy artillery or mechanized units, caused barely a ripple of protest inside Israel from the left or the right. It was part of the ongoing business of slaughtering the other.
By the end of the assault, with 1,400 dead, nearly all civilians, Gaza lay in ruins. The Israeli air force purposely targeted Gaza’s infrastructure, including power plants, to reduce Gaza to a vast, overcrowded, dysfunctional slum. Israel, Blumenthal notes, destroyed “80 percent of all arable farmland in the coastal strip, bombing the strip’s largest flour mill, leveling seven concrete factories, shelling a major cheese factory, and shooting up a chicken farm, killing thirty-one thousand chickens.”
“Twelve [years old] and up, you are allowed to shoot. That’s what they tell us,” an Israeli sniper told Haaretz correspondent Amira Hass in 2004 at the height of the Second Intifada, Blumenthal writes. “This is according to what the IDF [Israel Defense Force] says to its soldiers. I do not know if this is what the IDF says to the media,” the sniper was quoted as saying.
The 2008 murderous rampage is not, as Blumenthal understands, an anomaly. It is the overt policy of the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who advocates “a system of open apartheid.” Israel, as Blumenthal points out, has not lifted its state of emergency since its foundation. It has detained at least 750,000 Palestinians, including 10,000 women, in its prisons since 1967. It currently holds more than 4,500 political prisoners, including more than 200 children and 322 people jailed without charges, Blumenthal writes, including those it has labeled “administrative detainees.” Israel has a staggering 99.74 percent conviction rate for these so-called security prisoners, a figure that any totalitarian state would envy.
Blumenthal cites a survey of Jewish Israeli attitudes on the Gaza bombing, known as Operation Cast Lead. The survey, by Daniel Bar-Tal, a political psychologist from Tel Aviv University, concluded that the public’s “consciousness is characterized by a sense of victimization, a siege mentality, blind patriotism, belligerence, self-righteousness, dehumanization of the Palestinians, and insensitivity to their suffering.” Bar-Tal tells Blumenthal “these attitudes are the product of indoctrination.” And Blumenthal sets out to chronicle the poison of this indoctrination and what it has spawned in Israeli society.
The racist narrative, once the domain of the far right and now the domain of the Israeli government and the mainstream, demonizes Palestinians and Arabs, as well as all non-Jews. Non-Jews, according to this propaganda, will forever seek the annihilation of the Jewish people. The Holocaust, in which Israeli victimhood is sanctified, is seamlessly conflated with Palestinian and Arab resistance to occupation. The state flies more than 25 percent of Israeli 11th-graders to Poland to tour Auschwitz and other Nazi extermination camps a year before they start army service. They are told that the goal of Arabs, along with the rest of the non-Jewish world, is another Auschwitz. And the only thing standing between Israelis and a death camp is the Israeli army. Israeli high schools show films such as “Sleeping With the Enemy” to warn students about dating non-Jews, especially Arabs. Racist books such as “Torat Ha’Melech,” or “The King’s Torah,” are given to soldiers seeking rabbinical guidance on the rules of engagement. Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira and Rabbi Yosef Elitzur, the authors of the 230-page book, inform soldiers that non-Jews are “uncompassionate by nature” and may have to be killed in order to “curb their evil inclinations.” “If we kill a gentile who has violated one of the seven commandments [of Noah] … there is nothing wrong with the murder,” Shapira and Elitzur write. The rabbis claim that under Jewish law “there is justification for killing babies if it is clear that they will grow up to harm us, and in such a situation they may be harmed deliberately, and not only during combat with adults.”These narratives of hatred make any act of deadly force by the Israeli army permissible, from the shooting of Palestinian children to the 2010 killing by Israeli commandos of nine unarmed activists on the Turkish boat the Mavi Marmara. The activists were part of a flotilla of six boats bringing humanitarian supplies to Gaza. The Israeli propaganda machine claimed that the small flotilla was a covert terror convoy. Never mind that the Mavi Marmara was in international waters when it was attacked. Never mind that no one on the boat, or any of the five other boats, was armed. Never mind that the boats were thoroughly searched before they left for Gaza. The Israeli lie was trumpeted while every camera, video and tape recorder, computer and cellphone of the activists on board was seized and destroyed—or in a few cases sold by Israeli soldiers when they got back to Israel—while those on the boats were towed to an Israeli port and detained in isolation. The ceaseless stoking of fear and racial hatred—given full vent by the Israeli government and media in the days after the Mavi Marmara incident—has served to empower racist political demagogues such as Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman, a camp follower of Meir Kahane. It has also effectively snuffed out Israel’s old left-wing Zionist establishment.
“In Israel you have three systems of laws,” the Israeli Arab politician Ahmed Tibi observes in the Blumenthal book. “One is democracy for 80 percent of the population. It is democracy for Jews. I call it an ethnocracy or you could call it a Judocracy. The second is racial discrimination for 20 percent of the population, the Israeli Arabs. The third is apartheid for the population in the West Bank and Gaza. This includes two sets of governments, one for the Palestinians and one for the settlers. Inside Israel there is not yet apartheid but we are being pushed there with … new laws.”
As Blumenthal documents, even Israeli Jews no longer live in a democracy. The mounting state repression against human rights advocates, journalists and dissidents has reached the proportions of U.S. Homeland Security. The overtly racist cant of the political elite and the masses—“Death to Arabs” is a popular chant at Israeli soccer matches—has emboldened mobs and vigilantes, including thugs from right-wing youth groups such as Im Tirtzu, to carry out indiscriminate acts of vandalism and violence against dissidents, Palestinians, Israeli Arabs and the hapless African immigrants who live crammed into the slums of Tel Aviv. Israel has pushed through a series of discriminatory laws against non-Jews that eerily resemble the racist Nuremberg Laws that disenfranchised Jews in Nazi Germany. The Communities Acceptance Law, for example, permits “small, exclusively Jewish towns planted across Israel’s Galilee region to formally reject applicants for residency on the grounds of ‘suitability to the community’s fundamental outlook.’ ” And all who denounce the steady march of Israel toward fascism—including Jewish academics—are attacked in organized campaigns as being insufficiently Zionist. They are branded as terrorists or collaborators with terrorists. As a headline in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz read: “The settlers are the real government of Israel.”
“Woody [a law school graduate from New York] became my initial liaison to Tel Aviv’s radical left, introducing me to a loose-knit band of a few hundred anarchists, disillusioned ex-soldiers, disaffected children of ultra-Zionists, queers, academics, and generally idealistic and disillusioned young people who came of age during the Second Intifada when the liberal Zionist ‘peace camp’ closed ranks with the militaristic right wing,” Blumenthal writes. “This tiny band of social deviants comprised the only grouping of people I met who sincerely embraced multiculturalism and who took concrete action against the discriminatory foundations of their country’s political apparatus. Right-wingers and many Jewish Israelis who considered themselves part of the social mainstream referred to members of the radical left as smolinim, which simply means ‘leftists,’ but the word carried a deeply insulting connotation of an unacceptable caste, an Other. As branded social outcasts, inflexible in their principles, disdainful of ordinary politics, and brazen in their racial liberalism they resembled nothing so much as the pre-Civil War abolitionists.”
The late Amnon Dankner, the former editor of Maariv, one of Israel’s major newspapers, Blumenthal notes, denounced “neo-Nazi expressions in the Knesset” and “entire parties whose tenor and tone arouse feelings of horror and terrifying memories.” David Landau, the former editor-in-chief of Haaretz, has called on Israelis to boycott the Knesset “to stand against the wave of fascism that has engulfed the Zionist project.” And Uri Avnery, a left-wing politician and journalist, says: “Israel’s very existence is threatened by fascism.”
The disillusionment among idealistic young immigrants to Israel dots the book. As one example, Canadian David Sheen is recorded as saying that everything he had known about Israel and Palestinians was, in Blumenthal’s words, “a fantasy cultivated through years of heavy indoctrination.” But perhaps what is saddest is that Israel has, and has always had, within its population intellectuals, including the great scholar Yeshayahu Leibowitz, who sought to save Israel from itself.Leibowitz, whom Isaiah Berlin called “the conscience of Israel,” warned that if Israel did not separate church and state it would give rise to a corrupt rabbinate that would warp Judaism into a fascistic cult.
“Religious nationalism is to religion what National Socialism was to socialism,” said Leibowitz, who died in 1994. He understood that the blind veneration of the military, especially after the 1967 war that captured the West Bank and East Jerusalem, was dangerous and would lead to the ultimate destruction of the Jewish state and any hope of democracy. “Our situation will deteriorate to that of a second Vietnam, to a war in constant escalation without prospect of ultimate resolution.” He foresaw that “the Arabs would be the working people and the Jews the administrators, inspectors, officials, and police—mainly secret police. A state ruling a hostile population of 1.5 million to 2 million foreigners would necessarily become a secret-police state, with all that this implies for education, free speech and democratic institutions. The corruption characteristic of every colonial regime would also prevail in the State of Israel. The administration would have to suppress Arab insurgency on the one hand and acquire Arab Quislings on the other. There is also good reason to fear that the Israel Defense Force, which has been until now a people’s army, would, as a result of being transformed into an army of occupation, degenerate, and its commanders, who will have become military governors, resemble their colleagues in other nations.” He warned that the rise of a virulent racism would consume Israeli society. He knew that prolonged occupation of the Palestinians would spawn “concentration camps” for the occupied and that, in his words, “Israel would not deserve to exist, and it will not be worthwhile to preserve it.”
But few, then or now, cared to listen. This is why Blumenthal’s new book is so important.
Hiroshima, Nagasaki and ‘Bomb Iran’ August 14, 2013Posted by rogerhollander in History, Iran, Japan, Nuclear weapons/power, War.
Tags: admiral leahy, andrew dilks, atomic bomb, big lie, bunker-buster bombs, carter w. clarke, chester nimitz, douglas mcarthur, dr. strangelove, harry truman, henry stinson, hiroshima, history, Iran, iran nuclear, israel, israel military, israel nuclear, james byrnes, japan surrender, manhattan project, marsha cohen, nagasaki, netanyahu, nuclear war, roger hollander, war, wwii history
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Roger’s note: this posting contains two somewhat related articles. The second article, presents the view that the nuclear attack on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was for geopolitical and not military reasons. I first read this interpretation back in the 1960s in a book by the so-called revisionist historian, Gar Alperovitz, “Atomic Diplomacy: Hiroshima and Potsdam.” Also, according to Wikipedia,
‘Alperovitz is the author of critically acclaimed books on the atomic bomb and atomic diplomacy and was named “Distinguished Finalist” for the Lionel Gelber Prize for The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb and the Architecture of an American Myth, (Knopf, 1995).’ I am no historian, but I find the “revisionist” argument to be quite persuasive.
Last week marked the 68th anniversary of the WWII destruction of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima (Aug. 6) and Nagasaki (Aug. 9) — the first and only deployment of nuclear weapons in human history. Within moments of the nuclear explosions that destroyed these cities, at
least 200,000 people lost their lives. Tens of thousands subsequently died from radiation poisoning within the next two weeks. The effects linger to this day.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has implied that this would the be fate of Israel if Iran was allowed to obtain nuclear weapon-making capabilities, including the ability to enrich high-grade uranium. To prevent this from happening, the economy of Iran must be crippled by sanctions and the fourth largest oil reserves in the world must be barred from global markets, as the oil fields in which they are situated deteriorate. Israel — the only state in the region that actually possesses nuclear weapons and has blocked all efforts to create a Middle East Nuclear Weapon Free Zone – should thus be armed with cutting-edge American weaponry. Finally, the US must not only stand behind its sole reliable Middle East ally, which could strike Iran at will, it should ideally also lead — not merely condone — a military assault against Iranian nuclear facilities.
Netanyahu invariably frames the threat posed by Iranian nuclear capability (a term that blurs distinctions between civilian and potential military applications of nuclear technology) as “Auschwitz” rather than “Hiroshima and Nagasaki”, even though the latter might be a more apt analogy. The potential for another Auschwitz is predicated on the image of an Israel that is unable — or unwilling to — defend itself, resulting in six million Jews going “like sheep to the slaughter.” But if Israel and/or the US were to attack Iran instead of the other way around, “Hiroshima and Nagasaki” would be the analogy to apply to Iran.
A country dropping bombs on any country that has not attacked first is an act of war, as the US was quick to point out when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor — and this includes so-called “surgical strikes”. In a July 19 letter about US options in Syria, Gen. Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reminded the Senate Armed Services Committee that “…the decision to use force is not one that any of us takes lightly. It is no less than an act of war” [emphasis added].
If the use of atomic weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during wartime remains morally and militarily questionable, one might think that there would be even less justification for a military strike on Iran, with whom neither Israel nor the US is at war. Of course, there are those who disagree: the US is engaged in a war on terror, Iran has been designated by the US as the chief state sponsor of terrorism since 1984 and so on. Therefore, the US is, or should be, at war with Iran.
“All options are on the table” is the operative mantra with regard to the US halting Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear weapon. But if bombs start dropping on Iran, what kind will they be? In fact, the 30,000 lb. Massive Ordnance Penetrators (MOPs) that could be employed against Iranian nuclear facilities are nuclear weapons, since they derive their capability of penetrating 200 feet of concrete in the earth from depleted uranium. Furthermore, some Israelis have darkly hinted that, were Israel to confront Iran alone, it would be more likely to reach into its unacknowledged nuclear armoury if that meant the difference between victory and defeat.
Given all this, comparing the damage that would be done by bombing Iran with the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is not farfetched. It also reveals some troubling parallels. In the years prior to the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in response to what the US regarded as Japanese expansionism, imposed economic sanctions on Japan in 1937. Just before the US entered the war, an embargo was placed on US exports of oil to Japan, upon which Japan was utterly dependent.
In 1945, it was already clear that Japan was preparing to surrender and that the outstanding issue at hand was the status of its emperor. There was neither a military nor political need to use atomic weapons to bring an end to the war. Numerous justifications for dropping atomic bombs on Japan were invoked, but nearly all of them were challenged or discredited within a few years after the war ended. Three are particularly noteworthy today, as we continue to face the prospect of war with Iran.
Saving lives: US Secretary of War Henry Stimson justified the decision to use atomic weapons as “the least abhorrent choice” since it would not only would save the lives of up to a million American soldiers who might perish in a ground assault on Japan, it would also spare the lives of hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians who were being killed in fire bombings. President Harry Truman also claimed that “thousands of lives would be saved” and “a quarter of a million of the flower of our young manhood was worth a couple of Japanese cities.” But as Andrew Dilks points out, “None of these statements were based on any evidence.”
Speaking in Warsaw, Poland on June 12 — two days before the Iranian election that he declared would “change nothing” with regard to Iran’s alleged quest to develop nuclear weaponry — Netanyahu used the opening of an Auschwitz memorial to make his case. “This is a regime that is building nuclear weapons with the expressed purpose to annihilate Israel’s six million Jews,” he said. “We will not allow this to happen. We will never allow another Holocaust.” About the Iranians who would perish after an Israeli attack, Netanyahu said nothing.
Justifying expenditures: The total estimated cost of the Manhattan Project, which developed the bombs dropped on Japan, was nearly $2 billion in 1945, the equivalent of slightly more than $30 billion today. Secretary of State James Byrnes pointed out to President Harry Truman, who was up for re-election in 1948, that he could expect to be berated by Republicans for spending such a large amount on weapons that were never used, according to MIT’s John Dower.
A recent report by the Congressional Research Service shows that Israel is the single largest recipient of US aid, receiving a cumulative $118 billion, most of it military aid. The Bush administration and the Israeli government had agreed to a 10-year, $30 billion military aid package in 2007, which assured Israel of funding through 2018. During his March 2013 visit to Israel, President Barack Obama, who had been criticized by the US pro-Israel lobby for being less concerned than previous American presidents about Israel’s well being and survival, pledged that the United States would continue to provide Israel with multi-year commitments of military aid subject to the approval of Congress. Not to be outdone, the otherwise tightfisted Congress not only approved the added assistance Obama had promised, it also increased it. An Iran that is not depicted as dangerous would jeopardize the generous military assistance Israel receives. What better way to demonstrate how badly needed those US taxpayer dollars are than to show them in action?
Technological research and development: One of the most puzzling questions about the decision to use nuclear weaponry against Japan is why, three days after the utter devastation wreaked on Hiroshima, a second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. It was unnecessary from a militarily perspective. Perhaps the answer exists in the fact that the Manhattan Project had produced different types of atomic bombs: the destructive power of the “Little Boy”, which fell on Hiroshima, came from uranium; the power of “Fat Man”, which exploded over Nagasaki, came from plutonium. What better way to “scientifically” compare their effectiveness at annihilation than by using both?
The award winning Israeli documentary, The Lab, which opens in the US this month, reveals that Israel has used Lebanon and Gaza as a testing ground for advances in weaponry. Jonathan Cook writes, “Attacks such as Operation Cast Lead of winter 2008-09 or last year’s Operation Pillar of Defence, the film argues, serve as little more than laboratory-style experiments to evaluate and refine the effectiveness of new military approaches, both strategies and weaponry.” Israeli military leaders have strongly hinted that in conducting air strikes against Syria, the Israeli Air Force is rehearsing for an attack on Iran, including the use of bunker-buster bombs.
The Pentagon, which reportedly has invested $500 million in developing and revamping MOP “bunker busters”, recently spent millions building a replica of Iran’s Fordow nuclear research facility in order to demonstrate to the Israelis that Iranian nuclear facilities can be destroyed when the time is right.
Gen. Dempsey arrived in Israel on Monday to meet with Israel’s Chief of Staff Benny Gantz and Israel’s political leaders. Members of Congress from both political parties are also visiting — Democrats last week, Republicans this week — on an AIPAC-sponsored “fact-finding” mission. No doubt they will hear yet again from Israeli leaders that the world cannot allow another Auschwitz.
The world cannot allow another Hiroshima and Nagasaki either.
Anne Frank Is Palestine’s Child, Too July 15, 2013Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, Palestine.
Tags: anne frank, anti-semitism, fascism, gaza, gaza children, gaza massacre, israel military, Palestine, palestinian children, Palestinians, racism, roger hollander, vacy vlazna
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The Suffering of Palestinian Children Is Not Unlike Anne Frank’s
In the context here of youthful suffering, let us consider the similarities between the Nazi victimising, traumatising and slaughtering of Anne Frank to the victimising, traumatising, mutilating and slaughtering of the teenagers and children of Gaza. The children of Gaza have also been trapped, or, as Anne may have put it, “chained in one spot, without any rights” for seven years in the largest concentration camp in the world.
“Who has inflicted this upon us? Who had made us Jews different from all other people? Who has allowed us to suffer so terribly up till now?”
“In the Shifa hospital I saw a sight I will never forget. Hundreds of corpses, one on top of the other. Their flesh…their blood, and their bones all melting on each other. You wouldn’t know the woman from the man or even the child. Piles of flesh on the beds, and lots of people screaming and crying, not knowing where their kids are, their men or their women.
“Mr Dussel has told us much about the outside world we’ve missed for so long. He had sad news. Countless friends and acquaintances have been taken off to a dreadful fate. Night after night, green and grey military vehicles cruise the streets.”
Today, the roundups dreaded by Anne Frank find new forms in the West Bank of Palestine. There, Israel systematically ramps up the state of anxiety and fear with night-time raids and violent home invasions. Arrests of children and adults occur mainly at night, when the whole family is suddenly awakened and their home invaded by armed soldiers shouting and ransacking the family’s possessions. This leads to the kidnapping of the family member, or members, targeted, leaving the family distraught and their lives devastated. Reuters reported that, according to UNICEF, “approximately 700 Palestinian children, between the ages of 12 and 17, are kidnapped, detained and interrogated by the Israeli army, the Police and security agents in the West Bank every year, and are subject to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in direct violation of the Convention on the Right of the Child, and the Convention against Torture.”
In both the West Bank and Gaza, the effect of unending oppression has become tragic for Palestinian children. The respected Gaza journalist Mohammed Omer points out in “For Gaza’s Children the Trauma Never Ends”:
“The Nazi persecution and World War II in Europe, which lasted from 1933 to 1945, affected an entire generation of children. By contrast, Israel’s dispossession and occupation of Palestine has lasted some six decades–and counting. Generations of Palestinian children have been affected physically, psychologically and materially.”
For Anne Frank, the experience of Nazi oppression had the effect of making her former life seem surrealistic. She wrote:
Anne then lists the humiliations Jews were subject to under the Nazi’s apartheid regime. Interestingly, her experience can easily be reworded, as follows, to reflect the Palestinian experience:
“Freedom was severely restricted by a series of anti-Palestinian apartheid decrees that violate international law:
–Palestinians live under military law, while Israelis live under civil law.
–Identity cards only for Palestinians.
–Segregation between Jewish and Palestinian communities.
–Jews-only roads and transport.
–Movement restrictions for Palestinians.
–Unequal access to land and property.
–Forcible eviction and home demolitions for Palestinians.
–Palestinians forbidden the right of return, while Jews anywhere in the
world have the right to live in Israel.
–Deportation of Palestinian prisoners.
–Palestinians are forbidden from living with Israeli Arab spouses.
–Separate and unequal education systems.
–Forced resettlement of Bedouins.”
In addition, Adalah reports that “In the four short months since the current Knesset came to power, MKs have proposed as many as 29 new discriminatory bills that attack the rights of Palestinians in Israel and the OPT.”
Even though for Anne “t he approaching danger [was] being pulled tighter and tighter,” and she felt “like a songbird whose wings have been ripped off and who keeps hurling itself against the bars of its dark cage,” we Palestinian young people share with her that confounding universal metamorphosis of the human teenager into a young adult overflowing with the same heartfelt reflections, confessions, emotional struggles, lamentations, loves, fears, hates, and hopes.
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.
President Obama Procrastinates As Israel Edges Ever Closer to Igniting a Middle East Firestorm February 21, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Foreign Policy, Israel, Gaza & Middle East.
Tags: gaza, hillary clinton, idf, Iran, iran nuclear, israel, israel iran, israel military, israel settlements, Joe Lieberman, michael payne, Middle East, netanyahu, npt, Obama, Palestine, Palestinians, roger hollander, war
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Michael Payne, www.opednews.com, February 20, 2012
The Middle East has been a boiling cauldron for decades with Israel at the center. And now this region is heating up again as not a day goes by when we do not hear the drums of war being beaten by Israel, with a threatening counter response coming from Iran. But as this situation grows more and more volatile, the U.S. and President Obama should be taking steps to prevent an eruption that could set the Middle East on fire; nothing of the sort is happening.
Talk about procrastination, talk about vacillation; the Middle East could explode at any given time but all we see coming from this White House is more delay, indecision, together with contradictory and confusing statements. During a critical time when we should hear this president issuing warnings about the great dangers of an approaching massive confrontation between Israel and Iran, he repeats that “all options remain on the table.”
It is absolutely amazing how Israel can completely dominate the world of news reporting to such an extent and for such an extended period of time. We hear a steady stream of reports indicating that Israel is getting closer and closer to an attack on Iran and its nuclear facilities. What we don’t hear from this pathetic national media is factual information from U.S. intelligence agencies and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), both of which have indicated that there is no concrete evidence of the development of a nuclear bomb. This media blindly and passively supported the fabricated agenda that illegally initiated the Iraq War and now it is doing the same thing all over again. This is a disgrace to the profession of journalism.
Without a doubt, the situation in Iran needs to be closely monitored by both U.S. intelligence agencies and the UN and Iran cannot be allowed to develop a nuclear device. That is what these agencies are set up to do. The way that this is being grossly mishandled by Israel, the U.S. and Iran, with threats and counter threats and no real attempts at mutual dialogue to diffuse the situation is totally counter-productive; it does nothing but fuel the tensions and distrust.
How can such a very small nation be the most powerful nation in the Middle East? Well, simply because it also happens to possess a nuclear arsenal that is estimated to be the sixth largest in the world. Israel has repeatedly refused to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). In fact, it consistently refuses to acknowledge that it has nuclear weapons when the whole world knows that it does.
Even while Israel sets its sights on Iran, it also continues to follow an aggressive, militant agenda on several other fronts. There has been more and more talk that Israel is planning yet another military attack on Gaza. An article by Yaakov Katz in the January 16 edition of the Jerusalem Post reported that “IDF preparing for major Gaza action within months.” Also that “The IDF General Staff has ordered the Southern Command to prepare for a possible large Gaza operation that could occur within the next few months.”
In addition to that report, here’s another example of the extent of Israel’s cruel agenda against their Palestinian “neighbors”: “Israel plans to demolish Palestinian solar panels and wind turbines.” There is an “Area C” in the West Bank where solar panels and wind turbines were installed in 16 Palestinian communities and are now providing about 1500 people with electricity. This was a part of a foreign aid program by European and other countries, a great humanitarian gesture.
Now Israel is preparing to demolish the solar panels and turbines, claiming that the structures were installed without proper authority from the appropriate Israeli administrative agency. Are there no limits to the venom that Israel directs against these people who must struggle to secure the necessities of life? Even when other nations try to help the Palestinians acquire electricity for their homes, Israel will have none of it.
The Israeli government apparently will not stop until the Palestinians are entirely flushed out of the country. It continues to infringe on the shrinking territories of the Palestinians by building new settlements. It suppresses their movement by penning them up in Gaza and surrounds them with walls in other areas. It is astounding how our government in Washington continues to accuse China and other nations of human rights violations but, when it comes to these continuous flagrant violations by Israel, it remains completely silent.
Though Israel continues to beat the drums of war many military analysts and Middle East experts believe that it knows that it cannot successfully attack and destroy the Iranian underground facilities without the direct involvement and support of the United States. Those close to this situation are quite certain that if Iran is attacked by Israel or a combination of Israel and the U.S., that massive retaliation from Tehran, aided by Syria, Hamas, Hezbollah and other allies will wreak havoc in the Middle East, severely damaging Israel’s cities as well as U.S. military installations.
This deadly confrontation has already gone too far; Israel must be reigned in before it goes off the deep end and launches an attack on Iran; the only country that is capable of doing it is, of course, the U.S. The only logical and rational way to accomplish this is for the U.S. to tell Israel in no uncertain terms that it will not take part in such an attack and Israel will be left alone if it chooses that course. In other words, the U.S. has to assume control of this situation and deal unilaterally with the issue of Iran’s nuclear program.
But in doing this Mr. Obama knows that there are many members of Congress, and some in his administration, who strongly support Israel and its potential attack on Iran. Hillary Clinton, the diplomatically challenged Secretary of State, and Senator Joe Lieberman, the premier war hawk in Congress, both back Israel to the hilt; it can do no wrong in their eyes no matter how egregious its military actions have been against the people of Palestine or against peaceful humanitarian flotillas that have tried to deliver essential medical and other supplies to the beleaguered city of Gaza.
Israel, as is the case with Mrs. Clinton, has shown it is totally incapable of any form of real diplomacy or negotiations; force is the only way that it knows to deal with others in the Middle East region. So it’s now time for President Obama to step into this highly dangerous situation and tell Israel and its militant Prime Minister Netanyahu that enough is enough and that this planned attack on Iran must not be pursued.
Mr. Obama must totally reject the many warmongers in Washington and act like the recipient of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize that he is, stop fiddling around, stop saying that “all options are on the table” and arrange for the beginning of mutual negotiations between the U.S. and Iran over this contentious issue. Israel would have to be entirely excluded from these negotiations for very obvious reasons. Negotiations should be designed to create some viable way to allow Iran to develop a nuclear energy program such as many other countries have and also to include a foolproof mechanism to prevent any diversion of enriched uranium into a program to develop a nuclear bomb. This could be done with any number of other countries taking part in the process.
The world keeps watching this same movie with the same actors and a plot that never changes — featuring Israel with its itchy finger on the trigger, ready to fire. How much longer will America let Israel set the agenda, dictate the policy, call the shots, and dominate our Middle East foreign policy? In recent times more and more articles are being written about America’s decline; could there be any better example of that decline than the total subservience of this nation and its government to the nation of Israel?
This scenario becomes even more tenuous when we consider that there are powerful countries who have said that they will stand by Iran if the situation reaches a massive military confrontation; these countries that could support Iran in various ways include Russia, China, India and Pakistan; Venezuela, Brazil and other South American countries do not side with the U.S. on this issue. A recent meeting between the leaders of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran make it clear that these three nations are cementing an already close relationship and that’s not good news for the U.S.
The question that should be put to this president is this: is he willing to let this situation get entirely out of control, all because he is afraid of Israel’s great influence and control over this Congress and his fear that it will cost him reelection in 2012? Well, if that’s the case and he fails to act decisively at this most critical time, then he will be personally responsible if the Middle East is set ablaze by the reckless, irresponsible actions of Israel.
Michael Payne is an independent progressive activist who writes articles about social, economic and political matters as well as American foreign policy. He is a U.S. Army veteran. His major goal is to convince Americans that our perpetual wars must end before they bankrupt our nation. His articles have appeared on Online Journal, Information Clearing House, Peak Oil, Google News and websites around the world.
Alternative Radio and Robert Fisk November 15, 2010Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, Media, War.
Tags: alternative radio, foreign affairs, foreign policy, gaza, imperialism, israel, israel military, journalism, Middle East, Palestine, reporters, reporting, robert fisk, roger hollander, settlements, war
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Roger Hollander, November 15, 2010
I thought I was up to date on alternative news and opinion sources, but today on the University of Toronto’s independent radio station, CIUT, I happened on to one of the most incisive analyses on the topic of US imperialism, the Middle East, and the status of mainstream journalism that I have ever heard.
The source was Alternative Radio (www.alternativeradio.org), and I urge you to take a look. You will find, among others, the works of Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, and the journalist I am citing below.
What I heard was a speech given at the University of California at Sacramento recently by Robert Fisk, the Middle East and foreign affairs reporter for the British newspaper “The Independent.” The man is brilliant and courageousand I add his name to that of Amy Goodman, Symour Hersh and Glenn Greenwald as contemporary journalists worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as the legendary I. F. Stone.
If you are not already familiar with Robert Fisk, I urge you to become so.
The speech I listened to on CIUT, broadcasting a lead from Alternative Radio was entitled, “Lies, Cliches and the Middle East.” I have not been able to find the text of this address on the Internet, but it can be purchased from Alternative Radio on CD, MP3 or written transcript.
During War There Are No Civilians September 9, 2010Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, War.
Tags: doron almog, gaza, gaza strip, idf, israel, israel military, israeli military, nora barrows-friedman, Palestinians, rachel corrie, roger hollander, war
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Sitting in on the Rachel Corrie trial alarmingly reveals an open Israeli policy of indiscrimination towards civilians.
by Nora Barrows-Friedman
“During War there are no civilians,” that’s what “Yossi,” an Israeli military (IDF) training unit leader simply stated during a round of questioning on day two of the Rachel Corrie trials, held in Haifa’s District Court earlier this week. “When you write a [protocol] manual, that manual is for war,” he added.
For the human rights activists and friends and family of Rachel Corrie sitting in the courtroom, this open admission of an Israeli policy of indiscrimination towards civilians — Palestinian or foreign — created an audible gasp. Yet, put into context, this policy comes as no surprise. The Israeli military’s track record of insouciance towards the killings of Palestinians, from the 1948 massacre of Deir Yassin in Jerusalem to the 2008-2009 attacks on Gaza that killed upwards of 1400 men, women and children, has illustrated that not only is this an entrenched operational framework but rarely has it been challenged until recently.
Rachel Corrie, the young American peace activist from Olympia, Washington, was crushed to death by a Caterpillar D9-R bulldozer, as she and other members of the nonviolent International Solidarity Movement attempted to protect a Palestinian home from imminent demolition on March 16, 2003 in Rafah, Gaza Strip. Corrie has since become a symbol of Palestinian solidarity as her family continues to fight for justice in her name.
Her parents, Cindy and Craig Corrie, filed a civil lawsuit against the State of Israel for Rachel’s unlawful killing — what they allege was an intentional act — and this round of testimonies called by the State’s defense team follows the Corries’ witness testimonies last March. The Corries’ lawsuit charges the State with recklessness and a failure to take appropriate measures to protect human life, actions that violate both Israeli and international laws.
Witnesses insisted that the bulldozer driver couldn’t see Rachel Corrie from his perch. The State attorneys called three witnesses to the stand on Sunday and Monday to prove that the killing was unintentional and took place in an area designated as a “closed military zone.” Falling under the definition of an Act of War, their argument sought to absolve the soldiers of liability under Israeli law. The Rachel Corrie trials focus on one incident, one moment, one death, one family’s grief. However it’s important to include the context within which the Israeli military operated on that day in March of 2003 in order to properly understand the gravity of the trial and the reverberations seven and a half years later.
Yossi, the military training leader, described the area where Corrie was killed as an “active war zone.” The State’s defense argues the same. Yet what was happening in Rafah that was so important to Corrie that she confronted a 4-meter high armored bulldozer in the first place?
According to statistics from Human Rights Watch, Israel had been expanding its so-called “buffer zone” at the southern Gaza border after the breakout of the second Palestinian intifada in late 2000. “By late 2002,” reports HRW, “after the destruction of several hundred houses in Rafah, the IDF began building an eight meter high metal wall along the border.”
The area that Israel designates as its buffer zone has since enveloped nearly 35% of agricultural land, according to an August 2010 report published by the United Nation’s Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). OCHA says that this policy has affected 113,000 Palestinians inside the Gaza strip over the last ten years as their farms, homes, and villages were intentionally erased from the map.
Rachel Corrie’s nonviolent action — standing in front of the bulldozer in direct confrontation to this project — cost her her life.
The home Rachel Corrie died trying to protect was razed, along with hundreds of others. The Gaza Strip remains a sealed ghetto. And countless Palestinian families have not seen justice waged in their favor after the deaths of their loved ones.
In 2005, an arrest warrant was issued against Major General Doron Almog — a senior soldier in charge of Israel’s Southern Command — by a British court related to the destruction of 59 homes in Rafah in 2002 under his authority. He was warned before boarding a flight to the UK that he could be arrested upon arrival, and canceled his trip.
Related to the Rachel Corrie case, Maj. Almog gave a direct order to the team of internal investigators to cut the investigations short, according to Israeli army documents obtained by Israeli daily Haaretz.
This indicates that the impunity of Israeli soldiers and policy-makers can — and will — be challenged in a court of law. And when the trials continue next month, the Corries will be back in the courtroom in anticipation of a long-sought justice for their daughter.
© 2010 aljazeera.net
Israeli Commander: ‘We Rewrote the Rules of War for Gaza’ February 3, 2010Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, War.
Tags: cast lead, civilian casualties, donald macintyre, gaza, gaza offensive, gaza war, goldstone, idf, International law, israel, israel military, israeli army, means and intentions, netanuahu, roger hollander, rules of engagement
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Civilians ‘put at greater risk to save military lives’ in winter attack – revelations that will pile pressure on Netanyahu to set up full inquiry
by Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem
A high-ranking officer has acknowledged for the first time that the Israeli army went beyond its previous rules of engagement on the protection of civilian lives in order to minimise military casualties during last year’s Gaza war, The Independent can reveal.
The officer, who served as a commander during Operation Cast Lead, made it clear that he did not regard the longstanding principle of military conduct known as “means and intentions” – whereby a targeted suspect must have a weapon and show signs of intending to use it before being fired upon – as being applicable before calling in fire from drones and helicopters in Gaza last winter. A more junior officer who served at a brigade headquarters during the operation described the new policy – devised in part to avoid the heavy military casualties of the 2006 Lebanon war – as one of “literally zero risk to the soldiers”.
The officers’ revelations will pile more pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to set up an independent inquiry into the war, as demanded in the UN-commissioned Goldstone Report, which harshly criticised the conduct of both Israel and Hamas. One of Israel’s most prominent human rights lawyers, Michael Sfard, said last night that the senior commander’s acknowledgement – if accurate – was “a smoking gun”.
Until now, the testimony has been kept out of the public domain. The senior commander told a journalist compiling a lengthy report for Yedhiot Ahronot, Israel’s biggest daily newspaper, about the rules of engagement in the three-week military offensive in Gaza. But although the article was completed and ready for publication five months ago, it has still not appeared. The senior commander told Yedhiot: “Means and intentions is a definition that suits an arrest operation in the Judaea and Samaria [West Bank] area… We need to be very careful because the IDF [Israel Defence Forces] was already burnt in the second Lebanon war from the wrong terminology. The concept of means and intentions is taken from different circumstances. Here [in Cast Lead] we were not talking about another regular counter-terrorist operation. There is a clear difference.”
His remarks reinforce testimonies from soldiers who served in the Gaza operation, made to the veterans’ group Breaking the Silence and reported exclusively by this newspaper last July. They also appear to cut across the military doctrine – enunciated most recently in public by one of the authors of the IDF’s own code of ethics – that it is the duty of soldiers to run risks to themselves in order to preserve civilian lives.
Explaining what he saw as the dilemma for forces operating in areas that were supposedly cleared of civilians, the senior commander said: “Whoever is left in the neighbourhood and wants to action an IED [improvised explosive device] against the soldiers doesn’t have to walk with a Kalashnikov or a weapon. A person like that can walk around like any other civilian; he sees the IDF forces, calls someone who would operate the terrible death explosive and five of our soldiers explode in the air. We could not wait until this IED is activated against us.”
Another soldier who worked in one of the brigade’s war-room headquarters told The Independent that conduct in Gaza – particularly by aerial forces and in areas where civilians had been urged to leave by leaflets – had “taken the targeted killing idea and turned it on its head”. Instead of using intelligence to identify a terrorist, he said, “here you do the opposite: first you take him down, then you look into it.”
The Yedhiot newspaper also spoke to a series of soldiers who had served in Operation Cast Lead in sensitive positions. While the soldiers rejected the main finding of the Goldstone Report – that the Israeli military had deliberately “targeted” the civilian population – most asserted that the rules were flexible enough to allow a policy under which, in the words of one soldier “any movement must entail gunfire. No one’s supposed to be there.” He added that at a meeting with his brigade commander and others it was made clear that “if you see any signs of movement at all you shoot. This is essentially the rules of engagement.”
The other soldier in the war-room explained: “This doesn’t mean that you need to disrespect the lives of Palestinians but our first priority is the lives of our soldiers. That’s not something you’re going to compromise on. In all my years in the military, I never heard that.”
He added that the majority of casualties were caused in his brigade area by aerial firing, including from unmanned drones. “Most of the guys taken down were taken down by order of headquarters. The number of enemy killed by HQ-operated remote … compared to enemy killed by soldiers on the ground had absolutely inverted,” he said.
Rules of engagement issued to soldiers serving in the West Bank as recently as July 2006 make it clear that shooting towards even an armed person will take place only if there is intelligence that he intends to act against Israeli forces or if he poses an immediate threat to soldiers or others.
In a recent article in New Republic, Moshe Halbertal, a philosophy professor at Hebrew and New York Universities, who was involved in drawing up the IDF’s ethical code in 2000 and who is critical of the Goldstone Report, said that efforts to spare civilian life “must include the expectation that soldiers assume some risk to their own lives in order to avoid causing the deaths of civilians”. While the choices for commanders were often extremely difficult and while he did not think the expectation was demanded by international law, “it is demanded in Israel’s military code and this has always been its tradition”.
The Israeli military declined to comment on the latest revelations, and directed all enquiries to already-published material, including a July 2009 foreign ministry document The Operation in Gaza: Factual and Legal Aspects.
That document, which repeats that Israel acted in conformity with international law despite the “acute dilemmas” posed by Hamas’s operations within civilian areas, sets out the principles of Operation Cast Lead as follows: “Only military targets shall be attacked; Any attack against civilian objectives shall be prohibited. A ‘civilian objective’ is any objective which is not a military target.” It adds: “In case of doubt, the forces are obliged to regard an object as civilian.”
Yedhiot has not commented on why its article has not been published.
Israel in Gaza: The soldier’s tale
This experienced soldier, who cannot be named, served in the war room of a brigade during Operation Cast Lead. Here, he recalls an incident he witnessed during last winter’s three-week offensive:
“Two [Palestinian] guys are walking down the street. They pass a mosque and you see a gathering of women and children.
“You saw them exiting the house and [they] are not walking together but one behind the other. So you begin to fantasise they are actually ducking close to the wall.
“One [man] began to run at some point, must have heard the chopper. The GSS [secret service] argued that the mere fact that he heard it implicated him, because a normal civilian would not have realised that he was now being hunted.
“Finally he was shot. He was not shot next to the mosque. It’s obvious that shots are not taken at a gathering.”
© 2010 The Independent
Israeli Women Soldiers Break the Silence February 1, 2010Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, War, Women.
Tags: gaza, human rights, ira chernus, israel, israel military, israel occupation, Palestine, Palestinians, roger hollander, west bank, women, women soldiers
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What’s it like to be a woman serving in the Israeli occupation force in the West Bank? Is a woman’s experience as an occupier any different than a man’s? Yes indeed, say some women who have just broken their silence and offered a glimpse into the grim reality of the occupation.
“A female combat soldier needs to prove more,” one explains. “A female soldier who beats up others is a serious fighter…When I arrived there was another female [who] was there before me…Everyone spoke of how impressive she is because she humiliates Arabs without any problem. That was the indicator. You have to see her, the way she humiliates, the way she slaps them, wow, she really slapped that guy.”
This “impressive” woman is not a rare exception. “We discovered that the girls try to be even more violent and brutal than the boys, just to become one of the guys,” says Dana Golan, director of Breaking the Silence, the Israeli organization that has just released a report with testimony from some 50 Israeli women who are veterans of the occupation.
The report “indicates how violence was deeply rooted in the daily routine,” according to an article in Yediot Aharonot, one of Israel’s most widely-read newspapers, full of disturbing quotes from the women. One who served at the Erez crossing between Israel and Gaza explained that “there was a procedure in which before you release a Palestinian back into the Strip — you take him inside the tent and beat him. … together with the commanders.”
For Israelis who care to pay attention, another revelation of routine violence, sanctioned and sometimes even led by officers, hardly comes as news. Breaking the Silence has been offering the Israeli public such eyewitness testimony from Israeli soldiers since 2004. What is news is the first insight into the distinctive experience of women:
“The female soldiers repeatedly mention the particular difficulties they had as women, who had to prove that to were ‘fighters’ in the midst of the goading male soldiers on the one hand, and the Palestinians, who have a hard time handling women in uniform on the other hand.”
One woman recalled an incident several years ago when a Palestinian man laughed at her, because (or so she thought) she was a woman in uniform. She had to “salvage her self-respect,” she says. So she moved close to the man, “as if I was about to kiss him. I told him, ‘Come, come, what are you afraid of? Come to me!’ And I hit him in the balls. I told him, ‘Why aren’t you laughing?’ He was in shock, and then he realized … not to laugh.”
“It shouldn’t reach such a situation,” the woman says now. “The system is deeply flawed. The entire administration, the way things are run, it’s not right.”
Palestinian women have a distinctive experience, too. “Was there abuse of women?”, an interviewer asked. “Yes,” a woman soldier replied. “Slaps, that kind of thing. Mainly slaps. … It was mainly the female combat soldiers who beat people. … But also men, they had no problem slapping a woman around. If she screamed, they’d say, ‘Shut it,’ with another slap. A routine of violence. There were also those who didn’t take part, but everyone knew it happened.”
Sometimes, as the Breaking the Silence report indicates, the level of brutality grows beyond comprehension: a five year old child beaten; a nine year old who “posed no danger” shot to death; another child with both arms and both legs intentionally broken. The Yediot Aharonoth article offers a series of such horrifying incidents. When the full report is available on the Breaking the Silence website, it will be surely include even more heart-breaking tales.
Each soldier, male or female, is responsible for their own individual actions, of course. But this report raises disturbing questions about the society that requires them to serve in the military and then sends them on such a brutalizing mission, one that dehumanizes the perpetrators as well as their victims.
Most disturbing, perhaps, is their common explanation for the violence the inflict: The soldiers’ daily routine in the Occupied Territories “is boring, so we’d create some action. We’d get on the radio, and say they threw stones at us, then someone would be arrested, they’d start investigating him… There was a policewoman, she was bored, so okay, she said they threw stones at her. They asked her who threw them. ‘I don’t know, two in grey shirts, I didn’t manage to see them.’ They catch two guys with grey shirts… beat them. Is it them? ‘No, I don’t think so.’ Okay, a whole incident, people get beaten up. Nothing happened that day.”
Another woman, describing a common ritual of humiliating and beating Palestinians at checkpoints, agreed: “It could go on for hours, depending on how bored they are. A shift is eight hours long, the times must be passed somehow.”
The boredom is not a gendered experience. I heard exactly the same thing last year from a young Israeli man, now actively working to oppose the occupation. When he manned a checkpoint, at the tender age of 18, he would start each day intent on treating Palestinians humanely, he said. But as the hours went on — as the boredom, the occasional inevitable conflicts, and often the oppressive heat, grew — he would become more irritable, more violent, more likely to abuse his power.
Boredom and its minor irritations can easily lead young people, many of them still teenagers, to commit senseless violence. We see it happening in civilian life in most every nation, far too often. But when we see it we call it anti-social and dysfunctional, a problem to be addressed by society. We assume that society at large has a different norm, a more constructive way of dealing with boredom, which should be taught to the misbehaving youth.
Perhaps antisocial violence, wherever it occurs, is always a symptom of a whole society’s dysfunction. But in this case the connection between individual and society is especially obvious and glaring. The antisocial Israeli youth are wearing their nation’s uniform, acting (sometimes under orders) in the name of “national security,” often praised for their violent behavior, and virtually never disciplined no matter how far they go.
They’ve grown up in a Jewish society that tends to treat Palestinians (not always, but far too often) as inherently dangerous, evil, inferior, and deserving whatever harm comes to them. It’s hardly surprising that many of them would so easily cross the moral line into the realm of inhumanity.
Yet they’ve also grown up in a society that teaches them basic moral standards that should apply to all people. Most of the women interviewed in the report say they knew that what they were seeing, and sometimes doing, was wrong. But very few lodged any complaints, fearing the consequences if they spoke up. “I have to make a switch in my head and keep hating the Arabs and justify the Jews,” one explained.
Now, these women, like their male colleagues, must live with the consequences of participating in a brutal occupation that many realize is a terrible moral, as well as political, mistake. Jewish Israeli society must live with the consequences of putting its young people into such an agonizing situation, where moral contradiction is an everyday fact of life. Worst of all, Palestinian society must go on paying the price for Israel’s failure to bring its reality in line with its proclaimed principles.
Ira Chernus is Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Read more of his writing on Israel, Palestine, and the U.S. on his blog.
Gaza invasion: ‘If you’re not sure – kill’ July 15, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, War.
Tags: Amnesty International, cast lead, gaza, gaza civilian casualties, gaza invasion, gaza massacre, geneva conventions, hamas, hamas rockets, human rights, Human Rights Watch, idf, israel defense force, israel military, israel soldiers, nuremberg, oakland ross, palestinian casualties, Palestinians, roger hollander, War Crimes
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