The Unmaking of the Palestinian Nation March 16, 2010Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East.
Tags: Avigdor Lieberman, balfour, ben gurion, british mandate, gaza, history, intifada, israel, israelis, jeffrey goldberg, juan cole, league of nations, Mahmoud Abbas, mandates, Middle East, netanyahu, Palestine, Palestinians, roger hollander, settlements, west bank, zionism
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On March 10, I posted on the humiliation heaped on Vice President Joe Biden by the Israeli government of far-right Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu. Biden went to Israel intending to help kick off indirect negotiations between Netanyahu and Palestine Authority president Mahmoud Abbas. Biden had no sooner arrived than the Israelis announced that they would build 1600 new households on Palestinian territory that they had unilaterally annexed to Jerusalem. Since expanding Israeli colonization of Palestinian land had been the sticking point causing Abbas to refuse to engage in negotiations, and, indeed, to threaten to resign, this step was sure to scuttle the very talks Biden had come to inaugurate. And it did.
The tiff between the U.S. and Israel is less important that the worrisome growth of tension between Palestinians and Israelis as the Israelis have claimed more and more sites sacred to the Palestinians as well. There is talk of a third Intifada or Palestinian uprising.
As part of my original posting, I mirrored a map of modern Palestinian history that has the virtue of showing graphically what has happened to the Palestinians politically and territorially in the past century.
Andrew Sullivan then mirrored the map from my site, which set off a lot of thunder and noise among anti-Palestinian writers like Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic, but shed very little light.
The map is useful and accurate. It begins by showing the British Mandate of Palestine as of the mid-1920s. The British conquered the Ottoman districts that came to be the Mandate during World War I. (The Ottoman sultan threw in with Austria and Germany against Britain, France and Russia, mainly out of fear of Russia.)
But because of the rise of the League of Nations and the influence of President Woodrow Wilson’s ideas about self-determination, Britain and France could not decently simply make their new, previously Ottoman territories into simple colonies. The League of Nations awarded them “Mandates.” Britain got Palestine, France got Syria (which it made into Syria and Lebanon), Britain got Iraq.The League of Nations Covenant spelled out what a Class A Mandate (i.e. territory that had been Ottoman) was:
Article 22. Certain communities formerly belonging to the Turkish Empire have reached a stage of development where their existence as independent nations can be provisionally recognised subject to the rendering of administrative advice and assistance by a Mandatory [i.e., a Western power] until such time as they are able to stand alone. The wishes of these communities must be a principal consideration in the selection of the Mandatory.
That is, the purpose of the later British Mandate of Palestine, of the French Mandate of Syria, of the British Mandate of Iraq, was to ‘render administrative advice and assistance” to these peoples in preparation for their becoming independent states, an achievement that they were recognized as not far from attaining. The Covenant was written before the actual Mandates were established, but Palestine was a Class A Mandate and so the language of the Covenant was applicable to it. The territory that formed the British Mandate of Iraq was the same territory that became independent Iraq, and the same could have been expected of the British Mandate of Palestine. (Even class B Mandates like Togo have become nation-states, but the poor Palestinians are just stateless prisoners in colonial cantons).
The first map thus shows what the League of Nations imagined would become the state of Palestine. The economist published an odd assertion that the Negev Desert was ‘empty’ and should not have been shown in the first map. But it wasn’t and isn’t empty; Palestinian Bedouin live there, and they and the desert were recognized by the League of Nations as belonging to the Mandate of Palestine, a state-in-training. The Mandate of Palestine also had a charge to allow for the establishment of a ‘homeland’ in Palestine for Jews (because of the 1917 Balfour Declaration), but nobody among League of Nations officialdom at that time imagined it would be a whole and competing territorial state. There was no prospect of more than a few tens of thousands of Jews settling in Palestine, as of the mid-1920s. (They are shown in white on the first map, refuting those who mysteriously complained that the maps alternated between showing sovereignty and showing population.) As late as the 1939 British White Paper, British officials imagined that the Mandate would emerge as an independent Palestinian state within 10 years.
In 1851, there had been 327,000 Palestinians (yes, the word “Filistin” was current then) and other non-Jews, and only 13,000 Jews. In 1925, after decades of determined Jewish immigration, there were a little over 100,000 Jews, and there were 765,000 mostly Palestinian non-Jews in the British Mandate of Palestine. For historical demography of this area, see Justin McCarthy’s painstaking calculations; it is not true, as sometimes is claimed, that we cannot know anything about population figures in this region. See also his journal article, reprinted at this site. The Palestinian population grew because of rapid population growth, not in-migration, which was minor. The common allegation that Jerusalem had a Jewish majority at some point in the 19th century is meaningless. Jerusalem was a small town in 1851, and many pious or indigent elderly Jews from Eastern Europe and elsewhere retired there because of charities that would support them. In 1851, Jews were only about 4 percent of the population of the territory that became the British Mandate of Palestine some 70 years later. And, there had been few adherents of Judaism, just a few thousand, from the time most Jews in Palestine adopted Christianity and Islam in the first millennium CE all the way until the 20th century. In the British Mandate of Palestine, the district of Jerusalem was largely Palestinian.
The rise of the Nazis in the 1930s impelled massive Jewish emigration to Palestine, so by 1940 there were over 400,000 Jews there amid over a million Palestinians.
The second map shows the United Nations partition plan of 1947, which awarded Jews (who only then owned about 6 percent of Palestinian land) a substantial state alongside a much reduced Palestine. Although apologists for the Zionist movement say that the Zionists accepted this partition plan and the Arabs rejected it, that is not entirely true. Zionist leader David Ben Gurion noted in his diary when Israel was established that when the U.S. had been formed, no document set out its territorial extent, implying that the same was true of Israel. We know that Ben Gurion was an Israeli expansionist who fully intended to annex more land to Israel, and by 1956 he attempted to add the Sinai and would have liked southern Lebanon. So the Zionist “acceptance” of the UN partition plan did not mean very much beyond a happiness that their initial starting point was much better than their actual land ownership had given them any right to expect.
The third map shows the status quo after the Israeli-Palestinian civil war of 1947-1948. It is not true that the entire Arab League attacked the Jewish community in Palestine or later Israel on behalf of the Palestinians. As Avi Shlaim has shown, Jordan had made an understanding with the Zionist leadership that it would grab the West Bank, and its troops did not mount a campaign in the territory awarded to Israel by the UN. Egypt grabbed Gaza and then tried to grab the Negev Desert, with a few thousand badly trained and equipped troops, but was defeated by the nascent Israeli army. Few other Arab states sent any significant number of troops. The total number of troops on the Arab side actually on the ground was about equal to those of the Zionist forces, and the Zionists had more esprit de corps and better weaponry.
The final map shows the situation today, which springs from the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank in 1967 and then the decision of the Israelis to colonize the West Bank intensively (a process that is illegal in the law of war concerning occupied populations).
There is nothing inaccurate about the maps at all, historically. Goldberg maintained that the Palestinians’ “original sin” was rejecting the 1947 UN partition plan. But since Ben Gurion and other expansionists went on to grab more territory later in history, it is not clear that the Palestinians could have avoided being occupied even if they had given away willingly so much of their country in 1947. The first original sin was the contradictory and feckless pledge by the British to sponsor Jewish immigration into their Mandate in Palestine, which they wickedly and fantastically promised would never inconvenience the Palestinians in any way. It was the same kind of original sin as the French policy of sponsoring a million colons in French Algeria, or the French attempt to create a Christian-dominated Lebanon where the Christians would be privileged by French policy. The second original sin was the refusal of the United States to allow Jews to immigrate in the 1930s and early 1940s, which forced them to go to Palestine to escape the monstrous, mass-murdering Nazis.
The map attracted so much ire and controversy not because it is inaccurate but because it clearly shows what has been done to the Palestinians, which the League of Nations had recognized as not far from achieving statehood in its Covenant. Their statehood and their territory has been taken from them, and they have been left stateless, without citizenship and therefore without basic civil and human rights. The map makes it easy to see this process. The map had to be stigmatized and made taboo. But even if that marginalization of an image could be accomplished, the squalid reality of Palestinian statelessness would remain, and the children of Gaza would still be being malnourished by the deliberate Israeli policy of blockading civilians. The map just points to a powerful reality; banishing the map does not change that reality.
Goldberg, according to Spencer Ackerman, says that he will stop replying to Andrew Sullivan, for which Ackerman is grateful, since, he implies, Goldberg is a propagandistic hack who loves to promote wars on flimsy pretenses. Matthew Yglesias also has some fun at Goldberg’s expense.
People like Goldberg never tell us what they expect to happen to the Palestinians in the near and medium future. They don’t seem to understand that the status quo is untenable. They are like militant ostriches, hiding their heads in the sand while lashing out with their hind talons at anyone who stares clear-eyed at the problem, characterizing us as bigots. As if that old calumny has any purchase for anyone who knows something serious about the actual views of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu or Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, more bigoted persons than whom would be difficult to find. Indeed, some of Israel’s current problems with Brazil come out of Lieberman’s visit there last summer; I was in Rio then and remember the distaste with which the multi-cultural, multi-racial Brazilians viewed Lieberman, whom some openly called a racist.
© 2010 Salon.com
Juan Cole teaches Middle Eastern and South Asian history at the University of Michigan. His most recent book Napoleon’s Egypt: Invading the Middle East (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007) has just been published. He has appeared widely on television, radio and on op-ed pages as a commentator on Middle East affairs, and has a regular column at Salon.com. He has written, edited, or translated 14 books and has authored 60 journal articles. His weblog on the contemporary Middle East is Informed Comment.
Report From Rafah: Doctors Stopped at Borders January 12, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Human Rights, Israel, Gaza & Middle East, War.
Tags: bill quigley, blockade, civilian casualties, doctors of peace, egypt, frida berrigan, gaza, human rights, humanitarian assistance, humanitarian catastrophe, humanitarian crisis, humanitarian resources, International law, israel, israeli bombs, israelis, medical assistance, Palestine, Palestinians, rafah, red crescent, Richard Falk, rockets, roger hollander, siege, United Nations, us military aid, War Crimes
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A Palestinian boy blinded during an airstrike. Injured civilians in Gaza struggle to gain access to supplies and medical care due to Israel’s blockade of the region. (Photo: Reuters)
Saturday 10 January 2009
by: Bill Quigley, t r u t h o u t | Report
Dr. Nicolas Doussis-Rassias and many other volunteer doctors have been waiting in Rafah, Egypt, for days. Nicolas and the other physicians came to Rafah to go through the border into Gaza to help the 3,000 people wounded by Israeli bombs and heavy weapons. Rafah is a heavily armed Egyptian border crossing into Gaza, a four-hour drive away from Cairo. Sonic booms of highflying jets cut through the stark blue sky. Military drones hover over the border, as the air smells of burning.
”Three thousand victims of bombs and gunfire would overwhelm the medical system of New York City,” Nicolas said. “Gaza now has no functioning medical system at all. Most of it has no electricity or running water. These people are in crisis – they need medical help, so we are here to help them.”
But today, instead of helping the thousands of wounded, Nicolas and other doctors are holding up a hand-lettered red and blue banner outside the Egyptian border station saying, “Let the Doctors Through!”
Why? Doctors of Peace and numerous other doctors from around the world have been prevented from entering Gaza for seven days. They cannot get in to help through Israel or Egypt.
Nicolas is not an anti-Israeli radical. He is a jolly, 49-year-old Athens doctor. Father of two children, he is the president of an organization of volunteer Greek physicians called Doctors of Peace. These doctors pay their own way and volunteer to help the victims of war and natural disasters. They have helped out in Latin America with victims of Hurricane Mitch, in Sri Lanka with tsunami victims and the victims of wars in Lebanon, Serbia, Turkey and Pakistan.
But the borders of Gaza are sealed off, preventing basic humanitarian and medical assistance from entering. Richard Falk, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in the occupied territories, pointed out the human rights violations of the sealed border: “Israeli actions, specifically the complete sealing off of entry and exit to and from the Gaza Strip, have led to severe shortages of medicine and fuel (as well as food), resulting in the inability of ambulances to respond to the injured, the inability of hospitals to adequately provide medicine or necessary equipment for the injured, and the inability of Gaza’s besieged doctors and other medical workers to sufficiently treat the victims.”
The people of Gaza have been cut off from basic medical and humanitarian resources for a long time by an ongoing blockade by Israel, but everything is much worse in the last few weeks.
Falk, like many others, also condemned the rocket attacks launched from Gaza against Israel. More than a dozen Israelis have died since the war began, as have more than 800 Gazans. But Falk’s harshest words were reserved for the catastrophic human toll from the Israeli airstrikes and “those counties that have been and remain complicit, either directly or indirectly, in Israel’s violations of international law.”
Frida Berrigan pointed out, “During the Bush administration Israel has received over $21 billion in U.S. security assistance, including $19 billion in direct military aid. The bulk of Israel’s current arsenal is composed of equipment supplied under U.S. assistance programs. For example, Israel has 226 U.S.-supplied F-16 fighter and attack jets, over 700 M-60 tanks, 6,000 armored personnel carriers, and scores of transport planes, attack helicopters, utility and training aircraft, bombs, and tactical missiles of all kinds.”
Palestinian medical officials say more than half of the 800 dead and 3,000 wounded are civilians. Denial of humanitarian and medical assistance to civilian casualties is a clear violation of basic human rights.
The people of Egypt are challenging the denial of medical help for Gaza. Halfway through our drive from Cairo to Rafah, we saw a hundred young Egyptians sitting in the middle of the highway protesting Egypt’s inactions.
After seven days, the border is starting to open a little. The Egyptian Red Crescent was allowed to deliver supplies to the border today and some of the waiting doctors were allowed in. With great show, two dozen Egyptian ambulances were allowed to enter the border area – only to be parked inside to wait for the injured to make it to the border. Two ambulances left Rafah with patients inside. Doctors of Peace were still not allowed in today. Some physicians, tired from the seven-day blockade, have started to return home. Nicolas is going back to the Rafah border crossing tomorrow to try again. Why? “Because there are 3,000 injured people who need help. I am going to keep trying.”
Bill is a human rights lawyer and law professor at Loyola New Orleans. He is in Egypt as a human rights representative of the National Lawyers Guild, the Society of American Law Professors, the International Association of Democratic Lawyers and the War Resisters League. Kathy Kelly of Voices for Creative Nonviolence and Audrey Stewart are also in Egypt and contributed to this article. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Who will save Israel from itself? January 12, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, War.
Tags: al-jazeera, al-Qaeda, ceasefire, gaza, geneva convention, gideon levy, haaretz, hamas, hezbollah, human rights, humanitarian crisis, International law, Iran, israel, israel lobby, israeli military, israelis, Jimmy Carter, lebanon, mark levine, Middle East, non-military targets, Obama, Palestine, Palestinians, red cross, Richard Falk, rockets, roger hollander, rogue state, siege, Syria, tzipi livni, un, War Crimes, west bank
The Israeli government’s justifications for the war are being scrutinised [GALLO/GETTY]
Mark LeVine, www.aljazeera.net
January 12, 2009
One by one the justifications given by Israel for its latest war in Gaza are unravelling.
The argument that this is a purely defensive war, launched only after Hamas broke a six-month ceasefire has been challenged, not just by observers in the know such as Jimmy Carter, the former US president who helped facilitate the truce, but by centre-right Israeli intelligence think tanks.
The Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, whose December 31 report titled “Six Months of the Lull Arrangement Intelligence Report,” confirmed that the June 19 truce was only “sporadically violated, and then not by Hamas but instead by … “rogue terrorist organisations”.
Instead, “the escalation and erosion of the lull arrangement” occurred after Israel killed six Hamas members on November 4 without provocation and then placed the entire Strip under an even more intensive siege the next day.
According to a joint Tel Aviv University-European University study, this fits a larger pattern in which Israeli violence has been responsible for ending 79 per cent of all lulls in violence since the outbreak of the second intifada, compared with only 8 per cent for Hamas and other Palestinian factions.
Indeed, the Israeli foreign ministry seems to realise that this argument is losing credibility.
During a conference call with half a dozen pro-Israel professors on Thursday, Asaf Shariv, the Consul General of Israel in New York, focused more on the importance of destroying the intricate tunnel system connecting Gaza to the Sinai.
He claimed that such tunnels were “as big as the Holland and Lincoln tunnels,” and offered as proof the “fact” that lions and monkeys had been smuggled through them to a zoo in Gaza. In reality, the lions were two small cubs that were drugged, thrown in sacks, and dragged through a tunnel on their way to a private zoo.
The claim that Hamas will never accept the existence of Israel has proved equally misinformed, as Hamas leaders explicitly announce their intention to do just that in the pages of the Los Angeles Times or to any international leader or journalist who will meet with them.
With each new family, 10, 20 and 30 strong, buried under the rubble of a building in Gaza, the claim that the Israeli forces have gone out of their way to diminish civilian casualties – long a centre-piece of Israel’s image as an enlightened and moral democracy – is falling apart.
Anyone with an internet connection can Google “Gaza humanitarian catastrophe” and find the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the Occupied Territories and read the thousands of pages of evidence documenting the reality of the current fighting, and the long term siege on Gaza that preceded it.
The Red Cross, normally scrupulous in its unwillingness to single out parties to a conflict for criticism, sharply criticised Israel for preventing medical personnel from reaching wounded Palestinians, some of whom remained trapped for days, slowly starving and dying in the Gazan rubble amidst their dead relatives.
Meanwhile, the United Nations has flatly denied Israeli claims that Palestinian fighters were using the UNRWA school compound bombed on January 6, in which 40 civilians were killed, to launch attacks, and has challenged Israel to prove otherwise.
War crimes admission
Additionally, numerous flippant remarks by senior Israeli politicians and generals, including Tzipi Livni, the foreign minister, refusing to make a distinction between civilian people and institutions and fighters – “Hamas doesn’t … and neither should we” is how Livni puts it – are rightly being seen as admissions of war crimes.
Indeed, in reviewing statements by Israeli military planners leading up to the invasion, it is clear that there was a well thought out decision to go after Gaza’s civilian infrastructure – and with it, civilians.
The following quote from an interview with Major-General Gadi Eisenkot that appeared in the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth in October, is telling:
“We will wield disproportionate power against every village from which shots are fired on Israel, and cause immense damage and destruction. From our perspective these [the villages] are military bases,” he said.
“This isn’t a suggestion. This is a plan that has already been authorised.”
Causing “immense damage and destruction” and considering entire villages “military bases” is absolutely prohibited under international law.
Eisenkot’s description of this planning in light of what is now unfolding in Gaza is a clear admission of conspiracy and intent to commit war crimes, and when taken with the comments above, and numerous others, renders any argument by Israel that it has tried to protect civilians and is not engaging in disproportionate force unbelievable.
International laws violated
On the ground, the evidence mounts ever higher that Israel is systematically violating a host of international laws, including but not limited to Article 56 of the IV Hague Convention of 1907, the First Additional Protocol of the Geneva Convention, the Fourth Geneva Convention (more specifically known as the “Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 12 August 1949″, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the principles of Customary International Humanitarian Law.
None of this excuses or legitimises the firing of rockets or mortars by any Palestinian group at Israeli civilians and non-military targets.
As Richard Falk, the UN special rapporteur, declared in his most recent statement on Gaza: “It should be pointed out unambiguously that there is no legal (or moral) justification for firing rockets at civilian targets, and that such behavior is a violation of IHR, associated with the right to life, as well as constitutes a war crime.”
By the same logic, however, Israel does not have the right to use such attacks as an excuse to launch an all-out assault on the entire population of Gaza.
In this context, even Israel’s suffering from the constant barrage of rockets is hard to pay due attention to when the numbers of dead and wounded on each side are counted. Any sense of proportion is impossible to sustain with such a calculus.
Israeli commentators and scholars, self-described “loyal” Zionists who served proudly in the army in wars past, are now publicly describing their country, in the words of Oxford University professor Avi Shlaim, as a “rogue” and gangster” state led by “completely unscrupulous leaders”.
Neve Gordon, a politics professor at Ben Gurion University, has declared that Israel’s actions in Gaza are like “raising animals for slaughter on a farm” and represent a “bizarre new moral element” in warfare.
“The moral voice of restraint has been left behind … Everything is permitted” against Palestinians, writes a disgusted Haaretz columnist, Gideon Levy.
Fellow Haaretz columnist and daughter of Holocaust survivors, Amira Haas writes of her late parents disgust at how Israeli leaders justified Israel’s wars with a “language laundromat” aimed at redefining reality and Israel’s moral compass. “Lucky my parents aren’t alive to see this,” she exclaimed.
Around the world people are beginning to compare Israel’s attack on Gaza, which after the 2005 withdrawal of Israeli forces and settlers was turned literally into the world’s largest prison, to the Jewish uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto.
Extremist Muslims are using internet forums to collect names and addresses of prominent European Jews with the goal, it seems clear, of assassinating them in retaliation for Israel’s actions in Gaza.
Al-Qaeda is attempting to exploit this crisis to gain a foothold in Gaza and Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon and Syria, as well as through attacking Jewish communities globally.
Iran’s defiance of both Israel and its main sponsor, the US, is winning it increasing sympathy with each passing day.
Democratic values eroded
Inside Israel, the violence will continue to erode both democratic values in the Jewish community, and any acceptance of the Jewish state’s legitimacy in the eyes of its Palestinian citizens.
And yet in the US – at least in Washington and in the offices of the mainstream Jewish organisations – the chorus of support for Israel’s war on Gaza continues to sing in tight harmony with official Israeli policy, seemingly deaf to the fact that they have become so out of tune with the reality exploding around them.
At my university, UCI, where last summer Jewish and Muslim students organised a trip together through the occupied territories and Israel so they could see with their own eyes the realities there, old battle lines are being redrawn.
The Anteaters for Israel, the college pro-Israel group at the University of California, Irvine, sent out an urgent email to the community explaining that, “Over the past week, increasing amounts of evidence lead us to believe that Hamas is largely responsible for any alleged humanitarian crisis in Gaza”.
I have no idea who the “us” is that is referred to in the appeal, although I am sure that the membership of that group is shrinking.
Indeed, one of the sad facts of this latest tragedy is that with each claim publicly refuted by facts on the ground, more and more Americans, including Jews, are refusing to trust the assertions of Israeli and American Jewish leaders.
Even worse, in the Arab/Muslim world, the horrific images pouring out of Gaza daily are allowing preachers and politicians to deploy well-worn yet still dangerous and inciteful stereotypes against Jews as they rally the masses against Israel – and through it – their own governments.
What is most frightening is that the most important of Israel’s so-called friends, the US political establishment and the mainstream Jewish leadership, seem clueless to the devastating trap that Israel has led itself into – in good measure with their indulgence and even help.
It is one that threatens the country’s existence far more than any Qassam rockets, with their 0.4 per cent kill rate; even more than the disastrous 2006 invasion of southern Lebanon, which by weakening Israel’s deterrence capability in some measure made this war inevitable.
First, it is clear that Israel cannot destroy Hamas, it cannot stop the rockets unless it agrees to a truce that will go far to meeting the primary demand of Hamas – an end to the siege.
Merely by surviving (and it surely will survive) Hamas, like Hezbollah in 2006, will have won.
Israel is succeeding in doing little more than creating another generation of Palestinians with hearts filled with rage and a need for revenge.
Second, Israel’s main patron, the US, along with the conservative Arab autocracies and monarchies that are its only allies left in the Muslim world, are losing whatever crumbs of legitimacy they still had with their young and angry populations.
The weaker the US and its axis becomes in the Middle East, the more precarious becomes Israel’s long-term security. Indeed, any chance that the US could convince the Muslim world to pressure Iran to give up its quest for nuclear weapons has been buried in Gaza.
Third, as Israel brutalises Palestinians, it brutalises its own people. You cannot occupy another people and engage in violence against them at this scale without doing even greater damage to your soul.
The high incidence of violent crimes committed by veterans returning from combat duty in Iraq is but one example of how the violence of occupation and war eat away at people’s moral centre.
While in the US only a small fraction of the population participates in war; in Israel, most able-bodied men end up participating.
The effects of the latest violence perpetrated against Palestinians upon the collective Israeli soul is incalculable; the notion that it can survive as an “ethnocracy” – favouring one ethnic group, Jews, yet by and large democratic – is becoming a fiction.
Who will save Israel from herself?
Israelis are clearly incapable. Their addiction as a society to the illusion of violence-as-power has reached the level of collective mental illness.
As Haaretz reporter Yossi Melman described it on January 10, “Israel has created an image of itself of a madman that has lost it”.
Not Palestinians, too many of whom have fallen prey to the same condition.
Not the Middle East Quartet, the European Union, the United Nations, or the Arab League, all of whom are utterly powerless to influence Israeli policy.
Not the organised Jewish leadership in the US and Europe, who are even more blind to what is happening than most Israelis, who at least allow internal debate about the wisdom of their government’s policies.
Not the growing progressive Jewish community, which will need years to achieve enough social and political power to challenge the status quo.
And not senior American politicians and policy-makers who are either unwilling to risk alienating American Jewish voters, or have been so brainwashed by the constant barrage of propaganda put out by the “Israel Lobby” that they are incapable of reaching an independent judgment about the conflict.
During the US presidential race, Barack Obama was ridiculed for being a messiah-like figure. The idea does not sound so funny now. It is hard to imagine anyone less saving Israel, the Palestinians, and the world from another four years of mindless violence.
Mark LeVine is a professor of Middle East history at the University of California, Irvine, and is the author of Heavy Metal Islam: Rock, Resistance, and the Struggle for the Soul of Islam and the soon to be published An Impossible Peace: Israel/Palestine Since 1989.
The views expressed by the author are not necessarily those of Al Jazeera.
An Unnecessary War January 8, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, War.
Tags: abbas, carter center, damascus, egypt, gaza, hamas, idf, israel, israeli attacks, israelis, jerusalem, Jimmy Carter, Palestine, Palestinians, plo, ramallah, roger hollander, sderot, Syria, west bank
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A Palestinian confronts Israeli soldiers during a protest Thursday in the West Bank. Thousands of demonstrators gathered in Ramallah to demand an immediate halt to Israeli attacks. (Photo: Eric Gaillard / Reuters) by: Jimmy Carter, The Washington PostJanuray 8, 2009www.truthout.org I know from personal involvement that the devastating invasion of Gaza by Israel could easily have been avoided. After visiting Sderot last April and seeing the serious psychological damage caused by the rockets that had fallen in that area, my wife, Rosalynn, and I declared their launching from Gaza to be inexcusable and an act of terrorism. Although casualties were rare (three deaths in seven years), the town was traumatized by the unpredictable explosions. About 3,000 residents had moved to other communities, and the streets, playgrounds and shopping centers were almost empty. Mayor Eli Moyal assembled a group of citizens in his office to meet us and complained that the government of Israel was not stopping the rockets, either through diplomacy or military action.
Knowing that we would soon be seeing Hamas leaders from Gaza and also in Damascus, we promised to assess prospects for a cease-fire. From Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, who was negotiating between the Israelis and Hamas, we learned that there was a fundamental difference between the two sides. Hamas wanted a comprehensive cease-fire in both the West Bank and Gaza, and the Israelis refused to discuss anything other than Gaza.
We knew that the 1.5 million inhabitants of Gaza were being starved, as the U.N. special rapporteur on the right to food had found that acute malnutrition in Gaza was on the same scale as in the poorest nations in the southern Sahara, with more than half of all Palestinian families eating only one meal a day.
Palestinian leaders from Gaza were noncommittal on all issues, claiming that rockets were the only way to respond to their imprisonment and to dramatize their humanitarian plight. The top Hamas leaders in Damascus, however, agreed to consider a cease-fire in Gaza only, provided Israel would not attack Gaza and would permit normal humanitarian supplies to be delivered to Palestinian citizens.
After extended discussions with those from Gaza, these Hamas leaders also agreed to accept any peace agreement that might be negotiated between the Israelis and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who also heads the PLO, provided it was approved by a majority vote of Palestinians in a referendum or by an elected unity government.
Since we were only observers, and not negotiators, we relayed this information to the Egyptians, and they pursued the cease-fire proposal. After about a month, the Egyptians and Hamas informed us that all military action by both sides and all rocket firing would stop on June 19, for a period of six months, and that humanitarian supplies would be restored to the normal level that had existed before Israel’s withdrawal in 2005 (about 700 trucks daily).
We were unable to confirm this in Jerusalem because of Israel’s unwillingness to admit to any negotiations with Hamas, but rocket firing was soon stopped and there was an increase in supplies of food, water, medicine and fuel. Yet the increase was to an average of about 20 percent of normal levels. And this fragile truce was partially broken on Nov. 4, when Israel launched an attack in Gaza to destroy a defensive tunnel being dug by Hamas inside the wall that encloses Gaza.
On another visit to Syria in mid-December, I made an effort for the impending six-month deadline to be extended. It was clear that the preeminent issue was opening the crossings into Gaza. Representatives from the Carter Center visited Jerusalem, met with Israeli officials and asked if this was possible in exchange for a cessation of rocket fire. The Israeli government informally proposed that 15 percent of normal supplies might be possible if Hamas first stopped all rocket fire for 48 hours. This was unacceptable to Hamas, and hostilities erupted.
After 12 days of “combat,” the Israeli Defense Forces reported that more than 1,000 targets were shelled or bombed. During that time, Israel rejected international efforts to obtain a cease-fire, with full support from Washington. Seventeen mosques, the American International School, many private homes and much of the basic infrastructure of the small but heavily populated area have been destroyed. This includes the systems that provide water, electricity and sanitation. Heavy civilian casualties are being reported by courageous medical volunteers from many nations, as the fortunate ones operate on the wounded by light from diesel-powered generators.
The hope is that when further hostilities are no longer productive, Israel, Hamas and the United States will accept another cease-fire, at which time the rockets will again stop and an adequate level of humanitarian supplies will be permitted to the surviving Palestinians, with the publicized agreement monitored by the international community. The next possible step: a permanent and comprehensive peace.
The writer was president from 1977 to 1981. He founded the Carter Center, a nongovernmental organization advancing peace and health worldwide, in 1982.
Israeli Voices for Peace January 6, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, Peace, War.
Tags: amy goodman, danis moynihan, democrcy now, ehud barak, gaza, hamas, israel military, israelis, Jonathan Ben-Artzi, knesset, likud, netanyahu, Obama, Palestinians, refugee camps, roger hollander, tzipi livni, unrwa
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Jan 6, 2009, www.truthdig.com
By Amy Goodman
Israel’s assault on Gaza, by air, sea and now land, has killed (at the time of this writing) more than 600 Palestinians, with more than 2,700 injured. Ten Israelis have been killed, three of them, Israeli soldiers, killed by friendly fire. Beyond the deaths and injuries, the people of Gaza are suffering a dire humanitarian crisis that is dismissed by the Israeli government. There is, however, Israeli opposition to the military assault.
Israeli professor Neve Gordon is chair of the Department of Politics and Government at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in southern Israel, the region most impacted by the Hamas rockets.
Speaking over the phone from Beersheba, Gordon said: “We just had a rocket about an hour ago not far from our house. My two children have been sleeping in a bomb shelter for the past week. And yet, I think what Israel is doing is outrageous. … The problem is that most Israelis say Israel left the Gaza Strip three years ago, and Hamas is still shooting rockets at us. They forget the details. The detail is that Israel maintains sovereignty. The detail is that the Palestinians live in a cage. The detail is that they don’t get basic foodstuff, that they don’t get electricity, that they don’t get water. And when you forget those kinds of details, all you say is, ‘Why are they still shooting at us?’ That’s what the media here has been pumping them with, then you think this war is rational. If you look at what’s been going on in the Gaza Strip in the past three years and you see what Israel has been doing to the Palestinians, you would think that the Palestinian resistance is rational. And that’s what’s missing in the mainstream media here.”
Gordon attended a large peace march last weekend in Tel Aviv with more than 10,000 Israelis. Longtime Israeli peace activist Uri Avnery was there. He called the invasion “a criminal war, because, on top of everything else it is openly and shamelessly part of Ehud Barak’s and Tzipi Livni’s election campaign. I accuse Ehud Barak of exploiting the IDF [Israeli Defense Forces] soldiers in order to get more Knesset seats. I accuse Tzipi Livni of advocating mutual slaughter in order to become prime minister.” Israel’s elections will be in February.
The assault strengthens right-wing Likud Party leader and former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a foremost hawk and leading candidate for prime minister. While Netanyahu fully supports the attack on Gaza, his nephew, Jonathan Ben-Artzi, is an Israeli conscientious objector who was court-martialed and imprisoned for a year and a half. He spoke to me from Providence, R.I., where he is a student at Brown University.
“I’m speaking … not as anyone’s nephew but … as an Israeli, trying to speak out to Americans to tell them you don’t have to support Israel blindly. Not everything that Israel does is holy … sometimes you have to speak firmly to Israel and tell us, tell our government, stop doing this.”
Gideon Levy is a Jewish journalist with the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. He told me: “I think that Israel had this legitimacy to protect its citizens in the southern part of Israel … but this doing something does not mean this brutal and violent operation. … I believe we could have got to a new truce without this bloodshed. Immediately to send dozens of jets to bomb a total helpless civilian society with hundreds of bombs—just today, they were burying five sisters. I mean, this is unheard of. This cannot go on like this.”
But it is. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency, UNRWA, in Gaza opened up schools to provide shelter, since Gazans, trapped in this narrow strip of land, have no place to flee. Christopher Gunness of UNRWA told me that they provided the coordinates of the schools to the Israeli military. Nevertheless, at least two schools have been hit by Israeli airstrikes in the past 24 hours. Three people were killed at the Asma Elementary school. More than 30 are reported dead and more than 55 injured at the al-Fakhura school in the Jabaliya refugee camp in Gaza.
While Israeli planes drop pamphlets urging Palestinians to leave, the 1.5 million residents of the Gaza Strip, perhaps the most densely populated place on Earth, have no place to run, no place to hide. Calls for an immediate cease-fire are ignored by Israel and blocked by the U.S. government. It is not clear what the Obama administration will do—but the people of Gaza can’t wait until the inauguration. There must be a cease-fire now. And that’s just the beginning.
Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.
Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 700 stations in North America. She was awarded the 2008 Right Livelihood Award, dubbed the “Alternative Nobel” prize, and received the award in the Swedish Parliament in December.
© 2009 Amy Goodman
Distributed by King Features Syndicate
On Gaza January 4, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, Peace, War.
Tags: assassinations, atonement, blockade, checkpoints, gaza, golda meir, hamas, humanitarian aid, israel, israelis, Palestine, Palestinians, peace, roger hollander, settlements, starhawk, tel aviv, war, west bank
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December 30, 2008
The Israeli ambassador speaks movingly of the terror felt by Israeli children as Hamas rockets explode in the night. I agree with him-that no child should have her sleep menaced by rocket fire, or wake in the night fearing death.
But I can’t help but remember one night on the Rafah border, sleeping in a house close to the line, watching the children dive for cover as bullets thudded into the walls. There was a shell-hole in the back room they liked to jump through into the garden, which at that time still held fruit trees and chickens. Their mother fed me eggs, and their grandmother stuffed oranges into my pockets with the shy pride every gardener shares.
That house is gone, now, along with all of its neighbors. Those children wake in the night, every night of their lives, in terror. I don’t know if they have survived the hunger, the lack of medical supplies, the bombs. I only know that they are children, too.
I’ve ridden on busses in Israel. I understand that gnawing fear, the squirrely feeling in the pit or your stomach, how you eye your fellow passengers wondering if any of them are too thick around the middle. Could that portly fellow be wearing a suicide belt, or just too many late night snacks of hummus? That’s no way to live.
But I’ve also walked the pock-marked streets of Rafah, where every house bears the scars of Israeli snipers, where tanks prowled the border every night, where children played in the rubble, sometimes under fire, and this was all four years ago, when things were much, much better there.
And I just don’t get it. I mean, I get why suicide bombs and homemade rockets that kill innocent civilians are wrong. I just don’t get why bombs from F16s that kill far more innocent civilians are right. Why a kid from the ghetto who shoots a cop is a criminal, but a pilot who bombs a police station from the air is a hero.
Is it a distance thing? Does the air or the altitude confer a purifying effect? Or is it a matter of scale? Individual murder is vile, but mass murder, carried out by a state as an aspect of national policy, that’s a fine and noble thing?
I don’t get how my own people can be doing this. Or rather, I do get it. I am a Jew, by birth and upbringing, born six years after the Holocaust ended, raised on the myth and hope of Israel. The myth goes like this:
“For two thousand years we wandered in exile, homeless and
persecuted, nearly destroyed utterly by the Nazis. But out of that
suffering was born one good thing-the homeland that we have come back
to, our own land at last, where we can be safe, and proud, and
That’s a powerful story, a moving story. There’s only one problem with it-it leaves the Palestinians out. It has to leave them out, for if we were to admit that the homeland belonged to another people, well, that spoils the story.
The result is a kind of psychic blind spot where the Palestinians are concerned. If you are truly invested in Israel as the Jewish homeland, the Jewish state, then you can’t let the Palestinians be real to you. It’s like you can’t really focus on them. Golda Meir said, “The Palestinians, who are they? They don’t exist.” We hear, “There is no partner for peace,” “There is no one to talk to.”
And so Israel, a modern state with high standards of hygiene, a state rooted in a religion that requires washing your hands before you eat and regular, ritual baths, builds settlements that don’t bother to construct sewage treatment plants. They just dump raw sewage onto the Palestinian fields across the fence, somewhat like a spaceship ejecting its wastes into the void. I am truly not making this up-I’ve seen it, smelled it, and it’s a known though shameful fact. But if the Palestinians aren’t really real-who are they? They don’t exist!-then the land they inhabit becomes a kind of void in the psyche, and it isn’t really real, either. At times, in those border villages, walking the fencelines of settlements, you feel like you have slipped into a science fiction movie, where parallel universes exist in the same space, but in different strands of reality, that never touch.
When I was on the West Bank, during Israeli incursions the Israeli military would often take over a Palestinian house to billet their soldiers. Many times, they would simply lock the family who owned it into one room, and keep them there, sometimes for hours, sometimes for days parents, grandparents, kids and all. I’ve sat with a family, singing to the children while soldiers trashed their house, and I’ve been detained by a group of soldiers playing cards in the kitchen with a family locked in the other room. (I got out of that one-but that’s another story.)
It’s a kind of uneasy feeling, having something locked away in a room in your house that you can’t look at. Ever caught a mouse in a glue trap? And you can’t bear to watch it suffer, so you leave the room and close the door and don’t come back until it’s really, really dead.
Like a horrific fractal, the locked room repeats on different scales. The Israelis have built a wall to lock away the West Bank. And Gaza itself is one huge, locked room. Close the borders, keep food and medical supplies and necessities from getting through, and perhaps they will just quietly fade out of existence and stop spoiling our story.
“All we want is a return to calm,” the Israeli ambassador says. “All we want is peace.”
One way to get peace is to exterminate what threatens you. In fact, that may be the prime directive of the last few thousand years.
But attempts to exterminate pests breed resistance, whether you’re dealing with insects or bacteria or people. The more insecticides you pour on a field, the more pests you have to deal with-because insecticides are always more potent at killing the beneficial bugs than the pesky ones.
The harshness, the crackdowns, the border closings, the checkpoints, the assassinations, the incursions, the building of settlements deep into Palestinian territory, all the daily frustrations and humiliations of occupation, have been breeding the conditions for Hamas, or something like it, to thrive. If Israel truly wants peace, there’s a more subtle, a more intelligent and more effective strategy to pursue than simply trying to kill the enemy and anyone else who happens to be in the vicinity.
It’s this-instead of killing what threatens you, feed what you want to grow. Consider in what conditions peace can thrive, and create them, just as you would prepare the bed for the crops you want to plant. Find those among your opponents who also want peace, and support them. Make alliances. Offer your enemies incentives to change, and reward your friends.
Of course, to follow such a strategy, you must actually see and know your enemy. If they are nothing to you but cartoon characters of terrorists, you will not be able to tell one from another, to discern the religious fanatic from the guy muttering under his breath, “F-ing Hammas, they closed the cinema again!”
And you must be willing to give something up. No one gets peace if your basic bargaining position is, “I get everything I want, and you eat my shit.” You might get a temporary victory, but it will never be a peaceful one.
To know and see the enemy, you must let them into the story. They must become real to you, nuanced, distinctive as individuals. But when we let the Palestinians into the story, it changes. Oh, how painfully it changes! For there is no way to tell a new story, one that includes both peoples of the land, without starting like this:
“In our yearning for a homeland, in our attempts as a threatened and
traumatized people to find safety and power, we have done a great
wrong to another people, and now we must atone.”
And if you’re not Jewish, if you’re American, if you’re white, if you’re German, if you’re a thousand other things, really, if you’re a human being, there’s probably some version of that story that is true for you.
Out of our own great need and fear and pain, we have often done great harm, and we are called to atone. To atone is to be at one-to stop drawing a circle that includes our tribe and excludes the other, and start drawing a larger circle that takes everyone in.
How do we atone? Open your eyes. Look into the face of the enemy, and see a human being, flawed, distinct, unique and precious. Stop killing. Start talking. Compost the shit and the rot and feed the olive trees.
Act. Cross the line. There are Israelis who do it all the time, joining with Palestinians on the West Bank to protest the wall, watching at checkpoints, refusing to serve in the occupying army, standing for peace. Thousands have demonstrated this week in Tel Aviv.
There are Palestinians who advocate nonviolent resistance, who have organized their villages to protest the wall, who face tear gas, beatings, arrests, rubber bullets and real bullets to make their stand.
There are internationals who have put themselves on the line-like the boatload of human rights activists, journalists and doctors on board the Dignity, the ship from the Free Gaza movement that was rammed and fired on by the Israeli navy yesterday as it attempted to reach Gaza with humanitarian aid.
Maybe we can’t all do that. But we can all write a letter, make a phone call, send an email. We can make the Palestinian people visible to us, and to the world. When we do so, we make a world that is safer for every child.
Below is a good summary of some of the actions we can take. Please feel free to repost this. In fact, send it to someone you think will disagree with it.
Updated Action Alert on Gaza:
We Need “Sustained, Determined Political Action”
December 29, 2008
As of this writing, a third consecutive day of Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip have killed an estimated 315 Palestinians and injured more than 1,400. According to the UN, at least 51 of the victims were civilians and 8 were children. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has vowed ominously “a war to the bitter end.”
Israel’s attacks on the Gaza Strip are being carried out with F16 fighter jets, Apache helicopters, and naval gunboats all given to Israel by the United States with our tax dollars.
From 2001-2006, the United States transferred to Israel more than $200 million worth of spare parts to fly its fleet of F16′s and more than $100 million worth of helicopter spare parts for its fleet of Apaches. In July 2008, the United States gave Israel 186 million gallons of JP-8 aviation jet fuel and signed a contract to transfer an addition $1.9 billion worth of littoral combat ships to the Israeli navy. Last year, the United States signed a $1.3 billion contract with Raytheon to transfer to Israel thousands of TOW, Hellfire, and “bunker buster” missiles.
Make no mistake about it-Israel’s war on the Gaza Strip would not be possible without the jets, helicopters, ships, missiles, and fuel provided by the United States.
Information for action — you can go directly to two websites:
End the Occupation http://www.endtheoccupation.org/article.php?id=1773
And United for Peace and Justice www.unitedforpeace.org and get to working links.
You can email Obama or post comments at http://change.gov/.
Ali Abunimah, of The Electronic Intifada, wrote, “Palestinians everywhere are asking for solidarity, real solidarity, in the form of sustained, determined political action.” In light of our country’s enabling role in Israel’s war on the Gaza Strip, it is the least we can do. Here’s how:
1. Attend a protest or vigil, or organize one yourself.
2. Contact the White House, the State Department, your Representative and Senators, and the Obama Transition Team to protest Israel’s war on Gaza and demand an immediate cease-fire.
White House: 202-456-1111 or email@example.com
State Department: 202-647-6575
3. Make your voice heard in the media. Contact your local media by phoning into a talk show or writing a letter to the editor.
4. Tell President-Elect Barack Obama that we need a change in Israel/Palestine policy.
6. Come to Washington, DC for Inauguration Day on January 20. Upwards of 4 million people are expected in Washington, DC for President-Elect Obama’s inauguration. This is a perfect time for us to reach out to and educate our fellow citizens about U.S. policy toward Palestine/Israel.
7. Join Democracy in Action in Washington, DC for a Grassroots Advocacy Training and Lobby Day on February 1-2.
Interfaith Peace-Builders and the US Campaign are organizing this exciting two-day event, featuring interactive, skills-building workshops and the chance to meet with your Representative and Senators to discuss U.S. policy toward Israel/Palestine. Spaces are filling up fast.
Starhawk is an activist, organizer, and author of The Earth Path, as well as Webs of Power: Notes from the Global Uprising, The Fifth Sacred Thing; and eight other books on feminism, politics and earth-based spirituality. She teaches Earth Activist Trainings that combine permaculture design and activist skills, and works to offer training and support for mobilizations around global justice and peace issues.Copyright (c) 2008, 2009 by Starhawk. All rights reserved. This copyright protects Starhawk’s right to future publication of her work. Nonprofit, activist, and educational groups may circulate this essay (forward it, reprint it, translate it, post it, or reproduce it) for nonprofit uses. Please do not change any part of it without permission. Readers are invited to visit the web site: www.starhawk.org.
[Back to Starhawk's Israel/Palestine Page]
Israeli Lawmaker and Conscientious Objector Nephew of Ex-PM Benjamin Netanyahu Denounce Israeli Attack on Gaza Strip January 1, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, Peace, War.
Tags: amy goodman, blockade, ceasefire, collateral damage, democracynow, dov khenin, gaza, hadash, hamas, humanitarian aid, isarel, israelis, jonathan benartzi, knesset, netanyahu, pacifism, Palestine, Palestinians, roger hollander, tel aviv
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www.democracynow.org, December 31, 2008
Israel has rejected a French proposal for an immediate emergency forty-eight-hour ceasefire to allow humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip. As Israeli air and sea attacks against the Strip continued into its fifth day, basic food supplies in Gaza are running low, and hospitals are struggling to cope with the rising casualties. We speak to two Israelis opposed to the assault: Dov Khenin, a Knesset member with the Jewish-Arab party Hadash; and Jonathan Benartzi, an Israeli conscientious objector who spent more than a year in prison for refusing to serve. He also happens to be the nephew of Benjamin Netanyahu, a leading proponent of attacking Gaza and a favorite to win the upcoming Israeli elections.
AMY GOODMAN: Israel has rejected a French proposal for an immediate emergency forty-eight-hour ceasefire to allow humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip. As Israeli air and sea attacks against the Strip continued into its fifth day, basic food supplies in Gaza are running low, hospitals are struggling to cope with the rising casualties. Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesperson Yigal Palmor said any plan for a truce would have to make certain minimum demands on Hamas.
- YIGAL PALMOR: They need to guarantee the cessation of rocket shooting. They need to guarantee the cessation of terror activities by Hamas from Gaza. They need to contain some sort of guarantee that will stop the smuggling of weapons and explosives into Gaza. Short of that, no truce plan can hold water.
AMY GOODMAN: Four Israeli citizens, including two Arab Israelis, have been killed by rockets from the Gaza Strip since Israel began its offensive on Saturday. Nearly 400 Palestinians have been killed and at least 1,600 injured. Latest reports indicate Israeli bombs have hit the network of tunnels under the Egypt-Gaza border that many have described as a “lifeline for the Palestinian people,” because it’s been a major channel for smuggling in basic supplies from Egypt. Israel maintains the tunnels are used to smuggle weapons in.
The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, released a video statement Tuesday warning it would increase rocket attacks if Israel considers a ground invasion or the bombing doesn’t stop.
- ABU OBAIDA: [translated] If you enter the Strip, the land of Gaza will turn into a volcano and explode in the faces of your defeated soldiers. We promise you that if you enter Gaza, the children of Gaza will collect pieces of your soldiers.
AMY GOODMAN: Meanwhile, Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum said international peace efforts are too focused on equating the situation in Gaza and Israel.
- FAWZI BARHOUM: [translated] Regarding the talk about the ceasefire and engaging in calm, as they say, at the current circumstances, is an act of equating between the victim and the jailer. What is required at this moment and immediately is an Arab Islamic international effort to stop this aggression, lift the siege, open the crossings, and a rebuilding of the Gaza Strip.
AMY GOODMAN: And inside Israel, the hawkish Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu rebuffed calls for a truce. He said on Tuesday the international community had to choose between Hamas and “the rest of humanity.” Netanyahu, who is leading the polls ahead of the elections in February, said a government under his leadership would use “all means necessary” to end Hamas’s rule in Gaza.
- BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: So now the international community has a question, and I turn it back to the—to our critics, and I say you have to take a stand today. You have to tell the terrorists that this is an illegitimate operation. You cannot say both Israel and Hamas are symmetrically to blame. They’re not. One side is to blame, the side that targets civilians and hides behind civilians. That’s Hamas. The other side represents the rest of humanity. Now choose.
AMY GOODMAN: I’m joined right now on the phone from Tel Aviv by the Israeli lawmaker Dov Khenin. He is a member of the Hadash party, a Jewish-Arab party also known as the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality. Khenin has been speaking out against Israel’s military operation.
We welcome you to Democracy Now!, Dov Khenin.
DOV KHENIN: Hello. How are you?
AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us. We are also joined via Democracy Now! video stream by the nephew of Benjamin Netanyahu. He’s at Brown University. We’re speaking to him in Providence, Rhode Island. He’s an Israeli conscientious objector. His name is Jonathan Ben-Artzi. He also is a member of the Hadash party.
I’m going to start with the member of parliament in Israel. I’d like to start off by asking, the response in Israel right now to the pounding of Gaza by the Israeli military, Dov Khenin?
DOV KHENIN: Well, the most important thing to realize is that there is an opposition inside Israel to the war and to everything going on around right now in Gaza. This position is a Jewish-Arab one. On Saturday night, we had a demonstration in Tel Aviv of 2,000 young people, mainly Jews, and there are a lot of demonstrations all over Israel of Jews and Arabs opposing the war policy of the current government. This opposition is growing steadily. It is very important to know this and to understand that there are other voices in Israeli society who do not express [inaudible] a war, and they believe there is a better alternative for Israelis and Palestinians alike.
AMY GOODMAN: Jonathan Ben-Artzi, as you listen to your uncle, who is vying to lead Israel in the February elections, Benjamin Netanyahu, what are your thoughts today?
JONATHAN BEN-ARTZI: Well, it’s not—you know, it’s not only my uncle. It’s the voices of most Israelis. And what’s worrying is that it’s the voices of many—although there are many who, as Dov said, many Israelis who do oppose this, there are far more Israelis who blindly support this. And, you know, even given the war in Lebanon of two-and-a-half years ago, where Israel killed so many people and yet emerged the loser, by all accounts, of that endeavor, they once again support something similar, which is bound for failure, only after collecting hundreds or thousands of bodies of dead innocent people.
So, you know, I’m speaking to you here not as anyone’s nephew or anything like that, but just as someone who’s, you know, speaking as an Israeli—I’m not an American—and trying to speak out to Americans to tell them you don’t have to support Israel blindly. Not everything that Israel does is holy. And sometimes you have to speak firmly to Israel and tell us, tell our government, you know, stop doing this.
AMY GOODMAN: Jonathan Ben-Artzi, you are the first Israeli soldier to be court-martialed and jailed. Explain what your refusal was first about.
JONATHAN BEN-ARTZI: I refused to join the military for pacifist reasons, and I was joined by others who refused for pacifist and also political reasons regarding the occupation. And this was around 2002. And I was jailed for roughly one year and a half in Israeli military prison. Of course, it didn’t—it never made it to mainstream American media. It did make it to European media. But America—in that sense, America is actually even worse than Israel, because in Israel it was a public discussion. In America, it was completely blocked from the American people.
AMY GOODMAN: Dov Khenin, the response of the Israeli government is that this is not equal, that it was Hamas that broke the ceasefire, that they continue to fire rockets into Israel, they have killed four Israelis, two of them Arab Israelis, that this is their fault. Your response to that?
DOV KHENIN: Well, my response is, of course, I do not accept the politics of Hamas. I think that Hamas is a disaster for the Palestinians, and, you know, it doesn’t have any political program of how to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. However, when I hear these speeches of right-wing Israelis, you know, it makes me wonder. You know, they do not see the fault of the Israeli government and the Israeli army in whatever is happening in Gaza. And, you know, the things happening there are really bad, you know? A lot of people are dead there. What is their fault, you know?
And the most important thing to realize is that there is an alternative. We should not go along the line of the extremists. We should not go along the line of total war between Israelis and Palestinians for generations. We should have another option, which is much better and possible, and that is the option of achieving a real and substantive peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians. This is the possibility that the Israel government do not accept. This is the problem.
AMY GOODMAN: Benjamin Netanyahu, the opposition leader running to head Israel in February, said Hamas openly declared its goal to eradicate the state of Israel from the face of the earth. They’re aligned with Iran, that openly declares its goal to eradicate Israel from the face of the earth. You make peace with those of your enemies who are reconciled to peace. Jonathan Ben-Artzi, your response?
JONATHAN BEN-ARTZI: Well, you know, maybe someone should go to Israel and poll Jewish Israelis how many of them think Palestinians should be eradicated off the face of the earth. You’d be surprised at the results, you know? So these, you know—
AMY GOODMAN: Explain that further.
JONATHAN BEN-ARTZI: Well, when you’re in Israel, people there are very—you know, I’m not a sociologist, so I would be—I would find it very hard to explain. It would be very interesting to hear someone try to explain this. But for some reason, the Israeli population, the Jewish Israeli population is very much—has a lot of hatred towards these people, although, by all accounts, I would say that they’re actually very nonviolent. If instead of Palestinians we had as neighbors Irish people and we had to deal with the IRA, I think Israel would have a much rougher time. Relatively, there is so little violence coming from the Palestinians and such terrible violence coming from Israel.
You know, it’s easy to say the Palestinians are targeting civilian Israelis, when you, as the Israeli Air Force, you know, you have huge one-ton bombs and you can drop that bomb into a crowded neighborhood, say you were targeting, you know, this and that person, and at the same time you also kill twenty other people, and that’s—how is that called?—collateral damage. So, and then you’re OK, because you targeted that one person, whereas, you know, at the same time, Israel has to remember that it does have military bases right smack in the middle of Tel Aviv, and these are also, you know, by Israel’s standards, would be legitimate military targets. So if you go into that game, you might end up being the loser. So it’s a very dangerous road.
AMY GOODMAN: Dov Khenin, you’re a member of the left-wing Hadash party, the Jewish-Arab party in the Israeli Knesset, in the parliament, known as the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality. Can you explain the Israeli government’s position on the press, the Foreign Press Association filing the challenge on behalf of 400 reporters barred from the Gaza Strip, saying an unprecedented restriction of press freedom, the world’s media unable to accurately report on events inside Gaza at this critical time? Here in the United States, Reuters, the New York Times, BBC and other publications also have complained to the Israeli prime minister. Why are journalists not allowed in Gaza?
DOV KHENIN: Well, I think that journalists are not allowed into Gaza, in order to not—to not make it possible for people around the world to see whatever is happening in Gaza right now. The situation in Gaza is terrible. You know, the people are doing surgery without, you know, any tools, without anything needed to take care, medically, of people wounded. The situation there is really terrible.
The most—the saddest thing of all is, you know, that the Israeli population also suffers, you know, because in Israel a lot of people in the southern part of Israel are now under the threat of the missiles and the rockets fired from Gaza. It is only proof that this war is a disaster. It is, of course, also a disaster for the Palestinians in Gaza, but it is also a disaster for the Israelis themselves. The only option is to stop this war and to go in the opposite direction.
AMY GOODMAN: And what would that be? What would that look like, Dov Khenin?
DOV KHENIN: Well, the first thing to do right now is to decide on immediate and total ceasefire. Now, such ceasefire should include not only the stop of bombing and the missile rockets, it should include also a lifting on the blockade on Gaza, because it is impossible to continue the situation existing before the war when one-and-a-half million Palestinians were, you know, in impossible conditions under a blockade.
And another thing that should be agreed immediately is an agreement on the release of prisoners, both Palestinian prisoners and Gilad Shalit, bringing him back to his family. Such an agreement is also possible.
Now, if we stop the war and move forward into a total and real ceasefire and lifting the blockade on Gaza, it can create the first condition for the restart of peace process between Israelis and Palestinians. Such a peace process is very, very important, because if Israelis and Palestinians will not have the horizon of hope—and the horizon of hope can be achieved only with the vision and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel—if such a region of hope will not be opened to the Israelis and Palestinians, things will continue to deteriorate, and the extremists will gain more and more political strength.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you both for being with us, Dov Khenin, member of the Hadash party, Jewish-Arab party known as the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality, speaking to us from inside Israel; and Jonathan Ben-Artzi, Israeli conscientious objector, first to be tried by an Israeli military tribunal, served in jail for over a year, now at Brown University, a graduate student and nephew of the opposition leader running for prime minister in February, Benjamin Netanyahu.