Posts Tagged ‘War’

 

WRITTEN BY M. Shahid Alam

 

As the United States prepares to escalate its eight-year war against the Taliban, it might be useful to weigh its chances of success.

 

Consider, first, the fate of three previous invasions of Afghanistan by two great European powers, Britain and Soviet Union, since the nineteenth century.

 

These invasions ended in defeat – for the Europeans.

 

The first British occupation of Kabul lasted for four years. When the British garrison retreated from Kabul in 1842, it was picked off by Ghilzai warriors as they trudged through the snow. Only one British officer, William Brydon, survived this harrowing retreat. This solitary survivor was memorialized in a haunting painting by Elizabeth Butler, titled, Remnants of an Army.

 

The British occupied Kabul a second time in 1878, withdrew a year later, leaving behind a British resident to keep an eye on the Afghans. They returned the same year, when their resident in Kabul was killed in an uprising. When the British withdrew in 1880, discretely, they did not insist on leaving behind a British resident.

 

Nearly a hundred years later, 30,000 Soviet troops, invading from the north, occupied Kabul in December 1979. In order to oppose the growing Afghan resistance, the Russians soon raised their troop strength to 100,000 but never controlled any areas beyond the limits of a few cities. With 15,000 deaths, and unable to sustain growing casualties, the Soviets retreated in February 1989.

 

Will the United States fare better than Britain or the Soviet Union?

In terms of logistics, British India and Soviet Union were better placed than the United States. Afghanistan was next-door neighbor to both. It is half a world away from the United States, which, as a result, depends on long rail and road transit through Pakistan to supply and re-supply its troops. Moreover, the supply routes – from Karachi to Kabul – are vulnerable to attacks by the Taliban and their allies in Pakistan.

 

Alternative land supply routes would have to pass through Russia or Iran. Russia might make these routes available, at a steep cost, and keep raising the cost as US troop concentration in Afghanistan rises. Dependence on the Russians may turn out to be trap. Almost certainly, the Iranians will refuse, since, to do so, would badly tarnish its image with Sunni Islam.

 

The Soviet and British invaders primarily had to deal with Afghan fighters. The Americans are fighting the Taliban on both sides of the Afghan border, who, besides the Pushtuns, also have help from several Jihadi groups based in Punjab and Pakistani Kashmir.

 

Pakistan, America’s indispensable ally in the war against the Taliban, is an unwilling partner at best; it is also unreliable. Pakistan army has been gang-pressed and bribed into fighting the Taliban, and, as a result, the war is not popular with the junior officers and soldiers. In a rising spiral, Pakistan’s war against the Taliban has provoked them to carry their war deeper into Pakistan. At some point, this could split the Pakistan army, intensify Taliban attacks on Islamabad and Lahore, or force Islamist and nationalist officers to take over and end Pakistan’s collaboration with the United States.

 

Under pressure, the Taliban could launch another attack inside India. After the attacks on Mumbai last November, India was threatening ‘surgical strikes’ against Pakistan, forcing Pakistan to divert its troops to the eastern front. Another Mumbai, followed by Indian surgical strikes against Pakistan, could produce consequences too horrendous to contemplate.

 

Are US objectives in Afghanistan so vital as to bring two nuclear powers to the brink of a war?

 

Iran was not much of a factor when British India and Soviet Union were fighting in Afghanistan. It is now. In Iraq, Iran favored the defeat of the Sunni insurgency once it had denied the United States a victory. In Afghanistan, Iran prefers to create a quagmire for the Americans, ensuring a long stalemate between them and the Taliban.

 

In light of the consequences that have flowed from the US presence in Afghanistan, who would advise an escalation? President Obama still has time to put on hold his plans to send more troops to Afghanistan. Instead, the best political minds around the world should be examining the least costly exit from a war that promises to become a quagmire, at best, and, at worst, a disaster, which no US objective in the region can justify.

 

Unless, dismantling the world’s only Islamicate country with the bomb is an objective worthy of such horrendous costs. 

M. Shahid Alam is professor of economics at Northeastern University. He is author of Challenging the New Orientalism (2007). Send comments to alqalam02760@yahoo.com. Visit the author’s website at http://aslama.org.

cartoon of the day

Posted: 02/19/2009 by editormary in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

click to enlarge CARLOS LATUFF

WRITTEN BY Paul Craig Roberts

According to US government propaganda, terrorist cells are spread throughout America, making it necessary for the government to spy on all to Americans and violate most other constitutional protections. Among President Bush’s last words as he left office was the warning that America would soon be struck again by Muslim terrorists.

If America were infected with terrorists, we would not need the government to tell us. We would know it from events. As there are no events, the US government substitutes warnings in order to keep alive the fear that causes the public to accept pointless wars, the infringement of civil liberty, national ID cards, and inconveniences and harassments when they fly.

The most obvious indication that there are no terrorist cells is that not a single neocon has been assassinated.

I do not approve of assassinations, and am ashamed of my country’s government for engaging in political assassination. The US and Israel have set a very bad example for al Qaeda to follow.

The US deals with al Qaeda and Taliban by assassinating their leaders, and Israel deals with Hamas by assassinating its leaders. It is reasonable to assume that al Qaeda would deal with the instigators and leaders of America’s wars in the Middle East in the same way.

Today every al Qaeda member is aware of the complicity of neoconservatives in the death and devastation inflicted on Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Gaza. Moreover, neocons are highly visible and are soft targets compared to Hamas and Hezbollah leaders. Neocons have been identified in the media for years, and as everyone knows, multiple listings of their names are available online.

Neocons do not have Secret Service protection. Dreadful to contemplate, but it would be child’s play for al Qaeda to assassinate any and every neocon. Yet, neocons move around freely, a good indication that the US does not have a terrorist problem.

If, as neocons constantly allege, terrorists can smuggle nuclear weapons or dirty bombs into the US with which to wreak havoc upon our cities, terrorists can acquire weapons with which to assassinate any neocon or former government official.

Yet, the neocons, who are the Americans most hated by Muslims, remain unscathed.
The “war on terror” is a hoax that fronts for American control of oil pipelines, the profits of the military-security complex, the assault on civil liberty by fomenters of a police state, and Israel’s territorial expansion.

There were no al Qaeda in Iraq until the Americans brought them there by invading and overthrowing Saddam Hussein, who kept al Qaeda out of Iraq.

The Taliban is not a terrorist organization, but a movement attempting to unify Afghanistan under Muslim law. The only Americans threatened by the Taliban are the Americans Bush sent to Afghanistan to kill Taliban and to impose a puppet state on the Afghan people.
   
    *  Hamas is the democratically elected government of Palestine, or what little remains of Palestine after Israel’s illegal annexations. Hamas is a terrorist organization in the same sense that the Israeli government and the US government are terrorist organizations. In an effort to bring Hamas under Israeli hegemony, Israel employs terror bombing and assassinations against Palestinians. Hamas replies to the Israeli terror with homemade and ineffectual rockets.
   
    *  Hezbollah represents the Shi’ites of southern Lebanon, another area in the Middle East that Israel seeks for its territorial expansion.
   
     * The US brands Hamas and Hezbollah “terrorist organizations” for no other reason than the US is on Israel’s side of the conflict. There is no objective basis for the US Department of State’s”finding” that Hamas and Hezbollah are terrorist organizations. It is merely a propagandistic declaration.
    
    *  Americans and Israelis do not call their bombings of civilians terror. What Americans and Israelis call terror is the response of oppressed people who are stateless because their countries are ruled by puppets loyal to the oppressors. These people, dispossessed of their own countries, have no State Departments, Defense Departments, seats in the United Nations, or voices in the mainstream media. They can submit to foreign hegemony or resist by the limited means available to them.
   
    *  The fact that Israel and the United States carry on endless  propaganda to prevent this fundamental truth from being realized indicates that it is Israel and the US that are in the wrong and the Palestinians, Lebanese, Iraqis, and Afghans who are being wronged.
   
    *  The retired American generals who serve as war propagandists for Fox “News” are forever claiming that Iran arms the Iraqi and  Afghan insurgents and Hamas. But where are the arms? To deal with American tanks, insurgents have to construct homemade explosive devices out of artillery shells. After six years of conflict the insurgents still have no weapon against the American helicopter gunships. Contrast this *”arming”* with the weaponry the US supplied to the Afghans three decades ago when they were fighting to drive out the Soviets.
   
    *  The films of Israel’s murderous assault on Gaza show large numbers of Gazans fleeing from Israeli bombs or digging out the dead and maimed, and none of these people are armed. A person would think that by now every Palestinian would be armed, every man, woman, and child. Yet, all the films of the Israeli attack show an  unarmed population. Hamas has to construct homemade rockets that are little more than a sign of defiance. If Hamas were armed by Iran, Israel’s assault on Gaza would have cost Israel its helicopter gunships, its tanks, and hundreds of lives of its soldiers.
   
     * Hamas is a small organization armed with small caliber rifles incapable of penetrating body armor. Hamas is unable to stop small bands of Israeli settlers from descending on West Bank Palestinian villages, driving out the Palestinians, and appropriating their land.
   
     * The great mystery is: why after 60 years of oppression are the Palestinians still an unarmed people? Clearly, the Muslim countries are complicit with Israel and the US in keeping the Palestinians unarmed.
   
    *  The unsupported assertion that Iran supplies sophisticated arms to the Palestinians is like the unsupported assertion that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. These assertions are propagandistic justifications for killing Arab civilians and destroying civilian infrastructure in order to secure US and Israeli hegemony in the Middle East.
      
Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury during US President Reagan’s first term.  He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal.  He has held numerous academic appointments, including the William E. Simon Chair, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Georgetown University, and Senior Research Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He was awarded the Legion of Honor by French President Francois Mitterrand. He is the author of Supply-Side Revolution: An Insider’s Account of Policymaking in Washington http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/067485621X/103-9747828-0329461;
 Alienation and the Soviet Economy
and Meltdown: Inside the Soviet Economy
and is the co-author with Lawrence M. Stratton of The Tyranny of GoodIntentions: How Prosecutors and Bureaucrats Are Trampling theConstitution in the Name of Justice

Two Surgeons from the UK, Dr Ghassan Abu Sittah and Dr Swee Ang, managed to get into Gaza during the Israeli invasion. Here they describe their experiences, share their views, and conclude that the people of Gaza are extremely vulnerable and defenseless in the event of another attack.

The wounds of Gaza are deep and multi-layered. Are we talking about the Khan Younis massacre of 5,000  in 1956 or the execution  of 35,000 prisoners of war by Israel in 1967? Yet more wounds of the First Intifada, when civil disobedience by an occupied people against the occupiers resulted in massive wounded and hundreds dead?  We also cannot discount the 5,420 wounded in southern Gaza alone since 2000. Hence what we are referring to below are only that of the invasion as of 27 December 2008,
Over the period of 27 December 2008 to the ceasefire of 18 Jan 2009, it was estimated that a million and a half tons of explosives were dropped on Gaza Strip. Gaza is 25 miles by 5 miles and home to 1.5 million people. This makes it the most crowded area in the whole world. Prior to this Gaza has been completely blockaded and starved for 50 days.  In fact since the Palestinian election Gaza has been under total or partial blockade for several years.

On the first day of the invasion, 250 persons were killed.  Every single police station in Gaza was bombed killing large numbers of police officers. Having wiped out the police force attention was turned to non government targets.  Gaza was bombed from the air by F16 and Apache helicopters,  shelled from the sea by Israeli gunboats and from the land by tank artillery. Many schools were reduced to rubble,  including the American School of Gaza, 40 mosques, hospitals, UN buildings, and of course 21,000 homes, 4,000 of which were demolished completely. It is estimated that 100,000 people are now homeless.

Israeli weapons
The weapons used apart from conventional bombs and high explosives also include unconventional weapons of which at least 4 categories could be identified.

Phosphorus Shells and bombs
The bombs dropped were described by eye witnesses as exploding at high altitude scattering a large canopy of phosphorus bomblets which cover a large area.

During the land invasion, eyewitnesses describe the tanks shelling into homes first with a conventional shell. Once the walls are destroyed, a second shell – a phosphorus shell is then shot into the homes.  Used in this manner the phosphorus explodes and burns the families and the homes. Many charred bodies were found among burning phosphorus particles.
One area of concern is the phosphorus  seems to be in a special stabilizing agent. This  results in the phosphorus being more stable and not completely burning out.  Residues still cover the fields, playground and compounds. They ignite when picked up by curious kids, or produce fumes when farmers return to water their fields. One returning farming family on watering their field met with clouds of fumes producing epistaxis.  Thus the phosphorus residues probably treated with a stabilizer also act as anti-personnel  weapons against children and make the return to normal life difficult without certain hazards.

Surgeons from hospitals are also reporting cases where after primary laparotomy for relatively small wounds with minimal contamination find on second look laparotomy  increasing areas of tissue necrosis at about 3 days.  Patients then become gravely ill and by about 10 days those patients needing a third relook encounter massive liver necrosis. This may or may not be accompanied by generalized bleeding , kidney failure and heart failure and death. Although acidosis, liver necrosis and sudden cardiac arrest due to hypocalcemia are known to be a complication of white phosphorus it is not possible to attribute these complications as being due to phosphorus alone.

There is real urgency to analyze and identify the real nature of this modified phosphorus as to its long term effect on the people of Gaza. There is also urgency in collecting and disposing of the phosphorus residues littering the entire Gaza Strip. As they give off toxic fumes when coming into contact with water, once the rain falls the whole area would be polluted with acid phosphorus fumes. Children should be warned not to handle and play with these phosphorus residues.

Heavy Bombs
The use of DIME (dense inert material explosives) were evident, though it is unsure whether depleted uranium were used in the south.  In the civilian areas, surviving patients were found to have limbs truncated by DIME, since the stumps apart from being characteristically cut off in guillotine fashion also fail to bleed. Bomb casing and shrapnel are  extremely heavy.

Fuel Air Explosives
Bunker busters and implosion bombs have been used . There are buildings especially the 8 storey  Science and Technology Building of the Islamic University of Gaza which had been reduced to a pile of rubble no higher than 5-6 feet.

Silent Bombs
People in Gaza described a silent bomb which is extremely destructive.  The bomb arrives as a silent projectile at most with a whistling sound and creates a large area where all objects and living things are vaporized with minimal trace.  We are unable to fit this into conventional weapons but the possibility of new particle weapons being tested should be suspected.

Executions
Survivors describe Israeli tanks arriving in front of homes asking residents to come out. Children, old people and women would come forward and as they were lined up they were just fired on and killed. Families have lost tens of their members through such executions. The deliberate targeting of unarmed children and women is well documented by human right groups in the Gaza Strip over the past month.

Targeting of ambulances
Thirteen ambulances had been fired upon killing drivers and first aid personnel in the process of rescue and evacuation of the wounded.

Cluster bombs
The first patients wounded by cluster were brought into Abu Yusef Najjar Hospital.  Since more than 50% of the tunnels have been destroyed, Gaza has lost part of her lifeline. These tunnels contrary to popular belief are not for weapons, though small light weapons could have been smuggled through them.  However they are the main stay of food and fuel for Gaza. 

Palestinians are beginning to tunnel again. However it became clear that cluster bombs were dropped on to the Rafah border and the first was accidentally set of by tunneling.  Five burns patients were brought in after setting off a booby trap kind of device.

Death toll
As of 25 January 2009, the death toll was estimated at 1,350 with the numbers increasing daily. This is due to the severely wounded continuing to die in hospitals. 60% of those killed were children.

Severe injuries
The severely injured numbered 5,450, with 40% being children. These are mainly large burns and polytrauma patients.  Single limb fractures and walking wounded are not included in these figures.

Through our conversations with doctors and nurses the word holocaust and catastrophe were repeatedly used. The medical staff all bear the psychological trauma of the past month living though the situation and dealing with mass casualties which swamped their casualties and operating rooms. Many patients died in the Accident and Emergency Department while awaiting treatment. In a district hospital, the orthopaedic surgeon carried out 13 external fixations in less than a day.

It is estimated that of the severely injured, 1,600 will suffer permanently disabilities. These include amputations, spinal cord injuries, head injuries, large burns with crippling contractures.

Special factors
The death and injury toll is especially high in this recent assault due to several factors:

No escape:  As Gaza is sealed by Israeli troops, no one can escape the bombardment and the land invasion. There is simply no escape. Even within the Gaza Strip itself, movement from north to south is impossible as Israeli tanks had cut the northern half of Gaza from the south. Compare this with the situation in Lebanon 1982 and 2006, when it was possible for people to escape from an area of heavy bombardment to an area of relative calm – there was no such is option for Gaza.

Gaza is very densely populated.  It is eerie to see that the bombs used by Israel have been precision bombs. They have a hundred percent hit rate on buildings which are crowded with people. Examples are the central market, police stations. Schools, the UN compounds used as a safety shelter from bombardment, mosques (40 of them destroyed), and the homes of families who thought they were safe as there were no combatants in them and high rise flats where a single implosion bomb would destroy multiple families.  This pattern of consistent targeting of civilians makes one suspect that the military targets are but collateral damage, while civilians are the primary targets.

The quantity and quality of the ammunition being used as described above.
Gaza’s lack of defense against the modern weapons of Israel. She has no tanks, no planes, no anti-aircraft missiles against the invading army.  We experienced that first hand in a minor clash of Israeli tank shells versus Palestinian AK47 return fire.  The forces were simply unmatched.

Absence of well constructed bomb shelters for civilians. Unfortunately these will also be no match for bunker busters possessed by the Israeli Army.

Conclusion
Taking the above points into consideration, the next assault on Gaza would be just as disastrous. The people of Gaza are extremely vulnerable and defenseless in the event of another attack. If the International Community is serious about preventing such a large scale of deaths and injuries in the future, it will have to develop a some sort of defense force for Gaza. Otherwise, many more vulnerable  civilans will continue to die.

Dr Ghassan Abu Sittah and Dr Swee Ang
(Franklin, thanks for sending!!)

Moderator: I’m David Ignatius, a columnist for the Washington Post and I’m going to moderate this afternoon’s discussion of Gaza. Our discussion of Gaza follows a war there that has reminded all of us of the burden of history in the Middle East and also has reminded all of us of the fragility of the peace process. Tonight I hope we’ll put a little more substance to that process by discussing where we go now, how we put the pieces back together. We have a most distinguished panel to discuss these issues with us tonight. Let me first briefly introduce them. To my immediate right (sic) is the Prime Minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. To his left is the President of Israel, Shimon Peres. To his left is the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon and to his left is the Secretary General of the Arab League, Amr Moussa. I’m going to ask Secretary General Ban Ki-moon from the United Nations who has been particularly focused on the humanitarian aspects of the Gaza crisis to lead off tonight with his remarks for the next five minutes. Secretary General.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: (Simultaneous translation from original Turkish) First of all, before replying to the question as to what needs to be done, I think it’s also important that we analyse the current situation because we need to do a proper analysis of the current situation in order to determine what steps need to be taken.

I’m not going to start from 40 years ago in making the situation analysis, I am just going as far back as June 2008. If we look at back then, June 2008, there was a ceasefire which was stated [agreed to] and there was no problem to the ceasefire that was to last for 6 months, but when the ceasefire ended, 6 months later there were no rocket attacks at that point, in the meantime the Israeli side was to lift the embargo, the situation had to change in Palestine, however, the Palestinian Territories are like an open air prison because it is completely isolated from the rest of the world, so it is very much isolated, sealed, so if you try to bring in a case of tomatoes from any crossing into the Palestinian territories you must get the permission of the Israeli side because it is not possible otherwise so [Looking at this,] I look at this from a humanitarian point of view and I will also say a few words as Prime Minister, I visited Israel some time ago and then I went to Palestine and as the Prime Minister I waited for half hour with my wife in the car [for about half an hour] to be able to cross into the Palestinian territories from Ramallah.

But never has a diplomat coming from Israel had to wait for that long at our borders. I think we have to look at these aspects of the situation there on the ground. I also ask Mr. Olmert if there were any deaths as a result of these rockets attacks and he told me that there were no deaths, but that the attacks were a fact, so these rockets are being used but, they don’t kill anyone, so I’m told that it’s about the rockets themselves, they are of not very good quality, but in the meantime, there were more that 24 Palestinians who were killed during the ceasefire since last June, and the power was cut off, there was no food, the electricity didn’t exist in hospitals, so there were quite a number of difficult issues and we had already started as Turkey to send humanitarian aid to Palestine, so there was already a humanitarian issue then. And let me say, I have always been a leader who expressly stated that anti-Semitism is a crime against humanity, Islamophobia too, is a crime against humanity.

For me the person being Christian, Jewish or Muslim is not important if the person is under stress, to me, the common denominator is that they are all human beings and so my approach is a humanitarian one, and that has been what I have taken as the basis of my efforts, for example we tried to send humanitarian aid the Turkish Red Crescent, tried to provide aid, but it took quite a while, two weeks sometimes, to have the trucks cross the crossings. I don’t know if President Peres is aware of this but it has taken us quite a lot of time, our diplomats have had to work very hard to make sure that the aid will flow into the Palestinian Territories. Even more interesting, is that the Israeli Prime Minister was in Turkey, Mr. Olmert was in Turkey four days before the war in Gaza started. as you have mentioned, we as Turkey have taken up an intermediation role between Israel and Syria for indirect talks and there were already four rounds of talks, which have taken place, indirect talks, and the fifth round was actually carried out with Prime Minister Olmert and myself present and our special envoys present in Ankara and we sat together for five to six hours and we were discussing the issues between Syria and Israel. I was on phone conversation with President Assad and my envoy was talking to the Foreign Minister Moallem and our goal then, to see if we could move to the next phase which was direct talks between Israel and Syria, so that was what we were trying to do and our goal in trying to do all this has been to achieve peace in the region and we have been trying to bring together officials from two countries which to date have not come together. We were making quite good progress, so much so that we were having problems with a few words only, in the language that we were talking. It was decided that a few days should lapse until a final decision could be reached and in the meantime, I was talking to Mr. Olmert with my Foreign Minister with me and our special envoy and Prime Minister Olmert had his advisers as well and I said that we could work to release the captured Israeli soldier who was held by Hamas but I said, and I also made the request, I said that the reforming change Party won the election in Palestine. We are talking about democracy, we would like to see democracy take root, so if we would like to see democracy take root then we must respect, first of all, the people who have received the votes of the people of the country they are running in, so we may not like them, but we have to respect the process. And I said to Prime Minister Olmert that they held the Ministers and Members of Parliament of Palestine. I suggested also, that there could perhaps be a gesture made, similar to the gesture made to President Abbas before, they could be released perhaps. But Prime Minister Olmert said that this would make things very difficult for President Abbas. But then I said, perhaps it would be possible to release some of the women and children and that could perhaps that be done as a gesture. President Olmert told me that he would talk to his colleagues and respond back the next day, but we got no response and in about 4 days after that, by December 27 we saw the war in Gaza. What happened was more than 1,200 people were killed including women and children. More than 5,000 were wounded and this was a disproportionate use of force, so if you look at all this from a humanitarian point of view and think of the military power of Israel including weapons of mass destruction and whether or not there is anything that is similar in Gaza, whether the Palestinians have any of that kind of military power, they don’t have that kind of power. The UN Security Council met and the resolution was announced but Israel did not recognize this resolution of the United Nations Security Council as Secretary General Ban Ki Moon mentioned, the UN centre was also hit during the course of this war. Schools, mosques were also hit, but mankind or humanity as a whole did not really act as quickly as it should have to try to help people there. In the case of Georgia people acted rather quickly, I include ourselves in that effort because we too worked very hard to help Georgians as well in a difficult time. So, what I am trying to say is that we should not be judging anyone by their race or religion if they are in distress. Our goal, everyone’s goal, is to try to help people in difficulty. I visited Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and I talked to many leaders, European leaders on the phone, unfortunately this whole thing lasted 3 weeks it was covered from the very beginning, television channels, BBC for example predicted that it would take about 3 weeks, indeed the whole process or the whole war took 3 weeks and this has lead to the destruction of the infrastructure. And the figures that the UN Secretary General mentioned are not sufficient to solve the problem, we need much more, not even 1 billion or 2 billion dollars would help in trying to restore the structures there because these people there do not have any means to rehabilitate their infrastructure and they now have to be burdened.

There is a lot of talk about Hamas, but Hamas are not the only people in Gaza, there are also civilians. Hamas is also a different face of the change and transformation party. The problem here is that their democratic rights have not been recognized, respected. Where we are now, the unilateral ceasefire was announced by Israel and then Hamas the next day announced a unilateral ceasefire as well. One is talking about a year-long ceasefire process, the other one proposes a year and a half. Another issue is of course to end the isolation of the Palestinian People. Will it be possible for Israel to do that, in other words, will the crossings be open for people to come in because how will those people survive where they are, under the conditions that they are in? If we respect the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Conventions that are internationally accepted, those crossings, first of all, must be opened so people can experience their rights, the rights of life. There is also the issue of arms being smuggled into the area. If one end of the tunnel is in Egypt then Egypt must stop this illicit arms flow. But if we consider Palestine as a State, and I think that there is also a question there, perhaps some question marks in peoples minds, this issue of the division within Palestine, and how to breach the differences between Fatah and Hamas. If we are trying to bridge that gap then we have to consider all the parties. And I said this to Mr. Olmert too, because if it’s only Fatah who is present on the Palestinian side, that is not going to be sufficient to project the results to all of the Palestinian people, Hamas has to be taken into consideration as well because they are a part of that society, they have won an election, so they too must be included in this equation. If it’s the UN who is going to take the lead, that’s the way it should be, I hope that the UN puts it weight behind these efforts and/or the United States under the Obama administration can take an important role. I hope, I expect, President Obama to be the voice of the silent masses and to put his weight, his administration’s weight, behind a solution. He must do this not within the agreements that have been previously made by the previous administration, including the last one that was made between the then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Mrs. Livni. There’s got to be a new opening and Hamas must be considered in this process. If Turkey is asked to play some sort of a role, we too would be willing to be involved, but we must be careful and we must think of the whole process when we try to define the parties involved and we must definitely achieve peace in the Middle East because that is important and necessary for global peace. If the Middle East peace process does not yield a positive result, that means that we will not have peace in the world as a whole. So I think that in the National Unity government to be established in Palestine this party of Reform and Change must be there, and that is how the National Unity government has to be established then elections have to take place and once the new government is in place, whether we or not, like them will be and should be the government of the Palestinian people because we have to respect the will of the Palestinian people.

 

Moderator: Thank you Prime Minister Erdoğan for a very comprehensive and I must say quite newsy response. Let me turn out to Secretary General Amr Moussa the same question: how do we put this peace process back together after Gaza and perhaps you could address the two things that Secretary General Ban focused on.

First, how to achieve unity among Palestinians? And second, what this new American administration can most usefully do as George Mitchell begins making his way around the region? 

Amr Mussa: Well thank you very much. Let me begin by thanking the Secretary General of the United Nations for the forceful position he has taken and for the actions he is calling for in order to save the situation in Gaza, to save Gaza after the carnage that has been committed against its people. Also I wish to commend the role played by Turkey, a very positive, courageous and clear role that Turkey, a member of the Middle East family of nations, wants to help establish peace and to help deal with the major mistakes that have been committed against the Palestinians and to ask for, work for a fair, a just peace in order for peace to be durable. Now, David, you asked me to talk about the future and how we would address it. This cannot make me sweep things under the carpet, things that belong to the near future and also to perhaps distant future. The situation in Gaza was not a reaction, the assault against the Gazans was not just a reaction for some rockets being launched against Southern Israel. And here I would open some brackets to say that we are against anything that would affect children, women, civilians be they Palestinians or Israelis. And then I continue to say that this situation in Gaza and in Palestine is a situation of foreign military occupation. So people […] and siege, a blockade. Gaza is living within a blockade, a very severe one. The West Bank is under military occupation with barriers, with colonies, that’s settlements, so the Palestinians are trying to express themselves to find a future for themselves. You cannot ask people in Gaza living in starvation and hunger because of the blockade, the very sinister blockade, and then ask them to be calm, and ask them “why do you throw stones against your occupiers?”. It is against the nature of people, against the nature of people, you strangle them, you starve them and then ask them to be quiet? And then, as has been discussed now, the question of smuggling, of course smuggling is illegal, illicit trade, illicit movement of things, commodities and so on, including perhaps arms. You strangle them, not a single window of opportunity, and then talk to them about illicit trade? If you want to prevent this, you have to open the crossing points, you have to give them food, you have to give them water, to give them medicine. It is a miserable life that the Palestinians have lived and until now are living in Gaza because of the blockade that Israel has imposed on them for three years now. Number two. Another fact: the Palestinians believed the call for democracy. There were some policies, international policies, at certain times, calling on the Middle East: “apply democracy, democracy is the solution for everything!” – and it happens that I agree with that. The Palestinians believed the advice, had elections, Hamas won, and half an hour, twenty-five minutes after the announcement of the results of the election, Hamas was served notice that aid would be suspended and then came the blockade, a severe blockade, and hence Hamas was put on the defensive. But very much as Prime Minister Erdoğan has said, the people in Gaza are not only Hamas, it as such is only an organization among other organizations, but the people, 1.5 million people of women, of children, of all people, they were attacked and they paid the price for this game that is going on between Israel and Hamas and the game that has been caused, that is being caused until now by the military occupation.

Why Hamas was listened to in the Occupied Territories, within the Palestinian ranks, in the Middle East, within the Arab world? Why? Because it has a logic. They said all right, president Abu Mazen, go and negotiate, and if there is something useful coming out of your negotiations we will certainly support you. And in fact they are on record as having said we are ready to accept the Palestinian State within the borders of 1967 but we are not going to sign any paper until we see what is the result of that. So, President Abu Mazen didn’t bring anything. Did not bring anything. Out of one full year of negotiations with the current Israeli government. That’s what he said. He is on record as having said that and in fact he said it, on this stage, last year. I believe it was the Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. So this is the situation. It is not a question of Israel reacting to some rockets, it is much deeper than that, it is an action of occupation, an action of blockade, then a reaction of resistance, then the reaction of destruction carried out by Israel. Okay. That has happened. Are we going to stop here and the end of the world will occur? No. Perhaps all of us now are called upon to save the situation. As the Secretary General has just said, there are three or four thing that have to be done: a ceasefire, a strong ceasefire, sustainable ceasefire, opening of the crossings, stopping the illicit traffic, and the conciliation between the Palestinians. That we have to do, and I want you to know that I do not absolve ourselves on the Arab side from also committing mistakes, but no mistakes, no mistake we have committed can compete with the major mistake that has been committed by Israel in destroying Gaza and killing all those people in only twenty days. Again, we tried to involve the United Nations rather than to involve shooting and more bloodshed. Unfortunately in the last several years up until this January and it was before January 28th, the philosophy was “no, keep the Security Council away, give Israel a chance to reach, to do what they were set to do”. We have witnessed that back in 2006 in Lebanon, and we witness that back in January in New York, but this is a long story I don’t think the time will allow us to do so, to explain it in full. Now, what should we do? We have a new administration in the United States. What President Obama has said is reassuring. Change. He addressed the Arab world through one of our major channels called Al Arabiya, from Dubai, addressed us, and told us. We listened, we heard, we understood. He sent his special envoy, Senator Mitchell, who is a very reasonable man, we discussed with him, we are going to discuss again with him, and I believe there are those prospects of the United States returning back to the role of honest broker, which we missed for the last several years. This is a key point for the future, that the United States gets back to the role of honest broker that listens to the sides and says “yes you are right on this but you are wrong on that”, and to the other side too, the same. This we have not seen in the last several years. Ok. Now, this is the first positive point, we hope that we are right in our assessment and in our hopes. The second is the Arab initiative. We are ready. Formally, officially, at the highest level, all of us are committed to establish peace with Israel. To recognize Israel, to normalize with Israel, and to carry on all our commitments in accordance with Security Council resolutions, the Madrid Conference decisions and whatever agreements we have signed, that have been signed between any Arab country and Israel. We are ready for that. But the point is that we have not received any answer from Israel for the last seven years. President Peres is a very eloquent man, he says that we accept, but this is just a good expression of words, there is no authorized decision taken by the government of Israel to respond to the most authorized message sent by an Arab summit held back in 2002. So our position is fully authorized, we haven’t gotten any answer, any answer whatsoever except some addresses here, we read it in some newspapers or translation from. So we call on Israel now: what is your position on this initiative? Formal position. Formal position. Not just a statement here. Formal position. As our position also was formal. If there is an acceptance, authorized acceptance, by Israel then we are on the right track. Therefore the second point is for us to receive a formal reply about the acceptance of the Arab initiative which calls on us Arabs to turn the page, turn the page of the conflict, recognize Israel, normalize with Israel and have Israel as part of the family of nations in the Middle East which until now Israel is not. But if Israel also withdraws, allows the Palestinian State to be established, withdraws from the other Territories, we see no obstacle for us and for the Israelis to live together and get our act together. When are we going to receive this message? A question mark. The third point… 

Moderator: Secretary General, we have a chance to get a response from the President of Israel and maybe this is the good time to do that since we’re running short of time… 

Amr Mussa: I know that the president is going to take all his time. So give me two more minutes, please. 

Moderator: I don’t want to bargain. [We have to have a ceasefire] We’ll be all ears to listen to President Peres. …let’s do a wrap up. 

Amr Mussa: Now. The year 2009 we lived the year 2008 with a lot of promises. And it ended up in a bloodshed. For us, to move from one administration to the other from the year 2000 to the year 2008, then 2009, then 2010, then 2011, this is a gimmick that we are not going to accept. That is why: now we are in 2009, if there’s real intention, a real work done by an honest broker, the political will will be expressed by Israel in favor of peace and progress will be done, will be made, then we are on the right track. If this year ends – we reach the day 31st of December as we did in 2008, without any result, then we’ll have to reconsider. There are a lot of other alternatives. But I believe in what Turkey is saying, Prime Minister Erdoğan has said. We cannot reach and Israel cannot reach any of its goals through military means. We need to have a political settlement, but a fair one and in the year 2009. Tank you very much.

 

Moderator: Thank you, Secretary General Moussa and now President Peres of Israel. No one has worked longer or harder on this thing we call the peace process than you have, and tell us how you think we can put it back together.

 [A woman pats down Peres’ hair. Laughter.]

Hairfalls [?]

Shimon Peres: Well, thank you Mr. Chairman, I heard the distinguished speakers talking about Israel and I couldn’t recognize the picture of the country that they know. I want to tell the beginning. It’s very difficult when a democratic country has to confront an illegal terroristic group. Whatever we do is being photographed; whatever they do, nobody sees. For example, when you throw a rocket on a settlement in Israel, it’s not being photographed. You cannot see the mother trying to defend her child the whole night, and their sleepless night. Did you ever see on television a sleepless night?

I must respect for you Mr. Prime Minister, but I must put things as they really are. Let me start with democracy. First of all, who was elected by the Palestinians, but Mr. Abbas, who is called Abu Mazen. Sixty-two percent of the Palestinians voted for him to be the President of the Palestinian people, and we negotiate with him. Hamas participated in the elections but have a very unique idea about democracy. They think a democracy is a story of one day in four years you go through the election. After the elections you can start to shoot and kill and threaten. Finish. Democracy is not a matter of elections. It is a civilization and I want to conflict to your words by quoting from the Hamas; I won’t be going to interrupt the stories? But Hamas concerns us; Hamas published a charter; let me just read two lines, three lines from it, from the Hamas Charter. “The day of judgment will not come about until the Muslims kill the Jews, when the Jews will hide behind stones and trees, there is no solution for peace initiative, proposals, international conferences are all a waste of time.” This is an official charter. I don’t know about which Hamas you are talking?

Now about the proportions. In the last eight years, well I mean, I hate to say it, but since you mentioned it, let me give the other picture, too. Israel lost hundred, thousand hundred sixty-seven lives from terrorists, eight thousand five hundred were wounded. It wasn’t done in twenty days, it was done in several years. We restrained all the time. And then since the last four years when Hamas took over Gaza, 5500 rockets, and 4000 mortars, shells were fired upon civilian life in Israel at random: they didn’t care if it was a kindergarten, if it’s a [ ]we didn’t answer. For that reason, the ceasefire idea, Mr. Prime Minister, was very strange in our views. We never started fire. And we told the Palestinians time and again, “Don’t fire, and there won’t be fire; we are not doing we never started!” And who broke…and oh by the way, we didn’t have a formal agreement about the ceasefire, they announced, and the Palestinians said, “It’s over.” They broke it. And when the Prime Minister was at your place four days before the operations started, the government of Israel didn’t yet to decide to take actions against it.

Now let me… I want you to listen because you watch all of your television, I can understand your feelings.

“Israel left Gaza completely, no occupation. We took out all of our soldiers from Gaza, all of our civilians. People are talking about settlements, we took out from Gaza all the settlements and all the settlers, fifteen thousand of them. Nobody forced us, it was our own choice. We had to mobilize forty-five thousand policemen to bring them back home, at the cost of 2.5 billion dollars.

I want to understand why did they fight rockets against us? What for? There was not any siege against Gaza. All the passages were open. Not only that, we participated in investing money in Gaza, to develop a, an agriculture. We at Peres Center, we ourselves put in twenty thousand dollars, twenty million dollars, sorry, to build green houses, to develop strawberries, the export of strawberries, excellent strawberries, flowers.

Jimmy Wolfensohn who was representative of the Quartet, took from his own pocket 5 million dollars to participate in it. They destroyed it. Why? They bombed all the passages. Why? Why did they fire at us, what did they want?” We didn’t occupy, there was never a day of starvation in Gaza! By the way, Israel is the supplier of water daily to Gaza, Israel is the supplier of fuel to Gaza, the only thing we didn’t permit to bring in was rockets from Iran! And they build tunnels to do it! And you know, we also have women and children, and they want to sleep at night. Do you know what it means, every day, almost hundred rockets falling at random, a million people have had to be under shelter. They came to the government and said “What happened to you? We want have security, why do you permit to happen it? ” And I want anyone telling me, clearly, what were the reasons for the attack? What were the purposes of the attack? Peace? We make peace with Egypt, not by arms, by agreement and negotiation, and we met all of the requests of Egypt. We made peace with Jordan the same, we gave back all the land and all the water. We opened with the Palestinians, and we told them, that we are for a Palestinian state, I started in Oslo, against the majority maybe, of our people that didn’t agree And all the time, you know Mr. Prime Minister, while you have had to wait, because many busses that came from the West Bank to Jerusalem were full of dynamite. I was then Prime Minister, I saw it with my own eyes, the blood and the bodies. You know, I don’t have to watch television, and when I came in there were thousands of people shouting at me “Traitor, killer, look at what you did to us!” You must, there are many details you have to know. Israel is sixty-years old, do you know any other country, that in sixty-years has had to go through seven wars, two Intifadas, an ongoing boycott? What, why? And in spite of it, we made peace with Egypt. I have the highest respect for President Mubarak. By the way, President Mubarak accused Hamas, not us. And President Mubarak knows the situation not less as you Mr. Prime Minister. And President Abbas knows the situation not less than you do, and he accused Hamas not us. And then mothers and children came to the government and asked what will happen? A million people every night have had to hide themselves in shelters, mothers with sleepless nights, what do you really mean? By the way, I have never saw anyone demonstrating against those missiles! That was ok Nobody said a word. And we didn’t answer, a day in and a day out, a year in a year out, there’s a limit to it. And by the way, I have much respect for the Secretary General, he used to be and I hope we’re still a friend, I appreciate very much the Arab initiative, but there is a problem in it, I don’t want to hide it. The problem is not the Arab world, the problem is the Iranian ambition to govern the Middle East. They supplied the rockets to Hezbollah, they supplied the rockets to Hamas, they are controversially the Arab making, and you know we didn’t have a choice. The leader of Hezbollah, Nasrallah says: “Would I know that Israel will react so strongly, we wouldn’t have started”. Thank you very much. And then come the Mashaal, the leader of Hamas and said: “Israel reacted too strongly.” What did you expect us to do, I don’t understand? What would any country do? What would you do if it you would happen in Istanbul every night ten rockets, a hundred rockets? And we never gave up, all my life as you said, Mr. Chairman, I appreciate it, I am fighting for peace, what we did is not…the thing that we wanted to do… It’s not our choice, our choice is peace. What we did is because the lack of a choice, we were threatened with a choice. Would you vote for such a convention, to kill the Jews? OK, those are words, but to kill the Jews and send rockets to kill them. What you want us to do? We started to negotiate with Mr. Arafat, with much respect, it wasn’t simple. The PLO was in the beginning a terroristic organization. Mr. Arafat agreed to stop terror and go on to negotiations. By the way, what ever was achieved peacefully, positively, was achieved not by rockets, not by force, not by power, but by negotiations. It takes time, it takes time. It’s a very complicated country. It’s a small country with three religions, with a lot of history. With different ethnicities, it’s not simple. We made peace, once, twice, now we are negotiating with the Palestinians. There was a crisis among the Palestinians, we don’t intend to be the one that decide that the Palestinians be united or not. As long as Hamas did not rebel against the Fatah, it was not our business, we didn’t say a word. You know what? I am talking about Israel, look what the people, of the Palestinian people, the Secretary General of Fatah is saying about Hamas, three days ago.His name is Yasser Abd Rabbo, a Palestinian, a secretary general of the PLO, of the executive committee, and I quote him, I quote him three days ago: “Hamas has turned Gaza, Gaza schools and mosques, all universities into centers of detention, interrogation and torture and torture. Dozens have been shot in their legs, beaten savagely, and had their bones broken, broken. Hamas plundered trucks bringing …and distributes it only to…the food.. only to the supporters of their movement.” They didn’t give the food to the people of Fatah. They killed hundred leaders of Fatah in full daylight. They throw them from the roofs. What do you really mean? Is that the matter of definitions? Israel does not want to shoot anybody, for us all children are as important as one can think of. I created the Peres Center, all the money we have collected went to the cure of children. Palestinian children. They didn’t have insurance, they didn’t have hospitals, in five years we have brought to Israel 5500 Palestinian children and their mothers to be cured. By the way, there is no hospital today in Israel that does not have Arab doctors, so the children can communicate with the doctors in the Israeli hospitals. That is our choice, to touch a child. But if you put a child, if you put bombs in the kindergarten, and if you hide yourselves behind innocent families, and before we shell, we, before we try to shell anybody, we try and telephone the people, we say, please leave the place. We don’t want to hurt you. We made during those twenty days, 250,000 telephone calls before we shoot. What could we do, what was our choice? And what would any government do?I am very much sorry Mr. Secretary General about the United Nations’ building, according to our records, not by your knowledge, they started to shoot from there, and by the way, Europe, you bombed Kosovo, and you hit the Chinese embassy, did you want to? And hundreds of civilian people were killed in the bombing to, That’s Ok. So please, I want to speak clearly, Israel does not need a ceasefire, because we never started a bullet and we shall never do it.

And we shall never do it, and the minute they stop shooting there will be a ceasefire, we don’t need anything else. Every moment, every day we are not interested in fire; we are not interested in hurting or killing anybody. Now about the peace process. First of all I want to say that it was a great move on the side of the Secretary General of the Arab League to introduce the Arab Initiative. I think that was a very positive move in a bitter history of misunderstanding and confrontations. The problems we will facing well the following: a) we started to negotiate directly with the Palestinians. President Mubarak told me, “Look, finish you negotiations with the Palestinians we shall consider as the first move to an overall peace.” We are negotiating and I think we made headway in extremely complicated issue. They call on this issue of Jerusalem. Jerusalem is not a piece of land. Jerusalem is fire. There are three different religions and there are different streams in every religion, and people are fighting about every window, every door. It’s easy to say “make an agreement,” we are trying to find the way. We told the Palestinians that we are ready really to accept [unintelligible], which means ready to return most almost all of the land of the West Bank to them. Gaza we left completely. What is there to fight? So the ceasefire is as far as this is concerned is not a problem for us. We never started, we should never start fire and when they fired against us we replied, but after a great restrain and thousands of people were killed too. They weren’t killed in a concentrated manner. So what? It doesn’t matter. I think that what we have to do, and by the way I’m for the restoration of Gaza, we have nothing there wasn’t a day that we didn’t supply water and oil. I personally read every week a report about the humanitarian situation in Gaza. If something is missing the government and myself we’re intervening to make sure there will be fuel and food. The tragedy of Gaza is not Israel, it’s Hamas, who decreed a dictatorship, a very ugly one and they build the problem of the crossing, now is not because we want to control the supply of food or building material or medical. They build a tunnels to bring in those missiles and they build an underground system of tunnels, well by the way the leaders hide themselves there and they forgot the people. I think, yes, we would like to see Gaza flourishing- Gaza is a small place with an intelligent people. When I started to talk with Mr. Arafat we took as an example Singapore. Gaza together with the West Bank are nine times larger than Singapore and Singapore there are more people than in Gaza and the West Bank. Today the problem is not land but really education and Gaza is not our enemy, and the people in Gaza are not our enemies, and we want to live with them in peace. We don’t have hatred and we don’t have plans for that reason we left Gaza and we are for restoring the life in Gaza but without dictators and without shooting not only us but the people of Fatah… 

Moderator: We might end there… Just one minute 

Shimon Peres: And then want to renew negotiations with the authorized Palestinian authority. We made headway. We want to start right away, we want to do it with the Quartet, we want to do it straight away, we don’t want to waste time. Our aim is peace not war and when we win a war we don’t consider it as a victory. For us victory is peace not war. We have power we should never use power unless we don’t have another choice and when we have a choice we want peace and I think that Hezbollah has learnt the lesson they stop shooting, nobody stop them to shoot but our reaction. I hope that Hamas will also have lesson they will stop shooting and start talking everything that we can achieve is by talking not by shooting and that was and that is and that will remain the position of Israel.

Thank you sir.

Moderator: This has been a powerful and passionate debate. It’s a debate that tonight can go on for hours but we have already gone well past our closing time. I mean…

Erdogan: One minute.

 

Moderator: Mr. Prime Minister…. with apologies to Mr. Prime Minister Erdogan…

 

Erdogan: One minute, one minute, one minute…

Moderator: Well, I…

 

Erdogan:  One minute! It can’t be! One minute! One minute!

 

Moderator: Ok, but I’m gonna hold you to the one minute please.

 

Erdogan: Dear Mr. Peres, you are older than I am. And you have a very strong voice.  I feel that you feel guilty and that’s why your voice was so loud. My voice is not going to be so loud because you know what I’m going to tell you. You know very well how to kill. I know very well how you killed and murdered children on the beaches [of Gaza]. There are two people, two former Prime Ministers of your country, who said something very significant to me. One of them said: “When I entered Palestine in a tank I was happy.” When the tanks entered Palestine they were happy. That’s how some of your Prime Ministers felt. Here you’re talking about figures.  I can give you names, perhaps some of you feel curious. I condemn the ones who applaud cruelty. Because applauding these people who have murdered children is a crime against humanity. We can’t overlook that reality. Look, here I have taken many notes [about Peres intervention] but now I don’t have the possibility to answer them all. I only will tell you two more things about this issue. The first one…

 

Moderator: Prime Minister, we can’t start the debate again.

 

Erdogan: Excuse me. The first one, the first one…

 

Moderator: I’m sorry…

 

Erdogan: Don’t interrupt me.

 

Moderator: We really do need to get people to dinner.

 

Erdogan: The Torah’s 6th Commandament says: Thou Shalt Not Kill. But they have killed Palestinians. The second thing, look, is very interesting. Gilad Atzmon: “Israel’s barbarity is way beyond cruelty.” He’s Jewish.  Then, there is international relations professor from Oxford University Avi Shlaim, who served in the Israeli army. He has said the following in the English newspaper The Guardian: “Israel is a rogue state”.

 

Moderator: Prime Minister, Prime Minister. I wanna ask to our host. Thanks.

 

Erdogan: I also want to thank him as for me it’s finished. For me, for me Davos is finished. I will not come back again to Davos, you should know, here is finished. You don’t let me speak. He’s been talking for 25 minutes, and I only could talk 12 minutes. It can’t be. [He gets up and goes away, the Secretary of the Arab League shakes his hand]. 

 

Rule #1: In the Middle East, it is always the Palestinians that attack first, and it’s always Israel who defends itself. The name of this is “retaliation”.

 

Rule #2: The Palestinians are not allowed to kill Israelis. The name of this is “terrorism”.

 

Rule #3: Israel has the right to kill Palestinian civilians; the name of this is “self-defense” or “collateral damage”.

 

Rule #4: When Israel kills too many Palestinian civilians, the Western world calls for restraint. This is called the “reaction of the international community”.

 

Rule #5: Palestinians do not have the right to capture Israeli military, not even 1 or 2.

 

Rule #6: Israel has the right to capture as many Palestinians as they want (around 10,000 to date being held without trial). There is no limit; there is no need for proof of guilt or a trial. All that is needed is the magic word: “terrorism”.

 

Rule #7: When you say “Hamas”, always be sure to add “supported by Hezbollah, Syria and Iran”.

 

Rule #8: When you say “Israel”, never say “supported by the USA, the UK, European countries and even some Arab regimes”, for people (God forbid) might believe this is not an equal conflict.

 

Rule #9: When it comes to Israel, don’t mention the words “occupied territories”, “UN resolutions”, “Geneva Conventions”. This could distress the audience of Fox, CNN, etc.

 

Rule # 10: The Palestinians are always “cowards” who hide behind a civilian population that “they don’t care about”. If they (militants) sleep in houses with their families, the name of this is: “cowardice”. Israel has the right to annihilate the towns where they sleep using bombs and missiles. The name of this is “high precision surgical action”.

 

Rule #11: Israelis speak better English than Arabs. This is why we let them speak out as much as possible, so that they can explain rules 1 through 9. The name of this is “neutral journalism”.

 

Rule #12: If you don’t agree with these rules or if you favor the Palestinian side over the Israeli side, you must be a very dangerous anti-Semite. You may even have to make a public apology if you express your honest opinion.

 

THIS NAME OF THIS IS: DEMOCRACY!!

(Isn’t democracy wonderful?)

 

Now that you have read the rules (a Spanish language version of them says the author was God, and I’ve translated an Italian version you can read tomorrow on www.tlaxcala.es), see what the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Lies and Deception has issued in today’s briefing. It’s their denouncement of War Crimes and Death of civilians, of thievery and use of weaponry. Obviously, they project all evil onto their enemies, and here is a classic example of the Hasbara of Israel’s “Good War in a Nutshell”. If you read it, you will see that they are accusing Hamas of all and sundry, War Crimes, even! See how well they apply these rules, going beyond the beyond! They tout about words such as “Truth”, the use of exaggeration and hyperbole alone is staggering, “Eight years of constant rocket barrages”, “I don’t think there’s ever been a time in the history of warfare when any army has made more efforts to reduce civilian casualties and deaths of innocent people than the IDF is doing today in Gaza.”,  and the whopper, “…I was struck by how cosmetically unchanged Gaza appeared to be.”

 

Count how many times they use each rule and share your results with the rest of us! Find a few rules that were hidden… in essence, for lovers of science fiction or fairy tales, this genre will be right up your alley.

Behind the Headlines: The truth about Hamas crimes in Gaza

The evidence of Hamas’ war crimes, its exaggeration of civilian casualties and damage to property, its abuse of humanitarian aid and its intimidation of Gaza’s residents are finally coming to light.

Despite Hamas’ best efforts to hide the truth about events in the Gaza Strip, the evidence of Hamas’ war crimes, its exaggeration of civilian casualties and damage to property, its abuse of humanitarian aid and its intimidation of Gaza’s residents are finally coming to light.

Israel knows better than most countries the horrors of war. Eight years of constant rocket barrages targeting Israeli civilians, eight years of trying tactic after tactic to stop these war crimes left Israel with little choice but to invoke its legitimate right of self-defense.

When Israel did strike back against Hamas terror in Gaza, it took unprecedented and innovative steps to try to encourage civilians to avoid Hamas positions, even placing tens of thousands of phone calls warning residents in hazardous areas. As British Colonel (ret.) Richard Kemp commented on the BBC, “I don’t think there’s ever been a time in the history of warfare when any army has made more efforts to reduce civilian casualties and deaths of innocent people than the IDF is doing today in Gaza.”

To Israel’s great sorrow, innocent civilians in Gaza have been harmed. However, the figures of civilian casualties have been greatly exaggerated. Most of these figures come from Hamas sources, amplifying the number of civilians killed by including as “children” teenage Hamas fighters and as “women,” female terrorists. According to an Israeli investigation, of the 1,100-1,200 reported casualties, 250 were civilians. The rest are believed to be terrorists or have yet to be identified, but given that most of them are young men in their 20s, it is not unreasonable to assume that they are also members of Hamas or other terrorist organizations.

Hamas is responsible, both morally and under international law, for many of the dead and injured civilians. This terrorist organization deliberately used the local population as human shields, a war crime. Civilian structures were used as launching pads for rockets, a tactic that is extremely hazardous to residents. Civilians were prevented, at gunpoint, from fleeing the sites of battles and even children have been grabbed to be used as living bulletproof vests. Even ambulances were not safe from hijacking attempts by terrorists, who would lure the ambulances into the heart of battle to transport Hamas terrorists to safety.

Property damage, while sizeable, has also been exaggerated. As Tim Butcher, a journalist intimately familiar with the Gaza Strip reported (Telegraph, Jan 20): “There had been no carpet bombing of large areas, no firebombing of complete suburbs. Targets had been selected and then hit, often several times, but almost always with precision munitions. Buildings nearby had been damaged and there had been some clear mistakes… But, in most the cases, I saw the primary target had borne the brunt… For the most part, I was struck by how cosmetically unchanged Gaza appeared to be.”

Hamas’ rocket attacks, which continued throughout the operation, constituted a double war crime. Not only were they aimed at about 15% of Israel’s civilian population, they were cynically carried out from locations immediately adjacent to homes, schools, hospitals, relief agency warehouses, mosques, public buildings – as well as from the office building that housed foreign media studios. These reprehensible acts were documented not only in Israeli aerial films, but by the international media.

As Rod Nordland (Newsweek, Jan 20) described one event, “Suddenly there was a terrific whoosh, louder even than a bomb explosion. It was another of Hamas’s homemade Qassam rockets being launched into Israel – and the mobile launchpad was smack in the middle of the four [apartment] buildings, where every apartment was full…”

Lorenzo Cremonesi (Corriere della Sera, Jan 21) relates the testimony of “Um Abdallah”:  “Practically all of the tallest buildings in Gaza that were hit by Israeli bombs … had rocket launching pads on their roofs, or were observation decks for the Hamas. They had also put them near the big UN warehouse, which went up in flames.”

Many of Gaza’s residents are now returning home. Some have found weapons left behind by Hamas terrorists who turned their homes into forward positions against the IDF, or worse, bodies of terrorists killed during the fighting. Many blame Hamas for the loss of life and property damage caused by Hamas’ practice of hiding among the civilian population. However, critical as they are of the Hamas regime in private, few, if any, residents of Gaza will accuse Hamas publically, a move that is tantamount to suicide.

An official Fatah spokesman in Ramallah (Jerusalem Post, Jan 19) reported that 100 of his men in Gaza have been killed or wounded, some brutally tortured, by Hamas. A Fatah leader in Gaza City claimed that members of his faction were being held in school buildings and hospitals that Hamas had turned into make-shift interrogation centers, and as many as 80 were either shot in the legs or had their hands broken for allegedly defying Hamas’ orders (see also video of Fatah testimonials about Hamas).

Ulrike Putz (Der Spiegel, Jan 23) managed to interview Palestinians who were not too intimidated by Hamas to speak (as long as their full names were not used): “Hail found out after the cease-fire that the militants had used his house as a base for their operations. The door to his house stood open and there were electric cables lying in the hallway. When Hail followed them they led to his neighbor’s house which it seems Hamas had mined. As Hail, in his mid-30s, sat on his porch and thought about what to do a man came by: He was from Hamas and had left something in Hail’s home. He let him in and the man then emerged with a bullet proof vest, a rocket launcher and an ammunitions belt. An hour later a fighter with Islamic Jihad called to the door, then disappeared onto the roof and reappeared with a box of ammunition.” 

Israel has a strong interest in the rehabilitation of the Gaza Strip and will work together with the international community and moderate Arab regimes to improve the lives of Gaza’s residents. However, caution most be exercised to ensure that the aid does not end up in Hamas’ pockets.

This is not unwarranted wariness – Hamas has a long history of stealing humanitarian aid for its own use, even while the operation was ongoing. As Yaacov Katz reported (Jerusalem Post, Jan 12), “Hamas raided some 100 aid trucks that Israel had allowed into Gaza, stole their contents and sold them to the highest bidders.”     Earlier (Jerusalem Post, Jan 6) Mr. Katz related that “Hamas has set up an independent hospital in the Gaza Strip to treat its operatives wounded in fighting with the IDF – and, according to Israeli estimates, it is pilfering a significant portion of the medicine allowed into the Strip…”  

These reports are not only coming in from Israeli sources. Jordan’s News Agency (Petra, Jan 20) reported on the hijacking of humanitarian aid on its way to UNWRA warehouses in Gaza for distribution to the civilian population: “A number of armed men have seized on Tuesday a Jordanian aid convoy after entering the Gaza Strip… The armed men opened fire at drivers after crossing Karem Abu Salem [Kerem Shalom] crossing point and forced them to head to their own warehouses.”

Hamas’ hijacking of humanitarian aid is not only ethically repulsive, it is extraordinary given that Hamas is attempting to claim that the motive for its  rocket attacks is to force the opening of the crossings. This assertion is, of course, preposterous given that the rocket fire started eight years ago, when there was free trade with Gaza and continued after Israel completely withdrew from the Gaza Strip. Moreover, Hamas’ constant and deadly rocket, mortar, truck-bomb and shooting attacks on the crossings are one of the prime reasons for their closing.

The complexities of fighting terrorist organizations are becoming more familiar to democratic states, including NATO forces in Afghanistan. A British soldier who served there analyzed the IDF’s activities in light of his experience and noted (The Spectator, Jan 24) that “I believe that I and other soldiers understand the stress, friction and confusion that combat brings in a way that media commentators and UN bureaucrats never can.”

However, one principle is clear to any unbiased analyst – as long as Israel, and not Hamas, is blamed for civilian casualties and property damage, Hamas will continue to use civilians as human shields and violate every basic rule of international humanitarian law.

As Nir Boms, vice president of the Center for Freedom in the Middle East, and Shayan Arya an Iranian activist, wrote (Jerusalem Post, Jan 28), “War, even when justified, brings much injustice with it. But there is also an important lesson to be learned, and a hope that this time it will not be completely missed by the rioting Arab street… The Palestinian discourse often fails to address the question of responsibility and accountability for Palestinian choices, decisions and leadership.” The Palestinians in Gaza must accept and take responsibility for the consequences of the Hamas leaders they chose.

Fortunately, the truth is starting to come to light. Even a senior European Union official – Louis Michel, European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid – denounced Hamas, not only stating (AFP, Jan 26) during his visit to Gaza: “I intentionally say this here – Hamas is a terrorist movement and it has to be denounced as such,” but also concluding that: “At this time we have to also recall the overwhelming responsibility of Hamas” for the conflict in Gaza.

INTERVIEWED BY Kourosh Ziabari

 

Adam Shapiro, the symbol of a courageous, pure peace advocate, has long been under fire for his unconditional and categorical criticism of Israeli occupying state.

Born in 1972, the perseverant and steadfast anti-Zionist campaigner and co-founder of International Solidarity Movement vigorously makes efforts to broadcast the voice of subjugated and downtrodden nation of Palestine.

Following his meeting with Yasser Arafat in his Mukataa (government center) in Ramallah while it was besieged during the March 2002 Israeli military operation in the West Bank and Gaza, Adam Shapiro attained an international popularity and was put under the spotlight of Zionist media thereafter.

Despite enduring a stack of insults and invectives from the side of Zionist campaign in the past years, Adam Shapiro neither has relinquished nor alleviated his stance so far; rather intensified his anti-Zionist statements in the particular situations such as the horrendous 22 days of Israeli incursion into Gaza.

This interview has been done in the midst of Israeli genocide in Gaza as it’s apparent in some points of the conversation; nevertheless, it contains some informative and revealing information which are prone to be read and reflected thoughtfully.

 

Would you please elucidate about the salient and prominent activities which you usually carry out in the International Solidarity Movement? What are your agenda, modus operandi and plans to help the survivors of recent offensive in Gaza?

                  

The International Solidarity Movement (ISM) started off in 2001 as an effort to join international solidarity to the Palestinian resistance to Israeli occupation and oppression. This was through the joining of foreign activists with Palestinian activists in civilian-based non-violent active resistance in the west bank and Gaza. this kind of popular resistance has always been part of the Palestinian movement, and we felt that adding the international component would force the world to recognize that the conflict was not about Jew vs. Arab or Jew vs. Muslim, but rather a situation of oppression and discrimination based on ethnicity and religion in a sense similar to the anti-apartheid movement in south Africa.

Nowadays, the ISM role continues in this way, but is also more and more involved with being an eyewitness and reporting on the atrocities of what is happening to the Palestinian people. ISM volunteers spend longer periods of time in the territories and get to know the situation in depth.  

Currently ISM has 5 volunteers in the Gaza Strip, who are responding during this assault on the people of Gaza – they are escorting ambulances and medical personnel who are responding to emergency calls; they are documenting what is happening and reporting out to the world, even as the Zionist government bars foreign journalists; they are assisting in the distribution of food and water as they can and to areas that are under major threat; and they are documenting evidence of war crimes, such as the use of white phosphorous artillery shells.

According to what you said, one effective and impressive choice that could help the progressive flow of Palestinians’ extrication and release from the harsh situation is to promote the notion of imposing sanctions, embargo on Israel. How is it possible to boycott and isolate the terrorist regime in the international stage?

 

There is a call from Palestinian civil society to boycott Israel, and it is for this reason that we are compelled to adhere to this call. That said, sanctions will most likely be symbolic at best, given the penetration of businesses in Israel and the difficulty to render such an impact.  Symbolically, however the boycott, sanctions and divestment (BDS) campaign is very useful, particularly in the west, where it enables us to alter the debate away from spurious charges of anti-Semitism towards pointing out specifically why such measures are necessary.  Additionally, the academic and cultural boycott can have tangible results, forcing Israeli academics, artists and intellectuals to confront the reality of their own position and force them to take a stand.  There are very credible and valuable efforts in this regard, including a recent determination by a UK-based teachers union.  However, in a sense, we need to remember that far more dramatic action is required, given that this situation for the Palestinians has been going on for 60 years, and the scale of the devastation and oppression of the entire Palestinian people is at such a level that symbolic actions – while good – do not meet the urgency of the situation.

 

Nevertheless, US and its European allies flagrantly veto any anti-Israeli resolution which comes on the top of UNSC agenda and don’t allow the international community to express its unequivocal and clear condemnation of Israeli massacre freely. What’s the reason, in your view, and how can that be opposed?


The reason has to do with domestic factors for the US more than anything else.  I think for the European nations it is connected to the lingering guilt over the holocaust, a situation that is exploited by Israel and some of the Jewish organizations in those countries to maintain a code of silence when it comes to clearly calling out Israel for what has been a 60-year effort of crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing.  For the US, there really is no organized constituency willing to vote or donate to politicians campaigns based on this issue. Those who would are small in number and largely ineffective.  the pro-Israel lobby in the US  is not only among the organized Jewish community, but includes Christian Zionists, the military-industrial complex in the US, the information technology industry, the biotech industry, the medical community and others, all of which have significant relationships with Israel from a business perspective. This all has repercussions in the US political system and set the parameters of the debate in the US around us support for Israel. 
 

That said, I also think the Palestinian leadership has missed opportunities over the years, but most importantly it accepted the framework of peace as a means of addressing the conflict, which helped set up a false sense of parity between the two parties. Instead of maintaining a position of national liberation, or creating a movement based on equal rights or ending oppression/discrimination, the choice for 2 states in the framework of peacemaking has helped allow the us and others to ‘blame both sides’.

All of these inconsistencies aside, neither the American double standards about the Israel’s nuclear case are bearable. They are folding their arms and sitting back relaxed while everybody, even ex-President Carter has confessed that Israel deposits 200 nuclear warheads!

 

Indeed, on this point in particular the hypocrisy reaches the level of absurd. Add to the points you raise in the question to the fact that Israel has been at war more than any other state in the region and almost always as the initiator and aggressor; not only in the formal wars, but also in the cross-border skirmishes, as occurred with Egypt and Lebanon in the past. If any regime in the region was volatile and prone to use military force it is Israel. A s such, there should be great world concern about its weapons of mass destruction, also since we have seen that Israel is willing to use dubious weapons and disproportionate force such as we witnessed in Lebanon in 2006 (cluster bombs) and Gaza today (white phosphorous artillery).

 

Accordingly, it seems that the mainstream media are pusillanimously afraid of the Israeli tyrannical lobby which rules the global corporate media. They censor any kind of news reflecting demonstrations, condemnations and anti-Israeli remarks by the world’s statesmen. How can they justify this unilateral and hostile approach in conveying the information? 

 

I think many of the same factors that influence how the US and European governments act also influence the media’s role. But there is also an element of having a media strategy that requires examination. Israel and its allies around the world have a clear, organized and effective media strategy to promote the messaging and images that they want. Sure, there is media bias, but it would be false to think that that bias is the beginning and the end. After all, I know many journalists who cover the conflict and who seek to promote different perspectives in their newspapers and broadcasts. On the Palestinian side, there really is not an effective media strategy, and certainly not one that is organized. Some of these very practical details can make a very big difference in the coverage of the issue.  While I don’t think this can fully overcome the bias that does exist, it can start making changes in the overall system.

I also think with the advent of new media, including Al-Jazeera and Press TV in particular, mainstream western media outlets are being challenged and being forced to change. Even the BBC’s own Arabic service has forced a certain change in BBC’s English service, which while subtle, nonetheless has important consequences.

Finally, I think it is also somewhat easy to overcount the media, in that worldwide, the Palestinian position of justice and ending occupation and oppression is the majority opinion, despite the media coverage.  It is not world opinion that necessarily needs to change; it is the actions of governments.

So what actions are needed to administer justice about Israel? How could the world’s countries prevent it from committing further, predictable atrocities and seeking adventurous war-games in the region?

 

There needs to be unequivocal action in the international community to force Israel to end is aggression in Gaza.  This should entail full suspension of diplomatic relations (as we have seen in Venezuela and Bolivia); full arms embargo on Israel; and the establishment of a criminal court under the ICC (mandated by the Security Council) to bring forward war crimes charges.  while these maybe long-shots, we have to remember that the Palestinian people, unlike virtually any other people in the world, are wholly dependent on the international community to act to help, both because it is the international community that is responsible for the original partitioning and displacement of the Palestinians and because Palestinians do not have a state, an army or any means of self-defense.  The UN General Assembly can also act and take dramatic action, and it should – and this would be a way to overcome a us veto.

 

And what about an international investigation on the illegal employment of unconventional weapons, mass killing of women and children, beleaguering the densely-populated strip for a long time and killing journalists, media correspondents and representatives of international communities? 

There needs to be a tribunal established to try these crimes committed in Gaza.  But this is truly not sufficient. The crimes of 60 years need to be addressed.  Because of the impunity Israel has enjoyed since 1948, the lesson it learned is that there are no consequences for its actions and no limits. The Palestinians have borne the brunt of that ‘freedom to act’ for 60 years. It is not enough to say what Israel is doing in Gaza today is too much. What was done in Deir Yassin, in Tantoura, in Lid, in the Jenin refugee camp, in Israeli prisons, and hundreds of other places and over the course of years, has been beyond the limit of international law and human rights. Of course, I would welcome justice for the crimes committed in Gaza, but this should just be the beginning.  

WRITTEN BY Henry Siegman

 

Western governments and most of the Western media have accepted a number of Israeli claims justifying the military assault on Gaza: that Hamas consistently violated the six-month truce that Israel observed and then refused to extend it; that Israel therefore had no choice but to destroy Hamas’s capacity to launch missiles into Israeli towns; that Hamas is a terrorist organisation, part of a global jihadi network; and that Israel has acted not only in its own defence but on behalf of an international struggle by Western democracies against this network.

 

I am not aware of a single major American newspaper, radio station or TV channel whose coverage of the assault on Gaza questions this version of events. Criticism of Israel’s actions, if any (and there has been none from the Bush administration), has focused instead on whether the IDF’s carnage is proportional to the threat it sought to counter, and whether it is taking adequate measures to prevent civilian casualties.

 

Middle East peacemaking has been smothered in deceptive euphemisms, so let me state bluntly that each of these claims is a lie. Israel, not Hamas, violated the truce: Hamas undertook to stop firing rockets into Israel; in return, Israel was to ease its throttlehold on Gaza. In fact, during the truce, it tightened it further. This was confirmed not only by every neutral international observer and NGO on the scene but by Brigadier General (Res.) Shmuel Zakai, a former commander of the IDF’s Gaza Division. In an interview in Ha’aretz on 22 December, he accused Israel’s government of having made a ‘central error’ during the tahdiyeh, the six-month period of relative truce, by failing ‘to take advantage of the calm to improve, rather than markedly worsen, the economic plight of the Palestinians of the Strip . . . When you create a tahdiyeh, and the economic pressure on the Strip continues,’ General Zakai said, ‘it is obvious that Hamas will try to reach an improved tahdiyeh, and that their way to achieve this is resumed Qassam fire . . . You cannot just land blows, leave the Palestinians in Gaza in the economic distress they’re in, and expect that Hamas will just sit around and do nothing.’

 

The truce, which began in June last year and was due for renewal in December, required both parties to refrain from violent action against the other. Hamas had to cease its rocket assaults and prevent the firing of rockets by other groups such as Islamic Jihad (even Israel’s intelligence agencies acknowledged this had been implemented with surprising effectiveness), and Israel had to put a stop to its targeted assassinations and military incursions. This understanding was seriously violated on 4 November, when the IDF entered Gaza and killed six members of Hamas. Hamas responded by launching Qassam rockets and Grad missiles. Even so, it offered to extend the truce, but only on condition that Israel ended its blockade. Israel refused. It could have met its obligation to protect its citizens by agreeing to ease the blockade, but it didn’t even try. It cannot be said that Israel launched its assault to protect its citizens from rockets. It did so to protect its right to continue the strangulation of Gaza’s population.

 

Everyone seems to have forgotten that Hamas declared an end to suicide bombings and rocket fire when it decided to join the Palestinian political process, and largely stuck to it for more than a year. Bush publicly welcomed that decision, citing it as an example of the success of his campaign for democracy in the Middle East. (He had no other success to point to.) When Hamas unexpectedly won the election, Israel and the US immediately sought to delegitimise the result and embraced Mahmoud Abbas, the head of Fatah, who until then had been dismissed by Israel’s leaders as a ‘plucked chicken’. They armed and trained his security forces to overthrow Hamas; and when Hamas ­ brutally, to be sure ­pre-empted this violent attempt to reverse the result of the first honest democratic election in the modern Middle East, Israel and the Bush administration imposed the blockade.

 

Israel seeks to counter these indisputable facts by maintaining that in withdrawing Israeli settlements from Gaza in 2005, Ariel Sharon gave Hamas the chance to set out on the path to statehood, a chance it refused to take; instead, it transformed Gaza into a launching-pad for firing missiles at Israel’s civilian population. The charge is a lie twice over. First, for all its failings, Hamas brought to Gaza a level of law and order unknown in recent years, and did so without the large sums of money that donors showered on the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority. It eliminated the violent gangs and warlords who terrorised Gaza under Fatah’s rule. Non-observant Muslims, Christians and other minorities have more religious freedom under Hamas rule than they would have in Saudi Arabia, for example, or under many other Arab regimes.

 

The greater lie is that Sharon’s withdrawal from Gaza was intended as a prelude to further withdrawals and a peace agreement. This is how Sharon’s senior adviser Dov Weisglass, who was also his chief negotiator with the Americans, described the withdrawal from Gaza, in an interview with Ha’aretz in August 2004:

 

What I effectively agreed to with the Americans was that part of the settlements [i.e. the major settlement blocks on the West Bank] would not be dealt with at all, and the rest will not be dealt with until the Palestinians turn into Finns . . . The significance [of the agreement with the US] is the freezing of the political process. And when you freeze that process, you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state and you prevent a discussion about the refugees, the borders and Jerusalem. Effectively, this whole package that is called the Palestinian state, with all that it entails, has been removed from our agenda indefinitely. And all this with [President Bush’s] authority and permission . . . and the ratification of both houses of Congress.

 

Do the Israelis and Americans think that Palestinians don’t read the Israeli papers, or that when they saw what was happening on the West Bank they couldn’t figure out for themselves what Sharon was up to?

 

Israel’s government would like the world to believe that Hamas launched its Qassam rockets because that is what terrorists do and Hamas is a generic terrorist group. In fact, Hamas is no more a ‘terror organisation’ (Israel’s preferred term) than the Zionist movement was during its struggle for a Jewish homeland. In the late 1930s and 1940s, parties within the Zionist movement resorted to terrorist activities for strategic reasons. According to Benny Morris, it was the Irgun that first targeted civilians. He writes in Righteous Victims that an upsurge of Arab terrorism in 1937 ‘triggered a wave of Irgun bombings against Arab crowds and buses, introducing a new dimension to the conflict’. He also documents atrocities committed during the 1948-49 war by the IDF, admitting in a 2004 interview, published in Ha’aretz, that material released by Israel’s Ministry of Defence showed that ‘there were far more Israeli acts of massacre than I had previously thought . . . In the months of April-May 1948, units of the Haganah were given operational orders that stated explicitly that they were to uproot the villagers, expel them, and destroy the villages themselves.’ In a number of Palestinian villages and towns the IDF carried out organised executions of civilians. Asked by Ha’aretz whether he condemned the ethnic cleansing, Morris replied that he did not:

 

A Jewish state would not have come into being without the uprooting of 700,000 Palestinians. Therefore it was necessary to uproot them. There was no choice but to expel that population. It was necessary to cleanse the hinterland and cleanse the border areas and cleanse the main roads. It was necessary to cleanse the villages from which our convoys and our settlements were fired on.

 

In other words, when Jews target and kill innocent civilians to advance their national struggle, they are patriots. When their adversaries do so, they are terrorists.

 

It is too easy to describe Hamas simply as a ‘terror organisation’. It is a religious nationalist movement that resorts to terrorism, as the Zionist movement did during its struggle for statehood, in the mistaken belief that it is the only way to end an oppressive occupation and bring about a Palestinian state. While Hamas’s ideology formally calls for that state to be established on the ruins of the state of Israel, this doesn’t determine Hamas’s actual policies today any more than the same declaration in the PLO charter determined Fatah’s actions.

 

These are not the conclusions of an apologist for Hamas but the opinions of the former head of Mossad and Sharon’s national security adviser, Ephraim Halevy. The Hamas leadership has undergone a change ‘right under our very noses’, Halevy wrote recently in Yedioth Ahronoth, by recognising that ‘its ideological goal is not attainable and will not be in the foreseeable future.’ It is now ready and willing to see the establishment of a Palestinian state within the temporary borders of 1967. Halevy noted that while Hamas has not said how ‘temporary’ those borders would be, ‘they know that the moment a Palestinian state is established with their co-operation, they will be obligated to change the rules of the game: they will have to adopt a path that could lead them far from their original ideological goals.’ In an earlier article, Halevy also pointed out the absurdity of linking Hamas to al-Qaida.

 

In the eyes of al-Qaida, the members of Hamas are perceived as heretics due to their stated desire to participate, even indirectly, in processes of any understandings or agreements with Israel. [The Hamas political bureau chief, Khaled] Mashal’s declaration diametrically contradicts al-Qaida’s approach, and provides Israel with an opportunity, perhaps a historic one, to leverage it for the better.

 

Why then are Israel’s leaders so determined to destroy Hamas? Because they believe that its leadership, unlike that of Fatah, cannot be intimidated into accepting a peace accord that establishes a Palestinian ‘state’ made up of territorially disconnected entities over which Israel would be able to retain permanent control. Control of the West Bank has been the unwavering objective of Israel’s military, intelligence and political elites since the end of the Six-Day War.[*] They believe that Hamas would not permit such a cantonisation of Palestinian territory, no matter how long the occupation continues. They may be wrong about Abbas and his superannuated cohorts, but they are entirely right about Hamas.

 

Middle East observers wonder whether Israel’s assault on Hamas will succeed in destroying the organisation or expelling it from Gaza. This is an irrelevant question. If Israel plans to keep control over any future Palestinian entity, it will never find a Palestinian partner, and even if it succeeds in dismantling Hamas, the movement will in time be replaced by a far more radical Palestinian opposition.

 

If Barack Obama picks a seasoned Middle East envoy who clings to the idea that outsiders should not present their own proposals for a just and sustainable peace agreement, much less press the parties to accept it, but instead leave them to work out their differences, he will assure a future Palestinian resistance far more extreme than Hamas ­ one likely to be allied with al-Qaida. For the US, Europe and most of the rest of the world, this would be the worst possible outcome. Perhaps some Israelis, including the settler leadership, believe it would serve their purposes, since it would provide the government with a compelling pretext to hold on to all of Palestine. But this is a delusion that would bring about the end of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.

 

Anthony Cordesman, one of the most reliable military analysts of the Middle East, and a friend of Israel, argued in a 9 January report for the Center for Strategic and International Studies that the tactical advantages of continuing the operation in Gaza were outweighed by the strategic cost ­ and were probably no greater than any gains Israel may have made early in the war in selective strikes on key Hamas facilities. ‘Has Israel somehow blundered into a steadily escalating war without a clear strategic goal, or at least one it can credibly achieve?’ he asks. ‘Will Israel end in empowering an enemy in political terms that it defeated in tactical terms? Will Israel’s actions seriously damage the US position in the region, any hope of peace, as well as moderate Arab regimes and voices in the process? To be blunt, the answer so far seems to be yes.’ Cordesman concludes that ‘any leader can take a tough stand and claim that tactical gains are a meaningful victory. If this is all that Olmert, Livni and Barak have for an answer, then they have disgraced themselves and damaged their country and their friends.’

 

15 January

 

Note

 

[*] See my piece in the LRB, 16 August 2007.

 

Henry Siegman, director of the US Middle East Project in New York, is a visiting research professor at SOAS, University of London. He is a former national director of the American Jewish Congress and of the Synagogue Council of America.

 

http://www.lrb.co.uk/v31/n02/sieg01_.html

 

LRB contributors react to events in Gaza

 

Tariq Ali, David Bromwich, Alastair Crooke, Conor Gearty, R.W. Johnson, Rashid Khalidi, Yitzhak Laor, Yonatan Mendel, John Mearsheimer, Gabriel Piterberg, Jacqueline Rose (certainly to be published elsewhere), Eliot Weinberger, Michael Wood.

 

January 15, 2009

 

http://www.lrb.co.uk/web/15/01/2009/mult04_.html#tariqali

 

Tariq Ali

 

A few weeks before the assault on Gaza, the Strategic Studies Institute of the US Army published a levelheaded document on ‘Hamas and Israel’, which argued that ‘Israel’s stance towards the democratically-elected Palestinian government headed by Hamas in 2006, and towards Palestinian national coherence – ­legal, territorial, political and economic – has been a major obstacle to substantive peacemaking.’ Whatever their reservations about the organisation, the authors of the paper detected signs that Hamas was considering a shift of position even before the blockade:

 

It is frequently stated that Israel or the United States cannot ‘meet’ with Hamas (although meeting is not illegal; materially aiding terrorism is, if proven) because the latter will not ‘recognise Israel’. In contrast, the PLO has ‘recognised’ Israel’s right to exist and agreed in principle to bargain for significantly less land than the entire West Bank and Gaza Strip, and it is not clear that Israel has ever agreed to accept a Palestinian state. The recognition of Israel did not bring an end to violence, as wings of various factions of the PLO did fight Israelis, especially at the height of the Second (al- Aqsa) Intifada. Recognition of Israel by Hamas, in the way that it is described in the Western media, cannot serve as a formula for peace. Hamas moderates have, however, signaled that it implicitly recognises Israel, and that even a tahdiya (calming, minor truce) or a hudna, a longer-term truce, obviously implies recognition. Khalid Mish’al states: ‘We are realists,’ and there is ‘an entity called Israel,’ but ‘realism does not mean that you have to recognise the legitimacy of the occupation.’

 

The war on Gaza has killed the two-state solution by making it clear to Palestinians that the only acceptable Palestine would have fewer rights than the Bantustans created by apartheid South Africa. The only acceptable alternative is a single state for Jews and Palestinians with equal rights for all. Certainly it seems utopian at the moment with the two Palestinian parties in Israel ­Balad and the United Arab List – both barred from contesting the February elections. Avigdor Lieberman, the chairman of Yisrael Beitenu, has breathed a sigh of satisfaction: ‘Now that it has been decided that the Balad terrorist organisation will not be able to run, the first battle is over.’ But even victory has its drawbacks. After the Six-Day War in 1967, Isaac Deutscher warned his one-time friend Ben Gurion: ‘The Germans have summed up their own experience in the bitter phrase “Mann kann sich totseigen!” — you can triumph yourself to death. This is what the Israelis have been doing. They have bitten off much more than they can swallow.’

 

Five hundred courageous Israelis have sent a letter to Western embassies calling for sanctions and other measures to be applied against their country, echoing the 2005 call by numerous Palestinian organisations for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) on the South African model. This will not happen overnight but it is the only non-violent way to help the struggle for freedom and equality in Israel-Palestine.

 

Tariq Ali’s latest book is The Duel: Pakistan on the Flight Path of American Power.

 

David Bromwich

 

Like the suicide bombings of the Second Intifada, the rockets from Gaza were a choice of tactics of a spectacular vengefulness. The spectacle was greater than the damage: no Israeli had been killed by a rocket before the IDF launched their assault. Yet the idea of rockets falling induces terror, whereas the idea of an army invading a neighbouring territory has an official sound. The numbers of the dead ­ as of 15 January, more than 1000 Palestinians and fewer than 20 Israelis tell a different story. Many people remain unmoved by the tremendous disproportion because they cannot get the image of rockets out of their heads.

 

In the United States, since this one-sided war began on 27 December, facts are not suppressed but fiction pervades the commentary. We are offered an analogy: what would Americans do if rockets were fired from Canada or Cuba? The question has been repeated with docility by congressional leaders of both parties; but the rockets are assumed to come suddenly without cause. The choking of the Gaza Strip by land, sea and air, the rejection by the US of the Palestinian Unity Government, the coup launched by Fatah and bankrolled by the US, which ended in the seizure of power by Hamas ­ all of this happened before the rockets fell from thee sky. It is as if it belonged to a prehistoric time.

 

American politicians exhibit an identification with Israel that is now in excess of the measurable effects of the Israel lobby. The blindness of the identification has led the US to respond with keen sensitivity to Israeli requests for assistance and moral support, and to underestimate the suffering caused by the Gaza blockade and by the settlements and checkpoints and the wall on the West Bank. Yet grant the potency of the lobby and the identification ­ even so, the arrogance with which Israel dictates policy is hard to comprehend on the usual index of motives. Ehud Olmert boasted to a crowd in Ashkelon on 12 January that with one phone call to Bush, he forced Condoleezza Rice to abstain from voting for the UN ceasefire resolution she herself had prepared. The depth, the efficacy and the immediacy of the influence are treated by Olmert as an open secret.

 

To judge by the nomination of Hillary Clinton as secretary of state and the likely nomination of Dennis Ross as Middle East envoy, Obama wants to be seen as someone who intends no major change of course. In a televised interview on 11 January, he said he would deal with Israel and Palestine in the manner of the Clinton and Bush administrations. The unhappy message of his recent utterances has been reconciliation without truth; and reconciliation, above all, for Americans. This preference for bringing-together over bringing-to-light is a trait of Obama’s political character we are only now coming to see the extent of. It is an element  -until lately an unperceived element- ­ of a certain native moderation of temper that is likely to mark his presidency. Yet his silence on Gaza has been startling, even immoderate. The ascent of Barack Obama was connected in the world as well as in the US with peculiar and passionate hopes, and his chances of emerging as a leader of the world are diminished with every passing day of silence.

 

David Bromwich teaches English at Yale.

 

Alastair Crooke

 

‘We have to ask the West a question: when the Israelis bombed the house of Sheikh Nizar Rayan, a Hamas leader, killing him, his wives, his nine children, and killing 19 others who happened to live in adjoining houses ­because they saw him as a target, ­was this terrorism? If the West’s answer is that this was not terrorism, it was self-defence ­then we must think to adopt this definition too.’

 

This was said to me by a leading Islamist in Beirut a few days ago. He was making a point, but behind his rhetorical question plainly lies the deeper issue of what the Gaza violence will signify for mainstream Islamists in the future.

 

Take Egypt. Mubarak has made no secret of his wish to see Israel teach Hamas a ‘lesson’. Hamas are sure that his officials urged Israel to proceed, assuring Amos Yadlin, Israel’s Head of Military Intelligence, at a meeting in Cairo that Hamas would collapse within three days of the Israeli onslaught.

 

Islamists in Egypt and other pro-Western ‘moderate’ alliance states such as Saudi Arabia and Jordan have noted Israel’s wanton disregard for the deaths of civilians in its desire to crush Hamas. They have seen the barely concealed pleasure of the regimes that run those states. The message is clear: the struggle for the future of this region is going to be uncompromising and bloody.

 

For all Islamists, the events in Gaza will be definitive: they will tell the story of a heroic stand in the name of justice against overwhelming odds. This archetype was already in place on the day of Ashura which fell this year on 7 January — when Shi’ites everywhere commemorate the martyrdom of Hussein, the Prophet’s grandson, killed by an overwhelming military force at Kerbala. The speeches given by Hassan Nasrallah, Hizbullah’s secretary general, were avidly followed; the ceremony of Ashura drove home the message of martyrdom and sacrifice.

 

Islamists are likely to conclude from Gaza that Arab regimes backed by the US and some European states will go to any lengths in their struggle against Islamism. Many Sunni Muslims will turn to the salafi-jihadists, al-Qaida included, who warned Hamas and others about the kind of punishment being visited on them now. Mainstream movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and Hizbullah will find it hard to resist the radical trend. The middle ground is eroding fast.

 

At one level Gaza will be seen as a repeat of Algeria. At another, it will speak to wider struggles in the Arab world, where elites favoured by the West soldier on with no real legitimacy, while the weight of support for change builds up. The overhang may persist for a while yet, but a small event could trip the avalanche.

 

Alastair Crooke is co-director of Conflicts Forum and has been an EU mediator with Hamas and other Islamist movements. Resistance: The Essence of the Islamist Revolution will come out next month.

 

Conor Gearty

 

It is just possible the killings in Gaza may mark the end of Israel’s disastrous plunge into militant Zionism. The key is Obama: will he collapse under pressure like most of his predecessors, or is there more to him? Let us assume he knows how senseless it is for the US to collude in a crime of the kind going on in Gaza. There are ways of marking this without unleashing the pro-Israeli forces against him at too early a stage.

 

Clearly the new administration desires to re-engage with the global community and revive its commitment to international law: the ‘war on terror’ will be reconfigured and Guantanamo closed. A rededication of the US to law should also involve a more consensual approach to the UN ­“Security Council business in particular ­ including (for example) support for UN investigative missions to regions where egregious violations of human rights and breaches of the UN charter have occurred. It should entail the US signing up to the International Criminal Court” and urging its closest allies to do likewise. Framed in this way, a US engagement in the international human rights agenda would quickly lead to a crucial re-empowerment of the rapporteurs, special representatives, committees of experts and so on who have languished on the margins for so long.

 

This reformist energy would then need to be backed by mechanisms along the lines of the MacBride principles or the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act linking US financial and military aid to the newly emerging international legal order. The worst offenders against the new dispensation would run the risk of economic and intellectual boycotts. Since its application would be general, Obama could do all this without any mention of Israel, leaving the consequences to be worked through by various bureaucracies, while the phone calls and special pleas are politely fended off with an easy ‘it is out of my hands’. Were pressure from the lobbies to reach dangerous levels, the president might choose to take the issue to the American people, to discuss openly whether Israel should have an exemption from the system of values to which every other genuine ally and the US itself will by then have signed up. That is not likely to be a debate which the Israeli leadership will want.

 

Conor Gearty, Rausing Director of the Centre for the Study of Human Rights and professor of human rights law at the LSE, has written a number of books on terrorism and human rights.

 

R.W. Johnson

 

The current crisis has probably not changed anything fundamental. As even the more pessimistic Israeli analysts have been noting for some time, the pressure of the crisis has turned many, perhaps most Palestinians into irreconcilable foes of Israel. To that extent the two-state solution, however much the great and good may wish it, gradually becomes less and less of a real solution. The present crisis was probably unavoidable given (a) Iran’s position, (b) the coming Israeli election and (c) the failure of Israel to achieve full-scale victory over Hizbullah last year. That last factor has weighed on all minds, showing Iran how much leverage it had, threatening to turn all Arab-occupied land into rocket-launching grounds and increasing Israeli determination to show that this is a prohibitively expensive option for anyone who opts to host such an exercise. The stalemate seems complete.

 

I doubt whether Obama will make much difference. His chief of staff is an ex-Israeli soldier and his administration will be heavily in hock to the Israel lobby from day one. Israel may be unhappy that he will talk to Hamas but this unhappiness is quite unnecessary. He is not going to soft-talk them into accepting Israel’s existence and laying down their rockets, so what will such talks really change?

 

The real key remains US-Iran relations. This was a period in which many expected an Israeli strike against Iranian nuclear facilities. The fact that it has not happened is promising and suggests that the CIA is right to say Iran is not close to having nuclear weapons. As it is the US has hugely strengthened Iran by handing Iraq over to Shi’ites and an Obama administration might try to capitalise on that by making a US-Iranian deal the cornerstone of Middle East politics, thus reducing Syrian, Saudi and Egyptian leverage. Iran would obviously be greatly tempted by such a deal. But if Obama and Ahmadinejad really could reach a deal it would probably be very bad news for both Hizbullah and Hamas, who might get cut off from Iranian aid. If that happens, I can’t see much joy for Palestinian militancy. But if it doesn’t and the US under Obama is left to face an unchanged position, he is bound to end up taking Israel’s side as much as Bush did. Which also doesn’t bode well for militant Palestinians. So whatever happens I’d expect the Palestinians to emerge worse off from this conflict and Israel stronger, though probably less popular.

 

R.W. Johnson lives in Cape Town.

 

Rashid Khalidi

 

It is commonplace to talk about the ‘fog of war’, but war can also clarify things. The war in Gaza has pointed up the Israeli security establishment’s belief in force as a means of imposing ‘solutions’ which result in massive Arab civilian suffering and solve nothing. It has also laid bare the feebleness of the Arab states, and their inability to protect Palestinian civilians from the Israeli military, to the despair and fury of their citizens. Almost from the moment the war began, America’s Arab allies ­ above all Egypt ­ found themselves on the defensive, facing accusations of impotence and even treason in some of the largest demonstrations the region has seen in years. Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary general of Hizbullah in Lebanon, reserved some of his harshest criticism for the Mubarak regime; at Hizbullah rallies, protesters chanted ‘Where are you, Nasser?’ ­ a question that is also being asked by Egyptians.

 

The Egyptian government and its Arab allies ­ Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Morocco ­ responded to the war much as they responded to thee 2006 invasion of Lebanon: by tacitly supporting Israel’s offensive in the hope of weakening a resistance movement which they see as a proxy for Iran and Syria. When the bombing began, Egypt criticised Hamas over the breakdown of the reconciliation talks with Fatah that Cairo had brokered, and for firing rockets at Israel. The implication was that Hamas was responsible for the war. Refusing to open the Rafah crossing, the Mubarak government pointed out that Israel, the occupying power, not Egypt, was responsibile for the humanitarian situation in Gaza under the Fourth Geneva Convention. Egypt’s concern is understandable: ever since it recovered the Sinai in 1979, it has worried that Israel might attempt to dump responsibility onto it for the Strip’s 1.5 million impoverished residents, a fear that has grown as the prospects of ending the occupation have receded. But its initial refusal to open the crossing to relief supplies, medical personnel and reporters made it difficult for Cairo to deny charges that it was indifferent to Palestinian suffering, and that it valued relations with Israel and the US (its main patron) more highly than the welfare of Gaza’s people.

 

Since Hamas came to power in Gaza in 2006, Egypt’s press has been rife with lurid warnings ­ echoed in conservative Lebanese and Saudi newspapers, as well as Israeli ones ­about the establishment in Gaza of an Islamic emirate backed by Iran. Cairo’s distrust of Hamas is closely connected with internal politics: Hamas is an offshoot of the Muslim Brothers, the country’s largest opposition movement; and it came to power in Gaza in the kind of democratic elections that Mubarak has done everything to prevent. (He is likely to be succeeded by his son, Gamal, after sham elections.) When there still seemed hope of a Palestinian Authority (PA) coalition government between Fatah and Hamas (which would have diluted the latter’s power), Egypt was careful to appear balanced. But after the deep split in Palestinian politics that followed the Hamas takeover of Gaza in 2007, Egypt tilted increasingly against Hamas. The division of occupied Palestine into two PAs ­ a Fatah-ruled West  Bank and a Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, both without sovereignty, jurisdiction or much in the way of authority ­ was seen in Cairo as a threat to domestic security: it promised greater instability on Egypt’s borders, jeopardised the negotiated two-state solution with Israel to which Egypt was committed, and emboldened allies of the Muslim Brothers.

 

Egypt has also been alarmed by Hamas’s deepening relationship with its fiercest adversaries: Iran, Syria and Hizbullah. ‘Moderate’ Arab regimes like the one in Egypt ­ deeply authoritarian, at best, but friendly with the US ­ have favoured peaceful negotiations with Israel, but negotiations have not led to Palestinian independence, or even translated into diplomatic leverage. Resistance movements such as Hizbullah and Hamas, by contrast, can plausibly claim that they forced Israel to withdraw from occupied Arab land while scoring impressive gains at the ballot box; they have also been reasonably free of corruption. As if determined to increase the influence of these radical movements, Israel has undermined Abbas and the PA at every turn: settlements, bypass roads and ‘security barriers’ continue to encroach on Palestinian land; none of the 600 checkpoints and barriers in the West Bank has been removed; and more than 10,000 Palestinian political prisoners languish in Israeli jails. The result has been the erosion of support for the PA, and for the conciliatory approach pursued by the PA and Arab states such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, which reacted by moving even closer to the Bush administration in its waning days. Mubarak, according to Ha’aretz, urged Olmert to continue the Gaza offensive until Hamas was severely weakened – though Egypt has, of course, denied these reports.

 

But Hamas will not be so easily defeated, even if Israel’s merciless assault and Hamas’s own obduracy have brought untold suffering on the people of Gaza and much of the Strip lies in ruins: like Hizbullah in Lebanon in 2006, all it has to do in order to proclaim victory is remain standing. The movement continued to fire rockets into Israel under devastating bombardment, and it looks likely to emerge politically stronger when the war is over, although as with Hizbullah, it may have provoked popular resentment for bringing Israeli fire down on the heads of the civilian population: there was little Palestinian popular support for the firing of rockets at Israel in the months before the Israeli offensive. It is doubtful, moreover, whether any Hamas leader will be as shrewd as Hassan Nasrallah after the 2006 Lebanon war, when he admitted that had he known the damage Israel would do, he would not have offered the pretext that triggered its onslaught.

 

Israel began a propaganda campaign several months ago, when it closed Gaza to journalists in what appears to have been an effort to remove witnesses from the scene before the crime took place. Cell phone transmission was interrupted to prevent the circulation of photos and videos. The result, in Israel and the US, has been an astonishingly sanitised war, in which, in a bizarre attempt at ‘balance’, the highly inaccurate rocket attacks against Israel and their three civilian victims since the fighting began on 27 December have received as much attention as the levelling of Gaza and the killing of more than 1000 Palestinians and the wounding of nearly 5000, most of them civilians. But Arabs and Muslims (and indeed most people not living in the US and Israel) have seen a very different war, with vivid images of those trapped in the Gaza Strip, thanks in large part to Arab journalists on the ground.

 

During the large demonstrations that erupted in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Jordan and Yemen, condemnation was directed not only at the usual targets, Israel and the US, but also at the passivity, even complicity, of Arab governments. Stung by the protests and fearing popular unrest, several Arab states sent their foreign ministers to New York, led by Prince Sa’ud al-Faisal, the Saudi foreign minister, and forced through a Security Council resolution in the face of American resistance. Jordan withdrew its ambassador from Tel Aviv; Qatar broke off ties with Israel and offered $250 million for the rebuilding of Gaza. At the same time, Egypt made limited concessions, taking some wounded Gazans to hospitals in Egypt, providing medical supplies, and belatedly allowing a few medical personnel into the Strip through the Rafah crossing. Yet the Mubarak regime has otherwise continued to play the role of even-handed mediator.

 

As I write, its proposals for a ceasefire have met with a positive response from both Hamas (which has significantly modulated its criticism of Egypt) and Israel. It is still unclear how Egypt will respond to Israel’s demands that it halt arms smuggling through tunnels into Gaza; when and if the crossings will be fully opened; under what arrangements, and how reconstruction aid will be channelled to the devastated area; and indeed how an Egyptian-brokered arrangement, should it come into force and endure, will be regarded by Egyptian and Arab public opinion.

 

For the moment, the shaky legitimacy of Abbas’s government in Ramallah, and of the authoritarian Arab governments that have cast their lot with Israel and the United States in the regional contest with Iran, appears to have grown shakier still. Should Iran and Syria succeed in rapidly establishing new relationships with Washington under the Obama administration, these governments will be further weakened. Moreover, their inability (or their unwillingness) to do more to resolve the Palestine question, or even to alleviate Palestinian suffering, has been exposed once again. It contrasts starkly with democratic and non-Arab Turkey’s robust support for the Palestinians. Palestine has been a rallying cry for opposition movements in the Arab world since 1948, and in the decade after the first Arab-Israeli war a series of domestic upheavals, revolutions and coups took place in several Arab countries, including Egypt, where veterans of the Palestine war led by Nasser came to power in the 1952 coup against King Farouk. The repressive capacities of a government such as Egypt’s, whose secret police is said to employ more than a million people, should not be underestimated. But several unpopular regimes may face serious consequences at home for having aligned themselves with Israel.

 

Rashid Khalidi is Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies at Columbia.

 

Yitzhak Laor

 

We’ve been here before. It’s a ritual. Every two or three years, our military mounts another bloody expedition. The enemy is always smaller, weaker; our military is always larger, technologically more sophisticated, prepared for full-scale war against a full-scale army. But Iran is too scary, and even the relatively small Hizbullah gave us a hard time. That leaves the Palestinians.

 

Israel is engaged in a long war of annihilation against Palestinian society. The objective is to destroy the Palestinian nation and drive it back into pre-modern groupings based on the tribe, the clan and the enclave. This is the last phase of the Zionist colonial mission, culminating in inaccessible townships, camps, villages, districts, all of them to be walled or fenced off, and patrolled by a powerful army which, in the absence of a proper military objective, is really an over-equipped police force, with F16s, Apaches, tanks, artillery, commando units and hi-tech surveillance at its disposal.

 

The extent of the cruelty, the lack of shame and the refusal of self-restraint are striking, both in anthropological terms and historically. The worldwide Jewish support for this vandal offensive makes one wonder if this isn’t the moment Zionism is taking over the Jewish people.

 

But the real issue is that since 1991, and even more since the Oslo agreements in 1993, Israel has played on the idea that it really is trading land for peace, while the truth is very different. Israel has not given up the territories, but cantonised and blockaded them. The new strategy is to confine the Palestinians: they do not belong in our space, they are to remain out of sight, packed into their townships and camps, or swelling our prisons. This project now has the support of most of the Israeli press and academics.

 

We are the masters. We work and travel. They can make their living by policing their own people. We drive on the highways. They must live across the hills. The hills are ours. So are the fences. We control the roads, and the checkpoints and the borders. We control their electricity, their water, their milk, their oil, their wheat and their gasoline. If they protest peacefully we fire tear gas at them. If they throw stones, we fire bullets. If they launch a rocket, we destroy a house and its inhabitants. If they launch a missile, we destroy families, neighbourhoods, streets, towns.

 

Israel doesn’t want a Palestinian state alongside it. It is willing to prove this with hundreds of dead and thousands of disabled, in a single ‘operation’. The message is always the same: leave or remain in subjugation, under our military dictatorship. We are a democracy. We have decided democratically that you will live like dogs.

 

On 27 December just before the bombs started falling on Gaza, the Zionist parties, from Meretz to Yisrael Betenu, were unanimously in favour of the attack. As usual ­ it’s the ritual again ­ differences emerged only over the dispatch of blankets and medication to Gaza. Our most fervent pro-war columnist, Ari Shavit, has suggested that Israel should go on with the assault and build a hospital for the victims. The enemy is wounded, bleeding, dying, desperate for help. Nobody is coming unless Obama moves ­ yes, we are all waiting for Godot. Maybe this time he shows up.

 

Yitzhak Laor lives in Tel Aviv. He is the editor of Mita’am.

 

John Mearsheimer

 

The Gaza war is not going to change relations between Israel and the Palestinians in any meaningful way. Instead, the conflict is likely to get worse in the years ahead. Israel will build more settlements and roads in the West Bank and the Palestinians will remain locked up in a handful of impoverished enclaves in Gaza and the West Bank. The two-state solution is probably dead.

 

‘Greater Israel’ will be an apartheid state. Ehud Olmert has sounded a warning note on this score, but he has done nothing to stop the settlements and by starting the Gaza war he doomed what little hope there was for creating a viable Palestinian state.

 

The Palestinians will continue to resist the occupation, and Hamas will still be able to strike Israel with rockets and mortars, whose range and effectiveness are likely to improve. Palestinians will increasingly make the case that Greater Israel should become a democratic binational state in which Palestinians and Jews enjoy equal political rights. They know that they will eventually outnumber the Jews, which would mean the end of Israel as a Jewish state. This proposal is already gaining ground among Israel’s Palestinian citizens, striking fear into the hearts of many Israelis, who see them as a dangerous fifth column. This fear accounts in part for the recent Israeli decision to ban the major Arab political parties from participating in next month’s parliamentary elections.

 

There is no reason to think that Israel’s Jewish citizens would accept a binational state, and it’s safe to assume that Israel’s supporters in the Diaspora would have no interest in it. Apartheid is not a solution either, because it is repugnant and because the Palestinians will continue to resist, forcing Israel to escalate the repressive policies that have already cost it significant blood and treasure, encouraged political corruption, and badly tarnished its global image.

 

Israel may try to avoid the apartheid problem by expelling or ‘transferring’ the Palestinians. A substantial number of Israeli Jews ­ 400 per cent or more ­ think that the government should ‘encourage” their fellow Palestinian citizens to leave. Indeed, Tzipi Livni recently said that if there is a two-state solution, she expects the Palestinians inside Israel to move to the new Palestinian state.

 

Why would American and European leaders intervene? The Bush administration, after all, backed Israel’s creation of a major humanitarian crisis in Gaza, first with a devastating blockade and then with a brutal war. European leaders reacted to this collective punishment, which violates international law, not to mention basic decency, by upgrading Israel’s relationship with the European Union.

 

Many in the West expect Barack Obama to ride into town and fix the situation. Don’t bet on it. As his campaign showed, Obama is no match for the Israel lobby. His silence during the Gaza war speaks volumes about how tough he is likely to be with the Israelis. His chief Middle East adviser is likely to be Dennis Ross, whose deep attachment to Israel helped squander opportunities for peace during the Clinton administration.

 

In a recent op-ed about the Gaza war, Benny Morris said that ‘it would not be surprising if more powerful explosions were to follow.’ I rarely agree with Morris these days, but I think he has it right in this case. Even bigger trouble is in the offing for Israel ­ and above all ffor the Palestinians.

 

John Mearsheimer is a professor of political science at the University of Chicago and co-author of The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy.

 

Yonatan Mendel

 

It’s very frustrating to see Israeli society recruited so calmly and easily to war. Hardly anyone has dared to mention the connection between the decision to go to war and the fact that we are only a few weeks away from an election. Kadima (Tzipi Livni’s party) and Labour (Ehud Barak’s) were doing very badly in the polls. Now that they have killed more than 1000 Palestinians (250 on the first day ­ the highest number in 41 years of occupation) they are both doing very well. Barak was expected to win eight seats in the Knesset; now it is around 15. Netanyahu is the one sweating.

 

I am terribly sad about all this, and frustrated. On the first day of the operation I wrote an article for the Walla News website and within four hours I had received 1600 comments, most calling for my deportation (at best) or immediate execution (at worst). It showed me again how sensitive Israeli society is to any opposition to war. It is shocking how easily this society unites behind yet another military solution, after it has failed so many times. Hizbullah was created in response to Israel’s occupation of Lebanon in 1982. Hamas was created in 1987 in response to two decades of military occupation. What do we think we’ll achieve this time?

 

The state called up more than 10,000 reservists, and even people who had not been called also travelled to military bases and asked to be sent to Gaza. This shows once again how efficient the Israeli propaganda and justification machine is, and how naturally people here believe in myths that have been disproved again and again. If people were saying, ‘We killed 1000 people, but the army is not perfect, and this is war,’ I would say it was a stupid statement. But Israelis are saying: ‘We killed 1000 people, and our army is the most moral army in the world.’ This says a lot about the psychology of the conflict: people are not being told what to think or say; they reach these insights ‘naturally’.

 

Since I was a soldier myself ten years ago, I worry I might be called up as a reservist. If I were to refuse now, when Israel is at war, I would be sent to prison. But still, I tell myself, that would be so much easier than being part of what my country is doing. Apparently, every single Jewish member of the Knesset, except one from the Jewish-Arab list, believes that killing more Palestinians, keeping the Gazan population under siege, destroying their police stations, ministerial offices and headquarters will weaken Hamas, strengthen Israel, demonstrate to the Palestinians that next time they should vote for Fatah, and bring stability to the region. I have no words. Only one Jewish member of the Knesset, out of 107, went to the demonstration that followed the deliberate bombing by the Israelis of an UNRWA school being used to house refugees, resulting in the deaths of 45 civilians. Once again, the Israeli slogan is ‘Let the IDF win’ and once again everybody agrees. People have short memories. By 2008, two years after the Second Lebanon War ended, Hizbullah had more soldiers than before, three times more weapons, and had dramatically improved its political position. It now even has a right of veto in parliament. The same could happen to Hamas, but once again military magic enchants Israeli society.

 

I have a friend whose brother is a pilot in the IDF. I asked to speak to him. I told him what I thought about Israel’s behaviour and he seemed to agree with my general conclusions. He said, however, that a soldier should not ask himself such questions, which should be kept to the political sphere. I can’t agree. But the second thing he told me was more important. He told me that for pilots, a day like the first day of the war, when so many attacks are being made simultaneously, is a day full of excitement, a day you look forward to. If you take these words into account, and bear in mind that in Israel every man is a soldier, either in uniform or in reserve, there is no avoiding the conclusion that there are great pressures for it to act as a military society. Not acting is damaging to the IDF’s status, budget, masculinity, power and happiness, and not only to the IDF’s. This could explain why in Israel the military option is almost never considered second best. It is always the first choice.

 

Ha’aretz too is a source of unhappiness for me, since in wartime the paper is part of this militaristic discourse, shares its values and lack of vision. Ha’aretz did not criticise Israel when its troops deployed to Lebanon in 2006. Nor did it have anything to say when the same soldiers bombed Gaza’s police, schools and people. Even when there was a demonstration against the war, with more than 10,000 people taking part, both Jews and Palestinian citizens of Israel, the Ha’aretz website chose to publish a picture of a counter-demonstration, in which a few hundred participated, waving Israeli flags and shouting: ‘Let the IDF win.’

 

I have problems speaking to my closest friends and family these days, because I can no longer bear to hear the security establishment’s propaganda coming from their mouths. I cannot bear to hear people justifying the deaths of more than 200 children killed by Israeli soldiers. There is no justification for that, and it’s wrong to try to find one. Usually I feel part of society in Israel. I feel that I am on one side of the political map and other people are on the opposite side. But over the last few days, I feel that I am not part of this society any more. I do not call friends who support the war, and they do not call me. The same with my family. It is a hard thing for me to write, but this is how it is.

 

Yonatan Mendel was a correspondent for the Israeli news agency Walla. He is currently at Queens’ College, Cambridge working on a PhD that studies the connection between the Arabic language and security in Israel.

 

Gabriel Piterberg

 

Israel’s onslaught on Gaza may well do permanent damage to one of the most effective tools in its propaganda kit: the image of the morally handsome, ‘shooting and crying’ Israeli soldier.

 

Three weeks after the 1967 War, Avraham Shapira and Amos Oz, then a rising young author, were summoned to Labour Party headquarters. They were asked to make the demobilised soldiers from the kibbutzim break the wall of silence and discuss their war experience. Soldiers’ Talk (Siah Lohamim), the collection of interviews they edited, was a national and international success. The book, which forged the image of the handsome, dilemma-ridden, existentially soul-searching Israeli soldier, was a hymn to that frightening oxymoron, ‘purity of arms’ and the ideal of an exalted Jewish morality.

 

It was also a kind of ‘central casting’ from which Oz drew many of his fictional protagonists. Rabin (when he was ambassador to Washington) and Elie Wiesel read extracts in the US ‘in order to present the Israeli soldier’s profile’; and Golda Meir called it ‘a sacred book’: ‘we are fortunate to have been blessed with such sons.’ The latest version of Soldiers’ Talk, in terms of register and success, is Ari Folman’s Waltz with Bashir.

 

Given the might of Israel’s warriors and the vulnerability of their targets, now that the country no longer engages in wars against other state armies, the image is hard to keep alive. At the same time it no longer matters in the way it once did: for political and military elites in Israel, and the War on Terror constituency in the US, the killing of Arabs and Muslims no longer requires any weeping or soul-searching. It’s just what freedom-loving people do. The war adulation of the recent pro-Israel demonstrations in Los Angeles is chastening but you couldn’t call it hypocritical.

 

Perhaps with the benefit of hindsight, the attack on Gaza will be seen as the action of a colonial power that is running out of ideas; not unlike France in the final stage of the Algerian war.

 

Gabriel Piterberg teaches history at UCLA. The Returns of Zionism was published last year. 

 

Eliot Weinberger

 

1. Who remembers the original dream of Israel? A place where the observant could practice their religion in peace and the secular would be invisible as Jews ­ where being Jewish only mattered if you wanted it to matter. That dream was realised, not in Israel, but in New York City.

 

2. The second dream of Israel was of a place where socialist collectives could flourish in a secular nation with democratic freedoms. Who remembers that now?

 

3. ‘Never again’ should international Jews invoke the Holocaust as justification for Israeli acts of barbarism.

 

4. As in India-Pakistan, blaming the Brits is true enough, but useless.

 

5. A few days ago, to illustrate the Gaza invasion, the front page of the New York Times had a large pastoral photograph of handsome Israeli soldiers lounging on a hill above verdant fields. Unquestioning faith in the ‘milk and honey’ Utopia of Israel is the bedrock of American Judaism, and reality does not intrude on faith.

 

6. Any hope for some sort of peace will not come from the US, even without Bush. It must come from within an Israel where the same petrified leaders are elected time and again, where masses of the rational have emigrated to saner shores and have been replaced by Russians and the American cultists who become settlers. It is hard to believe that this will be anytime soon.

 

7. It is hard to believe that two states will ever be possible. So why not a new dream of Israel? A single nation, a single citizenry with equal rights, three languages­ English as a neutral third­ €“ and three religions, separate from the state. Give it a new name– say, Semitia, land of the Semites.

 

Eliot Weinberger’s recent books include What Happened Here: Bush Chronicles.

 

Michael Wood

 

A New York Times reporter describes the ‘lethal tricks’ of Hamas in Gaza. I don’t doubt the existence of the tricks, but the implication is that the far more lethal directness of the Israeli attack is not only justified but morally superior to the enemy’s underhand modes of action. This is an adaptation of an old paradigm, in which Israel gets to play the role of the rational modern state. The straightforward, civilised West meets the endlessly devious, backward Orient, and takes care of things in its up-to-date efficient way. What’s wrong with that? They are always ‘they’; their deaths don’t count as ours do.

 

When does an invasion become a massacre? How many Palestinians have to die just because they are Palestinians before we recognise another old paradigm? Herzl thought the native population of what was to become Israel would have to be ‘spirited’ across the border; now the very deaths of that population are being spirited off into arguments about the right to self-defence. If self-defence includes the bombing of ambulances and feeling no qualms at killing such an astonishing number of children, then we have entered a moral territory from which there may be no return. Unless of course we have merely returned to the imperial 19th century, a world of brutal and unapologetic conquest, where force was the only argument that mattered and our only choice was whether to be hypocritical about it or not.

 

Michael Wood teaches at Princeton. His most recent book is Literature and the Taste of Knowledge.

 www.lrb.co.uk/v31/n02/sieg01_.html

Source: La Repubblica http://ricerca.repubblica.it/repubblica/archivio/repubblica/2009/01/20/la-barbarie-strategica.html

 

Translated from Italian by Diego Traversa and revised by Mary Rizzo, members of Tlaxcala www.tlaxcala.es