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24 January 2009

Saudi patience is running out, By Turki al-Faisal in FT

A chilling warning -- clearly a shot across the bow. Dig this guy's creds at the bottom of the op-ed. He's clearly speaking for the Saudi Arabian elite -- an interesting battle between the Saudi and Israeli lobbies is on.

Published: January 22 2009 20:15 | Last updated: January 22 2009 20:15

In my decades as a public servant, I have strongly promoted the Arab-Israeli peace process. During recent months, I argued that the peace plan proposed by Saudi Arabia could be implemented under an Obama administration if the Israelis and Palestinians both accepted difficult compromises. I told my audiences this was worth the energies of the incoming administration for, as the late Indian diplomat Vijaya Lakshmi Nehru Pandit said: “The more we sweat in peace, the less we bleed in war.”

But after Israel launched its bloody attack on Gaza, these pleas for optimism and co-operation now seem a distant memory. In the past weeks, not only have the Israeli Defence Forces murdered more than 1,000 Palestinians, but they have come close to killing the prospect of peace itself. Unless the new US administration takes forceful steps to prevent any further suffering and slaughter of Palestinians, the peace process, the US-Saudi relationship and the stability of the region are at risk.

Prince Saud Al-Faisal, the Saudi foreign minister, told the UN Security Council that if there was no just settlement, “we will turn our backs on you”. King Abdullah spoke for the entire Arab and Muslim world when he said at the Arab summit in Kuwait that although the Arab peace initiative was on the table, it would not remain there for long. Much of the world shares these sentiments and any Arab government that negotiated with the Israelis today would be rightly condemned by its citizens. Two of the four Arab countries that have formal ties to Israel – Qatar and Mauritania – have suspended all relations and Jordan has recalled its ambassador.

America is not innocent in this calamity. Not only has the Bush administration left a sickening legacy in the region – from the death of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis to the humiliation and torture at Abu Ghraib – but it has also, through an arrogant attitude about the butchery in Gaza, contributed to the slaughter of innocents. If the US wants to continue playing a leadership role in the Middle East and keep its strategic alliances intact – especially its “special relationship” with Saudi Arabia – it will have to drastically revise its policies vis a vis Israel and Palestine.

The incoming US administration will be inheriting a “basket full of snakes” in the region, but there are things that can be done to help calm them down. First, President Barack Obama must address the disaster in Gaza and its causes. Inevitably, he will condemn Hamas’s firing of rockets at Israel.

When he does that, he should also condemn Israel’s atrocities against the Palestinians and support a UN resolution to that effect; forcefully condemn the Israeli actions that led to this conflict, from settlement building in the West Bank to the blockade of Gaza and the targeted killings and arbitrary arrests of Palestinians; declare America’s intention to work for a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction, with a security umbrella for countries that sign up and sanctions for those that do not; call for an immediate withdrawal of Israeli forces from Shab’ah Farms in Lebanon; encourage Israeli-Syrian negotiations for peace; and support a UN resolution guaranteeing Iraq’s territorial integrity.

Mr Obama should strongly promote the Abdullah peace initiative, which calls on Israel to pursue the course laid out in various international resolutions and laws: to withdraw completely from the lands occupied in 1967, including East Jerusalem, returning to the lines of June 4 1967; to accept a mutually agreed just solution to the refugee problem according to the General Assembly resolution 194; and to recognise the independent state of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital. In return, there would be an end to hostilities between Israel and all the Arab countries, and Israel would get full diplomatic and normal relations.

Last week, President Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad of Iran wrote a letter to King Abdullah, explicitly recognising Saudi Arabia as the leader of the Arab and Muslim worlds and calling on him to take a more confrontational role over “this obvious atrocity and killing of your own children” in Gaza. The communiqué is significant because the de facto recognition of the kingdom’s primacy from one of its most ardent foes reveals the extent that the war has united an entire region, both Shia and Sunni. Further, Mr Ahmadi-Nejad’s call for Saudi Arabia to lead a jihad against Israel would, if pursued, create unprecedented chaos and bloodshed in the region.

So far, the kingdom has resisted these calls, but every day this restraint becomes more difficult to maintain. When Israel deliberately kills Palestinians, appropriates their lands, destroys their homes, uproots their farms and imposes an inhuman blockade on them; and as the world laments once again the suffering of the Palestinians, people of conscience from every corner of the world are clamouring for action. Eventually, the kingdom will not be able to prevent its citizens from joining the worldwide revolt against Israel. Today, every Saudi is a Gazan, and we remember well the words of our late King Faisal: “I hope you will forgive my outpouring of emotions, but when I think that our Holy Mosque in Jerusalem is being invaded and desecrated, I ask God that if I am unable to undertake Holy Jihad, then I should not live a moment more.”

Let us all pray that Mr Obama possesses the foresight, fairness, and resolve to rein in the murderous Israeli regime and open a new chapter in this most intractable of conflicts.

Prince Turki is chairman, King Faisal Centre for Research and Islamic Studies, Riyadh. He has been director of Saudi intelligence, ambassador to the UK and Ireland and ambassador to the US

Ralph Nader, Open Letter to President Obama on Consumer Protection

Repudiate the Carter Doctrine, Michael Klare, Foreign Policy in Focus

Good as far as it goes, but the notion that the US will leave that lake of oil in Iraq for other powers to use for their own development (and to increase their leverage in the world) is naive to the point of idiocy. A common belief of the so-called progressives.

Unseen Gaza, Channel 4 (UK)

Paulson's $140 Billion Surprise

Blurb:

It's a little-known story about the financial crisis. During the frenzied events of the fall, Henry Paulson rewrote a piece of the tax code to expedite mergers. The quiet alteration amounts to an estimated $140 billion windfall for big banks. Some critics say Paulson's move was too autocratic, others argue that it was much more than that-that it was downright illegal. Will Tim Geithner and the Democrats attempt to correct the wrong?

The Most Moral Army in the World

23 January 2009

Afshin Rattansi talks to Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky: Obama’s Stance on Gaza Crisis “Approximately the Bush Position”

Blurb:

In a visit to the State Department Thursday, President Obama made his first substantive comments on the Middle East conflict since Israel’s attack on Gaza. Obama first mentioned his commitment to Israel’s security, without affirming his commitment to Palestinian security. He condemned Palestinian rocket attacks on southern Israeli towns, but didn’t criticize the U.S.-backed Israeli bombings of densely-populated Gaza. But in a departure from the Bush administration, Obama acknowledged Palestinian suffering and said Gaza’s borders should be opened to aid. We speak with MIT professor, Noam Chomsky.

President Obama has made his first first substantive remarks on the crisis in Gaza since being elected. Obama was speaking at the state department flanked by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as he named two key envoys: Retired Senate majority leader George Mitchell, who negotiated a lasting agreement in Northern Ireland, will be Middle East envoy. And Richard Holbrook, who brokered a deal in the Balkans in the mid-90s, will be envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

In his remarks, Obama backed Israel"s three week attack on Gaza as a defensive move against Hamas rocket fire but also said he was deeply concerned about the humanitarian situation for Palestinians in Gaza. The twenty-two-day assault killed more than 1,400 Palestinians, most of them civilians, at least a third children. More than 5,500 were injured. 13 Israelis were killed over the same period, 10 of them soldiers, four by friendly fire.

A Hamas spokesperson told Al Jazeera television Obama’s position toward the Palestinians does not represent change. Osama Hamdan said, “I think this is an unfortunate start for President Obama in the region and the Middle East issue. And it looks like the next four years, if it continues with the same tone, will be a total failure.” For more we are joined on the telephone by Noam Chomsky, a professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for over a half-century, he has written over a hundred books, including “Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy.”

Noam Chomsky, a professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for over a half-century and written over a hundred books.


22 January 2009

Ex-Carter Admin Official: Israel Ignored Hamas Offer Days Before Attacking Gaza; Violated Ceasefire With Attacks, Blockade

Blurb:

Robert Pastor is a senior adviser to the Carter Center and a professor at American University who met with exiled Hamas political leader Khaled Meshaal in Damascus on Dec. 14, along with former President Jimmy Carter. Pastor says Meshaal indicated Hamas was willing to go back to the ceasefire if Israel would lift the siege on Gaza. He says he passed along the statement to the Israeli military but he never heard back. Two weeks later, Israel launched its three week assault that left more than 1,300 Palestinians, most of them civilians, at least a third children.

President Obama has pledged “active engagement” for a fragile ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. In his first day in office, Obama called President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel, King Abdullah of Jordan and President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority. He did not reach out to leaders of Hamas, who rose to power in democratic elections three years ago.

Meanwhile, Obama plans to announce the selection of former Senate majority leader George Mitchell as Middle East envoy. Mitchell is expected to travel to the region almost immediately upon taking the post. Obama will also meet with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton later today.

Israel declared a unilateral ceasefire in Gaza on Saturday, three days before Obama was sworn into office. The twenty-two day assault killed more than 1,300 Palestinians, most of them civilians, at least a third children. More than 5,500 were injured. Hamas also declared its own week-long ceasefire which ends on Sunday. Hamas is demanding an immediate re-opening of Gaza"s border crossings and lifting of an Israeli blockade. This is Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum.

Israel has refused to fully open border crossings to allow desperately needed aid, goods and construction materials into Gaza. Meanwhile, exiled Hamas political leader Khaled Meshal claimed “unequivocal victory” over Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip.

Robert Pastor is a Senior Adviser on Conflict Resolution at The Carter Center and a Professor of International Relations at American University. Last month he traveled to Syria with President Carter where they met with Khaled Meshaal of Hamas. Robert Pastor served as national security adviser on Latin America and the Caribbean under President Carter from 1977-81.

Finkelstein on Gaza, Press TV (Iran)

Finkelstein comes in toward the end of the first video in the playlist:

Norman Finkelstein, Foiling Another Palestinian "Peace Offensive": Behind the bloodbath in Gaza

01.19.2009 | PalestinianPeaceOffensive.doc (original)
By Norman G. Finkelstein

Early speculation on the motive behind Israel's slaughter in Gaza that began on 27 December 2008 and continued till 18 January 2009 centered on the upcoming elections in Israel. The jockeying for votes was no doubt a factor in this Sparta-like society consumed by "revenge and the thirst for blood,"[1] where killing Arabs is a sure crowd-pleaser. (Polls during the war showed that 80-90 percent of Israeli Jews supported it.)[2] But as Israeli journalist Gideon Levy pointed out on Democracy Now!, "Israel went through a very similar war...two-and-a-half years ago [in Lebanon], when there were no elections."[3] When crucial state interests are at stake, Israeli ruling elites seldom launch major operations for narrowly electoral gains. It is true that Prime Minister Menachem Begin's decision to bomb the Iraqi OSIRAK reactor in 1981 was an electoral ploy, but the strategic stakes in the strike on Iraq were puny; contrary to widespread belief, Saddam Hussein had not embarked on a nuclear weapons program prior to the bombing.[4] The fundamental motives behind the latest Israeli attack on Gaza lie elsewhere: (1) in the need to restore Israel's "deterrence capacity," and (2) in the threat posed by a new Palestinian "peace offensive."

Israel's "larger concern" in the current offensive, New York Times Middle East correspondent Ethan Bronner reported, quoting Israeli sources, was to "re-establish Israeli deterrence," because "its enemies are less afraid of it than they once were, or should be."[5] Preserving its deterrence capacity has always loomed large in Israeli strategic doctrine. Indeed, it was the main impetus behind Israel's first-strike against Egypt in June 1967 that resulted in Israel's occupation of Gaza (and the West Bank). To justify the onslaught on Gaza, Israeli historian Benny Morris wrote that "[m]any Israelis feel that the walls...are closing in...much as they felt in early June 1967."[6] Ordinary Israelis no doubt felt threatened in June 1967, but -- as Morris surely knows -- the Israeli leadership experienced no such trepidation. After Israel threatened and laid plans to attack Syria, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser declared the Straits of Tiran closed to Israeli shipping, but Israel made almost no use of the Straits (apart from the passage of oil, of which Israel then had ample stocks) and, anyhow, Nasser did not in practice enforce the blockade, vessels passing freely through the Straits within days of his announcement. In addition, multiple U.S. intelligence agencies had concluded that the Egyptians did not intend to attack Israel and that, in the improbable case that they did, alone or in concert with other Arab countries, Israel would -- in President Lyndon Johnson's words -- "whip the hell out of them." The head of the Mossad told senior American officials on 1 June 1967 that "there were no differences between the U.S. and the Israelis on the military intelligence picture or its interpretation."[7] The predicament for Israel was rather the growing perception in the Arab world, spurred by Nasser's radical nationalism and climaxing in his defiant gestures in May 1967, that it would no longer have to follow Israeli orders. Thus, Divisional Commander Ariel Sharon admonished those in the Israeli cabinet hesitant to launch a first-strike that Israel was losing its "deterrence capability...our main weapon -- the fear of us."[8] Israel unleashed the June 1967 war "to restore the credibility of Israeli deterrence" (Israeli strategic analyst Zeev Maoz).[9]

The expulsion of the Israeli occupying army by Hezbollah in May 2000 posed a major new challenge to Israel's deterrence capacity. The fact that Israel suffered a humiliating defeat, one celebrated throughout the Arab world, made another war well-nigh inevitable. Israel almost immediately began planning for the next round, and in summer 2006 found a pretext when Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers (several others were killed in the firefight) and demanded in exchange the release of Lebanese prisoners held by Israel. Although Israel unleashed the fury of its air force and geared up for a ground invasion, it suffered yet another ignominious defeat. A respected American military analyst despite being partial to Israel nonetheless concluded, "the IAF, the arm of the Israel military that had once destroyed whole air forces in a few days, not only proved unable to stop Hezbollah rocket strikes but even to do enough damage to prevent Hezbollah's rapid recovery"; that "once ground forces did cross into Lebanon..., they failed to overtake Hezbollah strongholds, even those close to the border"; that "in terms of Israel's objectives, the kidnapped Israeli soldiers were neither rescued nor released; Hezbollah's rocket fire was never suppressed, not even its long-range fire...; and Israeli ground forces were badly shaken and bogged down by a well-equipped and capable foe"; and that "more troops and a massive ground invasion would indeed have produced a different outcome, but the notion that somehow that effort would have resulted in a more decisive victory over Hezbollah...has no basis in historical example or logic." The juxtaposition of several figures further highlights the magnitude of the setback: Israel deployed 30,000 troops as against 2,000 regular Hezbollah fighters and 4,000 irregular Hezbollah and non-Hezbollah fighters; Israel delivered and fired 162,000 weapons whereas Hezbollah fired 5,000 weapons (4,000 rockets and projectiles at Israel and 1,000 antitank missiles inside Lebanon).[10] Moreover, "the vast majority of the fighters who defended villages such as Ayta ash Shab, Bint Jbeil, and Maroun al-Ras were not, in fact, regular Hezbollah fighters and in some cases were not even members of Hezbollah," and "many of Hezbollah's best and most skilled fighters never saw action, lying in wait along the Litani River with the expectation that the IDF assault would be much deeper and arrive much faster than it did."[11] Yet another indication of Israel's reversal of fortune was that, unlike any of its previous armed conflicts, in the final stages of the 2006 war it fought not in defiance of a U.N. ceasefire resolution but in the hope of a U.N. resolution to rescue it.

After the 2006 Lebanon war Israel was itching to take on Hezbollah again, but did not yet have a military option against it. In mid-2008 Israel desperately sought to conscript the U.S. for an attack on Iran, which would also decapitate Hezbollah, and thereby humble the main challengers to its regional hegemony. Israel and its quasi-official emissaries such as Benny Morris threatened that if the U.S. did not go along "then non-conventional weaponry will have to be used," and "many innocent Iranians will die." To Israel's chagrin and humiliation, the attack never materialized and Iran has gone its merry way, while the credibility of Israel's capacity to terrorize slipped another notch. It was high time to find a defenseless target to annihilate. Enter Gaza, Israel's favorite shooting gallery. Even there the feebly armed Islamic movement Hamas had defiantly resisted Israeli diktat, in June 2008 even compelling Israel to agree to a ceasefire.

During the 2006 Lebanon war Israel flattened the southern suburb of Beirut known as the Dahiya, where Hezbollah commanded much popular support. In the war's aftermath Israeli military officers began referring to the "Dahiya strategy": "We shall pulverize the 160 Shiite villages [in Lebanon] that have turned into Shiite army bases," the IDF Northern Command Chief explained, "and we shall not show mercy when it comes to hitting the national infrastructure of a state that, in practice, is controlled by Hezbollah." In the event of hostilities, a reserve Colonel at the Israeli Institute for National Security Studies chimed in, Israel needs "to act immediately, decisively, and with force that is disproportionate....Such a response aims at inflicting damage and meting out punishment to an extent that will demand long and expensive reconstruction processes." The new strategy was to be used against all of Israel's regional adversaries who had waxed defiant -- "the Palestinians in Gaza are all Khaled Mashaal, the Lebanese are all Nasrallah, and the Iranians are all Ahmadinejad" -- but Gaza was the prime target for this blitzkrieg-cum-bloodbath strategy. "Too bad it did not take hold immediately after the ‘disengagement' from Gaza and the first rocket barrages," a respected Israeli columnist lamented. "Had we immediately adopted the Dahiya strategy, we would have likely spared ourselves much trouble." After a Palestinian rocket attack, Israel's Interior Minister urged in late September 2008, "the IDF should...decide on a neighborhood in Gaza and level it."[13] And, insofar as the Dahiya strategy could not be inflicted just yet on Lebanon and Iran, it was predictably pre-tested in Gaza.

The operative plan for the Gaza bloodbath can be gleaned from authoritative statements after the war got underway: "What we have to do is act systematically with the aim of punishing all the organizations that are firing the rockets and mortars, as well as the civilians who are enabling them to fire and hide" (reserve Major-General); "After this operation there will not be one Hamas building left standing in Gaza" (Deputy IDF Chief of Staff); "Anything affiliated with Hamas is a legitimate target" (IDF Spokesperson's Office).[14] Whereas Israel killed a mere 55 Lebanese during the first two days of the 2006 war, the Israeli media exulted at Israel's "shock and awe" (Maariv)[15] as it killed more than 300 Palestinians in the first two days of the attack on Gaza. Several days into the slaughter an informed Israeli strategic analyst observed, "The IDF, which planned to attack buildings and sites populated by hundreds of people, did not warn them in advance to leave, but intended to kill a great many of them, and succeeded."[16] Morris could barely contain his pride at "Israel's highly efficient air assault on Hamas."[17] The Israeli columnist B. Michael was less impressed by the dispatch of helicopter gunships and jet planes "over a giant prison and firing at its people"[18] -- for example, "70...traffic cops at their graduation ceremony, young men in desperate search of a livelihood who thought they'd found it in the police and instead found death from the skies."[19]

As Israel targeted schools, mosques, hospitals, ambulances, and U.N. sanctuaries, as it slaughtered and incinerated Gaza's defenseless civilian population (one-third of the 1,200 reported casualties were children), Israeli commentators gloated that "Gaza is to Lebanon as the second sitting for an exam is to the first -- a second chance to get it right," and that this time around Israel had "hurled [Gaza] back," not 20 years as it promised to do in Lebanon, but "into the 1940s. Electricity is available only for a few hours a day"; that "Israel regained its deterrence capabilities" because "the war in Gaza has compensated for the shortcomings of the [2006] Second Lebanon War"; and that "There is no doubt that Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah is upset these days....There will no longer be anyone in the Arab world who can claim that Israel is weak."[20]

New York Times foreign affairs expert Thomas Friedman joined in the chorus of hallelujahs.[21] Israel in fact won the 2006 Lebanon war, according to Friedman, because it had inflicted "substantial property damage and collateral casualties on Lebanon at large," thereby administering an "education" to Hezbollah: fearing the Lebanese people's wrath, Hezbollah would "think three times next time" before defying Israel. He expressed hope that Israel was likewise "trying to ‘educate' Hamas by inflicting a heavy death toll on Hamas militants and heavy pain on the Gaza population." To justify the targeting of Lebanese civilians and civilian infrastructure Friedman asserted that Israel had no other option because "Hezbollah created a very ‘flat' military network...deeply embedded in the local towns and villages," and that because "Hezbollah nested among civilians, the only long-term source of deterrence was to exact enough pain on the civilians...to restrain Hezbollah in the future."

Leaving aside Friedman's hollow coinages -- what does "flat" mean? -- and leaving aside that he alleged that the killing of civilians was unavoidable but also recommends targeting civilians as a "deterrence" strategy: is it even true that Hezbollah was "embedded in," "nested among," and "intertwined" with the Lebanese civilian population? Here's what Human Rights Watch concluded after an exhaustive investigation: "we found strong evidence that Hezbollah stored most of its rockets in bunkers and weapon storage facilities located in uninhabited fields and valleys, that in the vast majority of cases Hezbollah fighters left populated civilian areas as soon as the fighting started, and that Hezbollah fired the vast majority of its rockets from pre-prepared positions outside villages." And again, "in all but a few of the cases of civilian deaths we investigated, Hezbollah fighters had not mixed with the civilian population or taken other actions to contribute to the targeting of a particular home or vehicle by Israeli forces." Indeed, "Israel's own firing patterns in Lebanon support the conclusion that Hezbollah fired large numbers of its rockets from tobacco fields, banana, olive and citrus groves, and more remote, unpopulated valleys."[22]

A U.S. Army War College study based largely on interviews with Israeli participants in the Lebanon war similarly found that "the key battlefields in the land campaign south of the Litani River were mostly devoid of civilians, and IDF participants consistently report little or no meaningful intermingling of Hezbollah fighters and noncombatants. Nor is there any systematic reporting of Hezbollah using civilians in the combat zone as shields." On a related note, the authors report that "the great majority of Hezbollah's fighters wore uniforms. In fact, their equipment and clothing were remarkably similar to many state militaries' -- desert or green fatigues, helmets, web vests, body armor, dog tags, and rank insignia."[23]

Friedman further asserted that, "rather than confronting Israel's Army head-on," Hezbollah fired rockets at Israel's civilian population to provoke Israeli retaliatory strikes, inevitably killing Lebanese civilians and "inflaming the Arab-Muslim street." Yet, numerous studies have shown,[24] and Israeli officials themselves conceded[25] that, during its guerrilla war against the Israeli occupying army, Hezbollah only targeted Israeli civilians after Israel targeted Lebanese civilians. In conformity with past practice Hezbollah started firing rockets toward Israeli civilian concentrations during the 2006 war only after Israel inflicted heavy casualties on Lebanese civilians, while Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah avowed that it would target Israeli civilians "as long as the enemy undertakes its aggression without limits or red lines."[26]

If Israel targeted the Lebanese civilian population and infrastructure during the 2006 war, it was not because it had no choice, and not because Hezbollah had provoked it, but because terrorizing the civilian population was a relatively cost-free method of "education," much to be preferred over fighting a real foe and suffering heavy casualties, although Hezbollah's unexpectedly fierce resistance prevented Israel from achieving a victory on the battlefield. In the case of Gaza it was able both to "educate" the population and achieve a military victory because -- in the words of Gideon Levy -- the "fighting in Gaza" was

"war deluxe." Compared with previous wars, it is child's play -- pilots bombing unimpeded as if on practice runs, tank and artillery soldiers shelling houses and civilians from their armored vehicles, combat engineering troops destroying entire streets in their ominous protected vehicles without facing serious opposition. A large, broad army is fighting against a helpless population and a weak, ragged organization that has fled the conflict zones and is barely putting up a fight.[27]

The justification put forth by Friedman in the pages of the Times for targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure amounted to apologetics for state terrorism.[28] It might be recalled that although Hitler had stripped Nazi propagandist Julius Streicher of all his political power by 1940, and his newspaper Der Stuermer had a circulation of only some 15,000 during the war, the International Tribunal at Nuremberg nonetheless sentenced him to death for his murderous incitement.

Beyond restoring its deterrence capacity, Israel's main goal in the Gaza slaughter was to fend off the latest threat posed by Palestinian moderation. For the past three decades the international community has consistently supported a settlement of the Israel-Palestine conflict that calls for two states based on a full Israeli withdrawal to its June 1967 border, and a "just resolution" of the refugee question based on the right of return and compensation. The vote on the annual U.N. General Assembly resolution, "Peaceful Settlement of the Question of Palestine," supporting these terms for resolving the conflict in 2008 was 164 in favor, 7 against (Israel, United States, Australia, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau), and 3 abstentions. At the regional level the Arab League in March 2002 unanimously put forth a peace initiative on this basis, which it has subsequently reaffirmed. In recent times Hamas has repeatedly signaled its own acceptance of such a settlement. For example, in March 2008 Khalid Mishal, head of Hamas's Political Bureau, stated in an interview:

There is an opportunity to deal with this conflict in a manner different than Israel and, behind it, the U.S. is dealing with it today. There is an opportunity to achieve a Palestinian national consensus on a political program based on the 1967 borders, and this is an exceptional circumstance, in which most Palestinian forces, including Hamas, accept a state on the 1967 borders....There is also an Arab consensus on this demand, and this is a historic situation. But no one is taking advantage of this opportunity. No one is moving to cooperate with this opportunity. Even this minimum that has been accepted by the Palestinians and the Arabs has been rejected by Israel and by the U.S.[29]

Israel is fully cognizant that the Hamas Charter is not an insurmountable obstacle to a two-state settlement on the June 1967 border. "[T]he Hamas leadership has recognized that its ideological goal is not attainable and will not be in the foreseeable future," a former Mossad head recently observed. "[T]hey are ready and willing to see the establishment of a Palestinian state in the temporary borders of 1967....They know that the moment a Palestinian state is established with their cooperation, 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."[30]

In addition, Hamas was "careful to maintain the ceasefire" it entered into with Israel in June 2008, according to an official Israeli publication, despite Israel's reneging on the crucial component of the truce that it ease the economic siege of Gaza. "The lull was sporadically violated by rocket and mortar shell fire, carried out by rogue terrorist organizations," the source continues. "At the same time, the [Hamas] movement tried to enforce the terms of the arrangement on the other terrorist organizations and to prevent them from violating it."[31] Moreover, Hamas was "interested in renewing the relative calm with Israel" (Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin).[32] The Islamic movement could thus be trusted to stand by its word, making it a credible negotiating partner, while its apparent ability to extract concessions from Israel, unlike the hapless Palestinian Authority doing Israel's bidding but getting no returns, enhanced Hamas's stature among Palestinians. For Israel these developments constituted a veritable disaster. It could no longer justify shunning Hamas, and it would be only a matter of time before international pressure in particular from the Europeans would be exerted on it to negotiate. The prospect of an incoming U.S. administration negotiating with Iran and Hamas, and moving closer to the international consensus for settling the Israel-Palestine conflict, which some U.S. policymakers now advocate,[33] would have further highlighted Israel's intransigence. In an alternative scenario, speculated on by Nasrallah, the incoming American administration plans to convene an international peace conference of "Americans, Israelis, Europeans and so-called Arab moderates" to impose a settlement. The one obstacle is "Palestinian resistance and the Hamas government in Gaza," and "getting rid of this stumbling block is...the true goal of the war."[34] In either case, Israel needed to provoke Hamas into breaking the truce, and then radicalize or destroy it, thereby eliminating it as a legitimate negotiating partner. It is not the first time Israel confronted such a diabolical threat -- an Arab League peace initiative, Palestinian support for a two-state settlement and a Palestinian ceasefire -- and not the first time it embarked on provocation and war to overcome it.

In the mid-1970s the PLO mainstream began supporting a two-state settlement on the June 1967 border. In addition, the PLO, headquartered in Lebanon, was strictly adhering to a truce with Israel that had been negotiated in July 1981.[35] In August 1981 Saudi Arabia unveiled, and the Arab League subsequently approved, a peace plan based on the two-state settlement.[36] Israel reacted in September 1981 by stepping up preparations to destroy the PLO.[37] In his analysis of the buildup to the 1982 Lebanon war, Israeli strategic analyst Avner Yaniv reported that Yasser Arafat was contemplating a historic compromise with the "Zionist state," whereas "all Israeli cabinets since 1967" as well as "leading mainstream doves" opposed a Palestinian state. Fearing diplomatic pressures, Israel maneuvered to sabotage the two-state settlement. It conducted punitive military raids "deliberately out of proportion" against "Palestinian and Lebanese civilians" in order to weaken "PLO moderates," strengthen the hand of Arafat's "radical rivals," and guarantee the PLO's "inflexibility." However, Israel eventually had to choose between a pair of stark options: "a political move leading to a historic compromise with the PLO, or preemptive military action against it." To fend off Arafat's "peace offensive" -- Yaniv's telling phrase -- Israel embarked on military action in June 1982. The Israeli invasion "had been preceded by more than a year of effective ceasefire with the PLO," but after murderous Israeli provocations, the last of which left as many as 200 civilians dead (including 60 occupants of a Palestinian children's hospital), the PLO finally retaliated, causing a single Israeli casualty.[38] Although Israel used the PLO's resumption of attacks as the pretext for its invasion, Yaniv concluded that the "raison d'être of the entire operation" was "destroying the PLO as a political force capable of claiming a Palestinian state on the West Bank."[39] It deserves passing notice that in his new history of the "peace process," Martin Indyk, former U.S. ambassador to Israel, provides this capsule summary of the sequence of events just narrated: "In 1982, Arafat's terrorist activities eventually provoked the Israeli government of Menachem Begin and Ariel Sharon into a full-scale invasion of Lebanon."[40]

Fast forward to 2008. Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni stated in early December 2008 that although Israel wanted to create a temporary period of calm with Hamas, an extended truce "harms the Israeli strategic goal, empowers Hamas, and gives the impression that Israel recognizes the movement."[41] Translation: a protracted ceasefire that enhanced Hamas's credibility would have undermined Israel's strategic goal of retaining control of the West Bank. As far back as March 2007 Israel had decided on attacking Hamas, and only negotiated the June truce because "the Israeli army needed time to prepare."[42] Once all the pieces were in place, Israel only lacked a pretext. On 4 November, while the American media were riveted on election day, Israel broke the ceasefire by killing seven Palestinian militants, on the flimsy excuse that Hamas was digging a tunnel to abduct Israeli soldiers, and knowing full well that its operation would provoke Hamas into hitting back. "Last week's ‘ticking tunnel,' dug ostensibly to facilitate the abduction of Israeli soldiers," Haaretz reported in mid-November

was not a clear and present danger: Its existence was always known and its use could have been prevented on the Israeli side, or at least the soldiers stationed beside it removed from harm's way. It is impossible to claim that those who decided to blow up the tunnel were simply being thoughtless. The military establishment was aware of the immediate implications of the measure, as well as of the fact that the policy of "controlled entry" into a narrow area of the Strip leads to the same place: an end to the lull. That is policy -- not a tactical decision by a commander on the ground.[43]

After Hamas predictably resumed its rocket attacks "[i]n retaliation" (Israeli Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center),[44] Israel could embark on yet another murderous invasion in order to foil yet another Palestinian peace offensive.

Norman G. Finkelstein
New York City
19 January 2009

1. Gideon Levy, "The Time of the Righteous," Haaretz (9 January 2009).

2. Ethan Bronner, "In Israel, A Consensus That Gaza War Is a Just One," New York Times (13 January 2009).

3. 29 December 2008; www.democracynow.org/2008/12/29/israeli_attacks_kill_over_310_in.

4. Richard Wilson, "Incomplete or Inaccurate Information Can Lead to Tragically Incorrect Decisions to Preempt: The example of OSIRAK," paper presented at Erice, Sicily (18 May 2007; updated 9 February 2008; www.normanfinkelstein.com/article.php?pg=11&ar=1589).

5. Ethan Bronner, "Israel Reminds Foes That It Has Teeth," New York Times (29 December 2008).

6. Benny Morris, "Why Israel Feels Threatened," New York Times (30 December 2008).

7. "Memorandum for the Record" (1 June 1967), Foreign Relations of the United States, vol. XIX, Arab-Israeli Crisis and War, 1967 (Washington, DC: 2004).

8. Tom Segev, 1967: Israel, the war, and the year that transformed the Middle East (New York: 2007), p. 293, my emphasis.

9. Zeev Maoz, Defending the Holy Land: A critical analysis of Israel's security and foreign policy (Ann Arbor: 2006), p. 89.

10. William Arkin, Divining Victory: Airpower in the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war (Maxwell Air Force Base, AL: 2007), pp. xxi, xxv-xxvi, 25, 54, 64, 135, 147-48.

11. Andrew Exum, Hizballah at War: A military assessment (Washington Institute for Near East Policy: December 2006), pp. 9, 11-12.

12. Benny Morris, "A Second Holocaust? The Threat to Israel" (2 May 2008; www.mideastfreedomforum.org/de/node/66).

13. Yaron London, "The Dahiya Strategy" (6 October 2008; www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3605863,00.html); Gabriel Siboni, "Disproportionate Force: Israel's concept of response in light of the Second Lebanon War," Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), 2 October 2008. Attila Somfalvi, "Sheetrit: We should level Gaza neighborhoods" (2 October 2008; www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3504922,00.html).

14. "Israeli General Says Hamas Must Not Be the Only Target in Gaza," IDF Radio, Tel Aviv, in Hebrew 0600 gmt (26 December 2008), BBC Monitoring Middle East; Tova Dadon, "Deputy Chief of Staff: Worst still ahead" (29 December 2008; http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-36466558,00.html); www.btselem.org/English/Gaza_Strip/20081231_Gaza_Letter_to_Mazuz.asp.

15. Seumas Milne, "Israel's Onslaught on Gaza is a Crime That Cannot Succeed," Guardian (30 December 2008).

16. Reuven Pedatzur, "The Mistakes of Cast Lead," Haaretz(8 January 2009).

17. Morris, "Why Israel Feels Threatened."

18. B. Michael, "Déjà Vu in Gaza" (29 December 2008; www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3646558,00.html).

19. Gideon Levy, "Twilight Zone/Trumpeting for War," Haaretz (2 January 2009).

20. Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff, "Israel and Hamas Are Both Paying a Steep Price in Gaza," Haaretz (10 January 2009); Ari Shavit, "Analysis: Israel's victories in Gaza make up for its failures in Lebanon," Haaretz (12 January 2009); Guy Bechor, "A Dangerous Victory" (12 January 2009; www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3654505,00.html).

21. Thomas L. Friedman, "Israel's Goals in Gaza?," New York Times (14 January 2009).

22. Human Rights Watch, Why They Died: Civilian casualties in Lebanon during the 2006 war (New York: 2007), pp. 5, 14, 40-41, 45-46, 48, 51, 53.

23. Stephen Biddle and Jeffrey A. Friedman, The 2006 Lebanon Campaign and the Future of Warfare: Implications for army and defense policy (Carlisle, PA: 2008), pp. 43-44, 45.

24. Human Rights Watch, Civilian Pawns: Laws of war violations and the use of weapons on the Israel-Lebanon border (New York: 1996); Maoz, Defending the Holy Land, pp. 213-14, 224-25, 252; Augustus Richard Norton, Hezbollah: A short history (Princeton: 2007), pp. 77, 86.

25. Judith Palmer Harik, Hezbollah: The changing face of terrorism (London: 2004), pp. 167-68.

26. Human Rights Watch, Civilians Under Assault: Hezbollah's rocket attacks on Israel in the 2006 war (New York: 2007), p. 100. HRW asserts that Hezbollah rocket attacks on Israeli civilians were not retaliatory but provides no supporting evidence.

27. Gideon Levy, "The IDF Has No Mercy for the Children in Gaza Nursery Schools," Haaretz (15 January 2009).

28. Glenn Greenwald, "Tom Friedman Offers a Perfect Definition of ‘Terrorism'" (14 January 2009; www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2009/01/14/friedman/).

29. Mouin Rabbani, "A Hamas Perspective on the Movement's Evolving Role: An interview with Khalid Mishal, Part II," Journal of Palestine Studies (Summer 2008).

30. "What Hamas Wants," Mideast Mirror (22 December 2008).

31. Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center at the Israel Intelligence Heritage and Commemoration Center, The Six Months of the Lull Arrangement (December 2008), pp. 2, 6, 7.

32. "Hamas Wants Better Terms for Truce," Jerusalem Post (21 December 2008). Diskin told the Israeli cabinet that Hamas would renew the truce if Israel lifted the siege of Gaza, stopped military attacks and extended the truce to the West Bank.

33. Richard N. Haass and Martin Indyk, "Beyond Iraq: A new U.S. strategy for the Middle East," and Walter Russell Mead, "Change They Can Believe In: To make Israel safe, give Palestinians their due," in Foreign Affairs, January-February 2009.

34. Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah's Speech Delivered at the Central Ashura Council, 31 December 2008.

35. Noam Chomsky, The Fateful Triangle: the United States, Israel and the Palestinians (Boston: 1983), chaps. 3, 5.

36. Yehuda Lukacs (ed), The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: a documentary record, 1967-1990 (Cambridge: 1992), pp. 477-79.

37. Yehoshaphat Harkabi, Israel's Fateful Hour (New York: 1988), p. 101.

38. Robert Fisk, Pity the Nation: The abduction of Lebanon (New York: 1990), pp. 197, 232.

39. Avner Yaniv, Dilemmas of Security: Politics, strategy and the Israeli experience in Lebanon (Oxford: 1987), pp. 20-23, 50-54, 67-70, 87-89, 100-1, 105-6, 113, 143.

40. Martin Indyk, Innocent Abroad: An intimate account of American peace diplomacy in the Middle East (New York: 2009), p. 75.

41. Saed Bannoura, "Livni Calls for a Large Scale Military Offensive in Gaza," IMEMC & Agencies (10 December 2008; www.imemc.org/article/57960).

42. Uri Blau, "IDF Sources: Conditions not yet optimal for Gaza exit," Haaretz (8 January 2009); Barak Ravid, "Disinformation, Secrecy, and Lies: How the Gaza offensive came about," Haaretz (28 December 2008).

43. Zvi Bar'el, "Crushing the Tahadiyeh," Haaretz (16 November 2008). Cf. Uri Avnery, "The Calculations behind Israel's Slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza" (2 January 2009; www.redress.cc/palestine/uavnery20080102).

44. The Six Months of the Lull Arrangement, p. 3.

Ralph Nader, Letter to President Obama on UN Convention Against Torture

Wednesday, January 21. 2009

Dear Mr. President:

We are writing to urge you to avoid the disregard for international legal obligations that condemned your predecessor.

The issue concerns investigating or prosecuting torture.

The United States ratified the United Nations Convention Against Torture (CAT) in 1994. Article 12 of the CAT provides: “Each State Party shall ensure that its competent authorities proceed to a prompt and impartial investigation, wherever there is reasonable ground to believe that an act of torture has been committed in any territory under its jurisdiction.”

Former President George W. Bush and former Vice President Richard Cheney have both openly conceded that they authorized waterboarding on at least three prisoners. Among others, Attorney General-designate Eric Holder has characterized waterboarding as torture. Susan J. Crawford, a military commission leader, also informed Bob Woodward of The Washington Post: “We [the United States] tortured [Mohammed al-Qahtani].” In addition, there have been several additional credible reports about torture at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, and at secret prisons. See Carol D. Leonning, “The Stories of Torture Sounded Made Up. They Weren’t,” Outlook B01, The Washington Post, January 18, 2009.

The federal criminal code punishes torture in accord with the CAT. See 18 U.S.C. 2340A. The United States recently prosecuted and punished the son of Liberia’s Charles Taylor for torture perpetrated in Liberia.

The public record clearly gives reasonable ground to believe Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney, and their subordinates are implicated in torture. Article 12 of the CAT thus requires that your administration conduct a “prompt and impartial investigation” of the individuals and their superiors involved in waterboarding the prisoners and in interrogating Mohammed al-Qahtani. We urge that the investigation be conducted by a nonpartisan special prosecutor appointed by the Attorney General to forestall charges of partisanship. If no investigation is forthcoming, you will have violated Article 12.

During your presidential campaign, you assailed the unilateralism of your predecessor which flouted international obligations or responsibilities. You promised change. You should not imitate former President Bush by defying Article 12 of the CAT.

Sincerely,

Bruce Fein

Ralph Nader

cc. Hillary Clinton
Eric Holder

Embedded with Gaza medics, France24

21 January 2009

The Glory of Byzantium, BBC Four on Byzantine Art

Science & Islam, BBC Four

U.N. Chief Appalled at Israeli Destruction in Gaza By Thalif Deen

UNITED NATIONS, Jan 20 (IPS) - When Israel went on a military rampage during its 22-day air strikes and artillery attacks on Gaza, it largely singled out residential neighbourhoods, hospitals, schools and U.N. buildings on the pretext of targeting Hamas fighters.

But John Ging, director of operations for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), based in Gaza, kept insisting there were no Hamas fighters anywhere in the vicinity of U.N.-run schools or warehouses.

"What we have regretted in the past is that we have not been given a hearing to answer," he told reporters Monday.

He charged that most of the allegations made by Israel were "unsubstantiated, unfounded - and continue to be repeated."

Perhaps his strongest indictment of the Israelis was reflected in his response to a question on military tactics: "We don't, in a civilised world, shoot the hostage to get to the hostage taker."

But in reality that was what the Israelis were doing in Gaza, says an Arab diplomat, echoing Ging's comment.

"The Israelis violated every single international convention governing the rules of war and the treatment of civilians," he told IPS. "Their military excesses can, in no way, be justified."

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who praised Israel at a press conference in Jerusalem last week, describing the Jewish state as "a responsible member of the United Nations", apparently had second thoughts when he saw the devastation caused in Gaza.

Standing outside a U.N. compound that was destroyed by Israel, Ban told reporters Tuesday: "I am just appalled. Everyone is smelling this bombing still. It is still burning. It is an outrageous and totally unacceptable attack against the United Nations."

Despite pleas from the secretary-general, Israel bombed U.N.-run facilities, including schools and warehouses, on four different occasions.

One of the bomb attacks on the UNRWA compound took place on the same day Ban arrived in Israel.

According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, the final tally read: 1,314 Palestinians killed, including 416 children and 106 women; 5,320 injured, including 1,855 children and 795 women.

In comparison, the number of Israelis killed included four civilians and nine soldiers, along with 84 injured.

And according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, the buildings destroyed included 4,100 residential homes (with 17,000 damaged), 20 mosques, 25 educational institutions and medical facilities, 31 security offices, 16 government buildings and 1,500 factories and shops.

The Office of the U.N.'s Humanitarian Coordinator pointed out that 16 health facilities and an equal number of ambulances were destroyed or damaged during the 22-day conflict.

Nadia Hijab, senior fellow at the Washington-based Institute for Palestine Studies, told IPS: "The scale of the devastation is such that Israel and its supporters are unlikely to be able to bury or bulldoze it out of the collective conscience of the world."

There have already been calls to bring war crimes charges against Israeli leaders, she pointed out.

Although the formal wheels of international justice may grind slowly, citizens are not waiting.

"Trade unions in different parts of the world are calling for a boycott. Israel's fruit shipments are rotting in its warehouses as importers in Scandinavia, Jordan and the UK cancelled orders," she said.

In an open letter in the London Guardian last weekend, Israeli citizens themselves called on world leaders to impose sanctions against their own country: "This is the only road left. Help us all, please!"

Although a ceasefire has been declared, said Hijab, Gaza's torment and siege is not over and the U.N.'s "We the peoples" are likely to remain mobilised until justice is done.

Speaking from Gaza, Ging told reporters that the population in Gaza remains shell-shocked, traumatised and living in real fear.

Asked about the "most outrageous" incident he had witnessed, Ging said: "The dead children."

Meanwhile, the United Nations is expected to lead international efforts to rebuild Gaza.

But Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the external affairs commissioner of the 27-member European Union, was quoted as saying that the EU would not fund reconstruction as long as Hamas was in control of Gaza.

Humanitarian aid, however, would be provided without any conditions, she added.

Hijab told IPS that "it is almost as though there are two different worlds, with the mainstream media, European and U.S. leaders, and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon living in one world."

And in the other, she said, are the leaders of the Third World, the president of the General Assembly (Miguel D'Escoto Brockmann), and millions of outraged citizens.

D'Escoto has taken a very strong stand denouncing the United Nations as ineffective in taking any action against Israel.

Hijab said the former parrot the Israeli line about Israel's need for protection while the latter exchange U.N. reports and eyewitness accounts of the destruction and damage to thousands of homes, schools, hospitals and civilian infrastructure.

They also share photographs of phosphorous shells showering white flame on unprotected civilians; read about the killing of entire families among the thousands of dead and wounded; and respond with horror to the reports of women whose legs have been shorn off by new kinds of weapons, she added.

20 January 2009

The Credit Crunch Explained - An Anarchist Analysis

Blurb: An Anarchist (libertarian Socialist) analysis of the credit crunch and the crisis in global financial markets of 2008. This is a recording of a presentation given to the Workers Solidarity Movement in October 2008 about the crisis. It looks at the crisis from a historical and economic point of view.

Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet

The Ottoman Empire: A World of Difference

Timeless India, Indian Ministry of Tourism

Noam Chomsky Lectures on Modern-Day American Imperialism: Middle East and Beyond

April 24, 2008

Hosted by Boston University School of Law and the Boston University Anti-War Coalition

Download available on iTunesU.

Noam Chomsky, an emeritus professor of linguistics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a well-known political activist critical of U.S. foreign policy, traces modern-day American imperialism to its earliest roots, 25 years before the American Revolution. If it weren’t for British forces preventing America’s expansion, claims Chomsky, Canada wouldn’t exist today.

Chomsky says the current war in Iraq can be traced back to the U.S. invasion of Florida during Andrew Jackson’s administration, which was an “executive war in violation of the constitution, a precedent that has been followed ever since.”

He compares the United States to a Mafia “godfather,” crushing third world countries like disobedient shop owners who don’t pay their protection money so others will get the point. The United States, he says, has a reputation as “the most frightening and dangerous country in the world.”

Chomsky claims that those in power in Washington, in London, in editorial offices, and in universities are defying the world — the majority of the world’s people, including most of the U.S. population, are against the war in Iraq, agree with the Group of 77 at the United Nations, which approves of Iran’s right to enrich uranium for nuclear power, and support the rights of Palestinian peasants who were removed from their land by Israel.

But there is hope, and according to Chomsky, it lies with South America — whose countries are banding together to work against the oppressive forces of the United States by weakening the presence of American military and strengthening their own economies. The failed attempt of the United States to overturn the results of the recent democratic election in Bolivia, he says, is one example of this glimmer of hope.


April 24, 2008, 6 p.m.
School of Law Auditorium


Video length is 02:00:00.


About the speaker:
Noam Chomsky earned a Ph.D. in linguistics in 1955 at the University of Pennsylvania and came to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology the same year. In 1961 he was appointed a full professor in the department of linguistics and philosophy and in 1976 an Institute Professor.

Chomsky has received honorary degrees from more than two dozen universities around the world. He is a member of the American Philosophical Society, a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the National Academy of Science, a Foreign Member of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts, and a member of several other professional and learned societies in the United States and abroad. He has received the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award of the American Psychological Association, the Kyoto Prize in Basic Sciences, the Helmholtz Medal, the Dorothy Eldridge Peacemaker Award, the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Computer and Cognitive Science, the Adela Dwyer/St. Thomas of Villanova Peace Award, and others.

He has written and lectured widely on linguistics, philosophy, intellectual history, contemporary issues, international affairs, and U.S. foreign policy.

Chomsky on Gaza, 1/13/2009 (Repost)

It's on YouTube:



Here is a transcript of the speech: "Exterminate all the Brutes": Gaza 2009

Chomsky on Obama

LRB contributors react to events in Gaza

Tariq Ali, David Bromwitch, Alastair Crooke, Conor Gearty, R. W. Johnson, Rashid Khalidi, Yitzhak Laor, John Mearsheimer, Yonatan Mendel, Gabriel Piterberg, Jacqueline Rose, Eliot Weinberger, and Michael Wood.

Gaza invasion: Powered by the U.S., By Robert Bryce, Salon

Taxpayers are spending over $1 billion to send refined fuel to the Israeli military -- at a time when Israel doesn't need it and America does.

By Robert Bryce

Editor's note: Generous support for this article was provided by the Investigative Fund at the Nation Institute.


Jan. 16, 2009 |

Israel's current air and ground assault on the Gaza Strip has left about 1,000 Palestinians dead, including 400 women and children. Several thousand people have been wounded and dozens of buildings have been destroyed. An estimated 90,000 Gazans have abandoned their homes. Israel's campaign in Gaza, which began more than two weeks ago, has been denounced by the Red Cross, multiple Arab and European countries, and agencies from the United Nations. Demonstrations in Pakistan and elsewhere have been held to denounce America's support for Israel.

It's well known that the U.S. supplies the Israelis with much of their military hardware. Over the past few decades, the U.S. has provided about $53 billion in military aid to Israel. What's not well known is that since 2004, U.S. taxpayers have paid to supply over 500 million gallons of refined oil products -- worth about $1.1 billion –- to the Israeli military. While a handful of countries get motor fuel from the U.S., they receive only a fraction of the fuel that Israel does -- fuel now being used by Israeli fighter jets, helicopters and tanks to battle Hamas.

According to documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, between 2004 and 2007 the U.S. Defense Department gave $818 million worth of fuel to the Israeli military. The total amount was 479 million gallons, the equivalent of about 66 gallons per Israeli citizen. In 2008, an additional $280 million in fuel was given to the Israeli military, again at U.S. taxpayers' expense. The U.S. has even paid the cost of shipping the fuel from U.S. refineries to ports in Israel.

In 2008, the fuel shipped to Israel from U.S. refineries accounted for 2 percent of Israel's $13.3 billion defense budget. Publicly available data shows that about 2 percent of the U.S. Defense Department's budget is also spent on oil. A senior analyst at the Pentagon, who requested anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the press, says the Israel Defense Force's fuel use is most likely similar to that of the U.S. Defense Department. In other words, the Israeli military is spending about the same percentage of its defense budget on oil as the U.S. is. Therefore it's possible that the U.S. is providing most, or perhaps even all, of the Israeli military's fuel needs.

What's more, Israel does not need the U.S. handout. Its own recently privatized refineries, located at Haifa and Ashdod, could supply all of the fuel needed by the Israeli military. Those same refineries are now producing and selling jet fuel and other refined products on the open market. But rather than purchase lower-cost jet fuel from its own refineries, the Israeli military is using U.S. taxpayer money to buy and ship large quantities of fuel from U.S. refineries.

The Israeli government obtains the fuel through the Defense Department's Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program, and pays for the fuel and the shipping with funds granted to it through Foreign Military Financing (FMF), another Defense Department program. (In 2008, Congress earmarked $2.4 billion in FMF money for Israel, and $2.5 billion for 2009.) The dimensions of the FMS fuel program are virtually unknown among America's top experts on Middle East policy. For his part, the Pentagon analyst was surprised to learn that FMS money was even being used to supply fuel to Israel. "That's not the purpose of the program," he says. "FMS was designed to allow U.S. weapons makers to sell their goods to foreign countries. The idea that fuel is being bought under FMS is very, very odd."

The fuel program, in fact, raises a number of pressing questions. The shipments have occurred during times of record-high oil prices, when American consumers have been angered by motor fuel prices that in 2008 exceeded $4 per gallon. Given those high prices, it appears to make little sense for the U.S. government to be promoting policies that reduce the volume of -- and potentially raise the price of -- motor fuel available for sale to U.S. motorists.

The U.S. fuel shipments are part of a sustained policy that has widened the energy gap between Israel and its neighbors. Over the past few years, the Israel Defense Force has cut off fuel supplies and destroyed electricity infrastructure in the Gaza Strip and Lebanon. Those embargoes and attacks on power plants have exacerbated a huge gap in per-capita energy consumption between Israelis and Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza. And that sharp disparity helps explain why the Palestinians have never been able to build a viable economy.

Edward S. Walker, former president of the Middle East Institute, a Washington-based think tank, says the fuel supply program is emblematic of U.S. military support for Israel. Walker, who has served as U.S. ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Israel, explains that the FMF money allows the Israelis to "do with it what they want. They can buy equipment or fuel. It's their choice, not the government's choice. It's the only program where we give someone a blank check and they can use it any way that they choose."

Given the recent spike in oil prices, which helped send the U.S. and the world economy into a tailspin, and Americans still smarting from paying $4 at the pump, says Walker, "Why are we supplying fuel to Israel when we are paying such high prices?"

Since 1948, oil has been a critically important commodity for both the Israel Defense Forces and the Israeli economy. And Israeli leaders have long worried about their energy security. In 1957, Israeli Prime Minister David Ben Gurion wrote in his diary, "The only sanctions which could defeat or break us are oil sanctions."

In 1967, Egypt's blockade of the Straits of Tiran precipitated the Six Day War. The Straits, writes Israeli historian Michael Oren in his book on the conflict, "Six Days of War," were "a lifeline for the Jewish state, the conduit to its quiet import of Iranian oil." In 1973, the Yom Kippur War (Arabs call it the Ramadan War) led to the Arab Oil Embargo, an event that still reverberates in the U.S., particularly in the fanciful political rhetoric about the desire for "energy independence."

The U.S.-Israel oil relationship goes back to 1975. In September of that year, Henry Kissinger, who was then secretary of state, struck a deal with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin that led the Israelis to partially withdraw from the Sinai Peninsula. The agreement required Israel to pull out of the Giddi and Mitla passes and relinquish the Sinai oilfields the Israelis had captured during the 1967 war.

In return, Kissinger agreed that America would provide multibillion-dollar economic and military subsidies to Israel. He also agreed that the U.S. would supply Israel with oil in case of any emergency. That agreement was formalized in 1979 about the time of the Camp David peace talks. It says that the U.S. will "make every effort to help Israel secure the necessary means of transport" for the oil that it purchases. The agreement concludes by saying that the U.S. and Israel will "meet annually, or more frequently at the request of either party, to review Israel's continuing oil requirement."

Since 1979, the agreement has been quietly renewed every five years. (The most recent approval of the document was done by the U.S. State Department in November of 2005.) The U.S. does not provide any other country the same insurance.

Nor does any other country get anything close to the volume of fuel that Israel does under FMS. In 2004, more than 140 countries received FMS aid from the U.S. Of that group, only about 13 countries received fuel of any kind through the FMS program and the biggest recipient, after Israel, was Singapore, which got $7.3 million in fuel. That year, Israel received 17 times more FMS fuel than all of the other countries combined.

Why did the U.S. Defense Department begin providing oil to Israel in 1986? And why does the program persist, particularly given that Israel no longer sees its refineries as strategic assets? The Defense Security Cooperation Agency, which manages the FMS and FMF programs, referred questions about the program to the Israeli government. The press office of the Israeli Embassy in Washington did not respond to numerous requests about the program.

While the rationale for the oil transfers remains elusive, the facts behind Israel's refinery privatization are freely available. In 2006, the government sold the Ashdod refinery to Israeli tycoon Zadik Bino for about $500 million. And in early 2007, it sold the larger refinery in Haifa to a group led by Israel Corp., the shipping and chemicals conglomerate, for $1.5 billion.

The sale of the refineries marked a major turning point in Israel's attitude toward oil. In its earliest years as an independent nation, Israel's survival was made possible by using crude from the Soviet Union and Venezuela. From the 1950s to the late 1970s, Iranian crude was the lifeblood of the Zionist state. Later still, the Israelis relied on the Kuwaitis. Today, the Russians are providing much of Israel's crude needs. And the sale of the refineries is indicative of the Israeli government's confidence in its ongoing ability to purchase the oil it needs on the international market.

Nevertheless, the FMS fuel shipments to Israel have continued. The most recent shipments for which records are readily available occurred in July and October 2008.

On July 7, 2008, the spot price for U.S. crude oil hit a near-record of $141. That same day, the San Antonio Business Journal reported that San Antonio-based refiner Valero Energy Corp. had been awarded a contract by the Defense Energy Support Center (DESC) worth $46 million to provide fuel to Israel. Valero has won a number of lucrative contracts from the DESC, the Defense Department agency that handles all of the Pentagon's bulk fuel purchases. On Oct. 9, the Journal reported that Valero had been awarded a $235 million contract under FMS. Bill Day, a spokesman for Valero, says that the company "doesn't talk publicly about its contracts."

Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that U.S. taxpayers are paying the shipping costs to move the fuel from refineries -- many of them on the Texas Gulf Coast -- to Israeli ports at Haifa or Ashkelon. Shipping costs vary but one specific bid called for shipping costs of $.30 per gallon. Officials with the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, the arm of the Pentagon that manages programs that "strengthen America's alliances and partnerships," has confirmed that the costs to ship the fuel from U.S. refineries to Israel have been paid for with FMF money designated for Israel by Congress.

The huge FMS fuel shipments are puzzling to the Israelis. Amit Mor, CEO of Eco Energy, an Israeli consulting and investment firm, has worked on energy issues in his home country for about two decades. In a recent e-mail, Mor says that "there is a paradox" in the fuel shipments that Israel gets from the U.S. He said that the privately owned Israeli refineries export jet fuel in "FOB prices," while the defense ministry imports jet fuel in "high CIF prices," with the funds of U.S. military assistance.

FOB, short for "free on board," means that customers must take possession of the fuel at the refinery and then pay for all shipping and related costs to get the fuel to its final destination. On the other hand, as Mor explains, the Israeli military is importing fuel from U.S. refineries located 7,000 miles away, while incurring the CIF, short for "cost, insurance and freight," of moving the fuel that distance.

Mor says Israeli refiners have "complained about this issue" but have had no luck with the Israeli government. He goes on to say that "it is the U.S. government that insisted for some reason to continue with this historical, costly and inefficient arrangement."

Energy analysts squabble about a myriad of issues. But if there is one truism that draws near-universal agreement, it's this: As energy consumption increases, so does wealth. And while that truism holds for oil use, it is particularly apt for electricity. As Peter Huber and Mark Mills point out in their 2005 book, "The Bottomless Well," "Economic growth marches hand in hand with increased consumption of electricity -- always, everywhere, without significant exception in the annals of modern industrial history."

That statement underscores the significance of the FMS fuel shipments to Israel, many of which have occurred at or near the time that the Israeli military has attacked the electric power plants of its neighbors.

In late June 2006, Israeli aircraft fired nine missiles at the transformers at the Gaza City Power Plant, the only electric power plant in the Occupied Territories. (One of the original partners in the project was Enron, but that's another story.) The missiles caused damage estimated at $15 million to $20 million and, for a time, made Gaza wholly reliant on electricity flows from Israel. The 140-megawatt power plant, owned by the Palestine Electric Co., was insured by the Overseas Private Investment Corp., an arm of the U.S. government. Thus the U.S. was providing fuel and materiel to the Israeli military, which destroyed the plant, but it was also paying to fix the damage. Call it cradle-to-grave service.

The Israeli attack on the Gaza City Power Plant offers a stark example of how the FMS fuel helps assure that Israel stays energy rich while many of the citizens in neighboring regions live in energy poverty.

Two weeks after the attack on the Gaza City plant in 2006, during Israel's monthlong war against Hezbollah forces in Lebanon, Israeli aircraft attacked the 346-megawatt Jiyyeh power plant, the oldest electric power plant in Lebanon. Those attacks resulted in the largest-ever oil spill in the eastern Mediterranean. About 100,000 barrels of fuel oil that was stored in tanks at the Jiyyeh site flowed into the sea, creating an oil slick that stretched for more than 150 kilometers.

The attacks on the Jiyyeh plant occurred on July 13 and July 15. Those dates are important because they underscore the timing of the U.S. fuel transfers to Israel.

On July 14, 2006, the U.S. military issued two press releases. In one of them, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced that it would be providing up to $210 million in JP-8 jet fuel to the Israeli government. The other release, put out at 5 p.m. Eastern time, came from the Defense Logistics Agency, which said that it had awarded a $36.7 million contract to Valero as part of another JP-8 supply deal for Israel.

The July 14 release contains this rather bland description of the fuel deal: "The proposed sale of the JP-8 aviation fuel will enable Israel to maintain the operational capability of its aircraft inventory. The jet fuel will be consumed while the aircraft is in use to keep peace and security in the region. Israel will have no difficulty absorbing this additional fuel into its armed forces." The release goes on to claim that the "proposed sale of this JP-8 aviation fuel will not affect the basic military balance in the region."

While the attacks on the Jiyyeh plant were important, Lebanese citizens could get electricity from other power plants in the country. That was not true in Gaza, a province in which electricity has always been in short supply. According to the CIA Fact Book, the Gaza Strip ranks dead last -- 214th out of 214 countries and territories listed -- in the amount of electricity consumed. According to the Palestinian Energy and Natural Resources Agency, in 2004, the average Gazan used about 654 kilowatt-hours of electricity. By contrast, the 7.1 million residents of Israel consume about 6,295 kilowatt-hours of electric power per person per year, nearly 10 times as much as the average Gazan.

Although more recent energy consumption data for Gaza is not available, there's no question that the endemic poverty in the West Bank and particularly in Gaza, is due, largely, to a continuing lack of energy resources. And the Israelis have frequently cut off the flow of fuel and electricity, which has exacerbated the Palestinians' energy poverty.

Over the past few years, the Israelis have cut off the flow of energy to Gaza as retribution for various transgressions. And those cutoffs have forced the Gaza City Power Plant to shut down for lack of the fuel oil it needs to operate. When the power plant is idled, most of the residents of Gaza City are left without power and overall power supplies in the Gaza Strip decline by about 25 percent.

In May 2006, Israel cut off the flow of oil into the Occupied Territories after the Islamic group Hamas won local elections. In January 2008, the Israelis closed the border crossings into Gaza, which resulted in a fuel shortage that closed the Gaza power plant. In April 2008, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency stopped distributing aid in Gaza after it ran out of fuel. The Israelis stopped the fuel flow as retribution for attacks that killed two Israeli civilians and three Israeli soldiers. In November 2008, the U.N. Relief and Works Agency was again forced to suspend work due to lack of fuel. The fuel shortage occurred after Israel closed the border into Gaza in response to rockets and mortar shells that had been fired into Israel from Gaza.

The disparity in energy consumption between the Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza and their counterparts in Israel is just one element in the centuries-old story of tragedy and conflict in the region. But with the U.S. squarely on the side of the Israelis in the Gaza campaign, the potential for an angry backlash against the U.S. appears to be growing.

And that anger will likely only increase when Arabs begin to understand that much of the fuel that the U.S. is giving to Israel is being refined from Arab oil. The Valero refinery in Corpus Christi, Texas, which has won several of the FMS contracts for Israel, is a big buyer of Mideast crude. During the second quarter of 2006, according to data collected by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the refinery got about 40 percent of its crude oil from Kuwait or Saudi Arabia.

In short, U.S. taxpayers are paying for U.S. energy companies to buy Arab crude, ship it across the Atlantic to refineries in the U.S., refine it, and then ship it back across the Atlantic so that the Israel Defense Force can use it in its wars.

While the origination point of the crude may only matter to part of the Arab world, it is becoming apparent that bloodshed in Gaza is further complicating America's efforts to gain credibility as an honest broker in the region. Anti-U.S. sentiment is not in America's long-term interest, says former diplomat Chas Freeman, a man whose résumé in international affairs extends back nearly four decades.

Freeman is a former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, as well as a former assistan[t] secretary of defense. He served as Richard Nixon's chief interpreter during Nixon's visit to China in 1972. Now the president of the Middle East Policy Council, a Washington think tank, Freeman says the FMS fuel program for Israel runs counter to long-term goals of resolving the Palestinian conflict and America's stated goal of protecting the flow of oil out of the Persian Gulf. The Defense Department has assumed "unilateral responsibility for the protection of the oil trade in the Persian Gulf, and yet it's assuming responsibility for the delivery of aviation fuel for the Israeli military," he says. "That's confused and contradictory." The program, he adds, is "one of many elements of our relationship with Israel that is very hard to explain."

Freeman may be correct, but the House of Representatives has scant doubt about continued U.S. support for Israel. Nor has Congress shown much interest in the fuel shortages among Palestinians. On Jan. 9, the 14th day of the fighting in Gaza, the House passed a resolution sponsored by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, "recognizing Israel's right to defend itself against attacks from Gaza." The vote was 390 to 5.

Two days before the vote, UNICEF estimated that 800,000 Gazans did not have running water and 1 million were living without electricity.

18 January 2009

Chomsky: Undermining Gaza, Foreign Policy in Focus | January 16, 2009

Noam Chomsky is a noted linguist, author, and foreign policy expert. Sameer Dossani interviewed him about the conflict between Israel and Gaza.

DOSSANI: The Israeli government and many Israeli and U.S. officials claim that the current assault on Gaza is to put an end to the flow of Qassam rockets from Gaza into Israel. But many observers claim that if that were really the case, Israel would have made much more of an effort to renew the ceasefire agreement that expired in December, which had all but stopped the rocket fire. In your opinion, what are the real motivations behind the current Israeli action?

CHOMSKY: There's a theme that goes way back to the origins of Zionism. And it's a very rational theme: "Let's delay negotiations and diplomacy as long as possible, and meanwhile we'll 'build facts on the ground.'" So Israel will create the basis for what some eventual agreement will ratify, but the more they create, the more they construct, the better the agreement will be for their purposes. Those purposes are essentially to take over everything of value in the former Palestine and to undermine what's left of the indigenous population.

I think one of the reasons for popular support for this in the United States is that it resonates very well with American history. How did the United States get established? The themes are similar.

There are many examples of this theme being played out throughout Israel's history, and the current situation is another case. They have a very clear program. Rational hawks like Ariel Sharon realized that it's crazy to keep 8,000 settlers using one-third of the land and much of the scarce supplies in Gaza, protected by a large part of the Israeli army while the rest of the society around them is just rotting. So it's best to take them out and send them to the West Bank. That's the place that they really care about and want.

What was called a "disengagement" in September 2005 was actually a transfer. They were perfectly frank and open about it. In fact, they extended settlement building programs in the West Bank at the very same time that they were withdrawing a few thousand people from Gaza. So Gaza should be turned into a cage, a prison basically, with Israel attacking it at will, and meanwhile in the West Bank we'll take what we want. There was nothing secret about it.

Ehud Olmert was in the United States in May 2006 a couple of months after the withdrawal. He simply announced to a joint session of Congress and to rousing applause, that the historic right of Jews to the entire land of Israel is beyond question. He announced what he called his convergence program, which is just a version of the traditional program; it goes back to the Allon plan of 1967. Israel would essentially annex valuable land and resources near the green line (the 1967 border). That land is now behind the wall that Israel built in the West Bank, which is an annexation wall. That means the arable land, the main water resources, the pleasant suburbs around Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and the hills and so on. They'll take over the Jordan valley, which is about a third of the West Bank, where they've been settling since the late 60s. Then they'll drive a couple of super highways through the whole territory — there's one to the east of Jerusalem to the town of Ma'aleh Adumim which was built mostly in the 1990s, during the Oslo years. It was built essentially to bisect the West Bank and are two others up north that includes Ariel and Kedumim and other towns which pretty much bisect what's left. They'll set up check points and all sorts of means of harassment in the other areas and the population that's left will be essentially cantonized and unable to live a decent life and if they want to leave, great. Or else they will be picturesque figures for tourists — you know somebody leading a goat up a hill in the distance — and meanwhile Israelis, including settlers, will drive around on "Israeli only" super highways. Palestinians can make do with some little road somewhere where you're falling into a ditch if it's raining. That's the goal. And it's explicit. You can't accuse them of deception because it's explicit. And it's cheered here.

DOSSANI: In terms of U.S. support, last week the UN Security Council adopted a resolution calling for a cease fire. Is this a change, particularly in light of the fact that the U.S. did not veto the resolution, but rather abstained, allowing it to be passed?

CHOMSKY: Right after the 1967 war, the Security Council had strong resolutions condemning Israel's move to expand and take over Jerusalem. Israel just ignored them. Because the U.S. pats them on the head and says "go ahead and violate them." There's a whole series of resolutions from then up until today, condemning the settlements, which as Israel knew and as everyone agreed were in violation of the Geneva conventions. The United States either vetoes the resolutions or sometimes votes for them, but with a wink saying, "go ahead anyway, and we'll pay for it and give you the military support for it." It's a consistent pattern. During the Oslo years, for example, settlement construction increased steadily, in violation of what the Oslo agreement was theoretically supposed to lead to. In fact the peak year of settlement was Clinton's last year, 2000. And it continued again afterward. It's open and explicit.

To get back to the question of motivation, they have sufficient military control over the West Bank to terrorize the population into passivity. Now that control is enhanced by the collaborationist forces that the U.S., Jordan, and Egypt have trained in order to subdue the population. In fact if you take a look at the press the last couple of weeks, if there's a demonstration in the West Bank in support of Gaza, the Fatah security forces crush it. That's what they're there for. Fatah by now is more or less functioning as Israel's police force in the West Bank. But the West Bank is only part of the occupied Palestinian territories. The other part is Gaza, and no one doubts that they form a unit. And there still is resistance in Gaza, those rockets. So yes, they want to stamp that out too, then there will be no resistance at all and they can continue to do what they want to do without interference, meanwhile delaying diplomacy as much as possible and "building the facts" the way they want to. Again this goes back to the origins of Zionism. It varies of course depending on circumstances, but the fundamental policy is the same and perfectly understandable. If you want to take over a country where the population doesn't want you, I mean, how else can you do it? How was this country conquered?

DOSSANI: What you describe is a tragedy.

CHOMSKY: It's a tragedy which is made right here. The press won't talk about it and even scholarship, for the most part, won't talk about it but the fact of the matter is that there has been a political settlement on the table, on the agenda for 30 years. Namely a two-state settlement on the international borders with maybe some mutual modification of the border. That's been there officially since 1976 when there was a Security Council resolution proposed by the major Arab states and supported by the (Palestinan Liberation Organization) PLO, pretty much in those terms. The United States vetoed it so it's therefore out of history and it's continued almost without change since then.

There was in fact one significant modification. In the last month of Clinton's term, January 2001 there were negotiations, which the U.S. authorized, but didn't participate in, between Israel and the Palestinians and they came very close to agreement.

DOSSANI: The Taba negotiations?

Yes, the Taba negotiations. The two sides came very close to agreement. They were called off by Israel. But that was the one week in over 30 years when the United States and Israel abandoned their rejectionist position. It's a real tribute to the media and other commentators that they can keep this quiet. The U.S. and Israel are alone in this. The international consensus includes virtually everyone. It includes the Arab League which has gone beyond that position and called for the normalization of relations, it includes Hamas. Every time you see Hamas in the newspapers, it says "Iranian-backed Hamas which wants to destroy Israel." Try to find a phrase that says "democratically elected Hamas which is calling for a two-state settlement" and has been for years. Well, yeah, that's a good propaganda system. Even in the U.S. press they've occasionally allowed op-eds by Hamas leaders, Ismail Haniya and others saying, yes we want a two-state settlement on the international border like everyone else.

DOSSANI: When did Hamas adopt that position?

CHOMSKY That's their official position taken by Haniya, the elected leader, and Khalid Mesh'al, their political leader who's in exile in Syria, he's written the same thing. And it's over and over again. There's no question about it but the West doesn't want to hear it. So therefore it's Hamas which is committed to the destruction of Israel.

In a sense they are, but if you went to a Native American reservation in the United States, I'm sure many would like to see the destruction of the United States. If you went to Mexico and took a poll, I'm sure they don't recognize the right of the United States to exist sitting on half of Mexico, land conquered in war. And that's true all over the world. But they're willing to accept a political settlement. Israel isn't willing to accept it and the United States isn't willing to accept it. And they're the lone hold-outs. Since it's the United States that pretty much runs the world, it's blocked.

Here it's always presented as though the United States must become more engaged; it's an honest broker; Bush's problem was that he neglected the issue. That's not the problem. The problem is that the United States has been very much engaged, and engaged in blocking a political settlement and giving the material and ideological and diplomatic support for the expansion programs, which are just criminal programs. The world court unanimously, including the American justice, agreed that any transfer of population into the Occupied Territories is a violation of a fundamental international law, the Geneva Conventions. And Israel agrees. In fact even their courts agree, they just sort of sneak around it in various devious ways. So there's no question about this. It's just sort of accepted in the United States that we're an outlaw state. Law doesn't apply to us. That's why it's never discussed.

Sameer Dossani, a Foreign Policy In Focus contributor, is the director of 50 Years is Enough and blogs at shirinandsameer.blogspot.com.