Thursday 15 January 2009

Farewell Party in Gaza?

WRITTEN BY Lev Grinberg

Israel’s offensive in Gaza is the government of Israel’s farewell present to outgoing US president George W. Bush. ‘Israel’s best friend ever’ has supported it through every conflict and war, justified its aggressive moves, and prevented any international intervention against it. Bush awarded Israel the position of a central forward striker in his war on terror, thereby strengthening its most extreme right wing. With real friends like these, who needs illusionary enemies?

But Israel is not a satellite state of the US. It does try to accommodate US policy, but also to lead according to its own agenda. Thus, for example, the eight years of ‘peace process’ during Clinton’s administration (1992-2000) were an Israeli initiative which bypassed and neutralized Clinton's mediation, just as the eight years of war and unilateral policy of the Bush era (2000-2008) began in Israel before Bush’s inauguration. Now too, Israel initiated the escalation in Gaza without anyone noticing, on November 4th, 2008, Election Day in the US. Israel’s present aggression cannot be understood without considering its timing, i.e., the ‘window of opportunity’ between Obama’s election and swearing in.

I remember a conversation I had with the renowned late American scholar Charles Tilly, during his visit to Israel in May 2000. He asked me what is the political logic of the then Prime Minister Ehud Barak ? I told him about his political ‘schedule’: withdrawal from Lebanon in July, negotiations with the Palestinians completed in September, US elections in November. Tilly halted my speech arguing that this is not a political behavior, this is a military logic: giving ultimatums, avoiding negotiations, and then unilateral actions. He was right, in the peculiar democratic/military regime in Israel the politician/generals have acted unilaterally since then: Withdrawal (from Lebanon, 2000) and redeployment (in Gaza, 2005), non-proportional violent reactions (In the occupied territories in 2000-2004 against the Intifada, in Lebanon and Gaza after the soldiers abductions in 2006, and now in Gaza), and building illegally the separation wall. All these are unilateral military moves, without recognition of the other, without negotiations. The US support is crucial; hence the presidential elections are part of the military plan schedule in Israel.

The attack on Gaza is a continuation of the unilateral and aggressive policy of the last eight years, aiming to exploit the support of Bush administration while forcing President-elect Obama to take a position under crisis, immediately as he enters office. The move began on November 4th, 2008, when the IDF entered the Gaza Strip, blew up a tunnel and killed six Hamas men, thereby breaking four and a half months of Tahadia (ceasefire). The Palestinians responded by firing Kasam missiles at Israel; in response, IDF closed the border crossings and tightened the siege over the Strip. The siege has been kept ever since, so the Hamas government announced that the condition for renewing the ceasefire was lifting the siege and opening the crossings. Israel chose to regard the condition of opening the crossings as a refusal by the Hamas to renew the ceasefire.

Israel calls this ‘self-defense’. But President Bush, the president of France, the Prime Minister of Germany and the President of Egypt too, keep repeating this mantra of ‘self-defense’. Israel’s argument is that “no sovereign nation could put up with being fired at by a neighboring state”, ignoring the fact that the Gaza Strip is not a “neighboring state”. This is the heart of the conflict: Gaza is a huge prison controlled by the Israeli army, which prevents entry and exit of persons and goods, not only from the border crossings with Israel, but also from the Egyptian border, as well as by sea and air.

This deception by the government of Israel could not have been accepted if it wasn’t for the era of war on terror by President Bush, with the deception of the invasion of Iraq and the mass killing of civilians at its core. Prior to the occupation of Iraq in April 2002, when the IDF recaptured the towns of the West Bank, killing hundreds of Palestinians and taking apart the institutions of the Palestinian Authority, there was harsh international criticism of Israel, and it was only at the Bush administration’s intervention that a UN commission was prevented from arriving to investigate the massacre in Jenin. Who is going to establish an investigative commission now? The Bush administration has managed to impose the war on terror over the entire world by bluntly ignoring global public opinion, but since then, Bush has remained in Iraq while Europe and the conservative Arab countries have gradually aligned with his policy. If there is anything resembling Israel’s invasion of Gaza, it is the US occupation of Iraq, and if Israel manages to crush Hamas rule, as Bush has crushed Sadam Hussein’s rule, it will not be able to get out of Gaza.

Many around the world were disappointed with Obama’s silence on the Israeli aggression. Such disappointment may be justified, from the US policy in the Middle East since Carter's administration one cannot expect too much. If the President-elect continues Bush’s policy, only with a Clinton style improved image, it would be disastrous. There is a strong link between Iraq and Gaza, and if the US’s withdrawal from Iraq is not accompanied by a honest and viable Israeli-Palestinian agreement, then the threat of radical Islam could indeed reach Cairo, Tel-Aviv, Paris and London.

But there is another, more positive possibility. It’s possible that Barack Obama understands the trick Israel is trying to pull, and therefore opts to be silent for as long as he has no executive powers. I hope that this is the case, and that upon beginning his office, Obama would behave as a true friend to Israel and save it from itself. He must stop Israeli aggression. Israel’s problem is an excess of military power stemming from the trauma of the Holocaust. Israel is behaving like the neighborhood bully expecting someone to stop him, because it does have the power to destroy everything around it, while destroying itself in the process. Anyone who sincerely wishes to help Israel must release it from its position as the central forward striker in the war on Islam, in which the Bush era of war on terror has framed it. Let us all hope that the war in Gaza is a farewell ceremony marking the end of President Bush’s destructive era. It is indeed high time for the promised "change". Obama, yes YOU can.

How Israel Gets Away With Murder

"...Anyone who thought that there would be a change of heart and direction after the last American election hasn't been concentrating. The Senate in question is the newly elected, strongly Democratic one, which has just met for the first time. During the presidential campaign Barack Obama went out of his way to endorse Israel. He has appointed in the form of Hillary Clinton perhaps the strongest supporter of Israel ever to serve as Secretary of State, not excluding Henry Kissinger, a Jewish refugee from Hitler, though even she is surpassed in her commitment by Rahm Emanuel, Obama's chief of staff..."

Indifference to criticism of the bombing and invasion of Gaza is the result of indulgence by the West

When Lord Derby asked Sir Lewis Namier, the great historian of Georgian England, why he, as a Jew, didn't write Jewish history, Namier replied: "There is no modern Jewish history, only a Jewish martyrology, and that is not amusing enough for me." It might be said that the underlying purpose of the Zionist project – which Namier passionately supported – was to reject Jewish martyrology, and to turn the Jews from passive victims to active makers of their destiny.

That has been accomplished to a fault, many would say as they watch the news from Gaza, where one image after another has caused deep revulsion. But then that rejection of martyrdom and victimhood may also explain what has puzzled as well as dismayed onlookers – the fact that Israel seems to be quite oblivious to international opinion.

In Muslim countries there is, of course, intense hostility to Israel, which, in return, has long since followed the Latin principle oderint dum metuant towards her neighbours: Let them hate us, so long as they fear us. Since there's no point in even trying to win their hearts and minds, they should be taught to respect brute force, a precept which, it should be admitted, has enjoyed considerable practical success.

The West is different, and European sentiment can be changed by events, as indeed it has been. Israel and Zionism were once very popular causes in Europe, not least on the liberal left, until the 1967 Six Day War and after. Since then, European sympathy has steadily ebbed away as Israel attacked Lebanon in 1982, and again in 2006, with the suppression of the intifadas between. And yet Israel shrugs off all strictures and rebukes. No criticism from relief agencies or the Red Cross makes any difference.

Even more strikingly, Israel has ignored the Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire. One reason for this is that the only Western country that really counts is the United States, and Israel has for many years been able to rely on unconditional American support. Having threated to veto previous draft resolutions, the US took part in drafting the security council resolution calling for a ceasefire, and was evidently going to vote for it.

Then late on Thursday the American representative shocked other council members by abstaining. This volte face came on direct orders from the White House, after president Bush had spoken to Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, and the Israelis have taken abstention as permission to continue their action. "Israel is not going to show restraint," Tzipi Livni, the Israeli Foreign Minister, told The Washington Post yesterday, understandably enough in the circumstances.

Although Israel is sometimes described as an American client state, which receives huge financial subsidy from Washington, she is unique as a client state: she can do exactly as she likes in the knowledge that she will never be seriously restrained by her sponsor. Even when the White House is privately irritated by Israeli actions, Congress is absolutely reliable, never knowingly outbid in its unswerving loyalty. During the bombardment of Lebanon in the summer of 2006, the House of Representatives passed a resolution of total solidarity with Israel by 410 votes to eight, and the Senate has just passed another on a hand vote, not even bothering to take a formal tally.

Anyone who thought that there would be a change of heart and direction after the last American election hasn't been concentrating. The Senate in question is the newly elected, strongly Democratic one, which has just met for the first time. During the presidential campaign Barack Obama went out of his way to endorse Israel. He has appointed in the form of Hillary Clinton perhaps the strongest supporter of Israel ever to serve as Secretary of State, not excluding Henry Kissinger, a Jewish refugee from Hitler, though even she is surpassed in her commitment by Rahm Emanuel, Obama's chief of staff.

But there is more to it, and Israeli intransigence or indifference to outside opinion goes back before the birth of the state. As it happens, Emanuel has something in common with Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni: their fathers all served in the Irgun. This was the intransigent Zionist militia – described as terrorists by Isaiah Berlin among others, and as fascists by Albert Einstein among others – which waged a campaign of violence against the British, and the Palestinian Arabs, in the last years of the British Mandate in 1946-48. Its exploits included the bombing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, with great loss of life, the hanging of two captured British sergeants in reprisal, and the massacre of villagers at Deir Yassin.

Behind that brutality lay something else. Men take revenge for small wrongs, Machiavelli said, unable to avenge the larger, and the Irgun was avenging an incomparably and unimaginably greater crime just suffered by the European Jews. The Jews had tried to be nice to the goyim, Zionism said in effect, and see where it had got them. A Jewish state would now be created and guarded with all necessary force, indifferent to what the outside world thought. If need be, Israel will borrow the old chant of the Millwall fans, "No one likes us, we don't care"– and no more Jewish martyrology.

Not that Namier was the only Zionist to use "Jewish" in a derisive sense. When someone mentioned Trotsky's phrase "No war, no peace", David Ben-Gurion said that it was "some stupid Jewish idea", and there is a well-known Israeli story about Moshe Dayan, the military hero of the Six Day War. When he taught at the Israeli staff college, Dayan used to expound a problem, ending with the words, "And I want no Jewish solutions here."

He meant that, on the sand table or the field, he expected his battles to be won by dash and ferocity, rather than than by the traditional Jewish virtues of subtlety and patience. Zionist toughness has worked for a long time, but it could be that Israel will one day discover that there's something to be said for Jewish solutions.

Geoffrey Wheatcroft's books include 'The Controversy of Zion: Jewish Nationalism, the Jewish State, and the Unresolved Jewish Dilemma'


Israel Has Managed to Lose Again

"...In an ideal ethical world, Israel would have let the Gazans go back to their land. But ethics and Israel are very much like parallel lines. They somehow never meet. As much as it is clear that Palestinians will come back to their land, it won't be Israel that that will welcome the inevitable returning Palestinians..."

Haaretz reported today that IDF Senior officials "believe that Israel should strive to reach an immediate cease-fire with Hamas, and not expand its offensive against the Palestinian Islamist group in Gaza."

This shouldn't take us by great surprise. Though Israel has proved beyond doubt that it is rather capable of conducting large-scale genocide, it also proved that its military forces do not have the answer to Islamic resistance. The Israeli chief military officials admitted as well that "Israel achieved several days ago all that it possibly could in Gaza." The IDF, so it seems, finished its role in Gaza. It turned its neighbourhoods into piles of rubble. Relentlessly, it even murdered the civilian population in broad daylight by means of air raids and attacks from warships. Images of white phosphorus artillery shells bursting over schools and hospitals are now part of our collective memory. Tanks firing into schools loaded with evacuees seeking refuge from the bombing of their buildings is now the image associated with the Hebraic soldier and yet, the Israelis failed to achieve any of their objectives. I must admit that it must take a special talent to be an Israeli general. As much as they are good in committing war crimes, they somehow fail in everything else.

The Israeli politicians initially swore to destroy Hamas, they then lowered their expectations, they promised just to destroy Hamas' rocket launching capabilities, all the while reassuring their excited Israeli voters that this time the Jewish State will fight till the bitter end. Seemingly, their promises fell too short once again.

Hamas is still there; its support within the Palestinian street is stronger than ever. But it is not only the Palestinian street. Hamas' message of defiance is spreading all over the Muslim world and beyond. Last week I was marching in London together with another 100,000 protesters. The support for Hamas was all around. It was on placards, flags, headbands and loudspeakers. Not only is Hamas far from being defeated, its rocket launching capability seems to be unaffected. Day after day Hamas combatants manage to remind Israelis in Ashdod, Ashkelon and Sderot that they actually live on stolen Palestinian land. Give Hamas the necessary time and the ballistic message will be carried to every corner of stolen Palestine.

Israel is desperate for an exit strategy. I learned today that Defence Minister Barak is looking for a week long humanitarian ceasefire. Please do not hold your breath, the notorious mass murderer didn't change his spots all of a sudden. Being a veteran general, Barak realises very well that his soldiers on the ground need a break and they need it now. Being that they are gathered together in a few scattered open areas, they are currently exposed to Hamas' snipers and mortar fire. In the last few days, Israeli forces started to suffer a growing number of causalities. The attempt to step up the battle into Gaza's neighbourhood met with some severe resistance. The Israeli army is stuck once again.

If this is not enough, within a few days Obama is going to reside in the White House and the Israelis are not totally convinced that the new American president will blindly support their murderous strategy. Defence Minister Barak realizes that his window of opportunity might be closing down. He realises that IDF soldiers may have to dig in Gaza city outskirts without achieving any of the war's military objectives. Barak needs a few days of ceasefire to create a new reality on the ground. He obviously prefers to hide behind a humanitarian effort. This is far easier than admitting that once again the IDF was caught unprepared. Olmert aids, however were stupid enough to admit the lie. Apparently one of them slammed Barak earlier on today suggesting that "Hamas sees the scenes and hears the voices, these comments are a shot in the arm for Hamas and its leaders."

As things stand, IDF soldiers are now stranded in Gaza. Don't misinterpret me, they are still capable of spreading death and inflicting carnage, yet they cannot win this war. The IAF ran out of ˜military" targets a week ago and the artillery is probably facing the same situation. As news floods in it becomes evident that once Israeli soldiers leave their armoured vehicles and Merkava tanks they are subject to the mercy of Hamas. I have read today on Ynet that some IDF soldiers reported that they "don't really see the enemy", "we get hit and we do not know by who and how."

As things stand, Hamas is becoming a symbol of heroic persistence. Its combatants on the ground fight almost with bare hands against America's most lethal technology. Similarly, Hamas'political leadership has managed to set itself as the key to any possible resolution of the current conflict. The hope that Hamas would be toppled or discredited proved to be just another Jewish wet dream. Hamas is now becoming a widely accepted entity by the international community. It is regarded as an elementary ingredient in any possible solution. Israel, on the other hand, is seen for what it is for real, a murderous criminal state involved in genocidal war crimes of the worst order.

However, there is a new reality that we have to bear in mind. The damage Israel is leaving behind in Gaza is horrific. It has flattened neighbourhoods, it has spread white phosphorus in populated areas. As if this is not enough, the many tons of bunker buster bombs which Israel was using day and night have shaken the foundations of every building in Gaza and the question looms large as to whether Gazan houses that are still standing will be safe to live in. EU officials raised the question today wondering who is going to pay for the reconstruction of these eradicated towns, camps and villages.

In an ideal ethical world, Israel would have let the Gazans go back to their land. But ethics and Israel are very much like parallel lines. They somehow never meet. As much as it is clear that Palestinians will come back to their land, it won't be Israel that that will welcome the inevitable returning Palestinians.

Someone will have to rebuild Gaza, and the only name that comes to mind is the democratically elected Hamas. Such a huge project maintained by Hamas will be the right answer to Israel's criminal war and its murderous objectives.

BBC: Israelis 'Shot at Fleeing Gazans'

The BBC said it received claims that Israeli troops have fired on Gaza residents trying to escape the conflict area.
It also said that its journalists “in Gaza and Israel” have compiled detailed accounts of the claims.

One testimony, BBC said, describes Israeli forces shooting a woman in the head after she stepped out of her house carrying a piece of white cloth, in response to an Israeli loudhailer announcement. Munir Shafik al-Najar, of Khouza village in the south-east of the Gaza Strip, told BBC that some 75 members of his extended family had ended up huddled in a house, surrounded by Israeli forces, after troops shelled the area and destroyed his brother's home on Sunday night.
On Monday morning, “the Israeli army was saying: 'This is the Israeli Defence Forces, we are asking all the people to leave their homes and go to the school. Ladies first, then men.' We decided to send the women first, two by two," he said. First to step outside was the wife of his cousin, Rawhiya al-Najar, 48. They shot her in the head," he said.

The Israeli military has dismissed the report as "without foundation,” according to the British Broadcasting Corporation.

The BBC said it also spoke to Marwan Abu Rida, a paramedic with the Palestinian Red Crescent, who says he was called to the site at 0810 local time (0610 GMT). But he says he came under fire as he tried to reach it, and was trapped in a house nearby until 2000 (1800 GMT) because of Israeli shooting.
He said that when he reached the location he found the dead woman, Rawhiya, who appeared to have been shot in the head, as well as the younger woman who was injured.

Israel Hits UNRWA, Hospital, Media Complexes; Toll: 1060 Martyrs

As Arabs are still divided on whether to hold an “emergency session” to discuss the Israeli war on Gaza, 20 days after it started, the death toll of Palestinian civilians has reached 1060 martyrs and the number of injured is nearing 5,000.

On the 20th day, fighting between advancing Israeli forces and the Palestinian resistance centered around Tal el-Hawa south of Gaza.
Reports from the strip said that Wednesday night saw the fiercest fighting yet and the bombardment of populated areas across Gaza was the harshest. Gripping their wailing children, terrified Gaza civilians scuttled for any shelter they could find.

As it’s becoming clear, Israel is intensifying its military operations to achieve something concrete as its envoy Amos Gilad arrived in Cairo to hear Hamas’s reservations on the proposal for a ceasefire.
Ehud Olmert’s security cabinet is due to decide Friday on whether to expand the operation or not, amid divisions between Defense Minister Ehud Barak and FM Tsibi Livni one side favoring an end to the war and Olmert on the other side favoring moving forward.

On Thursday, the United Nations headquarters in Gaza City (UNRWA) was hit by three Israeli tank shells. Three UN workers were injured. One of the buildings, containing "hundreds of tons" of humanitarian aid, was on fire, while other parts of the compound sustained shrapnel damage. Israel committed, days earlier, a massacre when it bombed two UNRWA schools killing at least 45 people, mostly children.
The UN agency suspended its operations inside Gaza.

Also on Thursday, a Red Crescent hospital (Al-Quds) in the Tal el-Hawa neighborhood, south of Gaza, was hit by Israeli shells and caught fire. Hundreds of people are being treated in this hospital from injuries sustained from Israel’s indiscriminate fire. Other people have taken shelter there from advancing Israeli tanks in the early morning

Targeting the UN headquarters and the Red Crescent hospital was followed by targeting a media building in Gaza City.
Two cameramen were wounded when an Israeli strike hit the building housing several international and Arab media outlets.
The two cameramen worked for Abu Dhabi television.
The Al-Shuruq tower, located in the Rimal neighborhood in the centre of Gaza City, houses several media outlets including the Reuters news agency and television stations Fox, Sky and Al-Arabiya