Was Yasser Arafat Assassinated? July 5, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East.
Tags: ariel sharon, assassination, cesar chelala, israel, Palestine, plo, roger hollander, uri dan, yasser arafat
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For at least two years before Yasser Arafat’s death in 2004, Uri Avnery, a leading Israeli peace activist, had been warning of the possibility that the Palestinian leader could be assassinated and on the negative effect this would have on the peace process. Now, an investigation carried out by Al Jazeera reveals that Arafat’s final personal belongings had abnormal levels of polonium, a rare, highly radioactive element, and that this was probably the cause of his death.Former PLO leader Yasser Arafat.
“While I am writing this, Yasser Arafat is still alive,” Avnery wrote in 2002 for the Media Monitors Network. “But his life is hanging on a thread. When we visited him in his bombed out Mukata’a compound in Ramallah, I warned him that Sharon is determined to kill him… Now Sharon believes that he can achieve his aim. He needs only Bush’s approval. Not necessarily a formal confirmation. A subtle hint will suffice. Half a word. A wink.” Future findings and events have potentially proved him correct.
In 2006, Uri Dan, who had been Sharon’s longtime confidant, published a book in France entitled “Ariel Sharon: An Intimate Portrait.” The book accuses the former Prime Minister of Israel of assassinating Palestinian Authority (PA) President Yasser Arafat by poisoning him. According to Uri Dan, Sharon got President George W. Bush’s approval to proceed with his assassination plan in 2004. At the time, Sharon told President Bush that he was no longer committed to “not” liquidating the Palestinian leader.
Writing for Global Research in 2007, Stephen Lendman, a recipient of a 2008 Project Censored Award from the University of California at Sonoma, stated that Dr. Ashraf Al Kurdi, Arafat’s personal physician for 25 years, believed that Arafat had been poisoned. When Dr. Al Kurdi saw Arafat before he was taken to Paris, where he died on November 11, 2004, he saw a man who had los half of his body weight, had red patches on his face and a metallic yellow color all over his body.
Arafat’s French doctors were unusually evasive about the cause(s) of his death. They described a very serious disorder called “Disseminated intravascular coagulation,” (DIC) a pathological activation of the blood clotting mechanism that happens in response to a variety of diseases. It leads to the formation of small clots inside the blood vessels in the body, resulting in the disruption of normal blood flow to critical organs such as the kidneys.
DIC can occur in an acute way or chronically as a result of multiple organ failure leading to death. There are no effective treatment options. An interpretation of its acronym “death is coming” probably refers to this circumstance and to the high mortality associated with this condition. Arafat’s French doctors refused to acknowledge the underlying cause of Arafat’s death. Dr. Francois Bochud, director of the Institut de Radiophysique in Lausanne, Swizerland, where the analysis of Arafat’s clothes took place confirmed that unexplained, high amounts of polonium-210 had been found in his belongings.
Arafat has not been the only political figure apparently killed by radioactive polonium. The most notorious victim was Alexander Litvinenko, a Russian spy who later became a dissident and who died in London of a lingering illness. An inquiry conducted by British intelligence later proved that he had been poisoned with polonium slipped into his tea.
There are so few recorded cases similar to these, however, that there is still no consensus about the typical symptoms. However, both Litvinenko and Arafat suffered from severe diarrhea, weight loss and vomiting in the days and weeks previous to their deaths. An American study conducted in 1991 found that the poison probably acts by activating the “vomiting center” in the brainstem.
Uri Avnery’s writing in 2002 was premonitory. “The murder of Arafat is the murder of all chances for peace. That is a crime against the Israeli people. It will condemn us to making war for decades, perhaps for generations to come, perhaps forever. The moral, social and economic decline that we are experiencing now everywhere in Israel will drag Israel down to new depths and to the emigration of many.” So far, events have proven him right.
Palestine’s wandering poet May 12, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Art, Literature and Culture, Iraq and Afghanistan, Palestine, Political Commentary.
Tags: gaza, israel, mahmoud darwish, Middle East, mike marqusee, national poet, Palestine, palestine poetry, palestine's poet, palestinian people, plo, Poetry, protest poet, west bank
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Mike Marqusee on Mahmoud Darwish, the poet of the Palestinian people
On a bright winter morning we made a pilgrimage to the hill of Al Rabweh, on the outskirts of Ramallah, where the poet Mahmoud Darwish is buried. An ambitious memorial garden is planned, but at the moment it’s a construction site littered with diggers and cement mixers. The oversize tombstone is crated up in plywood. We were welcomed by cheerful building workers and joined by Palestinian families paying their respects and taking snaps. Sitting amid the pines overlooking the tomb (and a nearby waste ground populated by stray dogs), we spent an hour reading Darwish’s State of Siege, a sequence of poems he wrote in response to Israel’s 2002 assault on the city. Here he called on poetry to ‘lay siege to your siege’ but observed bitterly that:
This land might just be cinched too tight
for a population of humans and gods
Darwish was six in 1948 when his family fled their village in western Galilee. When they returned a year later they found the village destroyed and their land occupied. Since they had missed the census they were denied Israeli citizenship and declared ‘present-absentees’, an ambiguous status that Darwish was to transform into a metaphor for Palestine and much more.
He was 22 when he read his poem ‘Identity Card’, with its defiant refrain ‘Record: I am an Arab’, to a cheering crowd in a Nazareth movie house. Repudiating Golda Meir’s assertion that ‘there are no Palestinians’, his poems played a key role in the Palestinian movement that emerged after 1967, fashioning a modern Palestinian identity using traditional poetic forms in a renewed, accessible Arabic.
Repeatedly arrested and imprisoned, Darwish left Israel in 1970 and remained in exile for more than a quarter of a century. His political journey led from the Israeli Communist Party to the PLO, which he joined in 1973 (penning Arafat’s famous ‘Don’t let the olive branch fall from my hand’ speech to the UN). He settled in Beirut, from which he was expelled along with the PLO following the Israeli invasion of 1982, the subject of his inventive and harrowing prose memoir, Memory for Forgetfulness.
In the years that followed, Darwish wandered – Tunis, Cyprus, Damascus, Athens, Paris – broadening his poetic scope and deepening his insight. He was elected to the PLO executive committee in 1987 but resigned in 1993 in protest at the Oslo accords. ‘There was no clear link between the interim period and the final status, and no clear commitment to withdraw from the occupied territories,’ he explained. It’s said that when PLO leader Yasser Arafat complained to Darwish that the Palestinian people were ‘ungrateful’, the poet (remembering Brecht) snapped back, ‘Then find yourself another people.’
Oslo did allow Darwish to return to Palestine and in 1996 he settled in Ramallah, only to find himself under siege again six years later. In his last years he wrote more prolifically than ever, responding to the tragedies of Iraq, Lebanon and the violent conflict between Palestinian factions:
Did we have to fall from a tremendous height so as to see our blood on our hands … to realise that we are no angels … as we thought?
Did we also have to expose our flaws before the world so that our truth would no longer stay virgin? How much we lied when we said: we are the exception!
When Darwish died in 2008, thousands joined the cortege and there were candle-lit vigils in towns across the West Bank and Gaza. The Palestinian Authority declared three days or mourning and issued a series of postage stamps in his honour.
Being the Palestinian national poet was a heavy burden, one that Darwish bore from an early age, and though he chafed under it he never shirked the load. Instead, he succeeded in transforming the Palestinian experience into a universal one. The themes of loss, exile, the search for justice, the dream of a homeland, the conundrum of identity: all became, as his work evolved, human and existential explorations, without ceasing for a moment to be rooted deeply in the vicissitudes of Palestinian life. For decades he mourned Palestine’s losses, denounced its tormentors, celebrated its perseverance, and imagined its future.
And we have a land without borders, like our idea
of the unknown, narrow and wide
… we shout in its labyrinth: and we still love you, our love
is a hereditary illness.
Though preserving Palestinian memory and identity was his life’s work, Darwish conceived of this as a creative act of self-renewal: ‘Identity is what we bequeath and not what we inherit. What we invent and not what we remember.’ Among his last verses was this admonition:
We will become a people when the morality police protect a prostitute from being beaten up in the streets
We will become a people when the Palestinian only remembers his flag on the football pitch, at camel races, and on the day of the Nakba
Darwish was a ‘national poet’ who challenged as well as consoled and inspired his national audience. As he moved away from his earlier declamatory, public style towards a more personal idiom, elliptical and oblique, and at times (unpardonable sin for a ‘national’ poet) obscure, he met resistance. ‘The biggest achievement of my life is winning the audience’s trust,’ he reflected in 2002. ‘We fought before: whenever I changed my style, they were shocked and wanted to hear the old poems. Now they expect me to change; they demand that I give not answers but more questions.’
Even in translation, where we miss so much, Darwish’s voice rings clear. In his mature style there’s a seductive fluidity: he moves lightly from realm to realm, pronoun to pronoun (‘I’ to ‘we’, ‘I’ to ‘you’, ‘us’ to ‘them’), from the intimate to the epic, past to future, abstract to concrete. Metaphors topple over each other, abundant and inter-laced. This is poetry that fuses the political and the personal at the deepest level.
Throughout, his evocation of loss and exile, of coming from ‘a country with no passport stamps’, is poignant, elegiac but open-ended, conjuring resolution from despair: ‘We travel like everyone else, but we return to nothing’; ‘There is yet another road in the road, another chance for migration’; ‘Where should we go after the last border? Where should birds fly after the last sky?’; ‘In my language there is seasickness. / In my language a mysterious departure from Tyre’.
Guests on the sea. Our visit is short.
And the earth is smaller than our visit
… where are we to go
when we leave? Where are we to go back to when we return?
… What is left us that we may set off once again?
Yet, convinced that ‘Out of the earthly/ the hidden heavenly commences’, Darwish affirmed the richness and beauty of life, especially life in its ordinariness:
We have on this earth what makes life worth living: April’s hesitation, the aroma of bread at dawn, a woman’s point of view about men, the works of Aeschylus, the beginning of love, grass on a stone, mothers living on a flute’s sigh and the invaders’ fear of memories
In one of his late poems, Darwish pays tribute to his friend Edward Said, putting this advice in Said’s mouth:
Do not describe what the camera sees of your wounds
Shout so that you hear yourself, shout so that you know that you are still alive, and you know life is possible on this earth.
Mike Marqusee writes a regular column for Red Pepper, ‘Contending for the Living’, and is the author of a number of books on culture and politics
Obama and Israel’s Military: Still Arm-in-Arm March 5, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Israel, Gaza & Middle East, War.
Tags: Amnesty International, Barack Obama, bush administration, gaza, hamas, hezbollah, human rights, Human Rights Watch, illegal settlements, international humanitarian law, International law, israel, israel nuclear weapons, israel occupied territories, jordan, lebanon, lebolt, Middle East, plo, roger hollander, stephen zunes, United Nations, us arms manufacturers, us arms merchants, us military aid, us military aid israel, us weapons israel, War Crimes, war profiteering, white phosphorus
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Stephen Zunes | March 4, 2009
Foreign Policy in Focus, http://www.fpif.org
In the wake of Israel’s massive assault on heavily populated civilian areas of the Gaza Strip earlier this year, Amnesty International called for the United States to suspend military aid to Israel on human rights grounds. Amnesty has also called for the United Nations to impose a mandatory arms embargo on both Hamas and the Israeli government. Unfortunately, it appears that President Barack Obama won’t be heeding Amnesty’s call.
During the fighting in January, Amnesty documented Israeli forces engaging in “direct attacks on civilians and civilian objects in Gaza, and attacks which were disproportionate or indiscriminate.” The leader of Amnesty International’s fact-finding mission to the Gaza Strip and southern Israel noted how “Israeli forces used white phosphorus and other weapons supplied by the USA to carry out serious violations of international humanitarian law, including war crimes.” Amnesty also reported finding fragments of U.S.-made munitions “littering school playgrounds, in hospitals and in people’s homes.”
Malcolm Smart, who serves as Amnesty International’s director for the Middle East, observed in a press release that “to a large extent, Israel’s military offensive in Gaza was carried out with weapons, munitions and military equipment supplied by the USA and paid for with U.S. taxpayers’ money.” The release also noted how before the conflict, which raged for three weeks from late December into January, the United States had “been aware of the pattern of repeated misuse of [its] weapons.”
Amnesty has similarly condemned Hamas rocket attacks into civilian-populated areas of southern Israel as war crimes. And while acknowledging that aid to Hamas was substantially smaller, far less sophisticated, and far less lethal — and appeared to have been procured through clandestine sources — Amnesty called on Iran and other countries to take concrete steps to insure that weapons and weapon components not get into the hands of Palestinian militias.
During the fighting in early January, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning organization initially called for a suspension of U.S. military aid until there was no longer a substantial risk of additional human rights violations. The Bush administration summarily rejected this proposal. Amnesty subsequently appealed to the Obama administration. “As the major supplier of weapons to Israel, the USA has a particular obligation to stop any supply that contributes to gross violations of the laws of war and of human rights,” said Malcolm Smart. “The Obama administration should immediately suspend U.S. military aid to Israel.”
Obama’s refusal to accept Amnesty’s call for the suspension of military assistance was a blow to human rights activists. The most Obama might do to express his displeasure toward controversial Israeli policies like the expansion of illegal settlements in the occupied territories would be to reject a planned increase in military aid for the next fiscal year and slightly reduce economic aid and/or loan guarantees. However, in a notable departure from previous administrations, Obama made no mention of any military aid to Israel in his outline of the FY 2010 budget, announced last week. This notable absence may indicate that pressure from human rights activists and others concerned about massive U.S. military aid to Israel is now strong enough that the White House feels a need to downplay the assistance rather than emphasize it.
Obama Tilts Right
Currently, Obama is on record supporting sending up to $30 billion in unconditional military aid to Israel over the next 10 years. Such a total would represent a 25% increase in the already large-scale arms shipments to Israeli forces under the Bush administration.
Obama has thus far failed to realize that the problem in the Middle East is that there are too many deadly weapons in the region, not too few. Instead of simply wanting Israel to have an adequate deterrent against potential military threats, Obama insists the United States should guarantee that Israel maintain a qualitative military advantage. Thanks to this overwhelming advantage over its neighbors, Israeli forces were able to launch devastating wars against Israel’s Palestinian and Lebanese neighbors in recent years.
If Israel were in a strategically vulnerable situation, Obama’s hard-line position might be understandable. But Israel already has vastly superior conventional military capabilities relative to any combination of armed forces in the region, not to mention a nuclear deterrent.
However, Obama has failed to even acknowledge Israel’s nuclear arsenal of at least 200-300 weapons, which has been documented for decades. When Hearst reporter Helen Thomas asked at his first press conference if he could name any Middle Eastern countries that possess nuclear weapons, he didn’t even try to answer the question. Presumably, Obama knows Israel has these weapons and is located in the Middle East. However, acknowledging Israel’s arsenal could complicate his planned arms transfers since it would place Israel in violation of the 1976 Symington Amendment, which restricts U.S. military support for governments which develop nuclear weapons.
Another major obstacle to Amnesty’s calls for suspending military assistance is Congress. Republican leaders like Representatives John Boehner (OH) and Eric Cantor (VA) have long rejected calls by human rights groups to link U.S. military aid to adherence to internationally recognized human rights standards. But so have such Democratic leaders, such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, who are outspoken supporters of unconditional military aid to Israel. Even progressive Democratic Representative Barney Frank (MA), at a press conference on February 24 pushing his proposal to reduce military spending by 25%, dismissed a question regarding conditioning Israel’s military aid package to human rights concerns.
Indeed, in an apparent effort to support their militaristic agenda and to discredit reputable human rights groups that documented systematic Israeli attacks against non-military targets, these congressional leaders and an overwhelming bipartisan majority of their colleagues have gone on record praising “Israel’s longstanding commitment to minimizing civilian loss and…efforts to prevent civilian casualties.” Although Obama remained silent while Israel was engaged in war crimes against the civilian population of Gaza, Pelosi and other congressional leaders rushed to Israel’s defense in the face of international condemnation.
Obama’s Defense of Israeli Attacks on Civilians
Following the 2006 conflict between Israeli armed forces and the Hezbollah militia, in which both sides committed war crimes by engaging in attacks against populated civilian areas, then-Senator Obama defended Israel’s actions and criticized Hezbollah, even though Israel was actually responsible for far more civilian deaths. In an apparent attempt to justify Israeli bombing of civilian population centers, Obama claimed Hezbollah had used “innocent people as shields.”
This charge directly challenged a series of reports from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. These reports found that while Hezbollah did have some military equipment close to some civilian areas, the Lebanese Islamist militia had not forced civilians to remain in or around military targets in order to deter Israel from attacking those targets. I sent Obama spokesperson Ben LaBolt a copy of an exhaustive 249-page Human Rights Watch report that didn’t find a single case — out of 600 civilian deaths investigated — of Hezbollah using human shields. I asked him if Obama had any empirical evidence that countered these findings.
In response, LaBolt provided me with a copy of a short report from a right-wing Israeli think tank with close ties to the Israeli government headed by the former head of the Israeli intelligence service. The report appeared to use exclusively Israeli government sources, in contrast to the Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch reports, which were based upon forensic evidence as well as multiple verified eyewitness accounts by both Lebanese living in the areas under attack as well as experienced monitors (unaffiliated with any government or political organization) on the ground. Despite several follow-up emails asking for more credible sources, LaBolt never got back to me.
Not Good for Israel
The militaristic stance by Congress and the Obama administration is hardly doing Israel a favor. Indeed, U.S. military assistance to Israel has nothing to do with Israel’s legitimate security needs. Rather than commencing during the country’s first 20 years of existence, when Israel was most vulnerable strategically, major U.S. military and economic aid didn’t even begin until after the 1967 War, when Israel proved itself to be far stronger than any combination of Arab armies and after Israeli occupation forces became the rulers of a large Palestinian population.
If all U.S. aid to Israel were immediately halted, Israel wouldn’t be under a significantly greater military threat than it is today for many years. Israel has both a major domestic arms industry and an existing military force far more capable and powerful than any conceivable combination of opposing forces.
Under Obama, U.S. military aid to Israel will likely continue be higher than it was back in the 1970s, when Egypt’s massive and well-equipped armed forces threatened war, Syria’s military rapidly expanded with advanced Soviet weaponry, armed factions of the PLO launched terrorist attacks into Israel, Jordan still claimed the West Bank and stationed large numbers of troops along its border and demarcation line with Israel, and Iraq embarked on a vast program of militarization. Why does the Obama administration believe that Israel needs more military aid today than it did back then? Since that time, Israel has maintained a longstanding peace treaty with Egypt and a large demilitarized and internationally monitored buffer zone. Syria’s armed forces were weakened by the collapse of their former Soviet patron and its government has been calling for a resumption of peace talks. The PLO is cooperating closely with Israeli security. Jordan signed a peace treaty with Israel with full normalized relations. And two major wars and a decade of strict international sanctions have devastated Iraq’s armed forces, which is in any case now under close U.S. supervision.
Obama has pledged continued military aid to Israel a full decade into the future not in terms of how that country’s strategic situation may evolve, but in terms of a fixed-dollar amount. If his real interest were to provide adequate support for Israeli defense, he wouldn’t promise $30 billion in additional military aid. He would simply pledge to maintain adequate military assistance to maintain Israel’s security needs, which would presumably decline if the peace process moves forward. However, Israel’s actual defense needs don’t appear to be the issue.
According to late Israeli major general and Knesset member Matti Peled, — who once served as the IDF’s chief procurement officer, such fixed amounts are arrived at “out of thin air.” In addition, every major arms transfer to Israel creates a new demand by Arab states — most of which can pay hard currency through petrodollars — for additional U.S. weapons to challenge Israel. Indeed, Israel announced its acceptance of a proposed Middle Eastern arms freeze in 1991, but the U.S. government, eager to defend the profits of U.S. arms merchants, effectively blocked it. Prior to the breakdown in the peace process in 2001, 78 senators wrote President Bill Clinton insisting that the United States send additional military aid to Israel on the grounds of massive arms procurement by Arab states, neglecting to note that 80% of those arms transfers were of U.S. origin. Were they really concerned about Israeli security, they would have voted to block these arms transfers to the Gulf monarchies and other Arab dictatorships.
The resulting arms race has been a bonanza for U.S. arms manufacturers. The right-wing “pro-Israel” political action committees certainly wield substantial clout with their contributions to congressional candidates supportive of large-scale military and economic aid to Israel. But the Aerospace Industry Association and other influential military interests that promote massive arms transfers to the Middle East and elsewhere are even more influential, contributing several times what the “pro-Israel” PACs contribute.
The huge amount of U.S. aid to the Israeli government hasn’t been as beneficial to Israel as many would suspect. U.S. military aid to Israel is, in fact, simply a credit line to American arms manufacturers, and actually ends up costing Israel two to three times that amount in operator training, staffing, maintenance, and other related costs. The overall impact is to increase Israeli military dependency on the United States — and amass record profits for U.S. arms merchants.
The U.S. Arms Export Control Act requires a cutoff of military aid to recipient countries if they’re found to be using American weapons for purposes other than internal security or legitimate self-defense and/or their use could “increase the possibility of an outbreak or escalation of conflict.” This might explain Obama’s refusal to acknowledge Israel’s disproportionate use of force and high number of civilian casualties.
Betraying His Constituency
The $30 billion in taxpayer funds to support Israeli militarism isn’t a huge amount of money compared with what has already been wasted in the Iraq War, bailouts for big banks, and various Pentagon boondoggles. Still, this money could more profitably go toward needs at home, such as health care, education, housing, and public transportation.
It’s therefore profoundly disappointing that there has been so little public opposition to Obama’s dismissal of Amnesty International’s calls to suspend aid to Israel. Some activists I contacted appear to have fallen into a fatalistic view that the “Zionist lobby” is too powerful to challenge and that Obama is nothing but a helpless pawn of powerful Jewish interests. Not only does this simplistic perspective border on anti-Semitism, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Any right-wing militaristic lobby will appear all-powerful if there isn’t a concerted effort from the left to challenge it.
Obama’s supporters must demand that he live up to his promise to change the mindset in Washington that has contributed to such death and destruction in the Middle East. The new administration must heed calls by Amnesty International and other human rights groups to condition military aid to Israel and all other countries that don’t adhere to basic principles of international humanitarian law.
Stephen Zunes, a Foreign Policy in Focus senior analyst, is a professor of politics and chair of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of San Francisco.
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.
Why Do So Few Speak Up for Gaza? January 7, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, War.
Tags: egypt, einstein, gaza, hamas, holocaust, irgun, israel, jewish, menachem begin, Palestine, plo, Robert Scheer, roger hollander, six day war
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Jan 6, 2009, www.truthdig.com
|AP photo / Khaled Omar|
Why are we so indifferent to the death and destruction in Gaza?
The major news outlets meekly accepted Israel’s banning of journalists from entering Gaza as an excuse for downplaying collateral civilian casualties, our president-elect, Barack Obama, has had little to say about an invasion that will much complicate his future Mideast peace efforts, and most commentators easily rationalize Israel’s many-more-eyes-for-an-eye killings.
Why is it that there is such widespread acceptance, beginning with the apologetic arguments of President Bush, that whatever Israel does is always justified as necessary to the survival of the Jewish state?
It is not.
While the Hamas rocket attacks are reprehensible, they are also an ineffectual challenge to Israel’s enormous security apparatus, and the severity of Israel’s response to them is counterproductive. Clearly, the very existence of Israel is not now, nor has it ever been, seriously challenged by anything the Palestinians did. Not back in 1948, when Israel was established as a state with insignificant Palestinian military resistance, nor at the time of the 1967 Six-Day War when Egypt, Syria and Jordan fought Israel.
The Palestinians were in no position to confront the Israeli army, because those whose lands were not already occupied by Israel were living under oppressive Egyptian control in Gaza and tough Jordanian rule in the West Bank. After the speedy Israeli victory, which demolished the myth of the new state’s vulnerability, the Palestinians became imprisoned as a people by Israel for crimes they had not committed.
Even if we accept the harshest portrayal of the tactics and motives of the Palestinian movements against Israel after the Six-Day War, at what point did that terrorism represent a serious challenge to the survival of the Jewish people or the state that claims to speak in their name? Yet that survival is invoked to justify the vastly excessive use of force by the Israeli war machine, with frequent allusions to the Holocaust previously visited upon the Jewish people, a holocaust that had nothing to do with Palestinians or Muslims, and everything to do with Central Europeans claiming to be Christians.
The high moral claim of the Israeli occupation rests not on the objective reality of a Palestinian threat to Israel’s survival, but rather on the non sequitur cry that “never again” should harm come to Jews as it did in Central Europe seven decades ago.
The basic argument is that Palestinian terrorists represented by Hamas are given to an irrational hatred of Jews so profound that it invalidates their movement, even when they win elections. That was not the view of the Israeli security service when it earlier supported Hamas as the alternative to the then dreaded PLO. Also, history is replete with examples of terrorists becoming statesmen, even within the early ranks of Jews fighting to establish the state of Israel.
One of those was Menachem Begin, who went on to be an elected leader of the new state. But before Begin attained that respectability, back in 1948 when he visited the United States, a group of prominent Jewish intellectuals including Albert Einstein, Sidney Hook and Hannah Arendt wrote a letter to The New York Times warning that Begin was a former leader of the “Irgun Zvai Leumi, a terrorist, right-wing, chauvinist organization in Palestine.” The letter urged Jews to shun Begin, arguing, “It is inconceivable that those who oppose fascism throughout the world, if correctly informed as to Mr. Begin’s political record and perspectives, could add their names and support to the movement he represents.”
Begin’s new party was then participating in the Israeli election, and Einstein and his colleagues, many of whom like the physicist had been victims of German fascism, stated, “Today they speak of freedom, democracy and anti-imperialism, whereas until recently they openly preached the doctrine of the Fascist state. It is in its actions that the terrorist party betrays its real character.”
Those actions were then detailed in the letter. They included the systematic terrorizing of innocent Palestinian men, women and children in an effort to force them to flee the territory that Begin’s party claimed for the new state of Israel.
Clearly Begin and his political heirs, who include Benjamin Netanyahu, the most likely victor in the next Israeli election, evolved in their behavior. But I bring it up now to highlight the one-sided reporting of the current phase of this interminable conflict and to wonder: Where are the voices that reflect the uncompromising morality of Einstein’s generation of Jewish intellectuals willing to acknowledge fault and humanity on both sides of the political equation?
Gaza: hope after attack January 4, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, War.
Tags: gaza, hamas, hezbollah, idf, Iraq war, israel, lebanon, Palestine, paul rogers, plo, pna, roger hollander, scud missiles, tel aviv, west bank
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The article continued:
“Much of the military action has been directed against the police and security forces of the PNA, with substantial numbers having been killed and many more hundreds taken into custody. Police stations and barracks have been destroyed, as have intelligence and security centres. Moreover, and in some ways much more significant, there has been the destruction of the PNA’s administrative infrastructure.
“Information on this remains incomplete but is sufficient to show that there has been widespread destruction of offices and facilities of PNA ministries and Palestinian non-government organisations. The Ministry of Local Government and the Ministry of Education in Ramallah have been ransacked by Israeli troops as has the Palestinian Bureau of Statistics.”
At that time, some analysts anticipated that the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) would extend their actions into Gaza, but international opposition to the casualties and destruction in the West Bank, and internal concern over the consequences of such an escalation prevented that. Instead, the emphasis remained on the West Bank, with the construction of the massive security “wall” and forceful control over the Palestinian population movements within the wall, both of them fuelling a burning resentment.
The first five days of the military in Gaza were almost entirely focused on air attacks and naval bombardment, the stated aim being the bring to an end the firing of the crude unguided rockets, often home-made, that have plagued those areas of Israel close to Gaza. In practice, as in the West Bank in 2002, the attacks have been directed mainly at the Hamas administration, with destruction of many of the government offices as well as buildings of the Islamic University. The Gaza police have been particular targets, one of the earliest attacks killing around 60 cadets attending a graduation ceremony at the Police Academy.
Even so, by the fifth day of the conflict, the impact on the rockets being fired from Gaza appeared minimal. At least 60 were launched that day, three reaching as far as the Negev city of Beersheba, 46 kilometres from Gaza, and others reaching Ashkelon, with its oil terminal, and Ashdod further north along the coast, which is Israel’s fifth largest city and a major port. Informed Israeli sources indicate that Hamas still has 2,000 available for use, some of them able to reach deep into Israel. Most are home-made but some have been smuggled in through tunnels under the border with Egypt and these may include missiles with a substantially longer range.
Most international opinion has been critical of the sheer scale of the Israeli military action, especially in terms of the civilian casualties, but there is little sign of this having any impact on Israel’s conduct of the war. It may partly be a case of carrying out the attacks while President Bush is still in power, and the internal dynamics of the forthcoming Israeli is also relevant, but there are broader issues that do much to explain the Israeli motivations.
The conventional view is that Israel is a singularly powerful state possessed of some of the world’s most advanced military forces. As such it is streets ahead of any neighbouring Arab country and incomparably better armed than the Hamas militias. In one sense this is certainly true, but it masks a reality that Israel has become more and more vulnerable to forms of irregular warfare and simply doesn’t know how to handle them except by responding with massive force.
The first indications were back at the time of Operation Peace for Galilee in the summer of 1982. That took powerful Israeli ground forces right up to West Beirut in an operation that was supposed to counter unguided rockets being fired by Palestinian militias into Northern Israel, but was actually intended to destroy the PLO as a functioning paramilitary organisation. After the massacres at the Sabra and Chatila refugee camps in September of that year, Israeli ground forces withdrew from the area immediately south of Beirut but remained in occupation of much of southern Lebanon. Within three years the occupation became untenable in the face of guerrilla actions by Hezbollah paramilitaries and the IDF withdrew from almost all of the country having had 300 of its soldiers killed.
From then on, the focus in defence strategy was on the Israeli homeland, with a determination to use considerable force against any direct threat. It was an approach that got a rude awakening when Israel came under Scud missile attack from Iraq on the second night of the 1991 Iraq War, and the winter nights that followed were far more traumatic than most outside observers appreciated. The memories of that period were significant in motivating the assault on Hezbollah in 2006, not least because the rockets then being launched from Lebanon were stark reminders of the vulnerabilities exposed 15 years earlier.
Hezbollah was not defeated and while an uneasy peace persists, it is now much more heavily armed, with longer range missiles that could threaten Israel right down to Tel Aviv and beyond. Now, Israel faces increasingly sophisticated irregular warfare from Hamas and believes that it is essential to bring this to an end. The problem is that such an overwhelming use of force simply has to work, which is why the conflict may still be in its early stages.
It has to work for three reasons. One is that Hamas itself must be so weakened that the rocket attacks will cease or be reduced to an absolute minimum. The second is that there must be no risk whatsoever of any paramilitary group developing similar tactics in the West Bank. A nightmare for the more thoughtful Israeli military planners is that any perception of success for Hamas stemming from the use of the rockets could well lead to groups on the West Bank developing the same tactics. Given the geography of the occupied territories, that would put all the heavily populated areas of Israel at risk. Finally, massive use of force in Gaza is intended to send a message to Hezbollah that Israel has learnt from its failure in 2006 and will never tolerate further rocket attacks from southern Lebanon.
However strong the support is within Israel for the military operation in Gaza, the chances of it working are remote. Unless Israel re-occupies the whole of the Gaza strip and maintains rigid control over a deeply antagonistic population of nearly 1.5 million Palestinians, the rocket attacks will almost certainly continue. What has to be appreciated is that there is now widespread knowledge of how to construct crude but deadly devices from quite basic materials using equally basic machinery. Moreover, the very intensity of the Israeli military action demonstrates how effective these rockets can be in their political impact.
What has evolved with the development of these rockets in Gaza over the past two years is actually far more significant than most people realise. It is at least as important as the rapid evolution of improvised explosive devices in Iraq and Afghanistan, with all the effects that they have had and continue to have. Those crude Gaza rockets have either to be countered or Israel will see its security deteriorate still further. Many Israelis see this, but their fundamental mistake is to believe this is a problem with a military answer.
Some time in the coming years there will be the realisation among astute Israelis that there is no alternative to a negotiated and fair settlement with the Palestinians, both in the West Bank and Gaza. It is just possible that the disaster that is now unfolding, for Israelis as well as Palestinians, will actually hasten that realisation.