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09 January 2009

The Koran: The Sound that Calls Allah -- One Hour Documentary on Islam

Israel: Boycott, Divest, Sanction, Naomi Klein, The Nation

January 7, 2009

It's time. Long past time. The best strategy to end the increasingly bloody occupation is for Israel to become the target of the kind of global movement that put an end to apartheid in South Africa.

In July 2005 a huge coalition of Palestinian groups laid out plans to do just that. They called on "people of conscience all over the world to impose broad boycotts and implement divestment initiatives against Israel similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era." The campaign Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions--BDS for short--was born.

Every day that Israel pounds Gaza brings more converts to the BDS cause, and talk of cease-fires is doing little to slow the momentum. Support is even emerging among Israeli Jews. In the midst of the assault roughly 500 Israelis, dozens of them well-known artists and scholars, sent a letter to foreign ambassadors stationed in Israel. It calls for "the adoption of immediate restrictive measures and sanctions" and draws a clear parallel with the antiapartheid struggle. "The boycott on South Africa was effective, but Israel is handled with kid gloves.... This international backing must stop."

Yet many still can't go there. The reasons are complex, emotional and understandable. And they simply aren't good enough. Economic sanctions are the most effective tools in the nonviolent arsenal. Surrendering them verges on active complicity. Here are the top four objections to the BDS strategy, followed by counterarguments.

1. Punitive measures will alienate rather than persuade Israelis. The world has tried what used to be called "constructive engagement." It has failed utterly. Since 2006 Israel has been steadily escalating its criminality: expanding settlements, launching an outrageous war against Lebanon and imposing collective punishment on Gaza through the brutal blockade. Despite this escalation, Israel has not faced punitive measures--quite the opposite. The weapons and $3 billion in annual aid that the US sends to Israel is only the beginning. Throughout this key period, Israel has enjoyed a dramatic improvement in its diplomatic, cultural and trade relations with a variety of other allies. For instance, in 2007 Israel became the first non-Latin American country to sign a free-trade deal with Mercosur. In the first nine months of 2008, Israeli exports to Canada went up 45 percent. A new trade deal with the European Union is set to double Israel's exports of processed food. And on December 8, European ministers "upgraded" the EU-Israel Association Agreement, a reward long sought by Jerusalem.

It is in this context that Israeli leaders started their latest war: confident they would face no meaningful costs. It is remarkable that over seven days of wartime trading, the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange's flagship index actually went up 10.7 percent. When carrots don't work, sticks are needed.

2. Israel is not South Africa. Of course it isn't. The relevance of the South African model is that it proves that BDS tactics can be effective when weaker measures (protests, petitions, back-room lobbying) have failed. And there are indeed deeply distressing echoes: the color-coded IDs and travel permits, the bulldozed homes and forced displacement, the settler-only roads. Ronnie Kasrils, a prominent South African politician, said that the architecture of segregation that he saw in the West Bank and Gaza in 2007 was "infinitely worse than apartheid."

3. Why single out Israel when the United States, Britain and other Western countries do the same things in Iraq and Afghanistan? Boycott is not a dogma; it is a tactic. The reason the BDS strategy should be tried against Israel is practical: in a country so small and trade-dependent, it could actually work.

4. Boycotts sever communication; we need more dialogue, not less. This one I'll answer with a personal story. For eight years, my books have been published in Israel by a commercial house called Babel. But when I published The Shock Doctrine, I wanted to respect the boycott. On the advice of BDS activists, I contacted a small publisher called Andalus. Andalus is an activist press, deeply involved in the anti-occupation movement and the only Israeli publisher devoted exclusively to translating Arabic writing into Hebrew. We drafted a contract that guarantees that all proceeds go to Andalus's work, and none to me. In other words, I am boycotting the Israeli economy but not Israelis.

Coming up with this plan required dozens of phone calls, e-mails and instant messages, stretching from Tel Aviv to Ramallah to Paris to Toronto to Gaza City. My point is this: as soon as you start implementing a boycott strategy, dialogue increases dramatically. And why wouldn't it? Building a movement requires endless communicating, as many in the antiapartheid struggle well recall. The argument that supporting boycotts will cut us off from one another is particularly specious given the array of cheap information technologies at our fingertips. We are drowning in ways to rant at one another across national boundaries. No boycott can stop us.

Just about now, many a proud Zionist is gearing up for major point-scoring: don't I know that many of those very high-tech toys come from Israeli research parks, world leaders in infotech? True enough, but not all of them. Several days into Israel's Gaza assault, Richard Ramsey, the managing director of a British telecom company, sent an e-mail to the Israeli tech firm MobileMax. "As a result of the Israeli government action in the last few days we will no longer be in a position to consider doing business with yourself or any other Israeli company."

When contacted by The Nation, Ramsey said his decision wasn't political. "We can't afford to lose any of our clients, so it was purely commercially defensive."

It was this kind of cold business calculation that led many companies to pull out of South Africa two decades ago. And it's precisely the kind of calculation that is our most realistic hope of bringing justice, so long denied, to Palestine.

Further Reading: Disengagement and the Frontiers of Zionism

  • Copyright © 2008 The Nation

Take Action: Enforce UN SC Resolution 1860 Now!

Take Action: Enforce UN SC Resolution 1860 Now!

As Israel's war on the occupied Gaza Strip nears two weeks in duration, Palestinians casualties continue to mount at a horrific rate. According to medics, Israel has killed nearly 800 Palestinians and wounded more than 3,000-all with U.S. weapons provided by U.S. taxpayers in violation of U.S. law.

Last night, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1860 by a vote of 14-0 with the United States abstaining. The resolution calls for an "immediate, durable and fully respected ceasefire, leading to the full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza" and for "unimpeded provision and distribution throughout Gaza of humanitarian assistance, including of food, fuel and medical treatment".

Although the White House reportedly overruled the State Department and changed the U.S. vote from "yes" to "abstain", this vote is a clear indication that our collective pressure is being heeded and we are forcing a change in U.S. policy. Keep in mind that for the first ten days or so of Israel's war on Gaza, both President Bush and Secretary of State Rice urged a conditional, non-immediate ceasefire that has allowed Israel to continue its killing of Palestinians.

Now, we need to demand from our Members of Congress, the State Department, White House, and the Obama Transition Team the immediate implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1860.

Israel already has rejected the Security Council Resolution and is continuing its deadly attacks on and siege of Palestinians in the occupied Gaza Strip. An immediate ceasefire is the best way to protect all civilians. Because Israel is defying the will of the Security Council, the United States must impose an immediate arms embargo on Israel until the resolution is implemented, just as President Eisenhower did when Israel invaded Egypt in 1956. The United States must also investigate Israel's misuse of U.S. weapons in violation of the Arms Export Control Act as demanded by Rep. Dennis Kucinich, and impose the sanctions that are required by law on countries that violate this law.


1. Call your Representative now at 202-224-3121 and tell them to vote "NO" on H.Res.34 and instead support UN Security Council Resolution 1860 which calls for an immediate ceasefire and humanitarian access. Earlier this morning, the House of Representative debated this resolution "recognizing Israel's right to defend itself against attacks from Gaza" but has yet to vote on it. To watch the debate, click here and then on the segment that begins with Rep. Berman at 9:15am. Congress is expected to vote on the resolution later today, so call now.

2. Contact Congress, the State Department, the White House, and Obama Transition Team and demand an immediate arms embargo on Israel and full and immediate implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1860. Send a letter by clicking here and register your opinion on the Obama Transition Team's website by clicking here.

3. Take your demands to the street. Many protests are scheduled across the country this weekend. Attend one near you or organize one yourself. For the latest protest information, check our calendar for frequent updates by clicking here.

Join in with many others who are taking action to end Israel's war on and siege of Palestinians in the occupied Gaza Strip. Download educational resources, find action ideas, sign up to help us organize, and more by clicking here.

Thank you for all that you are doing. Our collective pressure is working. We need to step it up!

US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation



08 January 2009

Gaza under fire, John Pilger

Published 08 January 2009

Every war Israel has waged since 1948 has had the same objective: expulsion of the native people and theft of more land. But why are we in the west silent on this truth?

"When the truth is replaced by silence," the Soviet dissident Yevgeny Yevtushenko said, "the silence is a lie." It may appear that the silence on Gaza is broken. The small cocoons of murdered children, wrapped in green, together with boxes containing their dismembered parents, and the cries of grief and rage of everyone in that death camp by the sea can be witnessed on al-Jazeera and YouTube, even glimpsed on the BBC. But Russia's incorrigible poet was not referring to the ephemera we call news; he was asking why those who knew the why never spoke it, and so denied it. Among the Anglo-American intelligentsia, this is especially striking. It is they who hold the keys to the great storehouses of knowledge: the historiographies and archives that lead us to the why.

They know that the horror now raining on Gaza has little to do with Hamas or, absurdly, "Israel's right to exist". They know the opposite to be true: that Palestine's right to exist was cancelled 61 years ago and that the expulsion and, if necessary, extinction of the indigenous people was planned and executed by the founders of Israel. They know, for example, that the infamous "Plan D" of 1947-48 resulted in the murderous depopulation of 369 Palestinian towns and villages by the Haganah (Israeli army) and that massacre upon massacre of Palestinian civilians in such places as Deir Yassin, al-Dawayima, Eilaboun, Jish, Ramle and Lydda are referred to in official records as "ethnic cleansing". Arriving at a scene of this carnage, David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first prime minister, was asked by a general, Yigal Allon: "What shall we do with the Arabs?" Ben-Gurion, reported the Israeli historian Benny Morris, "made a dismissive, energetic gesture with his hand and said, 'Expel them'".

The order to expel an entire population "without attention to age" was signed by Yitzhak Rabin, a future prime minister promoted by the world's most efficient propaganda as a peacemaker. The terrible irony of this was addressed only in passing, such as when the Mapam party co-leader Meir Ya'ari noted "how easily" Israel's leaders spoke of how it was "possible and permissible to take women, children and old men and to fill the road with them because such is the imperative of strategy. And this we say . . . who remember who used this means against our people during the [Second World] War . . . I am appalled."

Every subsequent "war" Israel has waged has had the same objective: the expulsion of the native people and the theft of more and more land. The lie of David and Goliath, of perennial victim, reached its apogee in 1967 when the propaganda became a righteous fury that claimed the Arab states had struck first against Israel. Since then, mostly Jewish truth-tellers such as Avi Shlaim, Noam Chomsky, Tanya Reinhart, Neve Gordon, Tom Segev, Uri Avnery, Ilan Pappé and Norman Finkelstein have undermined this and other myths and revealed a state shorn of the humane traditions of Judaism, whose unrelenting militarism is the sum of an expansionist, lawless and racist ideology called Zionism. "It seems," wrote the Israeli historian Pappé on 2 January, "that even the most horrendous crimes, such as the genocide in Gaza, are treated as discrete events, unconnected to anything that happened in the past and not associated with any ideology or system . . . Very much as the apartheid ideology explained the oppressive policies of the South African government, this ideology - in its most consensual and simplistic variety - allowed all the Israeli governments in the past and the present to dehumanise the Palestinians wherever they are and strive to destroy them. The means altered from period to period, from location to location, as did the narrative covering up these atrocities. But there is a clear pattern [of genocide]."

In Gaza, the enforced starvation and denial of humanitarian aid, the piracy of life-giving resources such as fuel and water, the denial of medicines, the systematic destruction of infrastructure and killing and maiming of the civilian population, 50 per cent of whom are children, fall within the international standard of the Genocide Convention. "Is it an irresponsible overstatement," asked Richard Falk, UN special rapporteur for human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories and international law authority at Princeton University, "to associate the treatment of Palestinians with this criminalised Nazi record of collective atrocity? I think not."

In describing a “holocaust-in-the making”, Falk was alluding to the Nazis’ establishment of Jewish ghettos in Poland. For one month in 1943, the captive Polish Jews, led by Mordechaj Anielewicz, fought off the German army and the SS, but their resistance was finally crushed and the Nazis exacted their final revenge. Falk is also a Jew. Today’s holocaust-in-the-making, which began with Ben-Gurion’s Plan D, is in its final stages. The difference today is that it is a joint US-Israeli project. The F-16 jet fighters, the 250lb “smart” GBU-39 bombs supplied on the eve of the attack on Gaza, having been approved by a Congress dominated by the Democratic Party, plus the annual $2.4bn in warmaking “aid”, give Washington de facto control. It beggars belief that President-elect Obama was not informed. Outspoken about Russia’s war in Georgia and the terrorism in Mumbai, Obama has maintained a silence on Palestine that marks his approval, which is to be expected, given his obsequiousness to the Tel Aviv regime and its lobbyists during the presidential campaign and his appointment of Zionists as his secretary of state and principal Middle East advisers. When Aretha Franklin sings “Think”, her wonderful 1960s anthem to freedom, at Obama’s inauguration on 20 January, I trust someone with the brave heart of Muntader al-Zaidi, the shoe-thrower, will shout: “Gaza!”

The asymmetry of conquest and terror is clear. Plan D is now "Operation Cast Lead", which is the unfinished "Operation Justified Vengeance". This was launched by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2001 when, with George W Bush's approval, he used F-16s against Palestinian towns and villages for the first time.

In that same year, the authoritative Jane's Foreign Report disclosed that the Blair government had given Israel the "green light" to attack the West Bank after it was shown Israel's secret designs for a bloodbath. It was typical of new Labour's enduring complicity in Palestine's agony. However, the Israeli plan, reported Jane's, needed the "trigger" of a suicide bombing which would cause "numerous deaths and injuries [because] the 'revenge' factor is crucial". This would "motivate Israeli soldiers to demolish the Palestinians". What alarmed Sharon and the author of the plan, General Shaul Mofaz, then Israeli chief of staff, was a secret agreement between Yasser Arafat and Hamas to ban suicide attacks. On 23 November 2001 Israeli agents assassinated the Hamas leader Mahmoud Abu Hanoud and got their "trigger": the suicide attacks resumed in response to his killing.

Something uncannily similar happened on 4 November last year when Israeli special forces attacked Gaza, killing six people. Once again, they got their propaganda "trigger": a ceasefire sustained by the Hamas government - which had imprisoned its violators - was shattered as a result of the Israeli attacks, and home-made rockets were fired into what used to be called Palestine before its Arab occupants were "cleansed". On 23 December, Hamas offered to renew the ceasefire, but Israel's charade was such that its all-out assault on Gaza had been planned six months earlier, according to the Israeli daily Haaretz.

Behind this sordid game is the "Dagan Plan", named after General Meir Dagan, who served with Sharon during his bloody invasion of Lebanon in 1982. Now head of Mossad, the Israeli intelligence organisation, Dagan is the author of a "solution" that has brought about the imprisonment of Palestinians behind a ghetto wall snaking across the West Bank and in Gaza, now effectively a concentration camp. The establishment of a quisling government in Ramallah, under Mahmoud Abbas, is Dagan's achievement, together with a hasbara (propaganda) campaign, relayed through mostly supine, if intimidated western media, notably in the US, which say Hamas is a terrorist organisation devoted to Israel's destruction and is to "blame" for the massacres and siege of its own people over two generations, since long before its creation. "We have never had it so good," said the Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Gideon Meir in 2006. "The hasbara effort is a well-oiled machine."

In fact, Hamas's real threat is its example as the Arab world's only democratically elected government, drawing its popularity from its resistance to the Palestinians' oppressor and tormentor. This was demonstrated when Hamas foiled a CIA coup in 2007, an event ordained in the western media as "Hamas's seizure of power". Likewise, Hamas is never described as a government, let alone democratic. Neither is its proposal of a ten-year truce reported as a historic recognition of the "reality" of Israel and support for a two-state solution with just one condition: that the Israelis obey international law and end their illegal occupation beyond the 1967 borders. As every annual vote in the UN General Assembly demonstrates, most states agree. On 4 January, the president of the General Assembly, Miguel d'Escoto, described the Israeli attack on Gaza as a "monstrosity".

When the monstrosity is done and the people of Gaza are even more stricken, the Dagan Plan foresees what Sharon called a "1948-style solution" - the destruction of all Palestinian leadership and authority, followed by mass expulsions into smaller and smaller "cantonments", and perhaps, finally, into Jordan. This demolition of institutional and educational life in Gaza is designed to produce, wrote Karma Nabulsi, a Palestinian exile in Britain, "a Hobbesian vision of an anarchic society: truncated, violent, powerless, destroyed, cowed . . . Look to the Iraq of today: that is what [Sharon] had in store for us, and he has nearly achieved it."

Dr Dahlia Wasfi is an American writer on Iraq and Palestine. She has a Jewish mother and an Iraqi Muslim father. "Holocaust denial is anti-Semitic," she wrote on 31 December. "But I'm not talking about the World War II, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad [the president of Iran] or Ashkenazi Jews. What I'm referring to is the holocaust we are all witnessing and responsible for in Gaza today and in Palestine over the past 60 years . . . Since Arabs are Semites, US-Israeli policy doesn't get more anti-Semitic than this." She quoted Rachel Corrie, the young American who went to Palestine to defend Palestinians and was crushed by an Israeli bulldozer. "I am in the midst of a genocide," wrote Corrie, "which I am also indirectly supporting, and for which my government is largely responsible."

Reading the words of both, I am struck by the use of "responsibility". Breaking the lie of silence is not an esoteric abstraction, but an urgent responsibility that falls to those with the privilege of a platform. With the BBC cowed, so too is much of journalism, merely allowing vigorous debate within unmovable, invisible boundaries, ever fearful of the smear of anti-Semitism. The unreported news, meanwhile, is that the death toll in Gaza is the equivalent of 18,000 dead in Britain. Imagine, if you can.

Then there are the academics, the deans and teachers and researchers. Why are they silent as they watch a university bombed and hear the Association of University Teachers in Gaza plead for help? Are British universities now, as Terry Eagleton believes, no more than “intellectual Tescos, churning out a commodity known as graduates rather than greengroceries”?

Then there are the writers. In the dark year of 1939, the Third American Writers' Congress was held at Carnegie Hall in New York and the likes of Thomas Mann and Albert Einstein sent messages and spoke up to ensure that the lie of silence was broken. By one account, 2,500 jammed the auditorium. Today, this mighty voice of realism and morality is said to be obsolete; the literary review pages affect an ironic hauteur of irrelevance; false symbolism is all. As for the readers, their moral and political imagination is to be pacified, not primed. The anti-Muslim Martin Amis expressed this well in Visiting Mrs Nabokov: "The dominance of the self is not a flaw, it is an evolutionary characteristic; it is just how things are."

If that is how things are, we are diminished as a civilised people. For what happens in Gaza is the defining moment of our time, which either grants war criminals impunity and immunity through our silence, while we contort our own intellect and morality, or it gives us the power to speak out. For the moment I prefer my own memory of Gaza: of the people's courage and resistance and their "luminous humanity", as Karma Nabulsi put it. On my last trip there, I was rewarded with a spectacle of Palestinian flags fluttering in unlikely places. It was dusk and children had done this. No one had told them to do it. They made flagpoles out of sticks tied together, and a few of them climbed on to a wall and held the flag between them, some silently, others crying out. They do this every day when they know foreigners are leaving, in the belief that the world will not forget them.

The Wager, By Doug Tarnopol

Yes, I self-published a book. Finally.

It's available at lulu.com (click the link above) both as a free download and as a hard copy.

My birthday present to myself!

(Re: labels to this post. Well, people tell me it's pretty goddamn funny, so....)

Former Amb. Martin Indyk vs. Author Norman Finkelstein: A Debate on Israel’s Assault on Gaza and the US Role in the Conflict

Finkelstein wipes the floor with this "innocent."

Avi Shlaim: How Israel brought Gaza to the brink of humanitarian catastrophe | World news | The Guardian

Oxford professor of international relations Avi Shlaim served in the Israeli army and has never questioned the state's legitimacy. But its merciless assault on Gaza has led him to devastating conclusions

A wounded Palestinian policeman gestures

A wounded Palestinian policeman gestures while lying on the ground outside Hamas police headquarters following an Israeli air strike in Gaza City. Photograph: Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images

The only way to make sense of Israel's senseless war in Gaza is through understanding the historical context. Establishing the state of Israel in May 1948 involved a monumental injustice to the Palestinians. British officials bitterly resented American partisanship on behalf of the infant state. On 2 June 1948, Sir John Troutbeck wrote to the foreign secretary, Ernest Bevin, that the Americans were responsible for the creation of a gangster state headed by "an utterly unscrupulous set of leaders". I used to think that this judgment was too harsh but Israel's vicious assault on the people of Gaza, and the Bush administration's complicity in this assault, have reopened the question.

I write as someone who served loyally in the Israeli army in the mid-1960s and who has never questioned the legitimacy of the state of Israel within its pre-1967 borders. What I utterly reject is the Zionist colonial project beyond the Green Line. The Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in the aftermath of the June 1967 war had very little to do with security and everything to do with territorial expansionism. The aim was to establish Greater Israel through permanent political, economic and military control over the Palestinian territories. And the result has been one of the most prolonged and brutal military occupations of modern times.

Four decades of Israeli control did incalculable damage to the economy of the Gaza Strip. With a large population of 1948 refugees crammed into a tiny strip of land, with no infrastructure or natural resources, Gaza's prospects were never bright. Gaza, however, is not simply a case of economic under-development but a uniquely cruel case of deliberate de-development. To use the Biblical phrase, Israel turned the people of Gaza into the hewers of wood and the drawers of water, into a source of cheap labour and a captive market for Israeli goods. The development of local industry was actively impeded so as to make it impossible for the Palestinians to end their subordination to Israel and to establish the economic underpinnings essential for real political independence.

Gaza is a classic case of colonial exploitation in the post-colonial era. Jewish settlements in occupied territories are immoral, illegal and an insurmountable obstacle to peace. They are at once the instrument of exploitation and the symbol of the hated occupation. In Gaza, the Jewish settlers numbered only 8,000 in 2005 compared with 1.4 million local residents. Yet the settlers controlled 25% of the territory, 40% of the arable land and the lion's share of the scarce water resources. Cheek by jowl with these foreign intruders, the majority of the local population lived in abject poverty and unimaginable misery. Eighty per cent of them still subsist on less than $2 a day. The living conditions in the strip remain an affront to civilised values, a powerful precipitant to resistance and a fertile breeding ground for political extremism.

In August 2005 a Likud government headed by Ariel Sharon staged a unilateral Israeli pullout from Gaza, withdrawing all 8,000 settlers and destroying the houses and farms they had left behind. Hamas, the Islamic resistance movement, conducted an effective campaign to drive the Israelis out of Gaza. The withdrawal was a humiliation for the Israeli Defence Forces. To the world, Sharon presented the withdrawal from Gaza as a contribution to peace based on a two-state solution. But in the year after, another 12,000 Israelis settled on the West Bank, further reducing the scope for an independent Palestinian state. Land-grabbing and peace-making are simply incompatible. Israel had a choice and it chose land over peace.

The real purpose behind the move was to redraw unilaterally the borders of Greater Israel by incorporating the main settlement blocs on the West Bank to the state of Israel. Withdrawal from Gaza was thus not a prelude to a peace deal with the Palestinian Authority but a prelude to further Zionist expansion on the West Bank. It was a unilateral Israeli move undertaken in what was seen, mistakenly in my view, as an Israeli national interest. Anchored in a fundamental rejection of the Palestinian national identity, the withdrawal from Gaza was part of a long-term effort to deny the Palestinian people any independent political existence on their land.

Israel's settlers were withdrawn but Israeli soldiers continued to control all access to the Gaza Strip by land, sea and air. Gaza was converted overnight into an open-air prison. From this point on, the Israeli air force enjoyed unrestricted freedom to drop bombs, to make sonic booms by flying low and breaking the sound barrier, and to terrorise the hapless inhabitants of this prison.

Israel likes to portray itself as an island of democracy in a sea of authoritarianism. Yet Israel has never in its entire history done anything to promote democracy on the Arab side and has done a great deal to undermine it. Israel has a long history of secret collaboration with reactionary Arab regimes to suppress Palestinian nationalism. Despite all the handicaps, the Palestinian people succeeded in building the only genuine democracy in the Arab world with the possible exception of Lebanon. In January 2006, free and fair elections for the Legislative Council of the Palestinian Authority brought to power a Hamas-led government. Israel, however, refused to recognise the democratically elected government, claiming that Hamas is purely and simply a terrorist organisation.

America and the EU shamelessly joined Israel in ostracising and demonising the Hamas government and in trying to bring it down by withholding tax revenues and foreign aid. A surreal situation thus developed with a significant part of the international community imposing economic sanctions not against the occupier but against the occupied, not against the oppressor but against the oppressed.

As so often in the tragic history of Palestine, the victims were blamed for their own misfortunes. Israel's propaganda machine persistently purveyed the notion that the Palestinians are terrorists, that they reject coexistence with the Jewish state, that their nationalism is little more than antisemitism, that Hamas is just a bunch of religious fanatics and that Islam is incompatible with democracy. But the simple truth is that the Palestinian people are a normal people with normal aspirations. They are no better but they are no worse than any other national group. What they aspire to, above all, is a piece of land to call their own on which to live in freedom and dignity.

Like other radical movements, Hamas began to moderate its political programme following its rise to power. From the ideological rejectionism of its charter, it began to move towards pragmatic accommodation of a two-state solution. In March 2007, Hamas and Fatah formed a national unity government that was ready to negotiate a long-term ceasefire with Israel. Israel, however, refused to negotiate with a government that included Hamas.

It continued to play the old game of divide and rule between rival Palestinian factions. In the late 1980s, Israel had supported the nascent Hamas in order to weaken Fatah, the secular nationalist movement led by Yasser Arafat. Now Israel began to encourage the corrupt and pliant Fatah leaders to overthrow their religious political rivals and recapture power. Aggressive American neoconservatives participated in the sinister plot to instigate a Palestinian civil war. Their meddling was a major factor in the collapse of the national unity government and in driving Hamas to seize power in Gaza in June 2007 to pre-empt a Fatah coup.

The war unleashed by Israel on Gaza on 27 December was the culmination of a series of clashes and confrontations with the Hamas government. In a broader sense, however, it is a war between Israel and the Palestinian people, because the people had elected the party to power. The declared aim of the war is to weaken Hamas and to intensify the pressure until its leaders agree to a new ceasefire on Israel's terms. The undeclared aim is to ensure that the Palestinians in Gaza are seen by the world simply as a humanitarian problem and thus to derail their struggle for independence and statehood.

The timing of the war was determined by political expediency. A general election is scheduled for 10 February and, in the lead-up to the election, all the main contenders are looking for an opportunity to prove their toughness. The army top brass had been champing at the bit to deliver a crushing blow to Hamas in order to remove the stain left on their reputation by the failure of the war against Hezbollah in Lebanon in July 2006. Israel's cynical leaders could also count on apathy and impotence of the pro-western Arab regimes and on blind support from President Bush in the twilight of his term in the White House. Bush readily obliged by putting all the blame for the crisis on Hamas, vetoing proposals at the UN Security Council for an immediate ceasefire and issuing Israel with a free pass to mount a ground invasion of Gaza.

As always, mighty Israel claims to be the victim of Palestinian aggression but the sheer asymmetry of power between the two sides leaves little room for doubt as to who is the real victim. This is indeed a conflict between David and Goliath but the Biblical image has been inverted - a small and defenceless Palestinian David faces a heavily armed, merciless and overbearing Israeli Goliath. The resort to brute military force is accompanied, as always, by the shrill rhetoric of victimhood and a farrago of self-pity overlaid with self-righteousness. In Hebrew this is known as the syndrome of bokhim ve-yorim, "crying and shooting".

To be sure, Hamas is not an entirely innocent party in this conflict. Denied the fruit of its electoral victory and confronted with an unscrupulous adversary, it has resorted to the weapon of the weak - terror. Militants from Hamas and Islamic Jihad kept launching Qassam rocket attacks against Israeli settlements near the border with Gaza until Egypt brokered a six-month ceasefire last June. The damage caused by these primitive rockets is minimal but the psychological impact is immense, prompting the public to demand protection from its government. Under the circumstances, Israel had the right to act in self-defence but its response to the pinpricks of rocket attacks was totally disproportionate. The figures speak for themselves. In the three years after the withdrawal from Gaza, 11 Israelis were killed by rocket fire. On the other hand, in 2005-7 alone, the IDF killed 1,290 Palestinians in Gaza, including 222 children.

Whatever the numbers, killing civilians is wrong. This rule applies to Israel as much as it does to Hamas, but Israel's entire record is one of unbridled and unremitting brutality towards the inhabitants of Gaza. Israel also maintained the blockade of Gaza after the ceasefire came into force which, in the view of the Hamas leaders, amounted to a violation of the agreement. During the ceasefire, Israel prevented any exports from leaving the strip in clear violation of a 2005 accord, leading to a sharp drop in employment opportunities. Officially, 49.1% of the population is unemployed. At the same time, Israel restricted drastically the number of trucks carrying food, fuel, cooking-gas canisters, spare parts for water and sanitation plants, and medical supplies to Gaza. It is difficult to see how starving and freezing the civilians of Gaza could protect the people on the Israeli side of the border. But even if it did, it would still be immoral, a form of collective punishment that is strictly forbidden by international humanitarian law.

The brutality of Israel's soldiers is fully matched by the mendacity of its spokesmen. Eight months before launching the current war on Gaza, Israel established a National Information Directorate. The core messages of this directorate to the media are that Hamas broke the ceasefire agreements; that Israel's objective is the defence of its population; and that Israel's forces are taking the utmost care not to hurt innocent civilians. Israel's spin doctors have been remarkably successful in getting this message across. But, in essence, their propaganda is a pack of lies.

A wide gap separates the reality of Israel's actions from the rhetoric of its spokesmen. It was not Hamas but the IDF that broke the ceasefire. It di d so by a raid into Gaza on 4 November that killed six Hamas men. Israel's objective is not just the defence of its population but the eventual overthrow of the Hamas government in Gaza by turning the people against their rulers. And far from taking care to spare civilians, Israel is guilty of indiscriminate bombing and of a three-year-old blockade that has brought the inhabitants of Gaza, now 1.5 million, to the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe.

The Biblical injunction of an eye for an eye is savage enough. But Israel's insane offensive against Gaza seems to follow the logic of an eye for an eyelash. After eight days of bombing, with a death toll of more than 400 Palestinians and four Israelis, the gung-ho cabinet ordered a land invasion of Gaza the consequences of which are incalculable.

No amount of military escalation can buy Israel immunity from rocket attacks from the military wing of Hamas. Despite all the death and destruction that Israel has inflicted on them, they kept up their resistance and they kept firing their rockets. This is a movement that glorifies victimhood and martyrdom. There is simply no military solution to the conflict between the two communities. The problem with Israel's concept of security is that it denies even the most elementary security to the other community. The only way for Israel to achieve security is not through shooting but through talks with Hamas, which has repeatedly declared its readiness to negotiate a long-term ceasefire with the Jewish state within its pre-1967 borders for 20, 30, or even 50 years. Israel has rejected this offer for the same reason it spurned the Arab League peace plan of 2002, which is still on the table: it involves concessions and compromises.

This brief review of Israel's record over the past four decades makes it difficult to resist the conclusion that it has become a rogue state with "an utterly unscrupulous set of leaders". A rogue state habitually violates international law, possesses weapons of mass destruction and practises terrorism - the use of violence against civilians for political purposes. Israel fulfils all of these three criteria; the cap fits and it must wear it. Israel's real aim is not peaceful coexistence with its Palestinian neighbours but military domination. It keeps compounding the mistakes of the past with new and more disastrous ones. Politicians, like everyone else, are of course free to repeat the lies and mistakes of the past. But it is not mandatory to do so.

Avi Shlaim is a professor of international relations at the University of Oxford and the author of The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World and of Lion of Jordan: King Hussein's Life in War and Peace.

Arnon Soffer on Palestine, Israel, and "The Demographic Problem"

I often hear from "pro-"Israeli friends about how vicious Hamas propaganda is, and how sanitized their message is for Western audiences.

Here's an example of the viciousness in Israel. Pure racism. I can't find this on the
Jerusalem Post's site. I wonder why. Luckily, it was preserved in various places on the web. Key quote:

Will Israel be prepared to fight this war [i.e., the coming post-disengagement war in Gaza; this is 2004, remember]?

First of all, the fence is not built like the Berlin Wall. It's a fence that we will be guarding on either side. Instead of entering Gaza, the way we did last week, we will tell the Palestinians that if a single missile is fired over the fence, we will fire 10 in response. And women and children will be killed, and houses will be destroyed. After the fifth such incident, Palestinian mothers won't allow their husbands to shoot Kassams, because they will know what's waiting for them.

Second of all, when 2.5 million people live in a closed-off Gaza, it's going to be a human catastrophe. Those people will become even bigger animals than they are today, with the aid of an insane fundamentalist Islam. The pressure at the border will be awful. It's going to be a terrible war. So, if we want to remain alive, we will have to kill and kill and kill. All day, every day.

While CNN has its cameras at the wall?

If we don't kill, we will cease to exist. The only thing that concerns me is how to ensure that the boys and men who are going to have to do the killing will be able to return home to their families and be normal human beings.


Aren't you getting carried away? Israel is only 56, and has a pretty amazing track record.

We belong to the smartest and most talented nation in the world, with the most Nobel prize-winners. As such, we are capable of doing everything, and whatever we don't accomplish has to do with the system, not with the brainpower. If you knew how many Knesset members I've had in my office... I'm telling you, they're illiterate morons.
If that's not Nazi talk, nothing is. I'm so glad Israel's elite tramp through this lunatic's office.

Full article, including now-broken link:

The Jerusalem Post
May. 20, 2004

It's the Demography, Stupid
An interview with geographer/demographer Arnon Soffer.

by Ruthie Blum

"I thought I'd never hear myself say this," says Haifa University geographer Arnon Soffer, without a trace of self-doubt, "but Israel will have to relinquish the Jordan Valley."

Soffer, a geostrategist widely seen as the originator of Ariel Sharon's separation plan, has never been one to pull proverbial punches. A prominent figure in the public debate on disengagement, Soffer has been a leading purveyor of apocalyptic predictions about Israel's demographic problem vis-a-vis the Arabs for more than three decades.

At 68, his stature and super-confident demeanor make him seem almost too large for his tiny office, which, he says, has become the venue for meetings with everyone from military brass to Knesset members.

"Many people said I was crazy," says Soffer, a glint of self-satisfaction in his eye. "But since then, they have come to realize I was right."

As the cabinet prepares to vote on the latest proposal next week, Soffer discussed with us the rationale behind the plan he conceived, the prospects for its execution, and challenges ahead of Israel in what he believes is an inherently hostile neighborhood.

Was the disengagement idea yours?

The day he was elected prime minister Sharon asked me to bring him a [disengagement] map I published in 2001. I have been a leading figure on this issue for years.

When did he first summon you?

We had met throughout the years many times. He knows me well, and requested the meeting.

You're considered a demographic prophet of doom. How did that happen?

In 1970, as a young geographer, I decided to focus on military geography - or geopolitics. Then, while working on the national masterplan for the north, I became obsessed with the problem of the Israeli Arabs that I saw developing in the Galilee. In retrospect, this had an effect on where the Jewish hilltop communities were later established. Many people said I was crazy. But since then, they have come to realize I was right.

In 1975, I began researching the problem more seriously. That's when I grasped that the issue is about demography. I began taking members of the defense establishment to the Galilee to show them what was happening. Slowly, I created awareness.

After that, I started bringing the same people to the Seamline. For the past 15 years, every week, once or twice a week, I accompany the highest-ranking defense officials there.

In 1988, I published a pamphlet in which I raised the question of whether Zionism is a dream or not. The 1,000 copies of the pamphlet disappeared immediately. Arafat received a copy of it, and then, for the first time, said that the Palestinian womb is a biological weapon.

It was around that time that I began to say publicly that Israel's days were numbered. After researching the subject I concluded there was no way Oslo would work, and I told Bibi Netanyahu that Oslo had to be stopped immediately. Bibi read my material, and quoted it in his book, A Place Under the Sun, in a chapter on demography.

Speaking of Bibi, his attitude toward the plan has been ambiguous.

Bibi understands that we have to disengage - he has said so on more than one occasion. But Bibi is also a political animal, and he considers Sharon a rival. Unfortunately, politicians are often willing to sell out the country for their own personal considerations. This is true of the whole Knesset.

Take the mass rally in Tel Aviv on Saturday night. Each party came there in order to get rid of someone else. That whole thing was ridiculous.

Didn't the rally express widespread support for disengagement?

Had it been a protest against the Likud's rejection of disengagement, even I would have participated. But there was Yossi Beilin who came to sell his wares. And Ami Ayalon. And Shimon Peres, who only cares about Shimon Peres.

What do you make of the Likud's rejection of its own leader's plan?

The Likud is filled with ignoramuses. A day doesn't go by without me running into a Likud member who can't tell you where Kalkilya is, or, for that matter, where the Green Line is.

I keep a map of the country from 1966 in my office, because it shows where the Green Line really is. I also have a map that shows how the Palestinians view the country. In it, the entire State of Israel is theirs. That's something the Israeli Left would like to forget.

How does the current fighting in Rafah relate to the disengagement plan?

Disengagement is one thing and the Philadelphi Route [the narrow road separating the Gaza Strip from Egypt] is another. Even after disengagement - which I have no doubt Prime Minister Sharon will pass within the next two or three weeks - Philadelphi will have to be guarded heavily, to keep Egyptian forces from deploying in Gaza.

The operation in Rafah is a welcome necessity. The terrorist gangs who rule there must be wiped out, and the tunnels blocked. The proposed moat is also a good idea, though technically and physically complicated.

Some oppose disengagement because they think that until the Palestinians accept Israel's existence, no solution can be viable.

They say something worse than that. People like Effi Eitam and Benny Elon say the Palestinians should set up their homeland in the Sinai. I asked Eitam at the Herzliya Conference whether he spoke to Hosni Mubarak about this plan and he said "not yet." I'm telling you, these people are out of their minds. The Right is insane for believing in transfer, because they're not reading the international map - I mean, look what happened in Kosovo - and the Left is insane for believing in plans like the Geneva Accord, which begins by saying "There will be mutual faith" between us and the Palestinians.

Is that why you opposed Oslo? Because it wasn't unilateral?

Yes. In 2001, I told a gathering of the country's economists that the country's demographic clock is ticking, and that unless we made courageous decisions, Israel's countdown would begin. I caused an earthquake.

Faisal Husseini said in response: "Israel will end up begging us to leave them one tiny strip of land."

I've been screaming this from the rooftops to anyone who will listen. Had you hung around the corridor outside my office during the last two months, you would have thought it was the Knesset, since so many politicians have been through here to listen to my demographic predictions.

Dan Meridor said I convinced him.

Six months ago, Ehud Olmert said "Professor Soffer convinced me; we can't escape this any more." Sharon, as you see, also understands it.

What about your former Haifa University colleague Yuval Steinitz? He hasn't been won over.

Before he became a Knesset Member, we used to travel together to Tel Aviv every week for meetings on the subject. He understands it very well - who is he trying to kid that he doesn't understand it? He is familiar with every number and statistic that appears in my research.

In 1987, at a meeting organized by [former ambassador to the US] Zalman Shoval between myself, Shoval, [nuclear physicist and right-wing leader] Yuval Ne'eman and Ghandi [the late Rehavam Ze'evi], I began by presenting the demographic statistics. Ne'eman got up and said: "Don't believe a word of what Arnon Soffer is telling you: The Central Bureau of Statistics also belongs to the Left."

At that moment, Ghandi got up and said: "I've known Arnon for many years. I accept every word of what he is saying. This country is not something we can forfeit, but people can be transferred." That's when he decided to found the Moledet Party.

Shulamit Aloni phoned, and my wife said to her: "You see, Arnon talks too much."

Two months later, prime minister Yitzhak Shamir was introduced to me and said: "Oh, that's you who's bothering everybody with your statistics." So, I told him [that] he and Shulamit Aloni had something in common: my statistics bothered both of them.

So you ignored your critics and continued to "bother" them with your statistics.

As an academic, it's my job to publish my research. Look, these demographics are facts. The world is going insane. Islam is going wild. There is going to be a clash of civilizations. In the Middle East, there is going to be the highest Arab birth rate in the world. There cannot be peace.

Let's view it from a Palestinian perspective. Let's pretend you and I are Arafat and Yasser Abed Rabbo looking at the map. Look at what the Jews are going to leave us for a state. They're going to leave us the Gaza Strip - which is no more than a crowded "prison." Then there's another "prison" called Hebron, and another, larger one called Samaria. Here there are 1.6 million, here 1 million, and here 1.5 million (soon to be 3 million). Each of these "prisons" is cut off from the rest. The Jews won't permit us to have an army, while their own powerful army will surround us. They won't permit us to have an air force, while their own air force will fly over us. They won't allow us the Right of Return. Why should we make a deal with them? Why should we accept a state from them? Let's wait patiently for another 10 years, when the Jews will comprise a mere 40 percent of the country, while we will be 60 percent. The world won't allow a minority to rule over a majority, so Palestine will be ours. The fact that in the meantime Palestinian kids are being killed doesn't matter; what matters is that Palestine will be ours.

Isn't it logical for the Palestinians to see it this way?

So, while Abed Rabbo is off talking to Yossi Beilin, and Sari Nusseibeh is off talking to Ami Ayalon, time is passing and Palestinian women are getting pregnant. This, coupled with the flood of Arabs from other countries - 300,000 since 1948 - means they're going to finish us off.

This is why I keep saying that in order to save the State of Israel, we have to separate unilaterally, and as quickly as possible.

Sharon clearly agrees with you. Why, then, did he bring his plan to the Likud for a vote?

He and his two sons are about to be indicted. There is no other logical explanation. Then again, he's clearly going to pass the plan - in two to three weeks.

How will the region look the day after unilateral separation?

The Palestinians will bombard us with artillery fire - and we will have to retaliate. But at least the war will be at the fence - not in kindergartens in Tel Aviv and Haifa.

Will Israel be prepared to fight this war?

First of all, the fence is not built like the Berlin Wall. It's a fence that we will be guarding on either side. Instead of entering Gaza, the way we did last week, we will tell the Palestinians that if a single missile is fired over the fence, we will fire 10 in response. And women and children will be killed, and houses will be destroyed. After the fifth such incident, Palestinian mothers won't allow their husbands to shoot Kassams, because they will know what's waiting for them.

Second of all, when 2.5 million people live in a closed-off Gaza, it's going to be a human catastrophe. Those people will become even bigger animals than they are today, with the aid of an insane fundamentalist Islam. The pressure at the border will be awful. It's going to be a terrible war. So, if we want to remain alive, we will have to kill and kill and kill. All day, every day.

While CNN has its cameras at the wall?

If we don't kill, we will cease to exist. The only thing that concerns me is how to ensure that the boys and men who are going to have to do the killing will be able to return home to their families and be normal human beings.

What will the end result of all this killing be?

The Palestinians will be forced to realize that demography is no longer significant, because we're here and they're there. And then they will begin to ask for "conflict management" talks - not that dirty word "peace." Peace is a word for believers, and I have no tolerance for believers - neither those who wear yarmulkes nor those who pray to the God of peace. There are those who make pilgrimages to the Baba Sali and the tombs in Hebron, and those who make pilgrimages to Kikar Rabin in Tel Aviv. Both are dangerous.

Unilateral separation doesn't guarantee "peace" - it guarantees a Zionist-Jewish state with an overwhelming majority of Jews; it guarantees the kind of safety that will return tourists to the country; and it guarantees one other important thing. Between 1948 and 1967, the fence was a fence, and 400,000 people left the West Bank voluntarily. This is what will happen after separation. If a Palestinian cannot come into Tel Aviv for work, he will look in Iraq, or Kuwait, or London. I believe that there will be movement out of the area.

Voluntary transfer?

Yes. And Gaza is going to be such a disaster that it will be beyond our capacity to help. There will have to be large-scale international aid. The US will have to pressure Egypt to cede land. And - though I never thought I'd hear myself say this - Israel will have to relinquish the Jordan Valley.

What about the Israeli Arabs? If they, too, cause a demographic problem, how will unilateral separation help?

The population increase of Israeli Arabs is going to present a major problem. But, if we no longer include the Palestinians, and we begin embracing immigrants, foreign workers, Druse, and Christians - who are now on our side, because they see what crazy radical Islam is - then there won't be an Israeli Arab problem.

While we're on the subject, you tell me what you need east Jerusalem for. Why do you need 300,000 Arabs as Israeli citizens? What's holy there? Anything that is holy we should annex. But all the area of Shuafat, Zur Baher... I just subtracted 200,000 - and suddenly there's no Arab problem. And, if that's not enough for you, one day we'll tell Umm el-Fahm that we'll take Ariel, and they'll take Umm el-Fahm and everybody will live in his own culture.

In other words, we have to act wisely, and this sometimes means using both a carrot and a stick. The greatest tragedy today is with the Beduin. And who's to blame for that? You and I are. Why do we have to give child allowances to a man who has tons of kids?

You were also a big alarmist on water. Wouldn't ceding the territories deprive us of crucial aquifers?

In any case, there's not enough fresh water for the two populations, so it makes no difference. We understand now that we have no choice but to increase desalination.

Look, you probably drink coffee. How much does your cup of coffee cost you at your local cafe'? NIS 10. That's $2. Do you know how much water you can purify for $2? The Palestinians cannot afford this, but we can.

Why isn't Israel implementing large-scale water purification then?

Why? Because the country has gone nuts. Why aren't we purifying water? Because we have to. Why don't we deal with our garbage? Because we have to. Why aren't we taking care of education? Because we have to. But that's another type of problem altogether. You're asking me about geopolitics. Why we're turning into a Third World country is another question entirely.

Aren't you getting carried away? Israel is only 56, and has a pretty amazing track record.

We belong to the smartest and most talented nation in the world, with the most Nobel prize-winners. As such, we are capable of doing everything, and whatever we don't accomplish has to do with the system, not with the brainpower. If you knew how many Knesset members I've had in my office... I'm telling you, they're illiterate morons.

Some say that the aftermath of a post-separation war will be occupation all over again.

We won't occupy them again. We will enter on punishment missions. As I've said, the minute a missile flies, we will destroy the area.

You see no problem in relocating settlers?

I do see problems. That's why I'm not in favor of returning to the Green Line. Because we are not only faced with a Palestinian problem. We are also faced with a civil war. So I tread carefully and believe in making compromises.

Your attitude leaves no room for the unpredictable, like the massive immigration from the former Soviet Union. If you had made such predictions in 1917, Israel would never have been established.

If I had used my predictions in 1930, I would have been wrong, because I didn't anticipate the Holocaust. If I had done the same in 1950, I would have been wrong, because I didn't anticipate the Six Day War. If I had done it in 1970, I would have been wrong, because I didn't know the Soviet Union would fall. A mensch tracht, unt Got lacht (Men make plans and God laughs).

Having said that, it is nevertheless irresponsible not to make plans, to ignore realities. As I told the chief rabbi: "In 1939, you waited for God and he didn't show up."

Phyllis Bennis on Gaza

GAZA: STOP THE BLOODSHED | Avaaz.org Petition

314,517 signatures as of right now. They're also raising money for a cease-fire print ad; click the title of this post for petition and to donate.

Throw your weight behind Gaza in the PR war

Photo: Silent Bombs, Nidal El-Khairy.

Jammers, creatives, meme warriors,

As the bombs continue to rain down on Gaza, frustration with the Western media’s coverage of the war is mounting. Referring to the same event, for example, the International Herald Tribune carried the straightforward headline “Israeli Mortars Kill 40 Palestinian Refugees,” while CNN ran the headline “Israel: Hamas Mortars Prompted Attack Near UN School.” A public relations war is taking place alongside the bloody conflict and, for the moment, the Palestinians are losing it – badly.

Don't sit on the sidelines. Our 80,000-strong network can throw its weight behind Gaza in this propaganda war. Here are two things you can do right now:

  1. Forward the following article and video link to as many people as possible. Make sure your friends and family hear from you on this issue.

    Link to Article:
    Who Is Winning the PR War?

    Link to Video:
    Israeli strikes hit UN schools - 06 Jan 09

  2. Make a donation to UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency). The money will be used to provide much needed help to the Palestinians once the fighting is over.


Send us any links, stories, memes or images that you think might help us continue the fight. Email: campaigns@adbusters.org | Twitter: http://twitter.com/adbusters

07 January 2009

War of Choice: How Israel Manufactured the Gaza Escalation, Steve Niva, FPIF, January 7, 2009

Israel has repeatedly claimed that it had "no choice" but to wage war on Gaza on December 27 because Hamas had broken a ceasefire, was firing rockets at Israeli civilians, and had "tried everything in order to avoid this military operation," as Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni put it.

This claim, however, is widely at odds with the fact that Israel's military and political leadership took many aggressive steps during the ceasefire that escalated a crisis with Hamas, and possibly even provoked Hamas to create a pretext for the assault. This wasn't a war of "no choice," but rather a very avoidable war in which Israeli actions played the major role in instigating.

Israel has a long history of deliberately using violence and other provocative measures to trigger reactions in order to create a pretext for military action, and to portray its opponents as the aggressors and Israel as the victim. According to the respected Israeli military historian Zeev Maoz in his recent book, Defending the Holy Land, Israel most notably used this policy of "strategic escalation" in 1955-1956, when it launched deadly raids on Egyptian army positions to provoke Egypt's President Nasser into violent reprisals preceding its ill-fated invasion of Egypt; in 1981-1982, when it launched violent raids on Lebanon in order to provoke Palestinian escalation preceding the Israeli invasion of Lebanon; and between 2001-2004, when Prime Minister Ariel Sharon repeatedly ordered assassinations of high-level Palestinian militants during declared ceasefires, provoking violent attacks that enabled Israel's virtual reoccupation of the West Bank.

Israel's current assault on Gaza bears many trademark elements of Israel's long history of employing "strategic escalation" to manufacture a major crisis, if not a war.

Making War 'Inevitable'

The countdown to a war began, according to a detailed report by Barak Raviv in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, when Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak started planning the current attack on Gaza with his chiefs of staff at least six months ago — even as Israel was negotiating the Egyptian brokered ceasefire with Hamas that went into effect on June 19. During the subsequent ceasefire, the report contends, the Israeli security establishment carefully gathered intelligence to map out Hamas' security infrastructure, engaged in operational deception, and spread disinformation to mislead the public about its intentions.

This revelation doesn't confirm that Israel intended to start a war with Hamas in December, but it does shed some light on why Israel continuously took steps that undermined the terms of the fragile ceasefire with Hamas, even though Hamas respected their side of the agreement.

Indeed, there was a genuine lull in rocket and mortar fire between June 19 and November 4, due to Hamas compliance and only sporadically violated by a small number of launchings carried out by rival Fatah and Islamic Jihad militants, largely in defiance of Hamas. According to the conservative Israeli-based Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center's analysis of rocket and missile attacks in 2008, there were only three rockets fired at Israel in July, September, and October combined. Israeli civilians living near Gaza experienced an almost unprecedented degree of security during this period, with no Israeli casualties.

Yet despite the major lull, Israel continually raided the West Bank, arresting and frequently killing "wanted" Palestinians from June to October, which had the inevitable effect of ratcheting up pressure on Hamas to respond. Moreover, while the central expectation of Hamas going into the ceasefire was that Israel would lift the siege on Gaza, Israel only took the barest steps to ease the siege, which kept the people at a bare survival level. This policy was a clear affront to Hamas, and had the inescapable effect of undermining both Hamas and popular Palestinian support for the ceasefire.

But Israel's most provocative action, acknowledged by many now as the critical turning point that undermined the ceasefire, took place on November 4, when Israeli forces auspiciously violated the truce by crossing into the Gaza Strip to destroy what the army said was a tunnel dug by Hamas, killing six Hamas militants. Sara Roy, writing in the London Review of Books, contends this attack was "no doubt designed finally to undermine the truce between Israel and Hamas established last June."

The Israeli breach into Gaza was immediately followed by a further provocation by Israel on November 5, when the Israeli government hermetically sealed off all ways into and out of Gaza. As a result, the UN reports that the amount of imports entering Gaza has been "severely reduced to an average of 16 truckloads per day — down from 123 truckloads per day in October and 475 trucks per day in May 2007 — before the Hamas takeover." These limited shipments provide only a fraction of the supplies needed to sustain 1.5 million starving Palestinians.

In response, Hamas predictably claimed that Israel had violated the truce and allowed Islamic Jihad to launch a round of rocket attacks on Israel. Only after lethal Israeli reprisals killed over 10 Hamas gunmen in the following days did Hamas militants finally respond with volleys of mortars and rockets of their own. In two short weeks, Israel killed over 15 Palestinian militants, while about 120 rockets and mortars were fired at Israel, and although there were no Israeli casualties the calm had been shattered.

It was at this time that Israeli officials launched what appears to have been a coordinated media blitz to cultivate public reception for an impending conflict, stressing the theme of the "inevitability" of a coming war with Hamas in Gaza. On November 12, senior IDF officials announced that war with Hamas was likely in the two months after the six-month ceasefire, baldly stating it would occur even if Hamas wasn't interested in confrontation. A few days later, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert publicly ordered his military commanders to draw up plans for a war in Gaza, which were already well developed at the time. On November 19, according to Raviv's report in Haaretz, the Gaza war plan was brought before Barak for final approval.

While the rhetoric of an "inevitable" war with Hamas may have only been Israeli bluster to compel Hamas into line, its actions on the ground in the critical month leading up to the official expiration of the ceasefire on December 19 only heightened the cycle of violence, leaving a distinct impression Israel had cast the die for war.

Finally, Hamas then walked right into the "inevitable war" that Israel had been preparing since the ceasefire had gone into effect in June. With many Palestinians believing the ceasefire to be meaningless, Hamas announced it wouldn't renew the ceasefire after it expired on December 19. Hamas then stood back for two days while Islamic Jihad and Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades militants fired volleys of mortars and rockets into Israel, in the context of mutually escalating attacks. Yet even then, with Israeli threats of war mounting, Hamas imposed a 24-hour ceasefire on all missile attacks on December 21, announcing it would consider renewing the lapsed truce with Israel in the Gaza Strip if Israel would halt its raids in both Gaza and the West Bank, and keep Gaza border crossings open for supplies of aid and fuel. Israel immediately rejected its offer.

But when the Israel Defence Forces killed three Hamas militants laying explosives near the security fence between Israel and Gaza on the evening of December 23, the Hamas military wing lashed out by launching a barrage of over 80 missiles into Israel the following day, claiming it was Israel, and not Hamas, that was responsible for the escalation.

Little did they know that, according to Raviv, Prime Minister Olmert, and Defense Minister Barak had already met on December 18 to approve the impending war plan, but put the mission off waiting for a better pretext. By launching more than 170 rockets and mortars at Israeli civilians in the days following December 23, killing one Israeli civilian, Hamas had provided reason enough for Israel to unleash its long-planned attack on Gaza on December 27.

The Rationale for War

If Israel's goal were simply to end rocket attacks on its civilians, it would have solidified and extended the ceasefire, which was working well, until November. Even after November, it could have addressed Hamas' longstanding ceasefire proposals for a complete end to rocket-fire on Israel, in exchange for Israel lifting its crippling 18-month siege on Gaza.

Instead, the actual targets of its assault on Gaza after December 27, which included police stations, mosques, universities, and Hamas government institutions, clearly reveal that Israel's primary goals go far beyond providing immediate security for its citizens. Israeli spokespersons repeatedly claim that Israel's assault isn't about seeking to effect regime change with Hamas, but rather about creating a "new security reality" in Gaza. But that "new reality" requires Israel to use massive violence to degrade the political and military capacity of Hamas, to a point where it agrees to a ceasefire with conditions more congenial to Israel. Short of a complete reoccupation of Gaza, no amount of violence will erase Hamas from the scene.

Confirming the steps needed to create the "new reality," the broader reasons why Israel chose a major confrontation with Hamas at this time appear to be the cause of several other factors unrelated to providing immediate security for its citizens.

First, many senior Israeli political and military leaders strongly opposed the June 19 ceasefire with Hamas, and looked for opportunities to reestablish Israel's fabled "deterrent capability" of instilling fear into its enemies. These leaders felt Israel's deterrent capability was badly damaged as a result of their withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, and especially after the widely criticized failures in the 2006 Israeli war with Hezbollah. For this powerful group a ceasefire was at best a tactical pause before the inevitable renewal of conflict, when conditions were more favorable. Immediately following Israel's aerial assault, a New York Times article noted that Israel had been eager "to remind its foes that it has teeth" and to erase the ghost of Lebanon that has haunted it over the past two years.

A second factor was pressure surrounding the impending elections set to take place in early February. The ruling coalition, led by Barak and Livni, have been repeatedly criticized by the Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu, the former prime minister, who is leading in the polls, for not being tough enough on Hamas and rocket-fire from Gaza. This gave the ruling coalition a strong incentive to demonstrate to the Israeli people their security credentials in order to bolster their chances against the more hawkish Likud.

Third, Hamas repeatedly said it wouldn't recognize Mahmud Abbas as president of the Palestinian Authority after his term runs out on January 9. The looming political standoff on the Palestinian side threatens to boost Hamas and undermine Abbas, who had underseen closer security coordination with Israel and was congenial to Israeli demands for concessions on future peace proposals. One possible outcome of this assault is that Abbas will remain in power for a while longer, since Hamas will be unable to mobilise its supporters in order to force him to resign.

And finally, Israel was pressed to take action now due to its sense of the American political timeline. The Bush administration rarely exerted constraint on Israel and would certainly stand by in its waning days, while Barack Obama would not likely want to begin his presidency with a major confrontation with Israel. The Washington Post quoted a Bush administration official saying that Israel struck in Gaza "because they want it to be over before the next administration comes in. They can't predict how the next administration will handle it. And this is not the way they want to start with the new administration."

An Uncertain Ending

As the conflict rages to an uncertain end, it's important to consider Israeli military historian Zeev Maoz's contention that Israel's history of manufacturing wars through "strategic escalation" and using overwhelming force to achieve "deterrence" has never been successful. In fact, it's the primary cause of Israel's insecurity because it deepens hatred and a desire for revenge rather than fear.

At the same time, there's no question Hamas continues to callously sacrifice its fellow Palestinian citizens, as well as Israeli civilians, on the altar of maintaining its pyrrhic resistance credentials and its myopic preoccupation with revenge, and fell into many self-made traps of its own. There had been growing international pressure on Israel to ease its siege and a major increase in creative and nonviolent strategies drawing attention to the plight of Palestinians such as the arrival of humanitarian relief convoys off of Gaza's coast in the past months, but now Gaza lies in ruins.

But as the vastly more powerful actor holding nearly all the cards in this conflict, the war in Gaza was ultimately Israel's choice. And for all this bloodshed and violence, Israel must be held accountable.

With the American political establishment firmly behind Israel's attack, and Obama's foreign policy team heavily weighted with pro-Israel insiders like Dennis Ross and Hillary Clinton, any efforts to hold Israel accountable in the United States will depend upon American citizens mobilizing a major grassroots effort behind a new foreign policy that will not tolerate any violations of international law, including those by Israel, and will immediately work towards ending Israel's siege of Gaza and ending Israel's occupation.

Beyond that, the most promising prospect for holding Israel accountable is through the increasing use of universal jurisdiction for prosecuting war crimes, along with the growing transnational movement calling for sanctions on Israel until it ends its violations of international law. In what would be truly be a new style of foreign policy, a transnational network that focuses on Israeli violations of international law, rather than the state itself, could become a counterweight that forces policymakers in the United States, Europe, and Israel to reconsider their political and moral complicity in the current war, in favor of taking real steps towards peace and security in the region for all peoples.

Steve Niva, a professor of International Politics and Middle East Studies at The Evergreen State College, is a contributor to Foreign Policy In Focus. He is currently writing a book on the relationship between Israel's military violence and Palestinian suicide bombings.

06 January 2009

Israel's Occupation | Neve Gordon

Excellent site; much good information. Pass it around.

Demand Real Change In U.S. Policy toward Israel & Palestine

Demand Real Change
In U.S. Policy toward Israel & Palestine

Dear Doug,

Since December 27, Israel's brutal attacks on the occupied Gaza Strip have killed mo

re than an estimated 640 people and injured more than 3,000. Today Israeli artillery shells landed on a UN school in the Jebaliya refugee camp, killing at least 34 people and injuring at least 55.

The Israeli attacks of the last eleven days have been carried out with weaponry and diplomatic support from the United States. President-Elect Obama has failed to speak out against the atrocities being committed against the people of Gaza. Now is the time to let President-Elect Obama know that we demand accountability from Israel.

We suggest two ways to make President-Elect Obama hear your voice. First, go to Change.gov to let the Obama transition team know that you demand:

1) Pressure on Israel for an immediate and unconditional cease-fire

2) Unimpeded access of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip and a lifting of Israel's siege

3) An investigation into Israel's misuse of U.S. weapons as a first step toward ending arms transfers to Israel

Once you log into change.gov, you can ask President-Elect Obama a question about U.S. policy toward Israel/Palestine. For question ideas, check out our letter to Members of Congress by clicking here.


You can log into change.gov and vote on other people's questions, indicating your stance on issues like the bombing of Gaza, U.S. military aid, and Israeli apartheid policies.

Next, sign our open letter to President-Elect Obama and send it to all your friends. This open letter will be published in Capitol Hill newspapers during the inauguration and lays out our plan for real change from the failed Bush Administration policies of unquestioning military and diplomatic support for Israel even in the face of its human rights abuses and violations of international law. Click here to sign our open letter as an organization or an individual or click here to invite a friend to sign. You can also stay connected by joining our Facebook group to pressure Obama.

Peace & Power,

Katherine M. Fuchs
US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation
National Organizer

P.S. There are a lot more ways to get active in stopping Israel's assault on Gaza. Click here to get materials to educate your community about U.S. military aid to Israel, click here for a list of protests and vigils in solidarity with Gaza across the United States, or click here for more action ideas. Making a tax-deductible donation to the US Campaign is another great way to both support the movement for justice in Palestine/Israel and make sure that less of your money goes to the Israeli military through taxes. Click here to contribute to our movement to change U.S. policy toward Israel/Palestine to support human rights, international law, and equality.

US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation