Archive for the ‘Palestine’ Category

Pens and Swords – How the American Mainstream Media Report the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

May 30, 2008

Pens and Swords – How the American Mainstream Media Report the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Dandelion Salad

by Jim Miles
Global Research, May 29, 2008

Review of Marda Dunsky’s book

In an era when American foreign policy has reached the pinnacle of unilateralism by invading other countries pre-emptively, threatening others with nuclear annihilation, and abrogating in doing so many decades if not more than a century of international law development, Marda Dunsky’s book Pens and Swords presents a very strong, well-referenced argument illuminating the bias within American media reports on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. That bias develops under two main themes – a lack of historical context, and a lack of recognition of the effects of U.S. foreign policy. Along with those two major themes, are the related ideas of weaknesses in analysing and criticizing sources, and in not providing references for what discussion there is as the arguments already fit the generally accepted ‘Washington’ consensus. Other ideas that accompany the discussion are the use of language that biases an argument, and the desire for the “amorphous if not impossible standard of objectivity.”

Overview

The book is well organized and well developed. It begins with an introduction that presents a brief summary of some current communication theory. This is followed by a discussion of the “policy mirror” between the Washington consensus and the media. Next is a limited presentation of historical context – the nakba, international law and the right of return – in order that the reader does have some background knowledge, leading into Dunsky’s first discussion on reporting on the Palestinian refugee story. From there the main presentation works through discussions of media reporting on Israeli settlements, the violence of the second intifada, the ‘war at home’ or how the local media is perceived by various sectors. The two final sections “In the Field” and “Toward a New way of Reporting…” carry significant and well-reasoned perspectives on what is happening and what could or should be happening.

There are several points along the way that deserve emphasis for their clarity and validity.

Communication theory

First is the communication theory, which defines mainstream media as “outlets that are in harmony with the prevailing direction of influence in culture at large.” In essence, “to a significant extent American mainstream journalism on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict toes the line of U.S. Mideast policy.” She discusses three theoretical constructs – hegemony, indexing, and cascading – that emphasize these points respectively: “the American mainstream media…operate in the same social and economic framework as government;” “The range of discourse is exceedingly narrow…because [it] emanates from an equally narrow range of sources;” and “the mainstream media determines the level of understanding that is possible for the public and the policy makers alike.” If that does not give the mainstream media thoughts for concern, then ironically, these definitions become all that more powerful.

Refugees

The refugee problem is defined as “a root cause of the Israeli-Palestine conflict” and to omit it from context “is to omit an important part of the story.” Dunsky briefly outlines the nakba as recently viewed by ‘revisionist’ historians who deny the official Israeli narrative while using information in a large part garnered from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) archives themselves. While these ideas “depart markedly from the familiar narrative” there are other gaps in the narrative, one of the more important being “the body of international law and consensus on refugee rights in general, and Palestinian refugee rights in particular.”[1] Accompanying this is the right of return which the Israelis claim for the Jewish people of the world, but that is denied to the Palestinians in contravention of international law.

Context as a theme is obviously a major issue for any discussion of the refugee problem. American media “routinely denies its audience the contextual tools with which to assess important historical and political aspects of the issue,” and it “largely mirrors U.S. Mideast policy,” remaining “explicitly tilted in favor of Israel in the pursuit of what is officially defined as the U.S. national interest in the region.” News reports “relate what can be seen and heard, to the exclusion or relevant contextual background.” [italics in original] The message that does come across is that of the “refugees’ own transigence and the machinations of their leaders, the Arab states, and the United Nations.” While it seems almost too obvious to state, Dunsky sums up her arguments on the refugee reporting saying “if Americans had a fuller contextual understanding of the key issues…via the mainstream media, they would be better equipped to challenge U.S. Mideast policy.”

Obvious yes, but it also signifies that American culture, American society perhaps does not want to disturb its own beliefs in its exceptionalism and perfectionism that is their gift (even if by the barrel of a gun) to the world. To admit these failings of context, to examine the context in light of foreign policy would be greatly disturbing to a society educated (or inculcated) about its own greatness, exceptionalism, perfectionism, and love of democracy and freedom. And so it should be.

Israeli settlements

Similar arguments are brought forth concerning the Israeli settlements. A brief background set of information ties in the U.S. $3 billion in aid each year that supports the ability to continue the settlements. Dunsky argues, and supports, the idea that “reporting on the settlement issue bears a striking similarity to reporting on the …refugee question,” with “more weight usually given to Israeli claims and little or no reference to international law and consensus.” Also, “dramatic description is substituted for thoroughgoing analytical reporting.” And more in the same category of context: “Contextually and substantively…the stories made little or no reference to international law and consensus or to U.S. aid to Israel.”

The media references to the Israeli side generally emphasize the perspective “that Palestinian violence must be halted before negotiations can resume,” without the context of history and the idea that the very act of settlement and “its attendant military defense have been a root cause of that violence.” Frequent comments run through the text, emphasizing and referencing the lack of context and of international law and consensus in the media reports that are studied.

The intifada

The height of the intifada violence coincided with American rhetoric and anguish after 9/11 and provided a neat tie in for the Israeli government and the IDF to try and capture the argument as one of terrorism, leaving aside completely the historical context and using the American perspective of “us against them,” of democracy versus demagoguery, of “they hate us for what we are.” For the media “political discourse focused entirely on themes that were emotional, moral, and patriotic,” providing a “period of congruence for the United States and Israel.” The IDF incursions into the West Bank relied on the concept that “the campaign was to root out the terrorist infrastructure in the West Bank.”

Palestine was no match for the well-organized Israeli “propaganda battlefield” and as events continued, “Arafat and the PA were linked to terror” as “repeatedly impressed on U.S. government officials and the American public through the media.” Another feature of these reports is what “amounted to transparent Israeli advocacy for a U.S. war in Iraq” as well as connections through to Iran. In sum, Dunsky says

“American journalists were operating within the sphere of cultural congruence – a comfort zone where journalistic scepticism and balance were often overshadowed or displaced by the political discourse of the Bush administration, in which a “war on terror” could be prosecuted by the United States, and, by extension, its closest ally.”

Ego and Access

The chapter “In the Field” provides an intriguing perspective on the reporters/journalists (I put those two descriptors together, not really sure where the lines between a reporter and a journalist meet or overlap or coincide) themselves. The section could be subtitled “Ego and Access” as those are the two main themes in the first set of self-reports.

Dunsky allows the reporters to speak for themselves and some of what they say is self-incriminating as to why there is a bias and lack of context. It would seem that the correspondents are well aware of media competition in the sense that they need a daily story. They worry about how the editors will deal with their report and they need a story with a different view to gain publication and so that their peers will take notice: “to attempt unfiltered reporting…not only is often discouraged by newsroom culture but can also result in swift and unstinting audience censure.” That is the ego part. The access part is the consistent iteration that access to Israeli sources was very easy and well organized and that communication with the Palestinians required more effort. That could be – although denied by the correspondents – because “most…choose to live among Israelis in West Jerusalem because of its higher standard of living rather than among Palestinians.” It is a hard denial to make, that their place of living has “had little or no effect on their actual work product.” If they have no sense of context, perhaps also their sense of place is…hmm…misplaced.

Before getting into these self-examinations, examinations that reveal all too much about ego and access, Dunsky reiterates her own two “key underlying contexts: the impact of U.S. policy on the trajectory of the conflict; and the importance of international law and consensus regarding the key issues of Israeli settlement and annexation policies and the right of return of Palestinian refugees.” As a result the journalistic product “frames media discourse on the conflict in a way that reinforces and supports rather than scrutinizes and challenges U.S. policy that in many ways undergirds it.”

Context and media failure.

The final two writers provide a much clearer analysis of the world they lived in. Gillian Findlay, ABC correspondent from September 1997 to June 2002 says “when we did try to provide context, it became such a controversial thing, not only among viewers but also within the news organization.” She was surprised by “how little our audience understood about the roots of the conflict,” and says it is a “cop out in reporting” to say there is nothing the U.S. administration can do. Speaking more globally she hits upon another truth about American media, that “the lack of context applies to so much reporting these days. It’s not just this issue.”

Chris Hedges worked for the New York Times and the Dallas Morning News off and on from January 1988 to 2003. He says “Arab culture is incomprehensible to us because we’ve never taken the time to understand it. It’s a great failing of the press that when something is incomprehensible to us, we certify it as incomprehensible to everyone.” He continues this idea when discussing the suicide bombers, “we don’t understand the slow drip of oppression” that created them and further “We’ve never taken the time to understand them….[a] fundamental failure of the coverage of Palestinians.” As for the press as an institution he says, “bureaucracies…are driven by ambition and have very little moral sense. That’s true of every institution….It’s not conducive of their own advancement.”

All of which leaves me wondering, as a critical reader, what exactly are the credentials of the writers/reporters/journalists who are in the field. Certainly being there provides them with first hand observation of current events, but do they have the academic background to understand the socio-political history of the region? Are they able and willing to look at what for me is the prime contradiction in the vast majority of American and Israeli foreign affairs and those who report on it – that what you do speaks so loud I can’t hear what you are saying? That democracy does not arrive at the barrel of gun, peace does not come from pre-emptive invasions and occupations, the victim cannot be blamed for the ongoing violence against the intruders, and international law deems it all illegal? More simply put, people, nations, do not like being occupied and suppressed, and no rhetoric of any kind will make it acceptable except to an elite few cronies of the occupiers. Are the reporters able and willing to step outside of the Washington consensus, willing to take the time to provide more background information for themselves as well as their readers, or will the corporate agenda over-rule any attempts at providing context, a context that more often than not goes against the grain of the Washington consensus?

The final argument is on objectivity, seen in the introduction as an “amorphous if not impossible standard,” another argument that comes back to all media tasks being “superfluous as long as one remains within the presuppositional framework of the doctrinal consensus,” with writers well aware of “rewards that accrue to conformity and the costs of honest dissidence.”

I would hope that all journalists/writers would take the time to read Pens and Swords. The books arguments are well presented and well referenced, and the work as a whole should be placed on every journalists’/reporters’ shelf alongside similar works by other well referenced and questioning media critics [2] For any journalist who is actually wishing to pursue truth rather than ego and access, consideration and action on the ideas presented in Dunsky’s work would be a great place to start. Pens and Swords is also a great read for all mass media audiences to better inform themselves and to be able to criticize and analyze the writers/producers and their products more intelligently as well as to analyze their own place and views within the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

[1] for an easily read comprehensive understanding of international law, see Michael Byers’ War Law, Understanding International Law and Armed Conflict, Douglas & McIntyre, Toronto, 2005.

[2] ]Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent (2002), and Falk and Friel Israel-Palestine on Record (2007).

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Carnage in Gaza: To blame the victims for this killing spree defies both morality and sense

March 12, 2008

Carnage in Gaza: To blame the victims for this killing spree defies both morality and sense

 

By S Milne

 

Global Research, March 5, 2008

Guardian

 

Washington’s covert attempts to overturn an election result lie behind the crisis in Gaza, as leaked papers show

The attempt by western politicians and media to present this week’s carnage in the Gaza Strip as a legitimate act of Israeli self-defence – or at best the latest phase of a wearisome conflict between two somehow equivalent sides – has reached Alice-in-Wonderland proportions. Since Israel’s deputy defence minister, Matan Vilnai, issued his chilling warning last week that Palestinians faced a “holocaust” if they continued to fire home-made rockets into Israel, the balance sheet of suffering has become ever clearer. More than 120 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza by Israeli forces in the past week, of whom one in five were children and more than half were civilians, according to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem. During the same period, three Israelis were killed, two of whom were soldiers taking part in the attacks.

So what was the response of the British foreign secretary, David Miliband, to this horrific killing spree? It was to blame the “numerous civilian casualties” on the week’s “significant rise” in Palestinian rocket attacks “and the Israeli response”, condemn the firing of rockets as “terrorist acts” and defend Israel’s right to self-defence “in accordance with international law”. But of course it has been nothing of the kind – any more than has been Israel’s 40-year occupation of the Palestinian territories, its continued expansion of settlements or its refusal to allow the return of expelled refugees.

Nor is the past week’s one-sided burden of casualties and misery anything new, but the gap is certainly getting wider. After the election of Hamas two years ago, Israel – backed by the US and the European Union – imposed a punitive economic blockade, which has hardened over the past months into a full-scale siege of the Gaza Strip, including fuel, electricity and essential supplies. Since January’s mass breakout across the Egyptian border signalled that collective punishment wouldn’t work, Israel has opted for military escalation. What that means on the ground can be seen from the fact that at the height of the intifada, from 2000 to 2005, four Palestinians were killed for every Israeli; in 2006 it was 30; last year the ratio was 40 to one. In the three months since the US-sponsored Middle East peace conference at Annapolis, 323 Palestinians have been killed compared with seven Israelis, two of whom were civilians.

But the US and Europe’s response is to blame the principal victims for a crisis it has underwritten at every stage. In interviews with Palestinian leaders over the past few days, BBC presenters have insisted that Palestinian rockets have been the “starting point” of the violence, as if the occupation itself did not exist. In the West Bank, from which no rockets are currently fired and where the US-backed administration of Mahmoud Abbas maintains a ceasefire, there have been 480 Israeli military attacks over the past three months and 26 Palestinians killed. By contrast, the rockets from Gaza which are supposed to be the justification for the latest Israeli onslaught have killed a total of 14 people over seven years.

Like any other people, the Palestinians have the right to resist occupation – or to self-defence – whether they choose to exercise it or not. In spite of Israel’s disengagement in 2005, Gaza remains occupied territory, both legally and in reality. It is the world’s largest open-air prison, with land, sea and air access controlled by Israel, which carries out military operations at will. Palestinians may differ about the tactics of resistance, but the dominant view (if not that of Abbas) has long been that without some armed pressure, their negotiating hand will inevitably be weaker. And while it might be objected that the rockets are indiscriminate, that is not an easy argument for Israel to make, given its appalling record of civilian casualties in both the Palestinian territories and Lebanon.

The truth is that Hamas’s control of Gaza is the direct result of the US refusal to accept the Palestinians’ democratic choice in 2006 and its covert attempt to overthrow the elected administration by force through its Fatah placeman Muhammad Dahlan. As confirmed by secret documents leaked to the US magazine Vanity Fair – and also passed to the Guardian – George Bush, Condoleezza Rice and Elliott Abrams, the US deputy national security adviser (of Iran-Contra fame), funnelled cash, weapons and instructions to Dahlan, partly through Arab intermediaries such as Jordan and Egypt, in an effort to provoke a Palestinian civil war. As evidence of the military buildup emerged, Hamas moved to forestall the US plan with its own takeover of Gaza last June. David Wurmser, who resigned as Dick Cheney’s chief Middle East adviser the following month, argues: “What happened wasn’t so much a coup by Hamas but an attempted coup by Fatah that was pre-empted before it could happen.”

Yesterday, Rice attempted to defend the failed US attempt to reverse the results of the Palestinian elections by pointing to Iran’s support for Hamas. Meanwhile, Israel’s attacks on Gaza are expected to resume once she has left the region, even if no one believes they will stop the rockets. Some in the Israeli government hope that they can nevertheless weaken Hamas as a prelude to pushing Gaza into Egypt’s unwilling arms; others hope to bring Abbas and his entourage back to Gaza after they have crushed Hamas, perhaps with a transitional international force to save the Palestinian president’s face.

Neither looks a serious option, not least because Hamas cannot be crushed by force, even with the bloodbath that some envisage. The third, commonsense option, backed by 64% of Israelis, is to take up Hamas’s offer – repeated by its leader Khalid Mish’al at the weekend – and negotiate a truce. It’s a move that now attracts not only left-leaning Israeli politicians such as Yossi Beilin, but also a growing number of rightwing establishment figures, including Ariel Sharon’s former security adviser Giora Eiland, the former Mossad boss Efraim Halevy, and the ex-defence minister Shaul Mofaz.

The US, however, is resolutely opposed to negotiating with what it has long branded a terrorist organisation – or allowing anyone else to do so, including other Palestinians. As the leaked American papers confirm, Rice effectively instructed Abbas to “collapse” the joint Hamas-Fatah national unity government agreed in Mecca early last year, a decision carried out after Hamas’s pre-emptive takeover. But for the Palestinians, national unity is an absolute necessity if they are to have any chance of escaping a world of walled cantons, checkpoints, ethnically segregated roads, dispossession and humiliation.

What else can Israel do to stop the rockets, its supporters ask. The answer could not be more obvious: end the illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories and negotiate a just settlement for the Palestinian refugees, ethnically cleansed 60 years ago – who, with their families, make up the majority of Gaza’s 1.5 million people. All the Palestinian factions, including Hamas, accept that as the basis for a permanent settlement or indefinite end of armed conflict. In the meantime, agree a truce, exchange prisoners and lift the blockade. Israelis increasingly seem to get it – but the grim reality appears to be that a lot more blood is going to have to flow before it’s accepted in Washington.

s.milne@guardian.co.uk

Tomgram: Noam Chomsky, Terrorists Wanted the World Over

February 27, 2008

Tom Dispatch

posted 2008-02-26 15:13:30

Tomgram: Noam Chomsky, Terrorists Wanted the World Over

One of Noam Chomsky’s latest books — a conversation with David Barsamian — is entitled What We Say Goes. It catches a powerful theme of Chomsky’s: that we have long been living on a one-way planet and that the language we regularly wield to describe the realities of our world is tailored to Washington’s interests.

Juan Cole, at his Informed Comment website, had a good example of the strangeness of this targeted language recently. When Serbs stormed the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade, he offered the following comment (with so many years of the term “Islamofascism” in mind): “…given that the Serbs are Eastern Orthodox Christians, will the Republican Party and Fox Cable News now start fulminating against ‘Christofascism?'”

Of course, the minute you try to turn the Washington norm (in word or act) around, as Chomsky did in a piece entitled What If Iran Had Invaded Mexico?, you’ve already entered the theater of the absurd. “Terror” is a particularly good example of this. “Terror” is something that, by (recent) definition, is committed by free-floating groups or movements against innocent civilians and is utterly reprehensible (unless the group turns out to be the CIA running car bombs into Baghdad or car and camel bombs into Afghanistan, in which case it’s not a topic that’s either much discussed, or condemned in our world). On the other hand, that weapon of terror, air power, which is at the heart of the American way of war, simply doesn’t qualify under the category of “terror” at all — no matter how terrifying it may be to innocent civilians who find themselves underneath the missiles and bombs.

It’s with this in mind that Chomsky turns to terror of every kind in the Middle East in the context of the car bombing of a major figure in Lebanon’s Hizbollah movement. By the way, The Essential Chomsky (edited by Anthony Arnove), a new collection of his writings on politics and on language from the 1950s to the present, has just been published and is highly recommended. Tom

The Most Wanted List

International Terrorism
By Noam Chomsky On February 13, Imad Moughniyeh, a senior commander of Hizbollah, was assassinated in Damascus. “The world is a better place without this man in it,” State Department spokesperson Sean McCormack said: “one way or the other he was brought to justice.” Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell added that Moughniyeh has been “responsible for more deaths of Americans and Israelis than any other terrorist with the exception of Osama bin Laden.”

Joy was unconstrained in Israel too, as “one of the U.S. and Israel’s most wanted men” was brought to justice, the London Financial Times reported. Under the heading, “A militant wanted the world over,” an accompanying story reported that he was “superseded on the most-wanted list by Osama bin Laden” after 9/11 and so ranked only second among “the most wanted militants in the world.”

The terminology is accurate enough, according to the rules of Anglo-American discourse, which defines “the world” as the political class in Washington and London (and whoever happens to agree with them on specific matters). It is common, for example, to read that “the world” fully supported George Bush when he ordered the bombing of Afghanistan. That may be true of “the world,” but hardly of the world, as revealed in an international Gallup Poll after the bombing was announced. Global support was slight. In Latin America, which has some experience with U.S. behavior, support ranged from 2% in Mexico to 16% in Panama, and that support was conditional upon the culprits being identified (they still weren’t eight months later, the FBI reported), and civilian targets being spared (they were attacked at once). There was an overwhelming preference in the world for diplomatic/judicial measures, rejected out of hand by “the world.”

Following the Terror Trail

In the present case, if “the world” were extended to the world, we might find some other candidates for the honor of most hated arch-criminal. It is instructive to ask why this might be true.

The Financial Times reports that most of the charges against Moughniyeh are unsubstantiated, but “one of the very few times when his involvement can be ascertained with certainty [is in] the hijacking of a TWA plane in 1985 in which a U.S. Navy diver was killed.” This was one of two terrorist atrocities that led a poll of newspaper editors to select terrorism in the Middle East as the top story of 1985; the other was the hijacking of the passenger liner Achille Lauro, in which a crippled American, Leon Klinghoffer, was brutally murdered. That reflects the judgment of “the world.” It may be that the world saw matters somewhat differently.

The Achille Lauro hijacking was a retaliation for the bombing of Tunis ordered a week earlier by Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres. His air force killed 75 Tunisians and Palestinians with smart bombs that tore them to shreds, among other atrocities, as vividly reported from the scene by the prominent Israeli journalist Amnon Kapeliouk. Washington cooperated by failing to warn its ally Tunisia that the bombers were on the way, though the Sixth Fleet and U.S. intelligence could not have been unaware of the impending attack. Secretary of State George Shultz informed Israeli Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir that Washington “had considerable sympathy for the Israeli action,” which he termed “a legitimate response” to “terrorist attacks,” to general approbation. A few days later, the UN Security Council unanimously denounced the bombing as an “act of armed aggression” (with the U.S. abstaining). “Aggression” is, of course, a far more serious crime than international terrorism. But giving the United States and Israel the benefit of the doubt, let us keep to the lesser charge against their leadership.

A few days after, Peres went to Washington to consult with the leading international terrorist of the day, Ronald Reagan, who denounced “the evil scourge of terrorism,” again with general acclaim by “the world.”

The “terrorist attacks” that Shultz and Peres offered as the pretext for the bombing of Tunis were the killings of three Israelis in Larnaca, Cyprus. The killers, as Israel conceded, had nothing to do with Tunis, though they might have had Syrian connections. Tunis was a preferable target, however. It was defenseless, unlike Damascus. And there was an extra pleasure: more exiled Palestinians could be killed there.

The Larnaca killings, in turn, were regarded as retaliation by the perpetrators: They were a response to regular Israeli hijackings in international waters in which many victims were killed — and many more kidnapped and sent to prisons in Israel, commonly to be held without charge for long periods. The most notorious of these has been the secret prison/torture chamber Facility 1391. A good deal can be learned about it from the Israeli and foreign press. Such regular Israeli crimes are, of course, known to editors of the national press in the U.S., and occasionally receive some casual mention.

Klinghoffer’s murder was properly viewed with horror, and is very famous. It was the topic of an acclaimed opera and a made-for-TV movie, as well as much shocked commentary deploring the savagery of Palestinians — “two-headed beasts” (Prime Minister Menachem Begin), “drugged roaches scurrying around in a bottle” (Chief of Staff Raful Eitan), “like grasshoppers compared to us,” whose heads should be “smashed against the boulders and walls” (Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir). Or more commonly just “Araboushim,” the slang counterpart of “kike” or “nigger.”

Thus, after a particularly depraved display of settler-military terror and purposeful humiliation in the West Bank town of Halhul in December 1982, which disgusted even Israeli hawks, the well-known military/political analyst Yoram Peri wrote in dismay that one “task of the army today [is] to demolish the rights of innocent people just because they are Araboushim living in territories that God promised to us,” a task that became far more urgent, and was carried out with far more brutality, when the Araboushim began to “raise their heads” a few years later.

We can easily assess the sincerity of the sentiments expressed about the Klinghoffer murder. It is only necessary to investigate the reaction to comparable U.S.-backed Israeli crimes. Take, for example, the murder in April 2002 of two crippled Palestinians, Kemal Zughayer and Jamal Rashid, by Israeli forces rampaging through the refugee camp of Jenin in the West Bank. Zughayer’s crushed body and the remains of his wheelchair were found by British reporters, along with the remains of the white flag he was holding when he was shot dead while seeking to flee the Israeli tanks which then drove over him, ripping his face in two and severing his arms and legs. Jamal Rashid was crushed in his wheelchair when one of Israel’s huge U.S.-supplied Caterpillar bulldozers demolished his home in Jenin with his family inside. The differential reaction, or rather non-reaction, has become so routine and so easy to explain that no further commentary is necessary.

Car Bomb

Plainly, the 1985 Tunis bombing was a vastly more severe terrorist crime than the Achille Lauro hijacking, or the crime for which Moughniyeh’s “involvement can be ascertained with certainty” in the same year. But even the Tunis bombing had competitors for the prize for worst terrorist atrocity in the Mideast in the peak year of 1985.

One challenger was a car-bombing in Beirut right outside a mosque, timed to go off as worshippers were leaving Friday prayers. It killed 80 people and wounded 256. Most of the dead were girls and women, who had been leaving the mosque, though the ferocity of the blast “burned babies in their beds,” “killed a bride buying her trousseau,” and “blew away three children as they walked home from the mosque.” It also “devastated the main street of the densely populated” West Beirut suburb, reported Nora Boustany three years later in the Washington Post.

The intended target had been the Shi’ite cleric Sheikh Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah, who escaped. The bombing was carried out by Reagan’s CIA and his Saudi allies, with Britain’s help, and was specifically authorized by CIA Director William Casey, according to Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward’s account in his book Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA, 1981-1987. Little is known beyond the bare facts, thanks to rigorous adherence to the doctrine that we do not investigate our own crimes (unless they become too prominent to suppress, and the inquiry can be limited to some low-level “bad apples” who were naturally “out of control”).

“Terrorist Villagers”

A third competitor for the 1985 Mideast terrorism prize was Prime Minister Peres’ “Iron Fist” operations in southern Lebanese territories then occupied by Israel in violation of Security Council orders. The targets were what the Israeli high command called “terrorist villagers.” Peres’s crimes in this case sank to new depths of “calculated brutality and arbitrary murder” in the words of a Western diplomat familiar with the area, an assessment amply supported by direct coverage. They are, however, of no interest to “the world” and therefore remain uninvestigated, in accordance with the usual conventions. We might well ask whether these crimes fall under international terrorism or the far more severe crime of aggression, but let us again give the benefit of the doubt to Israel and its backers in Washington and keep to the lesser charge.

These are a few of the thoughts that might cross the minds of people elsewhere in the world, even if not those of “the world,” when considering “one of the very few times” Imad Moughniyeh was clearly implicated in a terrorist crime.

The U.S. also accuses him of responsibility for devastating double suicide truck-bomb attacks on U.S. Marine and French paratrooper barracks in Lebanon in 1983, killing 241 Marines and 58 paratroopers, as well as a prior attack on the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, killing 63, a particularly serious blow because of a meeting there of CIA officials at the time.

The Financial Times has, however, attributed the attack on the Marine barracks to Islamic Jihad, not Hizbollah. Fawaz Gerges, one of the leading scholars on the jihadi movements and on Lebanon, has written that responsibility was taken by an “unknown group called Islamic Jihad.” A voice speaking in classical Arabic called for all Americans to leave Lebanon or face death. It has been claimed that Moughniyeh was the head of Islamic Jihad at the time, but to my knowledge, evidence is sparse.

The opinion of the world has not been sampled on the subject, but it is possible that there might be some hesitancy about calling an attack on a military base in a foreign country a “terrorist attack,” particularly when U.S. and French forces were carrying out heavy naval bombardments and air strikes in Lebanon, and shortly after the U.S. provided decisive support for the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, which killed some 20,000 people and devastated the south, while leaving much of Beirut in ruins. It was finally called off by President Reagan when international protest became too intense to ignore after the Sabra-Shatila massacres.

In the United States, the Israeli invasion of Lebanon is regularly described as a reaction to Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) terrorist attacks on northern Israel from their Lebanese bases, making our crucial contribution to these major war crimes understandable. In the real world, the Lebanese border area had been quiet for a year, apart from repeated Israeli attacks, many of them murderous, in an effort to elicit some PLO response that could be used as a pretext for the already planned invasion. Its actual purpose was not concealed at the time by Israeli commentators and leaders: to safeguard the Israeli takeover of the occupied West Bank. It is of some interest that the sole serious error in Jimmy Carter’s book Palestine: Peace not Apartheid is the repetition of this propaganda concoction about PLO attacks from Lebanon being the motive for the Israeli invasion. The book was bitterly attacked, and desperate efforts were made to find some phrase that could be misinterpreted, but this glaring error — the only one — was ignored. Reasonably, since it satisfies the criterion of adhering to useful doctrinal fabrications.

Killing without Intent

Another allegation is that Moughniyeh “masterminded” the bombing of Israel’s embassy in Buenos Aires on March 17, 1992, killing 29 people, in response, as the Financial Times put it, to Israel’s “assassination of former Hizbollah leader Abbas Al-Mussawi in an air attack in southern Lebanon.” About the assassination, there is no need for evidence: Israel proudly took credit for it. The world might have some interest in the rest of the story. Al-Mussawi was murdered with a U.S.-supplied helicopter, well north of Israel’s illegal “security zone” in southern Lebanon. He was on his way to Sidon from the village of Jibshit, where he had spoken at the memorial for another Imam murdered by Israeli forces. The helicopter attack also killed his wife and five-year old child. Israel then employed U.S.-supplied helicopters to attack a car bringing survivors of the first attack to a hospital.

After the murder of the family, Hezbollah “changed the rules of the game,” Prime Minister Rabin informed the Israeli Knesset. Previously, no rockets had been launched at Israel. Until then, the rules of the game had been that Israel could launch murderous attacks anywhere in Lebanon at will, and Hizbollah would respond only within Israeli-occupied Lebanese territory.

After the murder of its leader (and his family), Hizbollah began to respond to Israeli crimes in Lebanon by rocketing northern Israel. The latter is, of course, intolerable terror, so Rabin launched an invasion that drove some 500,000 people out of their homes and killed well over 100. The merciless Israeli attacks reached as far as northern Lebanon.

In the south, 80% of the city of Tyre fled and Nabatiye was left a “ghost town,” Jibshit was about 70% destroyed according to an Israeli army spokesperson, who explained that the intent was “to destroy the village completely because of its importance to the Shi’ite population of southern Lebanon.” The goal was “to wipe the villages from the face of the earth and sow destruction around them,” as a senior officer of the Israeli northern command described the operation.

Jibshit may have been a particular target because it was the home of Sheikh Abdul Karim Obeid, kidnapped and brought to Israel several years earlier. Obeid’s home “received a direct hit from a missile,” British journalist Robert Fisk reported, “although the Israelis were presumably gunning for his wife and three children.” Those who had not escaped hid in terror, wrote Mark Nicholson in the Financial Times, “because any visible movement inside or outside their houses is likely to attract the attention of Israeli artillery spotters, who… were pounding their shells repeatedly and devastatingly into selected targets.” Artillery shells were hitting some villages at a rate of more than 10 rounds a minute at times.

All of this received the firm support of President Bill Clinton, who understood the need to instruct the Araboushim sternly on the “rules of the game.” And Rabin emerged as another grand hero and man of peace, so different from the two-legged beasts, grasshoppers, and drugged roaches.

This is only a small sample of facts that the world might find of interest in connection with the alleged responsibility of Moughniyeh for the retaliatory terrorist act in Buenos Aires.

Other charges are that Moughniyeh helped prepare Hizbollah defenses against the 2006 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, evidently an intolerable terrorist crime by the standards of “the world,” which understands that the United States and its clients must face no impediments in their just terror and aggression.

The more vulgar apologists for U.S. and Israeli crimes solemnly explain that, while Arabs purposely kill people, the U.S. and Israel, being democratic societies, do not intend to do so. Their killings are just accidental ones, hence not at the level of moral depravity of their adversaries. That was, for example, the stand of Israel’s High Court when it recently authorized severe collective punishment of the people of Gaza by depriving them of electricity (hence water, sewage disposal, and other such basics of civilized life).

The same line of defense is common with regard to some of Washington’s past peccadilloes, like the destruction in 1998 of the al-Shifa pharmaceutical plant in Sudan. The attack apparently led to the deaths of tens of thousands of people, but without intent to kill them, hence not a crime on the order of intentional killing — so we are instructed by moralists who consistently suppress the response that had already been given to these vulgar efforts at self-justification.

To repeat once again, we can distinguish three categories of crimes: murder with intent, accidental killing, and murder with foreknowledge but without specific intent. Israeli and U.S. atrocities typically fall into the third category. Thus, when Israel destroys Gaza’s power supply or sets up barriers to travel in the West Bank, it does not specifically intend to murder the particular people who will die from polluted water or in ambulances that cannot reach hospitals. And when Bill Clinton ordered the bombing of the al-Shifa plant, it was obvious that it would lead to a humanitarian catastrophe. Human Rights Watch immediately informed him of this, providing details; nevertheless, he and his advisers did not intend to kill specific people among those who would inevitably die when half the pharmaceutical supplies were destroyed in a poor African country that could not replenish them.

Rather, they and their apologists regarded Africans much as we do the ants we crush while walking down a street. We are aware that it is likely to happen (if we bother to think about it), but we do not intend to kill them because they are not worthy of such consideration. Needless to say, comparable attacks by Araboushim in areas inhabited by human beings would be regarded rather differently.

If, for a moment, we can adopt the perspective of the world, we might ask which criminals are “wanted the world over.”

Noam Chomsky is the author of numerous best-selling political works. His latest books are Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy and What We Say Goes, a conversation book with David Barsamian, both in the American Empire Project series at Metropolitan Books. The Essential Chomsky (edited by Anthony Arnove), a collection of his writings on politics and on language from the 1950s to the present, has just been published by the New Press.

Copyright 2008 Noam Chomsky

Lobby Wars on Gandhi

February 15, 2008

Lobby Wars on Gandhi

By Punyapriya Dasgupta

Punyapriya Dasgupta’s ZSpace Page

 

The problem the Israelis and their supporters have with Gandhi refuses to go away..  In what they call their pre-State era, they tried to  get  Mahatma Gandhi to endorse their campaign to dispossess the Arabs and transform Palestine into a Jewish homeland.  He not only branded their enterprise unjust but even made comments which lend support to the Palestinian resistance that has been calumniated  more recently by Israel and its American backers as terrorism.  Today, the Israel lobby in America is baying for the blood of Arun Gandhi for his temerity in advising the Jews in Israel that it is time they got over their holocaust fixation and  for their own secure future moved on to build peace and friendship with their neighbours.

 

Arun Gandhi, a grandson of  the Mahatma, together with his wife Sunanda, founded the M.K.Gandhi Institute of Non-Violence in Memphis to spread the Gandhian philosophy in America and later made it a part of the University of Rochester.    Early last month Arun Gandhi wrote in a Washington Post blog:  “The Jewish identity in the past has been locked into the holocaust experience – a German burden that the Jews have not been able to shed.  It is a very good example of a community that can overplay a historic experience to the point that it begins to repulse friends.  The holocaust was the result of the warped mind of an individual who was able to influence his followers into something dreadful.   But it seems to me that the Jews today not only want the Germans to feel guilty but the whole world must regret what happened to the Jews.  The world did feel sorry for the episode but when an individual or a nation refuses to forgive and move on, the regret turns into anger.  The Jewish identity in the future appears bleak.  Any nation that remains anchored to the past is unable to move ahead and especially a nation that believes its survival can only be ensured by weapons and bombs.  In Tel Aviv in 2004, I had the opportunity to speak to some MPs and peace activists all of whom argued that the wall and the military build up was necessary to protect the nation and the people.  In other words, I asked, you believe that you can create a snake pit with many deadly snakes in it – and expect to live in the pit secure and alive?  What do you mean? they countered.  Well, with your superior weapons and your attitude towards your neighbours would it not be right to say you are creating a snake pit?  Would it not be better to befriend those who hate you?  Can you not reach out to share your technical advantage with your neighbours and build a relationship?”

 

 This is vintage Gandhian logic about the means to an end.  Arun Gandhi is a true inheritor of Gandhism except in such obsolete externals  as the asceticism the Mahatma espoused in dress to identify himself with the poorest Indian nearly a century ago.  When the Israel lobbyists turned on him for what they regard as sacrilege of the holocaust, Arun responded with more of Gandhism.  He resigned from the presidentship of the institution of non-violence  he had himself founded and issued an apology:

 “My statement on the recent Washington Post blog was couched in language that   was hurtful and contrary to the principle of non-violence.

My intention was to generate a healthy discussion on the proliferation of violence.  Clearly I did not achieve my goal.  Instead, unintentionally, my words have resulted in pain, anger, confusion and embarrassment.  I deeply regret these consequences.

I would like to be a part of as healing process.  The principles of non-violence are founded on love, respect, understanding and compassion.  It is my sincere hope that this situation will give me and others the opportunity to work together and transform anger and negative emotions, create deeper mutual respect and understanding and build more harmonious communities.”

 

The Zionist response was typical too.  Not only was Arun Gandhi abused as soon as the blog appeared, even his apology was rejected as not enough or inconsequential.  The Anti-Defamation League adjudged him guilty of a classic attempt at blaming the victim. Arun Gandhi was branded anti-semite by the Israel lobbyists The director of the Simon Wiesenthal Institute seized it as a not-to-be lost opportunity to extend his sneer retrospectively to the Mahatma, a revered figure in world history.  Efraim Zuroff was quoted by the Jerusalem Post as saying:  “Even the great Mohandas Gandhi did not have a monopoly on wisdom, evidence his suggested passive resistance against the Nazis.”  Someone may take this cue and say that Arun Gandhi betrayed poor wisdom for he advised the Palestinians to defeat the Israelis with a massive non-violent march. John Mearsheimer who along with Stephen Walt wrote about the Israel lobby and faced its full fury, offered a consolation to Arun Gandhi with a comment that he would have gotten into serious trouble with the lobby even if he had chosen his words carefully ”simply because he had criticized Israel and its American supporters, which one does at his or her own peril.”

 

Sixty years after his death Mahatma Gandhi still remains a thorn on  Zionism’s side.  His view, written in 1938, remains in indelible print and sharply relevant even now. “Palestine belongs to the Arabs in the same sense that England belongs to the Englih or France to the French.  It is wrong and inhuman to impose the Jews on the Arabs.  What is going on in Palestine today cannot be justified by any code of conduct.  The Mandates have no sanction but that of the last War.  Surely it would be a crime against humanity  to reduce the proud Arabs so that Palestine can be restored to the Jews partly or wholly as their national home.  I am not defending the Arab excesses.  I wish they had chosen the way of non-violence in  resisting what they rightly regarded as an unwarranted encroachment upon their country.  But according to the accepted canons of right and wrong, nothing can be said against the Arab resistance in the face of overwhelming odds.”

 

Punyapriya Dasgupta, journalist, can be reached at siliserh@yahoo.co.in

Power to the (Palestinian) People!

January 26, 2008

Power to the (Palestinian) People!

By Jeff Halper
Source: MRZine

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The people of Palestine have done it again, taking their own fate in their hands after being let down by their own “moderate” political leadership and, indeed, the entire international community in their struggle for freedom.  Early this morning they simply blew up the wall separating Gaza from Egypt, breaking a siege imposed on them by an Arab government in collaboration with Israel.

 

We, the peoples of the world, should take great pride and encouragement in this quintessentially civil society refusal to accept subjugation, to abandon their fate to governments, including their own, for whom the lives of ordinary people are simply grist for their political charades — Annapolis and its subsequent “peace process” being but the last cynical expression.  For the Palestinians represent far more than just themselves.  Their refusal to submit to the dictates of governments, or to governments’ lack of interest in the well-being of people in general, reflects the desire of billions of oppressed people for identity, freedom, a decent life and actualization of their collective and individual rights and potentials.  Most of the oppressed, the “wretched of the earth” as Franz Fanon called them a half-century ago, are too preoccupied with the daunting daily struggle for survival to organize and resist.  Others do resist in a myriad of ways, but are most often repressed by their own political and economic “leaders,” disappearing anonymously from view.  In a few cases they have managed to mount effective resistance to oppression, even to prevail — though the billions spent on “counterinsurgency” warfare by the US, Europe, Russia, Israel and many “developing” nations augur ill for peoples attempting to overthrow oppressive regimes.

 

In this the Palestinians stand at the forefront, in the front lines of peoples’ insistence everywhere that their rights, well-being and fundamental values as human beings be respected by governments.  And they do so (and I write this as an Israeli with great sorrow and shame) against one of the world’s strongest and most ruthless military powers — a power that has dispossessed them from 85% of their land, which is trying to transform its occupation into a permanent regime of apartheid, which has spent decades impoverishing and disenfranchising them; the fourth largest nuclear power which nevertheless casts itself as the victim.  Not only have the Palestinians experienced the dehumanization all oppressed and colonized peoples experience, not only have they been made into the embodiment of the rich and powerful’s greatest fear, evil “terrorists” who may tear down their privileged “civilization,” but they have been turned into guinea pigs.  Israel is able to gain an edge in the counterinsurgency industry and win entree into the heart of the American military/hi tech complex by turning the Occupied Territories into a laboratory for the development of fiendish weaponry and tactics intended for use against people.

 

And yet the Palestinian people — and in particular those who remain sumud, steadfast, in Palestine — continue not only to resist but to surprise and confound its would-be Israeli master at every turn.  Despite unlimited control, a complete monopoly over the use of force, utter callousness and a vaunted Shin Beit, Israel’s military intelligence, Palestinians vote as they want, resist, carry on their daily lives with dignity — and blow huge holes in the walls and policies constructed in order to imprison and defeat them.

 

All this is not on the minds of those desperate people who surged into Egypt today.  They may not have the “Big Picture.”  Yet they deserve the respect and gratefulness of every person who cherishes a better world based on human rights and dignity, a world that is inclusive.  As an Israeli Jew, I have been saddened and mortified that my own people, after all they have experienced, cannot see what they are doing to others.  But on a larger scale, not as an Israeli Jew but as a human being, I take heart in the Palestinians’ active refusal to be ground under a global system that is producing unimaginable wealth and power for a few at the expense of the growing ranks of the wretched.

 

I am not a Palestinian; I am not one of the oppressed.  I only hope I can use my privilege in an effective way in order to redeem the gift the people of Gaza have given all of us: the realization that the people do have power and can prevail even in the face of overwhelming power.  We may each express our responsibility towards the people of Gaza in whatever way most suits us, but as the privileged we must do something.  We owe the Palestinians and the Palestinians writ large at least that.

 

Jeff Halper is the Coordinator of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD).

As the World Watches the Crisis in Gaza, Gaza Helps Itself

January 26, 2008

As the World Watches the Crisis in Gaza, Gaza Helps Itself

While the crisis in Gaza may dominate the headlines these days, the broader context from which it has emerged is sorely lacking. This is rather unsurprising, given the mainstream media’s proclivity for fragmented, sensationalist, profit-oriented coverage that serves the corporate interest. Fortunately, in venues like this one, there is room for a deeper exploration of the facts.
To begin, it is worth recalling that the Gaza Strip is an area of some 360 square kilometers, whose population before the 1948 war was only 80,000 people. In the months prior to, during and after the war, this population was joined by 200,000 Palestinian refugees from the Jaffa and Beersheva districts of British Mandate Palestine, who were forcibly expelled or fled from their homes in fear of the fighting. Most of the homes and villages from which they hailed were systematically destroyed by the military forces of the newly proclaimed Israeli state, and Gaza itself fell under de facto Egyptian administration until its occupation by Israel in the 1967 war.

Though international laws and conventions proclaim the right of refugees to leave and return to their homeland to be a basic human right, the applicability of this right to the Palestinian refugees in Gaza (and elsewhere) has been consistently rejected by the Israeli government. Accordingly, descendants of the first generation of refugees denied their right to return are registered as refugees by United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), for to deny subsequent generations this status would be to reward Israeli intransigence by making the refugee problem disappear with the death of its first victims.

Thus, three-quarters of the 1.4 million people living in Gaza are registered refugees who receive basic humanitarian assistance from UNRWA, and they represent 22.42% of the total number of Palestinian refugees registered with UNRWA. About half of Gaza’s refugee population (478,272) lives in eight refugee camps – Jabalia, Rafah, Beach, Nuseirat, Khan Younis, Bureij, Maghazi, and Deir al-Balah – whose population densities are among the highest in the world. The Beach camp in Gaza, for example, houses 80,688 refugees in an area of less than one square kilometer.1

The Israeli towns regularly targeted by the Qassam rockets of Palestinian militants have been built upon the lands in which their parents, grand-parents or great-grandparents once lived. Not a single article in the mainstream media on the situation in Gaza has mentioned this rather salient fact, and most reports have also failed to recall that Gaza remains under Israeli occupation. While Jewish-only settlements in Gaza were dismantled under Ariel Sharon’s 2005 disengagement plan, Gaza remains under Israeli control and is regularly subjected to Israeli military incursions. Of the over 1,100 Palestinians that have been killed by Israeli security forces since the August 2005 disengagement, the majority were residents of Gaza. Over the same period, a total of 28 Israelis were killed in attacks by Palestinian militants.2

Furthermore, while the Israeli government insists that its military manouevers and collective punishment of the population of Gaza is merely a response to Qassam rocket fire, the total number of civilians killed in such attacks between June 2004 and July 2006 was fourteen – five of whom were Palestinians, and one a migrant labourer from China. Operation Summer Rain (26 June – 24 July 2006), the codename for the Israeli military incursion into Gaza which the government claimed was launched to stop the Qassams, resulted in the death of 126 Palestinians, including at least 63 civilians, 29 of whom were under the age of 18.3

In this broader context, it is both hypocritical and highly misleading for mainstream news organizations to use terms like “Israeli response” or “Israeli retaliation” to characterize Israel’s attacks on Gaza. Qassam rocket fire is just one of many Palestinian responses to Israel’s occupation of Gaza and its continuing refusal to acknowledge the rights of Palestinians to return, self-determination and statehood. In the first forty-five years after their dispossession in 1948, Palestinians centered their resistance around the model of a popular uprising, using mass demonstrations, general strikes, appeals to the international community, and guerrilla operations against military targets to restore their lost rights. Indeed, the first intifada made up primarily of stone-throwing youths who were regularly gunned down by Israeli forces began in the Jabalia refugee camp in Gaza. It was only when these tactics failed to produce the desired results that suicide bombings targeting Israeli civilians began, the first of which was launched in April of 1993. After the construction of the 60 kilometre long perimeter fence which turned Gaza into the largest prison for refugees on earth, militants began constructing the homemade Qassam missiles, the first successful test launch being in 2001. While it is deeply regrettable that Israeli civilians have been injured, killed and traumatized by Qassam attacks and suicide bombings for 15 and 7 years respectively, the civilian population of Gaza has endured injuries, killings, and trauma at the hands of successive Israeli governments for 60 years now. Their rights to security and self-determination are certainly no less than those of the Israelis who settled on their former lands. They are not children of a lesser God, though the way the media reports on the situation, it is not difficult to see why some people think that they are.

Intensive media coverage of the current crisis in Gaza was sparked by its plunge into darkness on 20 January 2007. In what has become a predictable pattern of blame deflection for propaganda purposes, the Israelis once again blamed Hamas for manufacturing the current crisis. Such claims beggar belief however, given that among the proposals for economic sanctions on Gaza put forward by the Vilnai Committee and adopted by the Israeli Cabinet in October of last year, was a call for electricity sanctions. While the electricity sanctions proposal was halted by Attorney General Menachem Mazuz pending further domestic legal review, Israel nevertheless began drastically limiting fuel and foodstuff supplies to Gaza upon implementation of the sanctions regime on 28 October 2007.4

The only power plant located in Gaza relies on industrial gasoline to operate. This plant was built to reduce Gaza’s reliance on electricity supplies from the Israeli grid and it provided 140 megawatts (or two-thirds of Gaza’s electricity needs) when it came into full operation in 2004. It had, however, been running at a reduced capacity even before the current crisis due to an Israeli aerial attack which destroyed the plant at the beginning of Operation Summer Rain. The plant was partially rebuilt, likely with monies received as part of the $48 million “political risk” insurance policy it held with the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, “an arm of the US government that provides American businesses with financing abroad and promotes US interests in emerging markets.” 5 In other words, American citizens, whose taxes are regularly used to provide Israel with its military arsenal, ended up subsiding Israel’s destructive act twice over.

A Hamas official told Al-Jazeera on 21 January that the plant was operating at a capacity of 80 megawatts prior to its 20 January closure which he ascribed to the total lack of fuel for operations. He also claimed that the one-off emergency shipment of fuel from the EU which Israel would permit to enter Gaza on 22 January would allow the plant to operate for two days at a reduced capacity of 60 megawatts. Without further shipments however, the plant will once again have to be closed, since there are no reserves left to fall back on. An UNRWA official on Al-Jazeera English confirmed that he had visited the plant and that the fuel tanks were indeed empty. Thus, Israeli equivocations designed to avoid responsibility for the humanitarian crisis its policies have produced are once again exposed as out of touch with reality.

The lack of electricity in Gaza at the height of a bitterly cold Middle Eastern winter means not only that many families do not have the power required to heat and light their homes, but also that the water supply, which runs on electrical pumps, is affected. As a result of the two day blackout affecting most of the northern Gaza Strip (some 700,000 people), sewers backed up flooding the streets of densely populated refugee camps, producing conditions ripe for the outbreak of an epidemic.

Driven by the overall desperate conditions, on 22 January, a group made up primarily of women gathered at the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, demanding the gate be opened so as to access food, medicine and other supplies denied to them by the siege. They managed to break through the door briefly before being beaten back by Egyptian police. This scene of Egyptian men beating Palestinian women further enraged much of the Arab world who had already taken to the streets to demand action on the part of their governments whose apparent allegiances to Uncle Sam, seem to outstrip that to their own peoples.

As the international community convened to hem and haw over how to address the crisis, niggling over the wording of a proposed Security Council resolution –  eventually dropped in favour of a Presidential statement due to the opposition of the United States to the issuing of any resolution at all – Gazans once again took their destiny into their own hands.

On the night of 22nd masked militants detonated landmines at the base of the wall between Egypt and Gaza and then bulldozed sections to allow people to pass through. The United Nations reported that 350,000 people from Gaza flocked into Egypt on the 23rd to buy food, cigarettes, propane, and other items that had been unavailable to them for months. President Mubarak of Egypt, who arguably had the power to open the crossing the day previous, claimed he “decided” to let the people pass through for humanitarian reasons. Without the initiative taken by the militants and the people however, it is highly unlikely that he would have opened the crossing of his own accord. Between the teeming mass of humanity and growing domestic protests, he had little choice but to defer to popular sentiment, disappointing his American and Israeli benefactors.

As the international community continues to fail in holding Israel accountable for sixty years of crimes perpetrated against the Palestinian people, the people themselves continue to show enormous resilience and perseverance against the most incredible of odds. The idea floated by Bush and Olmert at Annapolis that Palestinians should give up their right to return to places now located within Israel because Israel’s right to retain its identity as a Jewish state is, in their eyes, greater than the rights of millions of refugees to exercise the most basic of human rights is beyond insulting, and is further rejected by the vast majority of the refugees it would affect. Without recognition and implementation of this right, the depth of the resentment built up in generation after generation of refugees will not lessen with time, despite the prognostications of Ben-Gurion that, “The old will die and the young will forget”. Many of the old have died, but the young, some of whom are now lobbing Qassams at Israel, have certainly not forgotten.

Without a radical shift in thinking, there will be many more Qassams and perhaps much worse in Israel’s near future. Wishful thinking will not make the problem go away. To right all wrongs, Israel must accept that a narrowly defined ethnic state made up largely of European settlers at the expense of its indigenous inhabitants cannot hold off the “barbarians at the gate” forever. The full day of reckoning will arrive. It is only a matter of time before the walls in and around the West Bank and Gaza that separate Palestinians from one another (and from their Palestinian brethren that are citizens of Israel) meet the same fate as the wall in Rafah. If Israelis hope to have any kind of future in the region, it behooves them to act pre-emptively to rectify all outstanding injustices – this time, not with might, but for what is right.

1 Gaza refugee camp profiles. UNRWA. Figures as of December 31, 2006. See http://www.un.org/unrwa/refugees/gaza.html.

2 Calculated based on statistics from B’tselem: The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories. See http://www.btselem.org/english/Statistics/Casualties.asp for a detailed person by person breakdown.

Attacks on Israeli Civilians by Palestinians. B’tselem. See http://www.btselem.org/English/Israeli_Civilians/Qassam_Missiles.asp.

4 Gaza Humanitarian Situation Report (1 – 31 October 2007). United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Activities. See html version at http://66.102.9.104/search?q=cache:cbovg581ua0J:www.ochaopt.org/documents/Gaza_Sitrep_2007_11_05.pdf.

5 Gaza Power Plant Hit by Israeli Airstrike is Insured by US Agency. Farah Stockman. Boston Globe. See http://www.boston.com/news/world/middleeast/articles/2006/06/29/gaza_power_plant_hit_by_israeli_airstrike_is_insured_by_us_agency/

Egypt seeks to halt Gaza border flow

January 25, 2008
International Herald Tribune
Egypt seeks to halt Gaza border flow
Friday, January 25, 2008
RAFAH, Egypt: Tensions rose at the breached border crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip on Friday, as Egypt trucked in security forces and soldiers and riot police tried to block Palestinians from entering, while the Palestinians broke another part of the border barrier.

The border guards had formed a human chain along most of the length of the border at Rafah, but were sill allowing the Palestinians to leave with the goods they had purchased in Egypt. For some time, they were able to stop people who still wanted to cross from Gaza but increasing numbers got through.

Egyptian security forces announced to the crowd of Palestinians over loudspeakers that the border would close at 3 p.m. local time, although a similar announcement was made on Thursday and the border still stayed open, Reuters reported.

Egyptian officials estimated that about 120,000 Palestinian had crossed into Egypt since the border was toppled by Hamas militants on Wednesday, but other estimates have put the number much higher. Over the three days since then, Palestinians have been returning with a cornucopia of consumer goods that have been in short supply since Israel moved to close its own border with Gaza last week � everything from cigarettes to televisions, generators, washing machines, milk, cheese, sheep, goats, cows, diesel fuel and gasoline.

As the Palestinians continued to cross back on Friday, there were scuffles at the border with Egyptian police officers and with troops, who had brought out water cannons and other heavy equipment that had not been visible in the past few days. There were some reports of gunfire.

On Thursday, the second day of the breach, tens of thousands more Palestinians had flooded across the border crossing. Already by then, many more Egyptian police officers were at various ruptures in the barrier at Rafah, more of them in riot gear and some using batons with small electric charges to keep the huge, pushing crowds in some form of order.

And more members of Hamas security forces were visible on the Gaza side, maintaining calm and doing random checks for weapons possibly being smuggled in for Fatah, the rival faction Hamas forced out of Gaza in June.

But neither group tried to stop the shoppers and businessmen restocking their wares in Egypt, nor did Hamas make any visible effort to control or tax the goods coming into Gaza.

On Thursday, Hamas gunmen could be seen quietly taking delivery of hundreds of bags of cement. Israel has sharply restricted cement imports to Gaza, even for aid projects, because it says Hamas diverts the supply to build fortified tunnels and emplacements for use against any major Israeli military action.

As the crowds flooded into Egypt, exchange rates and prices rose, as did the amounts Gazans were buying, with the clear intent to resell in Gaza. So intense was the trading that even some Palestinians worried that there would be a backlash from impoverished Egyptians in Rafah.

“This is not so good for the Palestinian people,” said Ahmed Shawa, a Gaza engineer who entered Egypt on Thursday. “Prices are becoming very high while people in Egyptian Rafah don’t have bread. If I go to your country and buy everything and you don’t have bread, you’re going to hate me.”

Hamas officials said they took action to open the Egyptian border after Israel decided last week to stop nearly all shipments into Gaza, including industrial diesel fuel needed to run Gaza’s main power plant and gasoline, in an effort to push Gazan militants to stop firing rockets at Israeli towns and farms.

Under severe international criticism, Israel relented, but only temporarily. It agreed to supply a week’s worth of fuel, but limited supplies again after the border breach.

President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt considered his options. But Egyptian officials made it clear on Thursday that while Egypt would not hinder Palestinians seeking food and other goods, it would not accept a lawless border, open to arms traffic and unregulated travel of gunmen and political extremists.

Israel and the United States said it was Egypt’s responsibility to bring the border situation under control.

General Ahmed Abdel Hamid, the governor of northern Sinai, estimated that as many as 120,000 Palestinians were in Egypt, but he said they were not being allowed to travel beyond El Arish, which lies slightly west of Rafah. He said on Thursday that he thought the border might stay open for another “four or five days” and then be closed pending another agreement on what to do.

“You have to see where this problem came from,” he said. “Before the dispute between Hamas and Fatah, the border was open every day with no problem. Since the dispute, the border has been closed.”

In fact, before the fighting between the Palestinian factions over the summer the Rafah crossing was closed more often than it was open. But Abdel Hamid emphasized that Egypt was not favoring one faction or another, saying, “Egypt is with the legitimate authority,” presumably the Palestinian Authority and its president, Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah.

Mubarak’s officials said Egypt would not accept responsibility for supplying Gaza and let Israel off the hook, as some Israeli officials hope.

“This is a wrong assumption,” said Hossam Zaki, the spokesman for Egypt’s Foreign Ministry. “The current situation is only an exception and for temporary reasons. The border will go back to normal.”

But the definition of normal was left unclear. When Israel pulled its settlers and troops out of Gaza in 2005, the Rafah crossing was opened with great fanfare to allow people in and out of Gaza. European Union supervisors were put in place, and Israeli video cameras monitored the traffic. But for security reasons, the crossing was often closed, and it has been shut completely since Hamas took over Gaza.

It will be difficult politically now for Mubarak to reseal the border completely, shutting off any outlet for Gaza. Egypt, with a strong opposition element from the Muslim Brotherhood, does not want to offend its Palestinian wing, Hamas. But Mubarak would prefer to work out an arrangement with the legal authority, President Abbas. In addition, Mubarak has promised Israel that Egypt will coordinate its actions on the Gaza border to preserve security interests of both countries.

In a speech on Thursday, Mubarak said that “peace efforts cannot endure any other failure, and Egypt will not allow the starving of Palestinians in Gaza or that the situation in the strip turns into a humanitarian crisis.”

He called on Palestinian factions to work together and said, “No one can outbid Egypt in its support for this silent nation and their just cause.”

Egypt, he said, “is doing its utmost in its movements and contacts to end their suffering and to lift the Israeli measures of collective punishment and to bring back the supply of fuel and electricity and humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip.”

Not Through Annapolis: Noam Chomsky Says Path to Mideast Peace Lies in Popular Organizing Against U.S.-Israeli “Rejectionism”

November 28, 2007

Not Through Annapolis: Noam Chomsky Says Path to Mideast Peace Lies in Popular Organizing Against U.S.-Israeli “Rejectionism”


As the U.S. convenes a Mideast summit in Annapolis, Maryland today, we spend the hour on the Israeli-Palestine conflict with two of the world’s leading thinkers: former South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu and world-renowned linguist Noam Chomsky. Chomsky says U.S. backing of continued Israeli occupation and annexation of Palestinian land is the biggest obstacle to peace. He says: “The crimes against Palestinians… are so shocking that the only emotionally valid reaction is rage and a call for extreme actions. But that does not help the victims. And, in fact, it’s likely to harm them. We have to face the reality that our actions have consequences, and they have to be adapted to real-world circumstances, difficult as it may be to stay calm in the face of shameful crimes in which we are directly and crucially implicated.” [includes rush transcript]


Leaders from around the world are gathering in Annapolis, Maryland today to take part in a U.S.-sponsored summit on the Middle East. President Bush met separately with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House on Monday. More than 40 organisations and countries, including Saudi Arabia and Syria, are attending the conference today. Hamas was not invited.A final agenda has not yet been drawn up, but a draft of a joint document was leaked to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. It makes no mention of the situation in Gaza or of core issues like the status of Jerusalem, settlements, borders, the separation wall and Palestinian refugees.

Today, we spend the hour on the Israeli-Palestine conflict with two of the world’s leading thinkers: former South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu and world-renowned linguist Noam Chomsky. They recently spoke at a conference in Boston, sponsored by Sabeel, a Palestinian Christian organization. The conference was titled “The Apartheid Paradigm in Palestine-Israel: Highlighting Issues of Justice and Equality.”

We begin with Noam Chomsky. A professor of linguistics at MIT for over half a century, Chomsky is the author of dozens of books on US foreign policy. His most recent is called “Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy.” Chomsky spoke before a packed audience at Boston’s historic Old South Church.

  • Noam Chomsky. Professor of linguistics at MIT for over half a century, Chomsky is the author of dozens of books on US foreign policy. His most recent is called “Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy.”

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AMY GOODMAN: Leaders from around the world are gathering in Annapolis, Maryland today to take part in a US-sponsored summit on the Middle East. President Bush met separately with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House Monday. More than forty organizations and countries, including Saudi Arabia and Syria, are attending the conference today. Hamas was not invited.

A final agenda has not yet been drawn up, but a draft of a joint document was leaked to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. It makes no mention of the situation in Gaza or of core issues like the status of Jerusalem, settlements, borders, the separation wall and Palestinian refugees.

Today, we spend the hour on the Israel-Palestine conflict with two of the world’s leading thinkers: former South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu and world-renowned linguist and author Noam Chomsky. They recently spoke at a conference in Boston sponsored by Sabeel, a Palestinian Christian organization. The conference was called “The Apartheid Paradigm in Palestine-Israel: Highlighting Issues of Justice and Equality.”

We begin today with Noam Chomsky, professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for over a half-century. Chomsky is the author of dozens of books on US foreign policy. His most recent is called Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy. Noam Chomsky spoke before a packed audience at Boston’s historic Old South Church.

    NOAM CHOMSKY: Before saying a word, I’d like to express some severe personal discomfort, because anything I say will be abstract and dry and restrained. The crimes against Palestinians in the Occupied Territories and elsewhere, particularly Lebanon, are so shocking that the only emotionally valid reaction is rage and a call for extreme actions. But that does not help the victims. And, in fact, it’s likely to harm them. We have to face the reality that our actions have consequences, and they have to be adapted to real-world circumstances, difficult as it may be to stay calm in the face of shameful crimes in which we are directly and crucially implicated.

    Well, I’ve been asked to talk about the apartheid paradigm and the proper response here, so I’ll do that, though not without some additional reservations. We have to recognize that there will be no clear answer as to the question of whether the apartheid paradigm applies in Israel or in Boston, right here, or elsewhere. The genre has, after all, only one example: South Africa. And there are similarities elsewhere in many dimensions, and it’s fair enough to bring them up, but there’s very little point debating whether they are close enough in one or another case to count as apartheid, because that will never be settled, we know that in advance.

    I’ve brought up similarities in the past, when I thought that they were appropriate. Actually, the one time I recall clearly was exactly ten years ago. That was at a conference at Ben Gurion University in Be’er Sheva. It was on the anniversary of the thirtieth year of the military occupation. And in the talk there, I quoted from a standard history of South Africa on elections in the Bantustans, which I’ll read; and just change a few words, and you’ll know what it’s about.

    “South African retention of effective power, through its officials in the Bantustans, its overwhelming economic influence and security arrangements, gave to this initiative of elections elements of a farce. However, unlikely candidates as were the Bantustans for any meaningful independent existence, their expanding bureaucracies provided jobs for new strata of educated Africans tied to the system in a new way and a basis for accumulation for a small number of Africans with access to loans and political influence. Repression, too, could be indigenized through developing homeland policy and army personnel. On the fringe of the Bantustans, border industry growth centers were planned as a means of freeing capital from some of the restraints imposed on industrial expansion elsewhere and to take advantage of virtually captive and particularly cheap labor. Within the homelands, economic development was more a matter of advertising brochures than actual practical activity, though some officials in South Africa understood the needs from their own perspective for some kind of revitalization of the homelands to prevent their economies from collapsing even further.”

    Well, I won’t waste time expressing the similarities to the Occupied Territories, but you can do that quite easily. Ten years ago, that was the optimistic prospect for the Occupied Territories. By now, even that’s remote, and reality is far more grim than it was then. There’s no time and, I presume, no need to review the harrowing details.

    We’re now approaching George Bush’s historic Annapolis conference, as it’s called, on Israel-Palestine, so we can anticipate a flood of deceit and distortions to set the proper framework. And we should be prepared to counter the propaganda assault, which has already begun. Just to pick a couple of examples, Bostonians could read in the Boston Globe a few days ago that at the Taba Conference in January 2001 — now quoting — “Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak accepted ideas floated by President Bill Clinton that would have produced a Palestinian state in 97 percent of the West Bank and 100 percent of Gaza,” but these forthcoming gestures failed. The evil Palestinians refused Israel’s generous offers, keeping to their time-honored insistence on seizing defeat from the jaws of victory and proving they’re not partners for negotiation.

    Well, there’s one fragment of truth in this conventional fabrication: there was a conference in Taba. And, in fact, it did come close to a possible settlement, but the rest is pure invention. In particular, the conference was terminated abruptly by Prime Minister Barak. The truth is completely unacceptable, so the facts are either suppressed, as they generally are, or, as in this case, just inverted. And we can expect a good deal more of that. Actually, the truth about the Taba Conference merits attention. That week, in one week in January 2001, that was the one moment in thirty years when the United States and Israel abandoned the rejectionist stance that they have maintained in virtual isolation until the present.

    And that may suggest some thoughts about another familiar fairytale that you could read about a couple of days earlier in the New York Times, where the respected policy analyst and former high government official, Leslie Gelb, wrote that every US administration since 1967 has privately favored returning almost all of the territory to the Palestinians for the purposes of creating a separate Palestinian state. Note the word “privately.” Crucial. We know what the administrations have said publicly. Publicly they have rejected adamantly anything remotely of the sort ever since 1967 — ’76, when the United States vetoed a Security Council resolution calling for a two-state settlement on the international border, incorporating all the relevant wording of UN 242 — it’s the basic diplomatic document to which Washington appeals when it’s convenient. The US veto — it’s worth bearing in mind — is a double veto. One part of the veto is that the actions are barred, of course. And it’s also vetoed from history, as in this case, so you’ll work really hard to find it, even in the scholarly literature.

AMY GOODMAN: We’ll come back to Professor Noam Chomsky’s address in Boston, and then we’ll go on to South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu. They were both speaking at the Sabeel conference.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: We return to MIT professor and author Noam Chomsky speaking recently in Boston at the Old South Church at a conference called the Apartheid Paradigm in Palestine-Israel.

    NOAM CHOMSKY: Sometimes the public rejection of a separate Palestinian state is more articulate and considerably more extreme, so it takes a George Bush no. 1, who is reputed to be the most hostile to Israel of US presidents. In 1988, as you know, the Palestinian National Council formally accepted a two-state settlement, and the Israeli government responded. This was the coalition government of Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Shamir. They responded by issuing a formal declaration that there can be no additional Palestinian state between Jordan and Palestine — “additional” because for Shimon Peres and his Labor coalition, Jordan already was a Palestinian state. It’s a view that’s attributed to the right wing, but that’s mistaken. This is Shimon Peres. The United States reacted to that with what was called the Baker Plan — James Baker, Secretary of State. The Bush Baker Plan endorsed Israel’s position without qualification and went on to add that any Palestinian negotiators would have to accept that framework, namely no second Palestinian state in addition to Jordan. That’s Bush no. 1, the alleged critic of Israel, and the respected diplomat James Baker. Again, the truth is inconvenient, so virtually none of this was reported, and you’ll have to work — search hard to extricate it from the web of self-serving propaganda that dominates commentary and reporting, of which Leslie Gelb’s article in the New York Times is a typical, but not unusual, example.

    Well, I’m not going to go on with that, but the diplomatic record is one of uniform rejectionism, apart from the week in Taba, and unilateral rejectionism, increasingly so. By now, virtually the entire world agrees on the two-state international consensus of the past thirty years, pretty much along the lines that were almost agreed upon at Taba. That includes all the Arab States, who actually go beyond to call for full normalization of relations with Israel. It includes Iran, although you won’t find that published here, which accepts the Arab League position. It includes Hamas; its leaders have repeatedly endorsed, called for a two-state settlement, even in articles in the US press. That also includes Hamas’s most militant figure, Khaled Meshaal, who’s in exile in Syria. And it includes the rest of the world. Israel rejects it, and the United States backs that rejection fully, not in words just, but in actions.

    Bush no. 2 has gone to new extremes in rejectionism. He’s declared the illegal West Bank settlements must remain part of Israel. That’s in accord with the Clinton position, expressed by his negotiator Dennis Ross, who explained that what he called “Israel’s needs” take precedence over Palestinian wants. That’s Clinton. But the party line remains undisturbed. Facts don’t matter. Bush, Rice and the rest are yearning to realize Bush’s vision of a Palestinian state — somewhere, someplace — persisting in the noble endeavor of the longtime honest broker.

    Well, what’s happened in the past is — of course, rejectionism goes far beyond words. It includes settlement programs, the annexation wall, closures, checkpoints, and so on. Settlements increased steadily right through the Oslo years, peaking actually in Clinton’s last year, the year 2000, right before the Camp David Accords. And the story is now being repeated before our eyes — shouldn’t surprise us.

    So to take just one example, with the Annapolis conference approaching, Israel has just confiscated more Arab land to build a bypass road from Palestinians — I’m quoting now — “in order to push the Palestinian traffic between Bethlehem and Ramallah deep into the desert and effectively bar Palestinians from the central part of the West Bank.” That’s part of the so-called E1 project, which is designed to incorporate the town of Ma’ale Adumim within Israel and effectively to bisect the West Bank. “With such policies” — continuing to quote — “With such policies enacted by the government, the famous Annapolis conference is emptied of all meaning long before it convenes.” This is quotes from the Israeli peace organization Gush Shalom. All of this is backed by the honest brokers in Washington and paid for by US taxpayers, who, incidentally, overwhelmingly join the international consensus, in opposition to their own government. But that’s not what we’re going to hear.

    Well, in fairness, it should be added that there is occasional public criticism of the settlement programs. So in the New York Times a couple of weeks ago, there was a favorable review of a very important study, which has just been translated into English, Lords of the Land by Idith Zertal and Akiva Eldar, which bitterly condemns the US-backed Israeli programs in the West Bank and the takeover of Israeli political life by their advocates. It’s a strong and important book.

    The review, however, goes on with conventional fairytales. Among them, it tells us that within the Green Line in Israel itself, Israel is what it calls a “vibrant democracy” in which non-Jews have equal rights and, unlike the West Bank, there are no Arab villages made inaccessible, because their roads have been dug up by army bulldozers. Well, again, there’s a fragment of truth in the description. So take, for example, the village Dar al-Hanoun in the so-called Triangle, Wadi Ara, it’s older than the state of Israel, but it’s one of the innumerable unrecognized villages in Israel. So it’s true that there’s no road dug up by bulldozers, and the reason is that there’s no road. No road is permitted by the state authorities, and no construction is permitted. No services are provided. That’s not an unusual situation for Palestinian citizens, who are also effectively barred from over 90% of the land by a complex and intricate web of laws and administrative arrangements. Technically, that was overruled by the high court seven years ago, but, as far as I can determine, only technically. And we may recall that in the United States it took over a century for even formal implementation of the Fourteenth Amendment, guaranteeing equal rights to all persons, and actual implementation of it is still remote a century-and-a-half later.

    Well, let’s turn briefly to the important question, the most important question: what can we do about it? Here, it’s useful to think about the apartheid analogy, and it’s useful to remember a little history.

    In 1963, the UN Security Council declared a voluntary arms embargo on South Africa. That was extended to a mandatory embargo in 1977. And that was followed by economic sanctions and other measures — sometimes officials, countries, cities, towns — some organized by popular movements. Now, not all countries participated. In the United States, the US Congress did impose sanctions over Reagan’s veto, but US trade with South Africa then increased by various evasions, along with concealed support for South African terrorist atrocities in Mozambique and Angola, which took a horrendous toll. It’s about 1.5 million killed and over $60 billion in damage during the Reagan years, the Reagan years of constructive engagement, according to UN analysis. In 1988, the Reagan administration declared Mandela’s African National Congress to be one of the world’s most notorious terrorist groups — that’s 1988 — while it described RENAMO in Mozambique merely as an indigenous insurgent group. That was after it had just killed about 100,000 people, according to the State Department, with, of course, US-backed African support. Thatcher’s record was similar or maybe worse. But most of this was in secret. There was just too much popular opposition.

    And the popular opposition made a difference. There was a very significant anti-apartheid movement decades after the global decision of the Security Council to bring apartheid to an end. In 1965, boycotts and other measures would not have been effective. Twenty years later, they were effective, but that was after the groundwork had been laid by activist, educational and organizing efforts, including within the powerful states, which is what matters in an ugly world.

    Well, in the case of Israel-Palestine, the groundwork has not been laid. The quotes that I just gave are perfectly representative examples; you can fill them out in books, yeah. The kind of popular measures that were effective against apartheid by the late 1980s are not only ineffective in the case of Israel-Palestine today, but in fact sometimes backfire in harming the victims. We’ve seen that over and over. It’s going to continue until the organizing and educational efforts make real progress. It’s not just the United States; the European Union is hardly different. So, for example, the European Union does not bar arms deliveries to Israel. It joined the United States in vicious punishment of Palestinians, because they committed the grave crime of voting the wrong way in a free election. And there was very little internal protest in Europe. Populations support the international consensus, but they don’t react when their governments undermine any hope for its realization.

    Well, in the coming weeks and the longer term, there’s plenty of educational and organizational activity that will have to be carried out among an American population that happens to be largely receptive, though deluged with propaganda and deceit. And it’s not going to be easy. It’s never been easy. But much harder tasks have been accomplished with dedicated and persistent effort.

AMY GOODMAN: MIT Professor Noam Chomsky, speaking recently in Boston at a conference called “The Apartheid Paradigm in Palestine-Israel,” sponsored by the Palestinian Christian organization Sabeel.

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A footnote in history

November 26, 2007
 
By Clayton Swisher

 
 
 
 

Arab states, including Saudi Arabia and Syria, will participate in the conference [AFP]

Clayton Swisher, Al Jazeera’s US policy analyst and author of The Truth About Camp David, explores the forthcomimg US-hosted meeting that aims to initiate Palestinian-Israeli dialogue.The decision by all Arab governments – including Saudi Arabia and Syria – to partake in the Annapolis meeting is a significant advance, and likely to form a footnote in history.  Unfortunately, I believe that is as far as it will go. 

There are three primary reasons why I do not believe the Annapolis meeting will succeed in establishing a Palestinian state by the end of the US president’s term in office.

The first is that this is not George Bush’s clearly stated objective. Whatever Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, may intend, it is the president who is in charge.

Little understanding

Bush’s beliefs are steadfast, and they reflect little understanding of Palestinian realities: On the one hand, Bush seeks mileage out of the false claim that he is the first US president to call for the creation of a Palestinian state, and he emphasises his plans to “lay the foundation” for the said state.

On the other hand, he acts as if that state had already been created when he demands the fulfilment of near-impossible conditions from a people living under a brutal, 40-year occupation.

The world has heard how the Palestinian Authority must internally reform; more vigorously “fight terror” (ie crush Hamas, give up resistance to occupation and do Israel’s security bidding); “elect new leaders” (ie ones palatable to the United States); pursue democracy (ie broadly defined as empowering the losing party’s armed forces so they can confront legitimately elected opponents); and provide basic services to the local population.

Then, perhaps, if the “behaviour” of the Palestinians reaches Olympian standards, Bush might “spend capital” he has built with Israel and force it to abandon Palestinian land.    

Weak claims

The next reason is that the Bush administration has an extraordinarily poor ability – or is it willingness? – to bring about the outcome it claims to seek. 

Set aside, momentarily, the seemingly endless quagmire in Iraq, the growing Taliban strength in Afghanistan, the constitutional crisis in Lebanon and the dangerous confrontation with Iran, and consider Palestine alone. 

Is it reasonable to expect that this administration will compel Israel to withdraw to the June 4, 1967 lines, or even anywhere close to them, when to this day it has not even been able to get Israel to withdraw to the positions it held on September 28, 2000 – the eve of the second intifada? Then there is Bush’s “road map” in 2003 which called for a Palestinian state by 2005.

Enough said, though it is important to note that the road map was devised to blunt international criticism of the US for abetting Israel’s horrendously disproportionate attacks against the Palestinian population at the time. 

Your Views
“The talks will prove that you cannot talk peace without the participation of the elected representatives of the Palestinian people”

Niloufar, Tehran, Iran

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The US was in “fight terror” mode following the 9-11 attacks, and its war machine was zeroing in on Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. The road map thus had more to do with lessening scepticism among “moderate” Arab governments to join the “coalition of the willing” against Iraq as they could show their domestic critics that America cared about Palestine.   

If more language emphasising Palestinian statehood does emerge from the US, Israel, and Arab governments from Annapolis, one can only wonder at the degree to which history is repeating itself with Iran.

Even if Bush could be replaced by hard-charging Rice – and he cannot – her own credit rating when it comes to deliverables is shot. To evade the road map, the detailed proposal for a two-state solution known as the Geneva Initiative, and the refusal by reserve Israeli pilots and commandos to partake in the wanton killings of Palestinians, Ariel Sharon, Israel’s former prime minister, countered with his Gaza disengagement plan.

By offloading 8,000 or so Jewish settlers there who had hijacked the lives of 1.4 million Palestinians, Israel was able to win the admiration of Washington. When the international community replied, as well as Israeli courts, that effective control of Gaza had not been relinquished by Israel – that the Gaza occupation still legally remained, secretary Rice appeared in November 2005 to broker the Agreement on Movement and Access (AMA).

She failed miserably in her first test of pressing Israel on performance: In violation of that agreement, not a single busload of Palestinians ever made it from Gaza to the West Bank, while Palestinian harvests never made it to the market.

A Pollyannaish few believed that after disengagement, Gaza would become a vibrant economic powerhouse, like Dubai. Indifference to the AMA, plus America’s decision to punish the entire population of Gaza for democratically electing Hamas, is why Gaza today more resembles Mogadishu. 

Hamas exclusion

The final reason the Annapolis meeting will come to nothing is that it excludes Hamas. 

Though it is difficult to prove this through poll results, there is no reason to believe that support for Hamas and the Islamic parties throughout the region has fallen. In fact, I sense the opposite is true. And the secular nationalist parties that have received US support may also have seen a drastic drop in domestic popularity. 

Market forces here in the Middle East are moving with a moderate version of political Islam, not against it.

As always, Washington will be late in recognising this fact. In the span of a year, Washington and its international partners hope to inject Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, with political steroids.

How? By standing up the West Bank economically with direct aid, agricultural initiatives and micro-loans (recall the Gaza-Dubai pipedreams).

The thinking is that Hamas, or at least those suffering under its rule, will realise the failure of its politics and convert to Fatah.

Meanwhile, it is also hoped that a weakened Abbas will be able to extract from Israel the terms of a final-status agreement that a much stronger Yassir Arafat was not able to obtain, and sell it not only to his own supporters but also to the Palestinian refugee community in the Diaspora.

I wish secretary Rice and her team the best at Annapolis. But, unlike them, I know that wishing is not enough. 

    Source: Al Jazeera

Hamas rounds up Fatah members

November 16, 2007

More than 100 people, including Hamas and Fatah members, were injured at the rally shooting [AFP]
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“They are the ones who planned and organised the rally yesterday and are suspected of being responsible for the chaos that took place,” Shahwan said.

 

Hazem Abu Shanab, a Fatah official, said Hamas security forces took 400 Fatah members into custody in a series of raids.

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Dozens more were ordered to report to police stations for questioning, he said.

 

Meanwhile, three days of mourning began across the Palestinian territories for the seven people killed in the violence on Monday.

 

More than 100 others, including Hamas and Fatah members, were reportedly wounded after gunfire erupted at the rally where hundreds of thousands of people were commemorating the death of Yasser Arafat, the former Palestinian president.

 

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“The anniversary of Yasser Arafat’s passing has basically brought all Fatah members together to show that they are here”

Nour Odeh, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Gaza

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Fatah and Hamas blamed each other for the deaths.

 

The office of Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, said on Tuesday the period of mourning was to “pay homage to the martyrs killed by the bullets of the putschists”, referring to Hamas forces whom Fatah accuse of carrying out a coup in the Gaza Strip earlier this year.

 

Flags are to be flown at half-mast on buildings of the Palestinian Authority, the government run by the Fatah party founded by Arafat.

 

The Palestinian Authority which Arafat set up in 1994 now controls only scattered, autonomous areas of the occupied West Bank.

 

Hamas, which opposed Arafat’s policies during his lifetime, rules the Gaza Strip after routing its Fatah rivals in June.

 

Witnesses said the shooting broke out as crowds of Fatah supporters threw rocks at Hamas security forces and chanted “Shia, Shia”, accusing them of serving the interests of Iran.

 

Nour Odeh, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Gaza City, said gun battles between Fatah and Hamas fighters intensified as people fled.

The event drew as many as half a million people, according to Ahmed Hellis, a senior Fatah official.

 

‘Horrible crimes’

 

Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian prime minister in Abbas’s government, said in a statement from his office: “Senior officials in Hamas ordered these crimes which were carried out by the Hamas militia in order to terrify the people …  Now their punishment is a national duty.”

 

Abbas, on official television denounced “these horrible crimes committed by a band of rebels … before the eyes of the entire world”.

 

Fatah officials accused Hamas forces of opening fire from the nearby Islamic University, but Hamas said its men had come under attack from Fatah fighters and fired back.

 

The rally, seen as a demonstration of Fatah support, came as Abbas prepares for new peace talks with Israel, starting with a US-hosted Mideast conference in Maryland later this month.

 

Abbas is also struggling to fend off claims by Hamas that he does not have a mandate to negotiate.

 

In a gesture of support for the Fatah leader, Ehud Olmert, Israel’s prime minister, plans to release more than 400 Palestinian prisoners before the conference, according to Israeli legislators.

 

Around 9,000 Palestinians are held by Israel, and Abbas’s government has asked for 2,000 to be freed before the meeting at the planned Annapolis peace conference in Maryland, US.

 

‘Harsh response’

 

Israel’s Shin Bet security service has said it would grant amnesty to additional Fatah gunmen in the West Bank, after declaring its first amnesties of about 100 Fatah members a success.

 

Mohammed Dahlan, Fatah’s former security chief in Gaza, said Hamas’s harsh response was a sign its grip on Gaza is weakening.

 

“What is happening in Gaza today is the beginning of the end of Hamas on the popular, religious and moral level,” he told Palestine TV.

 

Hamas said Monday’s events were an attempt to exploit Arafat’s memory in order to “cause chaos and confront Hamas”.

 

Ihab al-Ghosein, the spokesman for the Hamas-controlled interior ministry, said: “Fatah is responsible for continued incitement against the Palestinian police, and there was a clear attempt to bring back chaos.”

 

More clashes erupted later on Monday during the funeral for one of the victims, 19-year-old Ayoub Abu Samra, who witnesses said had been shot dead after getting into a scuffle with a Hamas policeman.

 

During the funeral, mourners fired in the air, and said Hamas police fired at the procession. Hamas police denied opening fire, saying the marchers threw stones at them.

 

Three people were hurt, rescue workers said.

 

Thousands of Palestinians turned out for the Fatah-organised rally – the largest
to date to commemorate the death of former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat [AFP]