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Anne Frank Is Palestine’s Child, Too July 15, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, Palestine.
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Anne Frank in a kuffiyeh by BDS Amsterdam
OpEdNews Op Eds 7/14/2013 at 13:43:43
by Vacy Vlazna
The graffiti image of Anne Frank wearing a kuffiyeh by the Netherlands artist known as “T’ has long drawn indignation and controversy, though its original intention was related to the fashionable wearing of a kuffiyeh. Recently, BDS Amsterdam’s use of the image has rekindled the controversy. Haaretz’s Bradley Bursten complained, “No, those who are affected most directly by the Anne Frank image–and most deeply hurt– are Holocaust survivors and their descendants.”
Personally, I think it is these same persons who, through the empathy brought by suffering, should understand the moral symbiosis of the image and its tragic significance today.
Anne Frank is of course the Jewish teenager who spent two years with her family hidden in a building in Amsterdam, and then was betrayed and deported to Auschwitz, the notorious Nazi concentration camp, where she died. She has since become a beloved icon in the dreams of children, past and present, who have been annihilated by violence.
The Anne Frank Foundation states that “Through her diary, Anne Frank has become a worldwide symbol representing all victims of racism, anti-Semitism and fascism. The foremost message contained in her diary sets out to combat all forms of racism and anti-Semitism.”
Today, virulent racism and antisemitism is victimizing another Semitic people, the Palestinians.
In her diary, Anne fearfully wrote: “All Jews must be out of the German-occupied territories before 1 July. The province of Utrecht will be cleansed of Jews [as if they were cockroaches] between 1 April and 1 May.”
Palestinians are also vilified with the racial slur “cockroach.”  In 1983, Israeli Rafael Eitan, who served as Chief of Staff of the Israeli Defense Force (IDF), and later as Knesset member and government minister, announced: “When we have settled the land, all the Arabs will be able to do about it will be to scurry around like drugged roaches in a bottle.” And Israeli peace activist, Professor Nurid Peled-Elhanan, who has made a thorough analysis of Zionist education resources, tells us: “When images of Arabs do figure, they are often negatively depicted as less human or subhuman, subservient, deviant, criminal and evil…. [Palestinians] are seen as cockroaches, vermins, creatures who should be stamped out.”

The Suffering of Palestinian Children Is Not Unlike Anne Frank’s

In the context here of youthful suffering, let us consider the similarities between the Nazi victimising, traumatising and slaughtering of Anne Frank to the victimising, traumatising, mutilating and slaughtering of the teenagers and children of Gaza. The children of Gaza have also been trapped, or, as Anne may have put it, “chained in one spot, without any rights” for seven years in the largest concentration camp in the world.

Palestinians in the Gaza Strip number 1,763,387, of whom 43% are under 14 years of age and the median age is 18.1. The population has been in a state of humanitarian crisis since the 2006 illegal Israeli blockade took control of all of Gaza’s borders in collaboration with Egypt.
Following the horrific Israeli 2009/10 war on Gaza’s defenseless population, Iman Aoun, director of the Ramallah Astar Theatre, produced “The Gaza-Mono-Logues,” based on  moving stories of thirty-one teenagers impounded in the Gaza ghetto. As one character, Fateema, 14, laconically observes, “Gaza’s fish ran away…but the people were not able to.”
In her diary, Anne Frank asks:

“Who has inflicted this upon us? Who had made us Jews different from all other people? Who has allowed us to suffer so terribly up till now?”
But, just as the world was silent during Anne’s holocaust and bewilderment, so too, was it silent during the massive bombardment on defenseless Gazan families (ironically, because they are not Jewish). Few took notice of Israel’s arsenal of Depleted Uranium, Dense Inert Metal Explosives, White Phosphorous, Anti-Personnel/Anti-Materiel Tank Rounds, Fuel Air Explosives, Anti-Door Short-Range Anti-Armor Weapons, Spike Multi-Purpose Anti-Armor Missiles, GBU-28s, Bunker Buster Bombs, GBU-39s, GPS Guided Munitions, M433 40mm-High Explosives, Dual-Purpose (HEDP) Cartridges, M889A1 81 mm High Explosive Cartridges, M107 155 mm High Explosive Artillery Rounds, M141 83 mm Bunker Defeating Munitions, M930 120 mm Illuminating Cartridges fired  by F16s, Helicopters, UAVs (or Drones), Armored Tanks, Caterpillar Armored D9 Bulldozers, Naval War Ships, and IOF Forces, including Max Brenner’s Proud Golani and Givati Brigades, plus the invasion of M889A1 and M107 Tanks specifically designed to spray some 2,000 pieces of shrapnel and to breach walls….
Instead, the world silently allowed the slaughter of 1400 Gazans, including 320 children and their dreams….
Sujoud, 15, declares, “They took our land and threw us out of our homes…. And because we are defending ourselves, all this happens to us. There’s no water…no electricity…no phones…no petrol…. What are we to the world, aren’t we human?”
Silence reigned again during the Israeli Operation Pillar of Cloud in November of last year, which killed 105 Gazans as well as the dreams of 30 children.
Anne Frank, trapped in the Secret Annexe in the Netherlands, was terrorized by the noise of war. She wrote:
“I still haven’t got over my fear of planes and shooting, and I crawl into Father’s bed nearly every night for comfort. I know it sounds childish, but wait till it happens to you! The ack-ack guns make so much noise you can’t hear your own voice.
Reem, 14, shared this terror in Gaza. “Yesterday I was sitting in school and heard the sounds of planes. I got really scared, I wanted to run away from school. I felt I was going to die because I remembered the war. The scenes of war won’t leave my mind.”
Unconscionably, this anguish of Gaza’s children is purposely exacerbated by Israel, which regularly and mercilessly bludgeons Gazans with a series of sonic booms, mainly at night. Sounding like massive explosions, the booms can cause miscarriages and heart attacks, as well as trauma, loss of hearing, breathing difficulties, and bed-wetting in children.
Anne Frank, for her part, described second-hand the devastation from the bombardments on her city, and more intimately the effect they had on herself:
“North Amsterdam was very heavily bombed on Sunday. There was apparently a great deal of destruction. Entire streets are in ruins, and it will take a while for them to dig out all the bodies. So far there have been two hundred dead and countless wounded; the hospitals are bursting at the seams. We’ve been told of children searching forlornly in the smouldering ruins for their dead parents. It still makes me shiver to think of the dull, distant drone that signified the approaching destruction.”
Ahmad, 14, shares first-hand his traumatic experience in Gaza:

“In the Shifa hospital I saw a sight I will never forget. Hundreds of corpses, one on top of the other. Their flesh…their blood, and their bones all melting on each other. You wouldn’t know the woman from the man or even the child. Piles of flesh on the beds, and lots of people screaming and crying, not knowing where their kids are, their men or their women.

“That night, I came home from hospital and was awake until morning from fear. I thought it would only be that night that I couldn’t sleep, but till today I see them in front of me and I can’t sleep.”
Anne dreaded the Gestapo roundup of civilians:

“Mr Dussel has told us much about the outside world we’ve missed for so long. He had sad news. Countless friends and acquaintances have been taken off to a dreadful fate. Night after night, green and grey military vehicles cruise the streets.”

 

Today, the roundups dreaded by Anne Frank find new forms in the West Bank of Palestine. There, Israel systematically ramps up the state of anxiety and fear with night-time raids and violent home invasions. Arrests of children and adults occur mainly at night, when the whole family is suddenly awakened and their home invaded by armed soldiers shouting and ransacking the family’s possessions. This leads to the kidnapping of the family member, or members, targeted, leaving the family distraught and their lives devastated. Reuters reported that, according to UNICEF, “approximately 700 Palestinian children, between the ages of 12 and 17, are kidnapped, detained and interrogated by the Israeli army, the Police and security agents in the West Bank every year, and are subject to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in direct violation of the Convention on the Right of the Child, and the Convention against Torture.”

 

In both the West Bank and Gaza, the effect of unending oppression has become tragic for Palestinian children. The respected Gaza journalist Mohammed Omer points out in “For Gaza’s Children the Trauma Never Ends”:

 

“The Nazi persecution and World War II in Europe, which lasted from 1933 to 1945, affected an entire generation of children. By contrast, Israel’s dispossession and occupation of Palestine has lasted some six decades–and counting. Generations of Palestinian children have been affected physically, psychologically and materially.”

 

For Anne Frank, the experience of Nazi oppression had the effect of making her former life seem surrealistic. She wrote:

 

“When I think back to my life in 1942, it all seems so unreal. The Anne Frank who enjoyed that heavenly existence was completely different from the one who has grown wise within these walls.”
Khalil, 13, for whom the Israeli violence is ongoing, has had a similar experience. “Excuse me,” he says somewhat sarcastically, “but the war has wiped blank all my beautiful memories. The front half of my house was damaged, so that I am transferred to a life-situation that I never dreamed I would be experiencing.” [IMEMC 23-1-11]
Anne Frank recalls that, “After May, 1940, the good times were few and far between: first there was the war, then the capitulation and then the arrival of the Germans, which is when the trouble started for the Jews. Our freedom was severely restricted by a series of anti-Jewish decrees.”

Anne then lists the humiliations Jews were subject to under the Nazi’s apartheid regime. Interestingly, her experience can easily be reworded, as follows, to reflect the Palestinian experience:

“After May, 1940, the good times were few and far between: first there was the never-ending arrival of the Jews, then the capitulation of the British and then the Israeli war and Nakba, which is when the trouble started for the indigenous Palestinians.

“Freedom was severely restricted by a series of anti-Palestinian apartheid decrees that violate international law:

–Palestinians live under military law, while Israelis live under civil law.
–Identity cards only for Palestinians.
–Segregation between Jewish and Palestinian communities.
–Jews-only roads and transport.
–Movement restrictions for Palestinians.
–Unequal access to land and property.
–Forcible eviction and home demolitions for Palestinians.
–Palestinians forbidden the right of return, while Jews anywhere in the
world have the right to live in Israel.
–Deportation of Palestinian prisoners.
–Palestinians are forbidden from living with Israeli Arab spouses.
–Separate and unequal education systems.
–Forced resettlement of Bedouins.”

In addition, Adalah reports that “In the four short months since the current Knesset came to power, MKs have proposed as many as 29 new discriminatory bills that attack the rights of Palestinians in Israel and the OPT.”

All Children Have Dreams, and the Right to Make Them Real

Even though for Anne “t he approaching danger [was] being pulled tighter and tighter,” and she felt “like a songbird whose wings have been ripped off and who keeps hurling itself against the bars of its dark cage,” we Palestinian young people share with her that confounding universal metamorphosis of the human teenager into a young adult overflowing with the same heartfelt reflections, confessions, emotional struggles, lamentations, loves, fears, hates, and hopes.

The tragic poignancy of her life was that a globally ignored unfettered evil cut short her life, aspirations and spiritual generosity. This was her potential, which all young people have, along with the natural right to try to make it real:
“If God lets me live, I’ll achieve more than Mother ever did, I’ll make my voice heard, I’ll go out into the world and work for mankind! I now know that courage and happiness are needed first! Yours, Anne M. Frank.
Like Anne, Reem, 14, has the spiritual generosity and energy leaders and most people lack. “The thing that upsets me and makes me cry,” he says, are children’s tears–all children in the world regardless of their nationality, religion or color. When I grow up I want to be a pediatrician, and that’s the hope that gives me a big push in life.”
When viewed in the context of the sorrows, hopes and aspirations of Gazan children trapped in the dark cages of Zionist oppression, the image of Anne Frank wearing a kuffiyeh, the badge of Palestinian resistance, manifests an aura of grace and makes profound sense.
Dr. Vacy Vlazna is Coordinator of Justice for Palestine Matters. She was Human Rights Advisor to the GAM team in the second round of the Acheh peace talks, Helsinki, February 2005 then withdrew on principle. Vacy was coordinator of the East Timor Justice Lobby as well as serving in East Timor with UNAMET and UNTAET from 1999-2001.

 

Gaza crisis: Grandfather in mourning after family of 11 killed in Israeli airstrike on their home November 20, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Genocide, Israel, Gaza & Middle East.
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Roger’s note: According to the Israeli government, a nine month old baby who allows his fellow Gazans to vote for Hamas deserves to die.  And, of course, as President Obama so eloquently stated, Israel has the right to defend itself from a virtually hopeless and beseiged people who have about 1% of the military resources that Israel does.

A man carries the body of one of the Dalou children killed on Sunday when an Israeli missile struck their two-storey home in a residential area of Gaza City.
By Mitch Potter Washington Bureau
Toronto Star, November 20,2012
GAZA CITY—If the gates of hell are to swing shut now over the Gaza Strip amid talk of possible ceasefire, they will leave Jamal Dalou forever locked in their grip.

Patriarch of a family that is no longer, Dalou, 50, stared into the pancaked rubble that a day earlier was his three-storey home, his face a mask of alternating shock, sorrow and stunned defiance.

None of it had really sunk in yet, even as the Palestinian cause had hoisted him instantly from obscure market vendor to become the totem of Gaza’s newest misery. The chaotic funeral procession was over, and with it, Dalou’s last glimpse of his wife Tahani, his sister Suheila, his son Mohammed, and four grandkids, including his 9-month-old namesake, Jamal.

Eleven family members in all, with one body still believed trapped under the three-metre-high mound of broken concrete and twisted steel. And parts of the others, one neighbour whispered quietly in an aside to the Toronto Star.

All from a single Sunday afternoon missile strike the Israel Defense Forces said was meant for a local militant commander responsible for 200 to 300 rockets fired from Gaza in recent days. Faced with widening outrage a day later, the IDF said it was “still looking into” what happened but characterized the civilian casualties as an accident.

The two sides offered contradictory narratives as to whether any such commander even lives in these streets of Gaza City’s North Rimal neighbourhood.

Dalou readily acknowledged his son’s ties to Gaza’s Hamas-controlled government. But he and his neighbours insisted the 28-year-old served simply as a local police officer and not a member of the militant Qassam brigades.

The question alone prompted contempt from Dalou, as he and his three surviving sons received condolences under a mourning tent.

“Does a nine-month-old baby feeding at his mother’s breast have a gun in his hand?” Dalou said. “This area is empty of rockets, we have nothing.

“Israel is the stronger party — the sky, the sea, the land, everything is in their hands. And now they have destroyed my family. All the women, all the children. Gone.”

Thousands joined in the frenzied funeral procession, thrusting fists in the air in a codified ritual of martyrdom so familiar to Gaza. A Hamas minister spoke of vengeance, telling mourners: “This blood which was provided by your family will not go in vain. The rights of these children, these flowers, is on our neck.”

What was different this time was the presence of an Egyptian delegation, which later visited the Dalou mourning tent, offering bear-hugs for the patriarch and a blistering message from the neighbouring Arab Spring, intended for global consumption.

“We come here from the Muslim Brotherhood, from the salafists, from the liberals — all the parties of the Egyptian revolution — to say we are with you,” Egyptian activist Safuat Hijazi told the mourners.

“Down, down with Israel. We say, generation after generation, destroy Tel Aviv. And we ask, where are the others — the ones living in the palaces? The Gulf kings, the emirs with money filling up American banks. We want you to stand with us.”

As the six-day death toll rose to more than 100 Palestinians and three Israelis, Egyptian mediators working toward a negotiated ceasefire in Cairo signalled that a breakthrough may be in sight.

A survey by Israeli newspaper Haaretz showed that while 84 per cent of Israelis support an air campaign aimed at suppressing rockets from Gaza, only 30 per cent favour a ground invasion. That, coupled with the fact that the country is vectoring toward new elections in January, appeared to leave at least some space for compromise on the Israeli side.

“We prefer the diplomatic solution if it’s possible. If not we can escalate,” an Israeli official told the Associated Press. But Israel is demanding “international guarantees” that Hamas will not simply rearm or use the Egyptian Sinai next door to renew attacks in the coming months.

Khaled Meshal, the exiled Hamas leader, maintained a firm stance in Cairo, telling reporters that Israel must satisfy the group’s demands for an end to the blockade of Gaza if it expects the rocket barrage to end.

“We don’t accept Israeli conditions because it is the aggressor,” Meshal said. “We want a ceasefire along with meeting our demands.”

With the diplomatic window still ajar, the tempo of violence eased slightly Monday. But as night fell over Gaza a series of concussion explosions resumed.

Israeli officials, meanwhile, said at least 100 rockets were fired toward Israel during the day, bringing to more than 1,000 the number fired since Wednesday.

Some 35,000 Israeli army regulars and reservists, meanwhile, remain mobilized on the edge of the narrow Gaza Strip, awaiting orders to move in or stand down. And inside Gaza itself, the broken bones of bombarded Hamas government infrastructure, from police stations to political offices and even the Gaza City football stadium, suggest Israel may be near to exhausting its list of aerial targets.

For Jamal Dalou, who still has barely begun to process his loss, the idea of ceasefire sparked only an exhausted shrug.

“We want to work to relax, to live our lives. Not to come home and see our kids buried. But I still have God. That’s all I can say.”

Gilad Sharon, Son Of Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Writes Op-Ed: ‘We Need To Flatten Entire Neighborhoods In Gaza’ November 19, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Genocide, Israel, Gaza & Middle East.
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Roger’s note: I’ll try not to post more than once a day on the Israeli government’s genocidal attack on Gaza.  Go to my source for this, and read the comments: http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2012/11/18-2 .  And Americans should keep in mind that they are financing this slaughter of  civilian men, women and children.

Published on Sunday, November 18, 2012 by Huffington Post

  by Adam Goldberg

Gilad Sharon, son of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, wrote an op-ed on Sunday calling for even more aggressive Israeli strikes in Gaza.

 Destruction in Gaza. (Photo: REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah) “We need to flatten entire neighborhoods in Gaza. Flatten all of Gaza,” states Sharon in The Jerusalem Post.

The violence between Israel and Hamas this week has reportedly claimed the lives of 73 Palestinians, including 37 civilians, as well as 3 Israeli civilians. Current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that “the Israeli military is prepared to significantly expand the operation.”

Sharon writes in his op-ed that “the residents of Gaza are not innocent, they elected Hamas. The Gazans aren’t hostages; they chose this freely, and must live with the consequences.” After saying that Israel needs to “flatten all of Gaza,” he goes on to say, “The Americans didn’t stop with Hiroshima – the Japanese weren’t surrendering fast enough, so they hit Nagasaki, too.”

He concludes his defense of Israel’s actions with a hawkish message:

There is no middle path here – either the Gazans and their infrastructure are made to pay the price, or we reoccupy the entire Gaza Strip. Otherwise there will be no decisive victory. And we’re running out of time – we must achieve victory quickly. The Netanyahu government is on a short international leash. Soon the pressure will start – and a million civilians can’t live under fire for long. This needs to end quickly – with a bang, not a whimper.

A bio on the website for HarperCollins Publishers describes Sharon as follows:

Gilad Sharon is the youngest of former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon’s sons. Gilad holds a master’s degree in economics and writes a column for the prominent Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth. A major in the Israel Defense Force reserves, he currently manages his family’s farm in Israel.

Sharon isn’t alone in his militant tone. Israel’s Deputy Prime Minister Eli Yishai is reported by The Yeshiva World News to have said, “We must blow Gaza back to the Middle Ages, destroying all the infrastructure including roads and water.” Haaretz also reports that Yishai stated, “The goal of the operation is to send Gaza back to the Middle Ages.”

President Barack Obama said on Sunday that the United States is “fully supportive of Israel’s right to defend itself.”

The violent conflict continued on Sunday as Palestinian militants fired more than 100 rockets into Israel, and one of Israel’s missile strikes killed at least 11 civilians.

© 2012 Huffington Post

 

The Latest Gaza Catastrophe November 18, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Genocide, Israel, Gaza & Middle East, Media.
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Roger’s note: I refrain from bombarding (no pun intended) my readers with articles on the Israeli government’s US financed and supported war crimes against Palestinian Gaza, which is clearly an act of barbarism and done solely for political reasons (election coming up).  This article will have to do for now.
 
Published on Sunday, November 18, 2012 by Al-Jazeera-English

Many aspects of the current assault on Gaza pass under the radar screens of world conscience.

  by  Richard Falk

The media double standards in the West on the new and tragic Israeli escalation of violence directed at Gaza were epitomised by an absurdly partisan New York Times front page headline: “Rockets Target Jerusalem; Israel girds for Gaza Invasion” (NYT, Nov 16, 2012). Decoded somewhat, the message is this: Hamas is the aggressor, and Israel when and if it launches a ground attack on Gaza must expect itself to be further attacked by rockets. This is a stunningly Orwellian re-phrasing of reality.Israel’s claim that it is in a state of war with Hamas has no legal basis, as it is considered an Occupying Power. (AFP)

The true situation is, of course, quite the opposite: Namely, that the defenseless population of Gaza can be assumed now to be acutely fearful of an all out imminent Israeli assault, while it is also true, without minimising the reality of a threat, that some rockets fired from Gaza fell harmlessly (although with admittedly menacing implications) on the outskirts of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. There is such a gross disproportion in the capacity of the two sides to inflict damage and suffering due to Israeli total military dominance as to make perverse this reversal of concerns to what might befall Israeli society if the attack on Gaza further intensifies.

The reliance by Hamas and the various Gaza militias on indiscriminate, even if wildly inaccurate and generally harmless, rockets is a criminal violation of international humanitarian law, but the low number of casualties caused and the minor damage caused, needs to be assessed in the overall context of massive violence inflicted on the Palestinians. The widespread non-Western perception of the new cycle of violence involving Gaza is that it looks like a repetition of Israeli aggression against Gaza in late 2008, early 2009, that similarly fell between the end of American presidential elections and scheduled Israeli parliamentary elections.

Pointing fingers

There is the usual discussion over where to locate responsibility for the initial act in this renewed upsurge violence. Is it some shots fired from Gaza across the border and aimed at an armoured Israeli jeep or was it the targeted killing by an Israeli missile of Ahmed Jabari, leader of the military wing of Hamas, a few days later? Or some other act by one side or the other? Or is it the continuous violence against the people of Gaza arising from the blockade that has been imposed since mid-2007?

The assassination of Jabari came a few days after an informal truce that had been negotiated through the good offices of Egypt, and quite ironically agreed to by none other than Jabari acting on behalf of Hamas. Killing him was clearly intended as a major provocation, disrupting a carefully negotiated effort to avoid another tit-for-tat sequence of violence of the sort that has periodically taken place during the last several years.

An assassination of such a high profile Palestinian political figure as Jabari is not a spontaneous act. It is based on elaborate surveillance over a long period, and is obviously planned well in advance partly with the hope of avoiding collateral damage, and thus limiting unfavourable publicity. Such an extra-judicial killing, although also part and parcel of the new American ethos of drone warfare, remains an unlawful tactic of conflict, denying adversary political leaders separated from combat any opportunity to defend themselves against accusations, and implies a rejection of any disposition to seek a peaceful resolution of a political conflict. It amounts to the imposition of capital punishment without due process, a denial of elementary rights to confront an accuser.

Putting aside the niceties of law, the Israeli leadership knew exactly what it was doing when it broke the truce and assassinated such a prominent Hamas leader, someone generally thought to be second only to the Gaza prime minister, Ismail Haniya. There have been rumours, and veiled threats, for months that the Netanyahu government plans a major assault of Gaza, and the timing of the ongoing attacks seems to coincide with the dynamics of Israeli internal politics, especially the traditional Israeli practice of shoring up the image of toughness of the existing leadership in Tel Aviv as a way of inducing Israeli citizens to feel fearful, yet protected, before casting their ballots.

Under siege

Beneath the horrific violence, which exposes the utter vulnerability, of all those living as captives in Gaza, which is one of the most crowded and impoverished communities on the planet, is a frightful structure of human abuse that the international community continues to turn its back upon, while preaching elsewhere adherence to the norm of “responsibility to protect” whenever it suits NATO. More than half of the 1.6 million Gazans are refugees living in a total area of just over twice the size of the city of Washington, DC. The population has endured a punitive blockade since mid-2007 that makes daily life intolerable, and Gaza has been harshly occupied ever since 1967.

Israel has tried to fool the world by setting forth its narrative of a good faith withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, which was exploited by Palestinian militants at the time as an opportunity to launch deadly rocket attacks. The counter-narrative, accepted by most independent observers, is that the Israeli removal of troops and settlements was little more than a mere redeployment to the borders of Gaza, with absolute control over what goes in and what leaves, maintaining an open season of a license to kill at will, with no accountability and no adverse consequences, backed without question by the US government.

From an international law point of view, Israel’s purported “disengagement” from Gaza didn’t end its responsibility as an Occupying Power under the Geneva Conventions, and thus its master plan of subjecting the entire population of Gaza to severe forms of collective punishment amounts to a continuing crime against humanity, as well as a flagrant violation of Article 33 of Geneva IV. It is not surprising that so many who have observed the plight of Gaza at close range have described it as “the largest open air prison in the world”.

The Netanyahu government pursues a policy that is best understood from the perspective of settler colonialism. What distinguishes settler colonialism from other forms of colonialism is the resolve of the colonialists not only to exploit and dominate, but to make the land their own and superimpose their own culture on that of indigenous population. In this respect, Israel is well served by the Hamas/Fatah split, and seeks to induce the oppressed Palestinian to give up their identity along with their resistance struggle even to the extent of asking Palestinians in Israel to take an oath of loyalty to Israel as “a Jewish state”.

Actually, unlike the West Bank and East Jerusalem, Israel has no long-term territorial ambitions in Gaza. Israel’s short-term solution to its so-called “demographic problem” (that is, worries about the increase in the population of Palestinians relative to Jews) could be greatly eased if Egypt would absorb Gaza, or if Gaza would become a permanently separate entity, provided it could be reliably demilitarised. What makes Gaza presently useful to the Israelis is their capacity to manage the level of violence, both as a distraction from other concerns (eg backing down in relation to Iran; accelerated expansion of the settlements) and as a way of convincing their own people that dangerous enemies remain and must be dealt with by the iron fist of Israeli militarism.

No peace

In the background, but not very far removed from the understanding of observers, are two closely related developments. The first is the degree to which the continuing expansion of Israeli settlements has made it unrealistic to suppose that a viable Palestinian state will ever emerge from direct negotiations. The second, underscored by the recent merger of Netanyahu and Lieberman forces, is the extent to which the Israeli governing process has indirectly itself irreversibly embraced the vision of Greater Israel encompassing all of Jerusalem and most of the West Bank.

The fact that world leaders in the West keep repeating the mantra of peace through direct negotiations is either an expression of the grossest incompetence or totally bad faith. At minimum, Washington and the others calling for the resumption of direct negotiations owe it to all of us to explain how it will be possible to establish a Palestinian state within 1967 borders when it means the displacement of most of the 600,000 armed settlers now defended by the Israeli army, and spread throughout occupied Palestine. Such an explanation would also have to show why Israel is being allowed to quietly legalise the 100 or so “outposts”, settlements spread around the West Bank that had been previously unlawful even under Israeli law. Such moves toward legalisation deserve the urgent attention of all those who continue to proclaim their faith in a two-state solution, but instead are ignored.

This brings us back to Gaza and Hamas. The top Hamas leaders have made it abundantly clear over and over again that they are open to permanent peace with Israel if there is a total withdrawal to the 1967 borders (22 percent of historic Palestine) and the arrangement is supported by a referendum of all Palestinians living under occupation.

Israel, with the backing of Washington, takes the position that Hamas as “a terrorist organisation” that must be permanently excluded from the procedures of diplomacy, except of course when it serves Israel’s purposes to negotiate with Hamas. It did this in 2011 when it negotiated the prisoner exchange in which several hundred Palestinians were released from Israeli prisons in exchange for the release of the Israel soldier captive, Gilad Shalit, or when it seems convenient to take advantage of Egyptian mediation to establish temporary ceasefires.

As the celebrated Israeli peace activist and former Knesset member, Uri Avnery, reminds us a cease-fire in Arab culture, hudna in Arabic, is considered to be sanctified by Allah, has tended to be in use and faithfully observed ever since the time of the Crusades. Avnery also reports that up to the time he was assassinated, Jabari was in contact with Gershon Baskin of Israel, seeking to explore prospects for a long-term ceasefire that was reported to Israeli leaders, who unsurprisingly showed no interest.

Waiting for justice

There is a further feature of this renewal of conflict involving attacks on Gaza. Israel sometimes insists that since it is no longer, according to its claims, an occupying power, it is in a state of war with a Hamas governed Gaza. But if this were to be taken as the proper legal description of the relationship between the two sides, then Gaza would have the rights of a combatant, including the option to use proportionate force against Israeli military targets. As earlier argued, such a legal description of the relationship between Israel and Gaza is unacceptable. Gaza remains occupied and essentially helpless, and Israel as occupier has no legal or ethical right to engage in war against the people and government of Gaza, which incidentally was elected in internationally monitored free elections in early 2006.

On the contrary, its overriding obligation as Occupier is to protect the civilian population of Gaza. Even if casualty figures in the present violence are so far low as compared with Operation Cast Lead, the intensity of air and sea strikes against the helpless people of Gaza strikes terror in the hearts and minds of every person living in the Strip, a form of indiscriminate violence against the spirit and mental health of an entire people that cannot be measured in blood and flesh, but by reference to the traumatising fear that has been generated.

We hear many claims in the West as to a supposed decline in international warfare since the collapse of the Soviet Union twenty years ago. Such claims are to some extent a welcome development, but the people of the Middle East have yet to benefit from this trend, least of all the people of Occupied Palestine, and of these, the people of Gaza are suffering the most acutely. This spectacle of one-sided war in which Israel decides how much violence to unleash, and Gaza waits to be struck, firing off militarily meaningless salvos of rockets as a gesture of resistance, represents a shameful breakdown of civilisation values. These rockets do spread fear and cause trauma among Israeli civilians even when no targets are struck, and represent an unacceptable tactic. Yet such unacceptability must be weighed against the unacceptable tactics of an Israel that holds all the cards in the conflict.

It is truly alarming that now even the holiest of cities, Jerusalem, is threatened with attacks, but the continuation of oppressive conditions for the people of Gaza, inevitably leads to increasing levels of frustration, in effect, cries of help that world has ignored at its peril for decades. These are survival screams! To realise this is not to exaggerate! To gain perspective, it is only necessary to read a recent UN Report that concludes that the deterioration of services and conditions will make Gaza uninhabitable by 2020.

Completely aside from the merits of the grievances on the two sides, one side is militarily omnipotent and the other side crouches helplessly in fear. Such a grotesque reality passes under the radar screens of world conscience because of the geopolitical shield behind which Israel is given a free pass to do whatever it wishes. Such a circumstance is morally unendurable, and should be politically unacceptable. It needs to be actively opposed globally by every person, government, and institution of good will.

© 2012 Al-Jazeera

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Richard Falk

Richard Falk is the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights. An international law and international relations scholar who taught at Princeton University for forty years, since 2002 Falk has lived in Santa Barbara, California, and taught at the local campus of the University of California in Global and International Studies and since 2005 chaired the Board of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. Read more articles by .

Obama: U.S. ‘Fully Supportive Of Israel’s Right To Defend Itself’: WWRD (What would Romney do?) November 18, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Genocide, Israel, Gaza & Middle East, Uncategorized.
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OBAMA, THE LESSER OF EVILS; TELL IT TO THE PARENTS OF THE SLAUGHTERED PALESTINIAN CHILDREN.

Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai reportedly has said that the goal of the offensive is to “send Gaza back to the middle ages.”

Israeli Attack on Gaza Aid Ship Violates International Law May 31, 2010

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Published on Monday, May 31, 2010 by Canada.comby Paul Jay

Last night, Israeli commandos boarded a Turkish aid ship on its way to Gaza. It is reported that they killed ten to fifteen activists and injured thirty more.

The flotilla was attacked in international waters, 65km off the Gaza coast.  Organizers said the flotilla was carrying 10,000 tones of humanitarian aid headed to Gaza challenging the Israeli blockade.  

The Israeli Army Radio said soldiers opened fire “after confronting those on board carrying sharp objects”.  Israel says they offered to deliver the aid if the ships turned back.

The Free Gaza Movement, the organizers of the flotilla, however, said the troops opened fire as soon as they stormed the ships. They also said they were fully within international law delivering the aid directly to Gaza.

Turkey in a written statement condemned Israel over the deadly attacks: “This deplorable incident, which took place in open seas and constitutes a fragrant breach of international law, may lead to irreparable consequences in our bilateral relations,” it said.

Turkey is a member of NATO and one of the few majority Muslim countries that has diplomatic relations with Israel.  Although Israel has been a major supplier of arms to Turkey, diplomatic relations have been tense following the 2008-2009 Israel attack on Gaza.

Prior to the attack on the aid ship, Israel ‘s Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said, “The aid convoy is violent propaganda against Israel, and Israel will not allow its sovereignty to be threatened in any way, in any place – land, air, or sea. There is no humanitarian crisis in the Gaza strip.”  The UN and numerous NGO’s have described the conditions in Gaza as a humanitarian disaster.

Lieberman has openly talked about ethnically cleansing Israeli citizens of Palestinian origin. In late May 2004, Lieberman proposed a plan in which the populations and territories of Israeli Jews and Arabs, including some Israeli Arabs, would be “separated.” According to the plan, also known as the “Populated-Area Exchange Plan,” Israeli Arab towns adjacent to Palestinian Authority areas would be transferred to Palestinian Authority, and only those Arab Israelis who migrated from the area to within Israel’s new borders and pledged loyalty to the Jewish State of Israel would be allowed to remain Israeli citizens.

I was in Israel in April of this year, my first visit since 1998.  I interviewed Michel Warschawski, founder of the Alternative Information Centre, who spoke about the significance of Lieberman: “it’s not anymore a small lunatic right wing, like [Meir] Kahane gang 20 years ago. He’s minister of foreign affairs. He’s government. He’s part of the coalition, an important part of the coalition. So what we have is the blatantly racist language and measures that were on the margin of Israeli politics are now in the middle.”

 After Israel’s attack on Gaza in 2008, the UN appointed a Fact Finding Mission to investigate alleged war crimes. The mission, led by renowned South African jurist Richard Goldstone, produced a report that accused both Israel and Palestinian militias of war crimes.

The UN human rights council referred Goldstone’s report to the UN General Assembly in Washington for follow-up, but under US pressure, the report never reached the Security Council for possible referral to the International Criminal Court. The Canadian government joined the US in denouncing the report.

On Thursday Amnesty International accused the US and European states of obstructing justice by using their position on the UN Security Council to shield Israel from accountability for war crimes committed in Gaza.

As long as the American, Canadian and European governments continue to allow Israel to flout international law without consequence, defend and expand illegal settlements, maintain a “secret” stockpile of nuclear weapons, sustain the siege of Gaza . . . Israel will continue on this road with impunity.

The American and Canadian elites support such actions of Israel not because they love Jews or care about a Jewish state. A long history of North American and European anti-Semitism says otherwise. They do so for their own geo-political objectives.  Like most issues in the Middle East, it’s mostly about oil and maintaining a system of regimes, Israeli and Arab, which make sure that fabulous oil revenues remain in very few hands.

I think most ordinary Americans and Canadians, including those of Jewish origin, do not agree with a policy of unconditional support for the increasingly fanatical direction of Israeli policy.

© 2009 – 2010 Canwest Publishing Inc.

Paul Jay is the CEO and Senior Editor of The Real News Network. He is an award-winning filmmaker, founder of Hot Docs! International Film Festival and was for ten years the Executive Producer of the CBC Newsworld show counterSpin.

Gaza, Here We Come to Break the Siege May 24, 2010

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Published on Monday, May 24, 2010 by CommonDreams.orgby Ann Wright

I am honored to be a part of the latest international citizen effort to break the Israeli and Egyptian governments’ siege of Gaza.  This week, hundreds of persons from 20 countries will challenge the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza in an eight ship flotilla. 

An international coalition composed of Free Gaza Movement, European Campaign to End the Siege of Gaza, the Malaysian humanitarian organization Perdana  and the Turkish non-governmental organization Humanitarian Aid Foundation (IHH) is sending three cargo ships and five passenger vessels to Gaza from Ireland, Greece and Turkey.While the citizens mobilize, their governments are receiving intense diplomatic pressure from the Israeli government.  On Monday, May 17, 2010, Naor Gilon, the Israeli Foreign Ministry deputy director general, told the ambassadors of Greece, Ireland, Turkey, and Sweden that the attempt to break Israel’s blockage Gaza ” is a provocation and a breach of Israeli law,” and that “Israel has no intention of allowing the flotilla to enter Gaza,” according to a ministry statement.  

Arabic-language news station Al-Hurra reported that “about half of the Israeli naval forces will participate in an operation that was approved by the cabinet” and that Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak will supervise the operation.  Israel will prevent the boats from reaching Gaza “at any price,” an Israeli security source told the Ma’an news agency. 

Three ships are leaving Turkey, including a 600 person passenger ship and two cargo ships filled with humanitarian supplies such as medical equipment, pre-fabricated homes and construction supplies to rebuild housing for 50,000 persons destroyed in the 22 day Israeli attack on Gaza in December, 2008 and January, 2009.  The passenger ship left Istanbul on May 22 to a tremendous send-off from thousands of supporters! 

Two ships will depart the Athens, Greece port of Piraeus and two more ships will depart from the Greek island of Crete.  The cargo ship Rachel Corrie, purchased by Perdana, the Malaysian humanitarian organization, loaded with medical supplies and cement, is on its way from Ireland and will meet up with the flotilla off the coast of Gaza. The ship is named for activist Rachel Corrie who was run over and killed by the Israeli military driver of a huge Caterpillar bulldozer that was knocking down homes of Palestinian families in Rafah, Gaza in March, 2003.

I am in Athens, Greece to assist in the briefings for passengers and crew on the two ships departing from Piraeus and then will fly to Crete to board a Free Gaza ship to sail to Gaza. 

Free Gaza has attempted to sail 8 ships into the Gaza port in the past two years.  Five ships have gotten into Gaza and three have been forced back by the Israeli navy including one ship that was rammed and almost sunk by an Israeli patrol boat.

An incredible amount of work is taking place in the port of Gaza. Workers are digging out the area along the pier in anticipation of the arrival of the cargo ships.  No cargo ships have been unloaded in Gaza in 43 years since the port was closed by the Israelis after the 1967 war.

As the flotilla leaves Greece and heads across the Mediterranean to Gaza, please follow the historic flotilla by a live-feed link  that will broadcast live footage of this historic voyage.

Ann Wright is a 29 year US Army/Army Reserves veteran who retired as a Colonel and a former US diplomat who resigned in March, 2003 in opposition to the war on Iraq.  She served in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia and Mongolia.  In December, 2001 she was on the small team that reopened the US Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan.  She is the co-author of the book “Dissent: Voices of Conscience.”  (www.voicesofconscience.com) 

More cause and effect in our ever-expanding “war” January 7, 2010

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By Glenn Greenwald, www.salon.com, January 7, 2010

(updated below – Update II - Update III)

If it is taboo to discuss how America’s actions in the Middle East cause Terrorism — and it generally is — that taboo is far stronger still when it comes to specifically discussing how our blind, endless enabling of Israeli actions fuels Terrorism directed at the U.S.  An article in yesterday’s New York Times examined the life of Humam Khalil Abu Mulal al-Balawi, the Jordanian who blew himself up, along with 7 CIA agents, in Afghanistan this week.  Why would Balawi — a highly educated doctor, who was specifically recruited by Jordanian intelligence officials to infiltrate Al Qaeda on behalf of Western governments — want to blow himself up and murder as many American intelligence agents as possible?  The article provides this possible answer:

He described Mr. Balawi as a “very good brother” and a “brilliant doctor,” saying that the family knew nothing of Mr. Balawi’s writings under a pseudonym on jihadi Web sites. He said, however, that his brother had been “changed” by last year’s three-week-long Israeli offensive in Gaza, which killed about 1,300 Palestinians.

 

An Associated Press discussion of the possible motives of accused Christmas Day airline attacker Umar Faruk Abdulmutallab contained this quite similar passage (h/t Casual Observer):

Students and administrators at the institute said Abdulmutallab was gregarious, had many Yemeni friends and was not overtly extremist. They noted, however, he was open about his sympathies toward the Palestinians and his anger over Israel’s actions in Gaza. 

 

When the Saudi and Yemeni branches of Al Qaeda announced earlier this year that they were unifying into “Al Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula,” they prominently featured rhetoric railing against the Israeli attack on Gaza, and “presented their campaign as part of the struggle to liberate Palestine, since Israel and the Crusaders are one.”  So extreme is anger towards Israel over Gaza among Yemenis that even that country’s President — our supposed ally in the War on Terror — called for the opening of camps to train fighters against Israel in Gaza.  In his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Looming Tower, Lawrence Wright claimed that 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta signed his “martyr’s will” from Al Qaeda on the day in 1996 when Israel attacked Lebanon, and he did so due to “outrage” over that attack.  There’s just no question that the U.S.’s loyal enabling of (and support for) Israel’s various wars with its Muslims neighbors contributes to terrorist attacks directed at Americans.

As always whenever the words “Israel” and/or “Terrorism” are mentioned, there is a severe danger of over-simplification and distortion from all sides, rendering several caveats in order:  where U.S. support for Israel is a cause of anti-American Islamic extremism, it is generally not the only or even primary cause, but one of several; there is ample American interference and violence in the Muslim world that is quite independent of Israel, and that was true long before 9/11 and especially after.  Al Qaeda leaders who actually care little about the Palestinian cause have a history of exploiting that issue to generate public support.  The fact that Terrorists object to Policy X does not prove that Policy X should be discontinued.  And most of all:  to discuss causes of Terrorism is not to imply justification; one can seek to understand what we do to fuel Terrorism without suggesting that the deliberate targeting of innocent civilians is in any way legitimate or justified.

Despite all that, it’s impossible to grow accustomed to the extreme fantasy atmosphere and self-absorbed blindness that pervades American discussions over Terrorism, especially in the wake of a new scare.  The Right, seeking as always to exploit Terrorism fears, falsely accuses Obama of not displaying “war” language and a “war” mentality, in response to which he and his aides step forward to affirm — yet again — that WE ARE AT WAR!, and to point to all of the times Obama decreed this to be so and all of the war actions he has ordered.  So we’ve spent the last decade screaming to the world that WE ARE AT WAR!, that we’re a War Nation, that we’re led by a War President.  That we are “at war” – not just in Iraq and Afghanistan, but generally against Islamic extremists — is an absolute bipartisan orthodoxy that must be affirmed by all Serious people.  And we are currently waging some form of actual war in no fewer than five predominantly Muslim countries (Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen and Somalia); are threatening Iran with “crippling” sanctions and — from our more deranged quarters — war; and continuing our unbroken devotion to Israel’s causes.

Yet even in the face of all of that, it is bewilderment and confusion that reign when our media stars and political figures talk about attempts to attack Americans.  Why would they possibly want to do this?  They must be crazy, or drunk with religious fervor, or consumed by blinding, inhumane hatred.  Much of that is probably true for individuals willing to blow themselves up in order to slaughter as many innocent civilians as possible.  But it’s equally irrational to think that you’re going to spend a full decade bellowing WE ARE AT WAR! to the world, send bombs and troops and all forms of death to multiple Muslim countries (both directly and through Israel), and not have that directed back at us.  That’s what happens when a country is “at war” — it doesn’t just get to blow up things and people in other countries, but its own things and people sometimes get blown up as well.  That’s how “war” works.

It’s truly astounding to watch us — for a full decade — send fighter jets and drones and bombs and invading forces and teams of torturers and kidnappers to that part of the world, or, as we were doing long before 9/11, to overthrow their governments, prop up their dictators, occupy what they perceive as holy land with our foreign troops, and arm Israel to the teeth, and then act surprised and confused when some of them want to attack us.  In general, the U.S. only attacks countries with no capabilities to attack us back in the “homeland” — at least not with conventional forces.  As a result, we have come to believe that any forms of violence we perpetrate on them over there is justifiable and natural, but the Laws of Humanity are instantly breached in the most egregious ways whenever they bring violence back to the U.S., aimed at Americans.  It’s just impossible to listen to discussions grounded in this warped mentality without being astounded at how irrational it is.  What do Americans think is going to happen if we continue to engage in this conduct, in this always-widening “war”?

The principal problem is that by pretending that we do nothing to fuel Islamic radicalism, we stay unaware — blissfully ignorant — of the staggering costs of our actions.  I defy anyone to find a political figure in either major party’s leadership who has, in the context of discussing U.S. policy towards Israel, ever even mentioned the fact that undying, endless American support for Israel — making all of their conflicts our own — increases the risk of terrorist violence aimed at the U.S.  But it so plainly does.  The fact that Israel is now explicitly vowing that its “next wars” against its Muslim neighbors will be “much harsher” than even the grotesque atrocities in Gaza and Lebanon means these costs are almost certain to increase even further.  

Again, these facts do not, standing alone, prove that we ought to change these policies.  The mere fact that Islamic radicals object to what we do does not prove we should stop, as there may be net benefits to those actions or they may be morally justifiable.  But at the very least, rational discussions require that these costs and benefits be weighed, and that can only happen if we acknowledge the costs.  But when it comes to our own actions in the Muslim world, and especially our undying devotion to supporting everything Israel does, acknowledging the costs (to say nothing of the morality) is exactly what we steadfastly refuse to do.

UPDATE:  Today’s Haaretz — in an article headlined:  “Report: Al-Qaida CIA bomber was furious over Gaza war” — also reports:  “The Jordanian national that attacked a U.S. military base in Afghanistan, killing 7 CIA agents, was furious over the Israel’s Gaza offensive, the London-based Arabic daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi reported on Thursday.”  Phil Weiss asks about the connection between America’s Israel policy and Terrorist attacks aimed at the U.S.:  “I wonder how long the mainstream media will continue to treat this angle as a sidelight and not a main event”?  Actually, treating it as a “sidelight” would be an upgrade from what they do now:  ignore it completely and pretend it doesn’t exist.  As usual, these discussions can appear more freely in Israeli newspapers like Haaretz than they can in American ones.

UPDATE II:  The Yemeni government today warned that any direct U.S. military action in that country “could bolster the popularity of Islamic militants” and “would strengthen Al Qaeda.”  For reasons that should be obvious, that’s how it works:  not only in Yemen, but generally.

UPDATE III:  Time reports that Balawi (the Jordanian doctor) had been a genuine intelligence asset for the U.S., working to help the U.S. find and bomb Al Qaeda sites, but was completely transformed at some point into an Al Qaeda sympathizer and ultimately a suicide bomber who killed 7 CIA agents.  Part of the reason for the conversion?  Because of “his outrage at the high number of civilian casualties inflicted in the resulting strikes”; he “had become enraged at the Americans for killing a high number of civilians in their hunt for al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders.”  Relatedly, Spencer Ackerman notes that Balawi’s Internet writings reflect a growing commitment to violence due to American and Israeli attacks on Muslims (“They have not left any excuse for any Muslim with a hint of honor to remain hesitant and accept the shame of staying away from the honor of participating in jihad”).

Just contemplate how many Balawis there are in the world:  Muslims who begin with sympathy towards the U.S. and hostility towards Al Qaeda who are completely transformed into the opposite as a result of the constant civilian death we and Israel bring (regardless of intent) to that part of the world.

Gaza invasion: ‘If you’re not sure – kill’ July 15, 2009

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Israeli soldiers’ accounts of January siege betray little regard for civilians
DEADLY TACTICS

TheStar.com

AP FILE PHOTO
An Israeli gunner covers his ears as a mobile artillery piece fires at a target in the Gaza Strip on Jan. 4, 2009 during the bloody three-week offensive known as Operation Cast Lead.

Oakland Ross

Toronto Star, July 15, 2009

JERUSALEM – Israeli soldiers who invaded the Gaza Strip in January received no clear rules of engagement and operated with a shoot-first-ask-questions-later mentality that significantly increased the danger to civilians.

“If you’re not sure – kill,” confessed one of the soldiers who gave his testimony anonymously to an Israeli organization that gathers front-line reports from Israeli soldiers. “The firepower was insane. We went in, and the booms were just mad. The minute we got to our starting line, we simply began firing at suspect places. In urban warfare, everyone is your enemy. No innocents. It was simply urban warfare in every way.”

His remarks underline the central theme of the accounts from Israeli soldiers who participated in the three-week operation, code-named Cast Lead, which left more than 1,300 Palestinians dead, according to a Palestinian count, and inflicted extensive physical destruction. Thirteen Israelis were killed.

“Very few soldiers ever heard in the briefings, `Guys – be careful about innocent people,’” said Yehuda Shaul, head of Breaking the Silence, the Israeli organization that gathers and publishes the testimony. “That’s the most disturbing and disappointing thing.”

A veteran of many Israel Defense Forces’ operations, Shaul said the invasion of Gaza that began Dec. 27 marked a departure from previous Israeli military practice.

“Cast Lead was something different,” he said. “We had an opening-fire policy. `You see something you’re scared of – you shoot.’ We were shocked. This is not the IDF I know.”

Shaul was reacting to the contents of a 110-page book being released by his organization today, containing the testimony of 26 Israeli soldiers who participated in the operation, including 14 young conscripts as well as a dozen older, more experienced reservists. The Star received an advance copy of the text.

Again and again, the soldiers who were interviewed in the book insisted they were given little if any guidance about human-rights considerations before being sent into Gaza, which is ruled by the militant Islamist group Hamas.

Instead, they understood they were to do whatever seemed necessary to protect themselves, even if that meant shooting non-combatants without warning or destroying buildings without knowing who might be inside. The operation was aimed at stopping Palestinian militants from firing rockets at civilian targets in southern Israel.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have issued damning reports about the IDF’s conduct of the invasion, charging Israeli forces with possible war crimes.

The two reports also accuse Hamas of war crimes, including deliberate and sometimes deadly rocket attacks on civilian targets.

For its part, Israel insists its armed forces took heroic measures to avoid civilian casualties in Gaza, and it is not alone. Last month, former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, Col. Richard Kemp, told a Jerusalem audience the IDF did more to safeguard the welfare of civilians during Operation Cast Lead “than any other army in the history of warfare.”

The IDF and its supporters point to measures the Israelis took to warn Palestinian civilians to flee areas about to come under attack. Those warnings were transmitted in Arabic by air-dropped leaflets, tens of thousands of phone calls, and loudspeakers.

The troops interviewed by Shaul’s organization mostly entered Gaza after such warnings were issued, and they appear to have operated on the assumption any Palestinian who remained behind rather than flee was an adversary, not an innocent. The ground troops consistently describe the use of massive Israeli firepower, even while acknowledging they encountered little Palestinian resistance.

The soldiers sometimes use a lurid vernacular, such as the terms “wet entry” and “dry entry” to distinguish between two different ways of securing the interior of a building.

A wet entry involves the use of considerable offensive weaponry prior to entering the building – in order to kill or disable anyone inside – while a dry entry bars the use of weapons until enemy personnel are actually encountered.

“Missiles, tank fire, machine-gun fire into the house, grenades,” said one of the soldiers, describing a typical wet entry. “Shoot as we enter a room. The idea was that, when we enter a house, no one there could fire at us.”

Shaul said it’s clear from the soldiers’ testimony that wet entries were the rule during the offensive.

Meanwhile, decisions about whether to demolish houses or other buildings seemed to follow no consistent military logic.

The book provides eyewitness accounts of three instances in which civilians were shot and killed more or less deliberately, including an elderly man who ventured near an Israeli-occupied house at night, carrying a flashlight.

No warning shots were fired in that episode, and no one shouted at the man to turn back. Instead, he was simply shot dead.

“Eventually, it turned out to be a mistake,” said one of the soldiers.

Asked to sum up his main reaction to the three-week operation, another soldier waxed philosophical.

“How people are able to watch others die or suffer,” he said. “How terribly easily you can grow indifferent to this. It’s like you can turn yourself off. The guy’s dead, let’s move on.”

Koffler Centre persecutes Jewish artist May 10, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Art, Literature and Culture, Canada, Israel, Gaza & Middle East, Religion.
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Sunday, May 10, 2009

http://canadian-firebrand.blogspot.com

On May 8, the Koffler Centre for the Arts issued a press release announcing that they are “disassociating themselves” from an art exhibition by Toronto artist Reena Katz which is being installed at Kensington Market later this month. They are rejecting Katz not for the content of her work but because of her personal political beliefs, namely “Reena Katz’s public support for and association with Israel Apartheid Week.” This is nothing less than blacklisting and the Koffler Centre should be ashamed of itself, particularly when one considers not only the number of Jewish artists and performers who suffered due to McCarthyist blacklisting in the 1950s but also the generations of Jews, in the arts as well as in the professions and various trades, who were denied employment not because of the quality or content of their work but because of their personal beliefs.

According to the Koffler Centre’s press release “As a Jewish cultural institution, an agency of UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, the Koffler Centre of the Arts will not associate with an artist who publicly advocates the extinction of Israel as a Jewish state. The Koffler considers the existence and well-being of Israel as a Jewish state to be one of its core values.” Katz replies in an article in today’s Toronto Star saying, “I have said that I’m an anti-Zionist Jew. So they are conflating the state of Israel with Zionism. I’m speaking to an ideology when I speak about Zionism. They’re speaking about a Jewish state.”

Partisans of the UJA, CJC and B’nai Brith like pretend that Jewish critics of Israel are either assimilated Jews who reject their heritage and only speak out against Zionism so they can gain acceptance from the non-Jewish left or are, worse, apostates, the fact is that opposition to Zionism within the Jewish community is as old and as established as Zionism itself and that the most adamant of Zionism’s Jewish opponents base their opposition on religious grounds. Others do so based on Jewish philisophical traditions of humanitarianism and universalism.

Reena Katz is one of the most Jewish people I’ve met. Her work is infused with Jewish sensibilities and themes. She is not only a visual and sonic artist but a musician who fronted the Klemzer band Promegranate for a number of years. She describes her upcoming exhibit as a(n) homage to my Jewish roots and the Jewish roots of Kensington Market.” The Koffler Centre recognized this as well. According to their now removed write up of the event (still available online thank’s to Google’s cache feature):

each hand as they are called reflects on Toronto’s Kensington Market as the vibrant site of multiple public cultural histories, layered with personal stories and fragmented by the movement of time. Katz approaches the culture of the Market through the lens of her own memory and experience of Kensington, coming out as a young, politically engaged, queer woman. Taking the ephemeral nature of experience in urban space to heart, through a series of solo and collaborative performances, temporary installations, community projects and public posters, Katz works with the notion of transition and movement. each hand as they are called captures the spirit of the Market on any given day, filled with passing but memorable vignettes.

Roaming, live vocal performances insert an experimental soundtrack of assimilation, anachronism and hybridity into the urban landscape of the Market. Based on the jazz-fusion music of Yiddish speaking sister duos from the 60s, Katz’s haunting compositions are a combination of popular music, Yiddish classics and jazz, composed backwards for female duets. The resulting absurdist vocals create a hybrid language of calls and beckoning within the Market streetscape.

A community-based component of the project involves Katz working with residents from the Terraces at Baycrest and grade eight students from Ryerson Community Public School. Together, their working process will highlight Kensington as the important meeting point of Jewish and Chinese culture through the game of Mah Jongg, a game originating in East Asian communities which migrated and was popularized with North American Jewish women during the 1920s. The project culminates in a public day of inter-generational Mah Jongg in the Market’s Bellevue Park on June 7 (rain date: June 14).

In addition, Katz performs solo against the backdrop of Kensington Market’s tense relationship to urban development. At odd and unexpected hours, she will be seen working on temporary structures, building and deconstructing scaffolding in previously undisclosed locations. Katz’s scaffold performances gesture to the incredible labour history of the area, positioning the act of construction as obstruction and to memory itself as construct.

While each of Katz’s performative and social gestures are ephemeral, each hand as they are called will have a constant presence in the market through a series of interrelated street posters, designed by Katz in collaboration with award winning designer and artist Cecilia Berkovic. The posters provide additional context for the project while inserting a distinct visual presence amongst the eclectic mix of band-posters, announcements about lost pets, and other posted ephemera populating the Market.

Reena Katz isn’t being blacklisted because her views on Israel somehow make her anti-Semitic (they don’t), she’s being blacklisted because she is too Jewish for the Koffler Centre and the United Jewish Appeal.

To complain about this outrage email the following people: lstarr@kofflerarts.org, ceckert@kofflerarts.org, thewer@kofflerarts.org, tliederman@kofflerarts.org, ishohat@kofflerarts.org, etauben@kofflerarts.org,

This is what Reena has to say on the matter:

Dear friends, family, comrades and colleagues;

Most of you know that I’ve been working on a site-specific commission for the Koffler Gallery in Kensington Market, set to open on May 20th. Kim Simon is an independent curator, who found me and proposed my work to the Koffler last year. She has been my main creative (and now political) ally in the process.

Today, at 9am Kim and I were informed by Lori Starr (Koffler executive director) and Mona Philip (Koffler curator) that the Koffler is disassociating from the exhibition: removing their name and URL’s from any further outreach materials, exhibition posters and press.

Why?
Their Board of Directors, along with their major funder – The UJA of Greater Toronto – has decided that they “will not associate with an artist who publicly advocates the extinction of Israel as a Jewish state”.

In our meeting with Lori and Mona this morning, it was made clear that their decision is based on my involvement specifically with Israeli Apartheid Week. Lori was explicit that it isn’t me they object to, but the public statements I’ve made on behalf of specific organizations. Seeing this as a moment of potential change, I proposed a meeting with their Board, in which I would explain the true mandate of Israeli Apartheid Week, CAIA, and the Jewish Women’s Committee to End the Occupation – now known as Women in Solidarity with Palestine.

Why now?
A year ago, Kim asked Mona directly if Koffler would have a problem showing my work considering my solidarity with Palestine. Mona was clear that since the project didn’t deal with the issue, Koffler would stand behind it. Indeed, after a year of having access to my website, CV, Facebook page and any Google search results, it wasn’t until this week that they chose to look at my Facebook page, and found a link to Israel Apartheid Week.

What the?
This weekend, I am working with Kim Simon, the independent curator on the project to respond to Koffler’s press release (click on it to link there) with our own press release in response. It’s evident they are acting out of fear. Fear of critique of Israel from within the Jewish community, fear of the repercussions of standing by an artist who is affiliated with justice for Palestinians.

Nu, so, what now?
They have offered to continue the project’s $20,000 funding – without attaching to it institutionally in any way. An interesting proposal indeed. The project is quite extensive, and involves youth from Ryerson Community Public School, Seniors from Baycrest Centre, The Element Choir, solo vocalists and a number of stores, homes and cultural institutions in Kensington Market. Of course, I don’t want to cancel the project but feel very uncertain at this time of how I want to proceed with it. Kim and I are putting thought to this, and plan to have a decision on Sunday. I am interested in taking this up politically, and strategizing around the best way to do that.

Until then, I would greatly appreciate your support in sending the Koffler messages. This is clearly an attempt by a mainstream Jewish institutions to stifle dissent within our community, and the art world in general. Please cc me on anything you send. Also, talk about it to anyone you know – especially arts organizations and their members. I’ll be in touch soon with our press release.

With love and justice,
Reena

And here is an excellent letter from activist Henry Lowi:

To: lstarr@kofflerarts.org
Subject: Reena Katz unfairly targetted by Koffler Centre
Date: Sat, 9 May 2009 22:28:12 +0000

Lori Starr,

Executive Director, Koffler Centre of the Arts

Dear Ms Starr:

I read your announcement about the Reena Katz exhibition.[i]

I have known Reena Katz since she was a teacher in a Jewish Sunday School. I consulted her many years ago about violin lessons for my daughter. She referred us to the best violin teacher in Toronto.

I am well aware of Reena’s activism in solidarity with the oppressed people of Palestine. I know that Reena is motivated by an acute consciousness of the history of Jewish suffering and persecution (and culture!), and a commitment that “Never Again!”, to anyone, anywhere.

Despite the Koffler mandate, [ii] you are taking sides in a political issue. Your position is symptomatic of a kind of panic that is overtaking pro-Zionist organizations. Your panic is based on the painful awareness that you have placed yourselves on the side of injustice and oppression, an uncomfortable position for a Jew to inhabit.

The atrocity committed recently by the State of Israel against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip has drawn the attention of the whole world. It is well documented. [iii] It has been compared to the Sharpeville massacre in South Africa.[iv] The whole world has seen how the Palestinians — virtually unarmed, isolated, and poorly led — are being systematically massacred by a well-armed military power that enjoys unlimited military, political and economic support.[v] Strong feelings of solidarity have been aroused.

You are untouched by those feelings of solidarity.

Most Jewish community organizations remained silent in the face of the atrocities and the ongoing blockade of Gaza. Unfortunately for you, all decent people, all lovers of humanity noticed the silence of the Jewish organizations. Fortunately, all also noticed that Jewish dissidents — Righteous Jews, upholders of our traditions of struggle against injustice — spoke out.[vi][vi(b)]

Reena Katz is one of those Jewish dissidents.

The Jewish community is split. The split will deepen. On one side, you will find those who uphold the values of solidarity, decency, culture, and human rights. On the other side will be the supporters of murder, racism, and apartheid. All will have to choose their side,

You have chosen your side.

By dissociating yourselves from Reena Katz’s artistic work, for political reasons, you are engaging in a form of cultural boycott. As you know, progressive Palestinian grassroots popular organizations have called for a boycott of Israeli cultural and academic institutions.[vii] Peace-seeking Israelis support the boycott.[viii][viii(b)] Solidarity-minded Canadians, like author Naomi Klein, support the boycott.[ix] Faced with the boycott, Zionist apologists howl about “singling out Israelis because they are Israelis”, “anti-Semitism”, and the like.[x] They lie.

The Zionists lie, but they are in a panic. Fewer and fewer people are impressed by Zionist lies. More and more are impressed by the inevitable parallels between Israel’s genocidal conduct and the conduct of other oppressive regimes.

Solidarity with Palestine will grow, while disdain for Zionism and its supporters will grow.

You are singling out Reena Katz because she is a decent human being who speaks out against the oppression of fellow human beings. You have done so very publicly, making it very clear where you stand, and with whom you stand.

Reena Katz’s Israeli and Palestinian comrades pay a heavy price for their activism.[xi],[xii],[xiii],[xiv] They know that justice is on their side. They will win. Palestine will be free. Arts and culture will flourish. Jews and Arabs will live together, in peace, as equals.

Regards,

Henry Lowi

And go see the show at Kensington Market beginning May 20!

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