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Alternet: “The Most Harrowing, Heart-Breaking Dispatches from Palestinians in Gaza”

Posted by uscsjp on July 25, 2014

As Israeli forces bombard the Gaza Strip by air, land, and sea, some 1.8 million Palestinians are largely stuck inside their homes, shaken by relentless explosions, wondering if and when their turn to die will come. When death does strike, international media will recalculate the tally of the dead, dropping names if those in question are old or children, but otherwise leave untold the stories of their time alive on the crowded sliver of land they called home. Isolated and with nowhere to flee, many Palestinians in Gaza use social media to make an otherwise-impossible connection with the outside world, carving out virtual space for their existence while their physical surroundings implode in their midst.

“I tweet, therefore I am,” writes 24-year-old Muhammed Suliman. Under the bombs, tweets are a way for Muhammed to notify himself and others that he has survived the offensive thus far.

When Israel began its latest large-scale aerial offensive on Gaza on July 7, Muhammad switched from mostly Arabic-language tweets to exclusively English, and started contributing to online discourse on the conflict as a commentator. These early tweets leave out the first person, discussing the situation in general. But on the third day of the assault, as the death toll passes 70, something in Muhammed’s tone changes. His Twitter feed becomes a sort of diary, a poetic outpouring in the face of fear, a human response reflecting the uncertainty of survival.

I sit near a window, next to my wife who finally fell asleep. I hear drones buzzing overhead coupled with birds chirping. I anticipate a blast

The blast has come. Sooner than I thought. War experience enables you to expect next blast. I extend my hand to my wife, and she takes it.

Muhammed’s tweets become a narration of his life and the lives and deaths of other Palestinians in Gaza. His feed reads like a nail-biting and heart-pumping novel, or a collection of visceral haikus, only this isn’t literature but a compressed report of Muhammed’s observations, thoughts, and feelings. Real apocalyptic scenes squeezed through the filter of social media.

Petrified, my ears buzz and don’t seem to recover. Leila’s stomach starts hurting. Each blast sounds louder and more horrifying. Death nears

I’ve lost my words. Bombs rain down on my area. Behind the dining table, Leila and I sit close to each other. Death is what we are tweeting.

On other days, Muhammed’s fears subside or at least are allowed to be morphed into dark comedy. The World Cup, which is about to start its semi-final matches as the air offensive begins, provides a distraction for the bombs, something to think about besides impending death. Until a beach cafe full of soccer fans is bombed by Israel, killing eight, seemingly all civilians.

Israel’s bombardment of Gaza is similar to Germany thrashing Brazil in the semi finals. Think of Palestinian violence as Brazil’s one goal.

8 killed while watching the World Cup semi final. They surely ruled out the possibility of being targeted. We’re not a threat, they thought.

Muhammed tweets stories that are only reported otherwise in international media as numbers, the only notable exceptions being the above and the case of four children being bombed on a beach, which he tweets about as well.

Anas, 17, posts on Facebook, ‘I’m too tired, shell our home so I can get some sleep.’ A while later, his home is shelled. He sleeps forever.

Yasser receives a call from IDF. Evacuate in ten minutes. He wasn’t home though. His family was. Hysterically, he phoned home. No one picked

Amir, 12, and Mohammed. 10, want to buy yogurt. Things are calm, they tell their mom. They leave the house. A blast is heard. They’re dead.

I look at pictures of brothers Amir and Mohammed wrapped in white shroud stained with their blood. I feel dizzy. War is a nightmare.

In a hospital room, dad cries in agony over the body of his baby son. Holding him in his hands, he tearfully cries: Wake up, I got you a toy

Group of children go to the sea, escaping the bombs. They swim and play, mindless of Israeli warships off shore. Missiles hit them. Four die

Even through all this terror, Muhammed remains free of bloodlust. His humility and gentleness is astounding. When the first Israeli dies on the 10th day, after nearly 200 Palestinians have been killed, Muhammed tweets about it. He is not one to “blame both sides” — the conflict is not a balanced one and there is a clear oppressor and oppressed — but he values all human life.

Some Israelis wish me death. I might die. But I wish no death unto you. I want us both to live. Live together as equals in this country.

The terrifying truth is that Muhammed may in fact die, and the only way for his followers to know that he is still alive is to wait for his next tweet. Tweeting about death here is not overly fatalistic or hypothetical. Death is a very real possibility. A shadow looming over life. Muhammed’s death would be felt deeply not only by his family and friends and acquaintances, but by his followers on Twitter.

Another social media user offers a window into the mind of a creative child trapped in the center of bombardment. Muhammad Qareeqe is a talented 13-year-old Palestinian artist from the Shajaiyeh neighborhood of Gaza City, and like many other kids his age around the world, he’s obsessed with Facebook. Prior to the current offensive, he’d post several times a day, promoting his art and showing off his boyhood cuteness, a kind of Gazan Justin Bieber with a paintbrush.

Last time Israeli warplanes carried out a prolonged attack on Gaza, Muhammad was 11. The time before that, he was 9. He was born during the Second Intifada. Through the wars and in the face of the economic blockade imposed on Gaza since 2007, Muhammad has developed a seemingly innate talent for painting and drawing. He has also developed a thousands-strong fan base inside and outside of Gaza via social media.

Most days during the last period of calm, Muhammad would start his day with a warm “good morning” Facebook post and end it with a goodnight post, along with pictures of himself being cute, garnering scores of likes. In between, he’d usually post smiley-face-heavy updates on his latest work or random thoughts on life. But ever since the bombs started falling in Gaza and didn’t stop, his social media presence has changed.

He posts a picture he drew of an Israeli warplane bombing a Palestinian house. “This is a scene from Gaza,” he says. “Bombing for ‘security.’ The homes of citizens. Targets for the world’s most despicable army.”

Another post says simply: “Patience, patience. Perseverance, perseverance.”

“I drew this because the bombing doesn’t have mercy on trees or humans, or even birds,” Muhammad writes in a post of his drawing of a fallen sparrow.

As hospitals and morgues overflow, Muhammad provides a distraction for himself and other children whose lives and psychological well-beings are at risk under the bombs. He gives an art lesson to the neighborhood boys and girls and posts about it on Facebook. In the pictures he includes of the session, his features seem to have changed—his smile not quite what it used to be, his hair curly and wild where it had before been carefully tamed. His arms with a tinge of muscle. As if he’s grown.

On the tenth day of the offensive, Israeli troops begin a large-scale ground operation in Gaza. The death toll spikes, nearly doubling in just 72 hours. Late Saturday and overnight, myriad warplanes buzz over Muhammad’s own Shajaiyeh neighborhood, spewing explosives every few seconds. Small arms fire can be heard in the distance as militants face off with soldiers. Muhammad’s goodnight post is that of an orange sky lit not by sunlight but by Israeli bombs. “#Here_is_Shajaiyeh,” the post says. No goodnight wishes. There is nothing good about this night, which a Norwegian doctor at a nearby hospital has called “a real massacre” and “the worst night of my life.

Muhammad survives the night, though at least 66 Palestinians, more than a dozen of them children, do not. He and his family flee Shajaiyeh for central Gaza City in the morning, Facebook users find out as he posts again: “We survived death, though our hearts are dying longingly. We are now in central Gaza City without electricity or any of life’s necessities.”

And later: “I can’t respond to your messages. What I saw today is making conversation impossible.”

Both Muhammads continue to tell their stories online as the bombs fall around them and the death toll surpasses 600. Their existences have been marked. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the victims’ stories remain largely untold or unacknowledged. The steadfast, raised voices of survivors therefore become all the more profound. Through social media, many young Palestinians — smart and talented and artistic people like Muhammad Qareeqe and Muhammed Suliman — are making their stories available, reminding themselves and others they are still alive.

–Graham Liddell, Alternet, 23 July, 2014

 

http://www.alternet.org/world/most-harrowing-heart-breaking-dispatches-palestinians-gaza

 

Graham Liddell is an editor at Ma’an News Agency in Bethlehem. His work on the Middle East has appeared in Muftah, Mashallah, and The Arab Review.

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Lawrence Weschler: “Israel Has Been Bitten by a Bat”

Posted by uscsjp on July 21, 2014

The news out of Israel and Palestine: relentless, remorseless, repetitively compulsive, rabid.

And I am put in mind of a passage from Norman Mailer, in 1972, in which he attempted to plumb the psychopathology behind America’s relentless bombing of Cambodia and Laos and Vietnam during the Nixon years:

… bombing [which] had become an activity as rational as the act of a man who walks across his own home town to defecate each night on the lawn of a stranger—it is the same stranger each night—such a man would not last long even if he had the most powerful body in town. “Stop,” he would scream as they dragged him away. “I need to shit on that lawn. It’s the only way to keep my body in shape, you fools. I’ve been bitten by a bat!

A species of human rabies, as Mailer had explained earlier in the same book (“St. George and the Godfather,” his account of the McGovern campaign), “and the word was just, for rabies was the disease of every virulence which was excessive to the need for self-protection.”

I know, I know, and I am bone tired of being told it, when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, there is plenty of blame to go around, but by this point after coming on almost 50 years of Israeli stemwinding and procrastinatory obfuscation, I’d put the proportionate distribution of blame at about the same level as the mortality figures—which is, where are we today (what with Wednesday morning’s four children killed while out playing on a Gaza beach)? What, 280 to 2?

For the single overriding fact defining the Israeli-Palestinian impasse at this point is that if the Palestinians are quiescent and not engaged in any overt rebellion, the Israelis (and here I am speaking of the vast majority of the population who somehow go along with the antics of their leaders, year after year) manage to tell themselves that things are fine and there’s no urgent need to address the situation; and if, as a result, the endlessly put-upon Palestinians do finally rise up in any sort of armed resistance (rocks to rockets), the same Israelis exasperate, “How are we supposed to negotiate with monsters like this?” A wonderfully convenient formula, since it allows the Israelis to go blithely on, systematically stealing Palestinian land in the West Bank, and continuing to confine 1.8 million Gazans within what might well be described as a concentration camp.

Note, incidentally, I say “concentration camp” and not “death camp.” I am not comparing Gaza to Auschwitz-Birkenau, but one cannot help but liken the conditions today in Gaza to the sorts of conditions once faced by Japanese-Americans during World War II, or the Boers in South Africa during the Anglo-Boer War, or the black South Africans years later in such besieged townships as Soweto, or for that matter Jews and gays and gypsies at Dachau and Theresienstadt in the years before the Nazis themselves settled on their Final Solution.

And it is quite simply massively self-serving delusion that Israelis (and their enablers and abettors here in America, among whom incidentally I count a steadily declining number of American Jews) refuse to recognize that fact. The backbone of Zionist AIPAC-like electoral strength in the U.S. today is rooted among Protestant evangelicals and other instrumentalist neocons, and I suspect that Israel will one day come to rue that fact.

I’m tired, for example, of hearing about how vital and cosmopolitan and democratic are the streets and cafes and nightclubs of Tel Aviv. For the fact is that one simply can’t sustain such cosmopolitan vitality 40 miles from a prison camp containing close to 2 million people: It’s a contradiction in terms. One that in the end (and we may fast be coming to the end of this game) will have completely twisted and disfigured the lives of those who go on trying to sustain it.

I know the Israelis need to protect themselves in a dangerous neighborhood, blah, blah, blah, but (leaving aside the fact that you don’t get to call it “self-defense” when you are occupying or besieging someone else’s land), can there be any doubt that in the end the Israelis’ own security will depend on how they treat their Palestinian brothers?

And I’m tired, finally, of hearing people marveling at the insane sectarian rifts between Shiites and Sunnis, or Serbs and Bosnians, or Tutsis and Hutus, as if they themselves could never fall into such primordial, atavistic blood feuds. For what else is the Palestinian/Israeli divide at this point, these two Semitic Peoples of the Book, than just one more inchoate, incomprehensible, sectarian vendetta?

In short: rabies.

 

–Lawrence Weschler, Truthdig, July 18th, 2014

 

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/israel_has_been_bitten_by_a_bat_20140718

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Nafeez Ahmed: “IDF’s Gaza assault is to control Palestinian gas, avert Israeli energy crisis”

Posted by uscsjp on July 15, 2014

Yesterday, Israeli defence minister and former Israeli Defence Force (IDF) chief of staff Moshe Ya’alon announced that Operation Protective Edge marks the beginning of a protracted assault on Hamas. The operation “won’t end in just a few days,” he said, adding that “we are preparing to expand the operation by all means standing at our disposal so as to continue striking Hamas.”

This morning, he said:

“We continue with strikes that draw a very heavy price from Hamas. We are destroying weapons, terror infrastructures, command and control systems, Hamas institutions, regime buildings, the houses of terrorists, and killing terrorists of various ranks of command… The campaign against Hamas will expand in the coming days, and the price the organization will pay will be very heavy.”

But in 2007, a year before Operation Cast Lead, Ya’alon’s concernsfocused on the 1.4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas discovered in 2000 off the Gaza coast, valued at $4 billion. Ya’alon dismissed the notion that “Gaza gas can be a key driver of an economically more viable Palestinian state” as “misguided.” The problem, he said, is that:

“Proceeds of a Palestinian gas sale to Israel would likely not trickle down to help an impoverished Palestinian public. Rather, based on Israel’s past experience, the proceeds will likely serve to fund further terror attacks against Israel…

A gas transaction with the Palestinian Authority [PA] will, by definition, involve Hamas. Hamas will either benefit from the royalties or it will sabotage the project and launch attacks against Fatah, the gas installations, Israel – or all three… It is clear that without an overall military operation to uproot Hamas control of Gaza, no drilling work can take place without the consent of the radical Islamic movement.”

Operation Cast Lead did not succeed in uprooting Hamas, but the conflict did take the lives of 1,387 Palestinians (773 of whom were civilians) and 9 Israelis (3 of whom were civilians).

Since the discovery of oil and gas in the Occupied Territories, resource competition has increasingly been at the heart of the conflict, motivated largely by Israel’s increasing domestic energy woes.

Mark Turner, founder of the Research Journalism Initiative, reported that the siege of Gaza and ensuing military pressure was designed to “eliminate” Hamas as “a viable political entity in Gaza” to generate a “political climate” conducive to a gas deal. This involved rehabilitating the defeated Fatah as the dominant political player in the West Bank, and “leveraging political tensions between the two parties, arming forces loyal to Abbas and the selective resumption of financial aid.”

Ya’alon’s comments in 2007 illustrate that the Israeli cabinet is not just concerned about Hamas – but concerned that if Palestinians develop their own gas resources, the resulting economic transformation could in turn fundamentally increase Palestinian clout.

Meanwhile, Israel has made successive major discoveries in recent years – such as the Leviathan field estimated to hold 18 trillion cubic feet of natural gas – which could transform the country from energy importer into aspiring energy exporter with ambitions to supply Europe, Jordan and Egypt. A potential obstacle is that much of the 122 trillion cubic feet of gas and 1.6 billion barrels of oil in the Levant Basin Province lies in territorial waters where borders are hotly disputed between Israel, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza and Cyprus.

Amidst this regional jockeying for gas, though, Israel faces its own little-understood energy challenges. It could, for instance, take until 2020 for much of these domestic resources to be properly mobilised.

But this is the tip of the iceberg. A 2012 letter by two Israeli government chief scientists – which the Israeli government chose not to disclose – warned the government that Israel still had insufficient gas resources to sustain exports despite all the stupendous discoveries. The letter, according to Ha’aretz, stated that Israel’s domestic resources were 50% less than needed to support meaningful exports, and could be depleted in decades:

“We believe Israel should increase its [domestic] use of natural gas by 2020 and should not export gas. The Natural Gas Authority’s estimates are lacking. There’s a gap of 100 to 150 billion cubic meters between the demand projections that were presented to the committee and the most recent projections. The gas reserves are likely to last even less than 40 years!”

As Dr Gary Luft – an advisor to the US Energy Security Council – wrote in the Journal of Energy Security, “with the depletion of Israel’s domestic gas supplies accelerating, and without an imminent rise in Egyptian gas imports, Israel could face a power crisis in the next few years… If Israel is to continue to pursue its natural gas plans it must diversify its supply sources.”

Israel’s new domestic discoveries do not, as yet, offer an immediate solution as electricity prices reach record levels, heightening the imperative to diversify supply. This appears to be behind Prime Minister Netanyahu’s announcement in February 2011 that it was now time to seal the Gaza gas deal. But even after a new round of negotiations was kick-started between the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority and Israel in September 2012, Hamas was excluded from these talks, and thus rejected the legitimacy of any deal.

Earlier this year, Hamas condemned a PA deal to purchase $1.2 billion worth of gas from Israel Leviathan field over a 20 year period once the field starts producing. Simultaneously, the PA has held several meetings with the British Gas Group to develop the Gaza gas field, albeit with a view to exclude Hamas – and thus Gazans – from access to the proceeds. That plan had been the brainchild of Quartet Middle East envoy Tony Blair.

But the PA was also courting Russia’s Gazprom to develop the Gaza marine gas field, and talks have been going on between Russia, Israel and Cyprus, though so far it is unclear what the outcome of these have been. Also missing was any clarification on how the PA would exert control over Gaza, which is governed by Hamas.

According to Anais Antreasyan in the University of California’s Journal of Palestine Studies, the most respected English language journal devoted to the Arab-Israeli conflict, Israel’s stranglehold over Gaza has been designed to make “Palestinian access to the Marine-1 and Marine-2 gas wells impossible.” Israel’s long-term goal “besides preventing the Palestinians from exploiting their own resources, is to integrate the gas fields off Gaza into the adjacent Israeli offshore installations.” This is part of a wider strategy of:

“…. separating the Palestinians from their land and natural resources in order to exploit them, and, as a consequence, blocking Palestinian economic development. Despite all formal agreements to the contrary, Israel continues to manage all the natural resources nominally under the jurisdiction of the PA, from land and water to maritime and hydrocarbon resources.”

For the Israeli government, Hamas continues to be the main obstacle to the finalisation of the gas deal. In the incumbent defence minister’swords: “Israel’s experience during the Oslo years indicates Palestinian gas profits would likely end up funding terrorism against Israel. The threat is not limited to Hamas… It is impossible to prevent at least some of the gas proceeds from reaching Palestinian terror groups.”

The only option, therefore, is yet another “military operation to uproot Hamas.”

Unfortunately, for the IDF uprooting Hamas means destroying the group’s perceived civilian support base – which is why Palestinian civilian casualties massively outweigh that of Israelis. Both are obviously reprehensible, but Israel’s capacity to inflict destruction is simply far greater.

In the wake of Operation Cast Lead, the Jerusalem-based Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (Pcati) found that the IDF had adopted a more aggressive combat doctrine based on two principles – “zero casualties” for IDF soldiers at the cost of deploying increasingly indiscriminate firepower in densely populated areas, and the “dahiya doctrine” promoting targeting of civilian infrastructure to create widespread suffering amongst the population with a view to foment opposition to Israel’s opponents.

This was confirmed in practice by the UN fact-finding mission in Gaza which concluded that the IDF had pursued a “deliberate policy of disproportionate force,” aimed at the “supporting infrastructure” of the enemy – “this appears to have meant the civilian population,” said the UN report.

The Israel-Palestine conflict is clearly not all about resources. But in an age of expensive energy, competition to dominate regional fossil fuelsare increasingly influencing the critical decisions that can inflame war.

Dr. Nafeez Ahmed is an international security journalist and academic. He is the author of A User’s Guide to the Crisis of Civilization: And How to Save It, and the forthcoming science fiction thriller, ZERO POINT. ZERO POINT is set in a near future following a Fourth Iraq War. Follow Ahmed on Facebook and Twitter.

 

–Nafeez Ahmed, Earth Insight, hosted by The Guardian, July 9th, 2014

 

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/earth-insight/2014/jul/09/israel-war-gaza-palestine-natural-gas-energy-crisis

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Israeli Assaults on Palestinian Youth: Putting the Abduction of Israeli Teens in Context

Posted by uscsjp on June 18, 2014

International media ignore Israel’s abduction of Palestinian teens

In the first ten days of June, seventeen teenage boys were abducted in the occupied West Bank. The youngest was thirteen, the oldest seventeen.

Some were dragged at gunpoint from their homes and family in the middle of the night; others were seized from the streets in broad daylight.

All of the abductions were documented by the Palestinian Monitoring Group. None were reported by the international media. No Western politicians called for the release of the boys.

On 12 June, three more teenage boys went missing in the West Bank. Their disappearance sparked worldwide media coverage, cries of terrorism and demands for their release by the US Secretary of State and the UK Foreign Secretary.

Those three are Israeli. The seventeen others are Palestinian.

And, if the case of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, taken by Palestinian forces in Gaza in 2006 and released in 2011, is any indication, Western interest in the case of these three Israelis will not wane until they are found…

–The Electronic Intifada, June 17th, 2014

http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/amena-saleem/international-media-ignore-israels-abduction-palestinian-teens

 

 

Israeli Forces Round Up 150 Palestinians, Kill 1 in Search for Teens

Israeli forces have killed a Palestinian and rounded up 150 others, including the speaker of the Palestinian Parliament, as part of a massive hunt for three Israeli teens who went missing in the West Bank last week. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accused the Palestinian group Hamas of kidnapping the teenagers. Israeli forces have flooded residential areas, searching homes and effectively sealing off the city of Hebron. Earlier today an Israeli soldier shot and killed a 20-year-old Palestinian near Ramallah, accusing him of throwing rocks. At a rally in Gaza City this morning, protesters, including Hamas legislator Mushir al-Masri, condemned Israel’s actions and voiced support for Palestinian hunger strikers in Israeli jails.

Mushir al-Masri: “The main reason behind the tension is the Israeli occupation, which did not respond to the demands of the hunger-striking prisoners who have been fasting for over 50 days. There are 5,000 prisoners facing slow death, who have spent long decades in the Zionist enemy’s jails. So the life of Zionists is not more sacred than the life of the over 5,000 prisoners in the enemy’s jails. We warn Israel against the consequences of any stupidities, including the violation of international law.”The search for the Israeli teens comes a month after Israeli forces killed two Palestinian teenagers in the West Bank. An autopsy on one of the teens has confirmed he was killed by live bullets. Human Rights Watch has called the killings an “apparent war crime.”

–Democracy Now, June 16th, 2014

http://www.democracynow.org/2014/6/16/headlines#6168

 

 

Human Rights Watch: Killing of Children Apparent War Crime

(Jerusalem) – Video footage, photographs, witness statements, and medical records indicate that two 17-year-old boys whom Israeli forces shot and killed on May 15, 2014 posed no imminent threat to the forces at the time. The boys, who had been participating in a demonstration in the West Bank, were apparently shot with live ammunition, Human Rights Watch said.

Video footage clearly shows Israeli soldiers firing in the direction of the boys, Nadim Nawareh and Mohammed Salameh, and the boys falling to the ground. Medical records indicate that the two boys, as well as 15-year-old, Mohammed Azza, whom Israeli forces also shot and seriously wounded, suffered wounds to the chest caused by live ammunition. Nawareh and Salameh were shot right through the chest. Witnesses told Human Rights Watch they heard the sound of live ammunition being fired, quite distinct from the sound of rubber bullet fire, at the time the three boys were shot…

…Israeli forces have repeatedly used live ammunition against Palestinians during demonstrations, including recently in Beitunia, and shot Palestinians who posed no threat to them. On April 4, Israeli forces shot Mohammed Yassin, a volunteer cameraman with B’Tselem, with live ammunition while he was filming a protest in Beitunia. Video filmed by a second cameraman, which Human Rights Watch viewed, shows that Yassin was filming the demonstrations from the side of the street, was not participating, and posed no threat to Israeli forces. Yassin, who was wearing a fluorescent yellow vest, was shot in front of the same building and about 10 meters from where Nawareh and Salameh were killed. B’Tselem reported that Israeli forces shot five other people with 0.22 caliber bullets in Beitunia on April 4, and that the victims were taken to the Ramallah hospital.

Human Rights Watch documented fatal shootings by Israeli forces in the West Bank of two Palestinian boys who posed no threat to them, in January and December 2013 respectively. The military has not prosecuted anyone in either case. An autopsy recovered the bullet that killed Wajih al-Ramahi, 15, whom Israeli forces shot in the back from a distance of about 200 meters near the Jalazon refugee camp in December 2013. Al-Haq, a Palestinian rights group, said that the Palestinian authorities have not been able to transfer the bullet to Jordan for ballistic analysis because the Israeli military has not given the approval required to take it across the Israeli-controlled border crossing.

 

 

–Human Rights Watch, June 9th, 2014

http://www.hrw.org/news/2014/06/09/israel-killing-children-apparent-war-crime

 

 

 Israeli Forces Kill 6 in Occupied Territories

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Jonathan Cook: Difficult Tests Await the New Palestinian Unity Government

Posted by uscsjp on June 10, 2014

In last week’s celebratory atmosphere as the Palestinian unity government was sworn in, ending a seven-year feud between Fatah and Hamas, it was easy to overlook who was absent.

Hamas had agreed to remain in the shadows to placate Washington, which is legally obliged to refuse aid to a government that includes a designated terrorist group. The new Palestinian cabinet looked little different from its predecessor. Hamas’s input was limited to three independents, all in low-level ministerial positions.

And because this transitional government is still operating within the confines of Israeli occupation, the three ministers from Gaza were refused permits to travel to the West Bank for the swearing-in ceremony.

The appointment of a temporary government of technocrats is likely to be the easiest phase of the reconciliation agreed in late April. The deal has endured so far because Hamas, in even more desperate straits than its rival, Fatah, has capitulated.

For that reason, the US and most of the world hurried to offer their blessing. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on the other hand, made dire warnings about the “strengthening of terror” and approved 3,300 settler homes to punish the Palestinians.

A far trickier stage is still to come: the Palestinian cabinet under President Mahmoud Abbas needs to oversee a bitterly contested national election between Fatah and Hamas.

The elections, expected next year, are vital. Palestinians have had no say in who rules them since 2006, when Hamas was victorious. A year later, Hamas and Fatah created separate fiefdoms in Gaza and the West Bank. Both need to prove their legitimacy at the ballot box. Should voting take place, and Hamas win again, the US and others can be expected to boycott the new government as they did back in 2006.

Other aspects of the earlier election’s conduct are instructive. In the months prior to voting eight years ago, Israel initiated a wave of arrests of Hamas leaders in an attempt to disrupt the democratic process. Israel also hoped to block voting in occupied East Jerusalem, which it considers part of its “eternal, indivisible” capital. But the White House – realising a ballot without Jerusalem would lack credibility – pressured Israel into grudging acquiescence.

Less well remembered is that Fatah quietly conspired with Israel to try to postpone the national vote. Fearing that Hamas would sweep the board, Fatah hoped to use Israeli intransigence in Jerusalem as the necessary pretext to delay the wider elections to a time more favourable to its candidates.

Mr Netanyahu has already announced that he will not allow an election in East Jerusalem, as well as indicating that Hamas will be barred from running elsewhere. That is hardly surprising: Israel has spent the past eight years eradicating Hamas from Jerusalem by jailing its leaders or expelling them.

But Fatah’s behaviour in 2006 hints at an even bigger obstacle to consummating the reconciliation. The reality is that Hamas and Fatah have entered the process only out of mutual despair.

Hamas’s political and geographical isolation in Gaza has plumbed new depths since the Egyptian regime turned hostile. Blockaded on all sides, Hamas has seen its support erode as the enclave’s economic crisis has deepened. A deal with Fatah seems the only way to open the borders.

The credibility of Fatah and Mr Abbas, meanwhile, has been steadily undermined by years of cooperation with Israel – all while the settlements have expanded – in the hope of extracting a concession on statehood.

Mr Abbas’s new strategy – creating a momentum towards statehood at the United Nations – requires that his government-in-waiting establish its democratic credentials, territorial integrity and a national consensus behind the diplomatic option.

The priority for Mr Netanyahu is not only to void the elections but to weaken the two sides’ commitment to unity by punishing them for their insolence. He can do so given Israel’s control over all aspects of Palestinian life.

Israel has begun not only with another fierce round of settlement building, but by declaring war on the Palestinian economy, refusing to accept shekel deposits from Palestinian banks, and by imposing collective daily blackouts on Palestinians for unpaid bills to Israel’s electricity company.

Mr Abbas, now responsible for paying the salaries of tens of thousands of public employees in Gaza each month, will be even more vulnerable to Israeli threats to refuse to transfer tax and customs revenues. It emerged yesterday that Israel is also lobbying foreign capitals to hold the Palestinian president directly responsible for any rockets fired from Gaza.

Hamas faces a no less difficult period ahead. If it strays too far from Fatah’s dictates, it will be blamed for destroying the unity pact, but if it adheres too close to Fatah, it will lose its identity and risk being outflanked by more militant groups like Islamic Jihad.

Samah Sabawi, a political analyst, observed of the unity government: “What we need more than ministries and authorities is resistance and liberation.” The unity government – whether of technocrats or elected officials – will still operate within the limitations imposed by Israel’s occupation.

In fact, the unity government simply breathes new life into the illusion – created by the Oslo accords of two decades ago – that good governance by the Palestinian Authority can change the Palestinians’ situation for the better.

In practice, such governance has entailed submitting to Israel’s security demands, a Palestinian obligation Mr Abbas termed “sacred” last week.

As Ms Sabawi suggests, an occupied people needs not better rubbish collection or street lighting but an effective strategy for resistance.

Palestinians will not benefit from a PA that polices the occupation simply because it becomes more “unified”. Rather, their struggle to attain real freedom will grow that bit more daunting.

 

–The National, 9 June, 2014

 

http://www.jonathan-cook.net/2014-06-09/difficult-tests-await-the-new-palestinian-unity-government/

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“Remembering the Nakba: Israeli group puts 1948 Palestine back on the map”

Posted by uscsjp on May 6, 2014

In a run-down office in the busy centre of Tel Aviv, a group of Israelis are finalising preparations for this year’s independence day holiday. But their conversation – switching between Arabic and Hebrew – centres not on celebrating the historic realisation of the Zionist dream in May 1948, but on the other side of the coin: the flight, expulsion and dispossession that Palestinians call their catastrophe – the Nakba.

Maps, leaflets and posters explain the work of Zochrot – Hebrew for “Remembering”. The organisation’s mission is to educate Israeli Jews about a history that has been obscured by enmity, propaganda and denial for much of the last 66 years.

Next week, Zochrot, whose activists include Jews and Palestinians, will connect the bitterly contested past with the hi-tech present. Its I-Nakba phone app will allow users to locate any Arab village that was abandoned during the 1948 war on an interactive map, learn about its history (including, in many cases, the Jewish presence that replaced it), and add photos, comments and data.

It is all part of a highly political and inevitably controversial effort to undo the decades-long erasure of landscape and memory – and, so the hope goes, to build a better future for the two peoples who share a divided land.

“There is an app for everything these days, and this one will show all the places that have been wiped off the map,” explains Raneen Jeries, Zochrot’s media director. “It means that Palestinians in Ein Hilweh refugee camp in Lebanon, say, can follow what happened to the village in Galilee that their family came from – and they will get a notification every time there’s an update. Its amazing.”

In a conflict famous for its irreconcilable national narratives, the basic facts are not disputed, though the figures are. Between November 1947, when the UN voted to partition British-ruled Palestine into separate Arab and Jewish states, and mid-1949, when Israel emerged victorious against its enemies, 400-500 Arab villages and towns were depopulated and destroyed or occupied and renamed. Most of them were left in ruins.

Understanding has deepened since the late 1980s, when Israeli historians used newly opened state archives to revisit that fateful period. Key elements of this new history contradicted the old, official version and partially confirmed what Palestinians had always claimed – that many were expelled by Israeli forces rather than fled at the urging of Arab leaders.

Fierce debate still rages over whether this was done on an ad hoc basis by local military commanders or according to a masterplan for ethnic cleansing. The result either way was disastrous.

Zochrot’s focus on the hyper-sensitive question of the 750,000 Palestinians who became refugees has earned it the hostility of the vast majority of Israeli Jews who flatly reject any Palestinian right of return. Allowing these refugees – now, with their descendants, numbering seven million people – to return to Jaffa, Haifa or Acre, the argument goes, would destroy the Jewish majority, the raison d’etre of the Zionist project. (Israelis often also suggest an equivalence with the hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees who lost homes and property after 1948 in Arab countries such as Iraq and Morocco – although their departure was encouraged and facilitated by the young state in the 1950s.)

“There are a lot of Israeli organisations that deal with the occupation of 1967, but Zochrot is the only one that is dealing with 1948,” said Liat Rosenberg, the NGO’s director. “It’s true that our influence is more or less negligible but nowadays there is no Israeli who does not at least know the word Nakba. It’s entered the Hebrew language, and that’s progress.”

Rosenberg and colleagues hold courses and prepare learning resources for teachers, skirting around attempts to outlaw any kind of Nakba commemoration. But the heart of Zochrot’s work is regular guided tours that are designed, like the gimmicky iPhone app, to put Palestine back on the map and to prepare the ground for the refugees’ return.

On a recent Saturday morning, a couple of dozen Jews and Arabs met at a petrol station on the southern outskirts of Jerusalem and followed a dirt track to al-Walaja, a village of 2,000 inhabitants that was attacked and depopulated in 1948. Zochrot’s Omar al-Ghubari pointed out the concrete foundations – all that remains – of a school and marked the spot with a metal sign in Arabic, Hebrew and English, before posing for photographs.

Among those following him was Shireen al-Araj, whose father was born in al-Walaja and fled to Beit Jallah across what until 1967 was the armistice line with Jordan. “I have never given up the idea of going back to al-Walaja,” she said. Araj is campaigning against the extension of the West Bank separation wall, part of what she and many Palestinians call a continuing Nakba.

Another participant was Tarik Ramahi, an American surgeon raised in Saudi Arabia by Palestinian refugee parents. Marina, a Jewish social worker, came with her boyfriend Tomer, an IT student. Wandering among the ruins, these unconventional daytrippers attracted some curious glances from Israelis picnicking on the terraces or bathing in the village spring – now named for a Jewish teenager murdered by Palestinians in the 1990s. Claire Oren, a teacher, had a heated argument with two off-duty soldiers who were unaware of al-Walaja’s past – or even of the extent of Israel’s continuing control of the West Bank.

Nearby Ein Karem – Zochrot’s most popular tour – is a different story. Abandoned by the Palestinians in July 1948 (it is near Deir Yassin, the scene of the period’s most notorious massacre), it boasts churches, a mosque and fine stone houses clustered around a valley that is choked with wild flowers in the spring. Its first post-war residents were poor Moroccan Jewish immigrants, but it was intensively gentrified in the 1970s and is now one of west Jerusalem’s most desirable neighbourhoods.

In 1967, Shlomo Abulafia, now a retired agronomist, moved into a two-room hovel that he and his wife, Meira, have transformed beyond recognition into a gracious Arab-style home set in a charming garden. Relatives of the original owners once visited from Jordan. Like other Israeli Jews who yearn for coexistence with the Palestinians, Abulafia believes it is vital to understand how the other side feels. He worries desperately about the future of his fractured homeland and about his children and grandchildren.

“The Nakba is history for us but a catastrophe for them,” he says. “What have we got to lose from recognising the Palestinians’ suffering? The two sides are moving further and further away from each other. People live in fear. There is a lot of denial here.”

Many other Arab villages disappeared without trace under kibbutz fields and orchards, city suburbs or forests planted by the Jewish National Fund. Arab Isdud became Israeli Ashdod. Saffuriya in Galilee is now Zippori, the town’s Hebrew name before the Arab conquest in the seventh century.

Zochrot’s bilingual guide book identifies traces of Arab Palestine all over the country – fragments of stone wall, clumps of prickly pears that served as fences, or the neglected tombs of Muslim holy men. The faculty club of Tel Aviv University used to be the finest house in Sheikh Muwannis, once on the northern edge of the expanding Jewish city. Nothing else is left. Manshiyeh, a suburb of Jaffa, lies beneath the seaside Charles Clore promenade.

Palestinians have long mourned their lost land, eulogising it – and in recent years documenting it – with obsessive care. Politically, the right of return remains a totemic demand even if PLO leaders have often said privately that they do not expect it to be implemented – except for symbolic numbers – if an independent Palestinian state is created alongside Israel and Jewish settlers uprooted from its territory. Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, provoked uproar in 2012 when he said he would not expect to be able to return to his home town of Safed.

Older Israeli Jews like Meron Benvenisti, raised in British-ruled Palestine during the 1930s, have written nostalgically about the forgotten landscapes of their childhood.

“I also identify with the images of the destroyed villages,” said Danny Rubinstein, a Jerusalem-born author and journalist. “I do understand the Palestinians’ longing and I empathise with it. But I think that Zochrot is a mistake. The Palestinians know, or their leadership knows, that they have to forget Ramle and Lod and Jaffa. Abbas says he can’t go back to Safed. They have to give up the return as a national goal. If I was a Palestinian politician I would say that you don’t have to remember. You have to forget.”

Hopes for a negotiated two-state solution to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians are fading after the collapse of the latest US-brokered effort, and mutual empathy and understanding are in short supply. But Claire Oren, resting in a shady grove in what was once the centre of al-Walaja, thinks more knowledge might help. “Even if only one Israeli becomes a bit more aware of the Nakba and the Palestinian refugees, it is important,” she reflected. “The more Israelis who understand, the more likely we are to be able to prevent another catastrophe in this land.”

 

–Ian Black in Tel Aviv, The Guardian, May 2, 2014

 

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/may/02/nakba-israel-palestine-zochrot-history

Posted in Analysis, History, News | Leave a Comment »

Posted by uscsjp on April 7, 2014

From Democracy Now!

Ambassador: U.S. Will Continue to “Deter Palestinian Action” on Statehood

Israel is threatening “unilateral” action if Palestinians press ahead with statehood moves at the United Nations. The Palestinian Authority applied for membership in 15 international conventions and treaties last week after Israel reneged on a pledge to free Palestinian prisoners. On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Palestinian efforts to obtain international recognition “will be answered by unilateral moves [on] our end.” The Obama administration is backing Israel’s opposition to Palestinian statehood efforts. Testifying before a House panel last week, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, said trying to “deter Palestinian action … is what we do all the time, and that is what we will continue to do.”

 

–Democracy Now, April 7th, 2014

 

http://www.democracynow.org/2014/4/7/headlines#478

 

From NPR:

Stay Or Go: How Israeli-Palestinian Peace Would Redefine Home

 

More than 1 million Arabs are citizens of Israel. And over the years, some 350,000 Jewish Israelis have moved to settlements in the West Bank. If the Israelis and Palestinians were to make peace and set a formal border, what would happen to all these people?

The vast majority of Arab Israelis are Palestinian. Most belong to families that either stayed in their homes during the war following Israel’s 1948 declaration of independence or fled to areas that wound up on the western, or Israeli side, of the cease-fire line. They hold Israeli passports and enjoy the rights of citizenship. But many experience discrimination and a challenging sense of dual identity.

The Jewish Israeli settlers in the West Bank live on land east of the 1948 cease-fire line that Israel’s military has occupied since the 1967 war. They have chosen these homes for a variety of reasons: religious, Zionist and economic. Palestinians — and most of the world — consider the 1948 cease-fire line, known as the Green Line, as the basis for a future border dividing Israel and a Palestinian state, and the Jewish settlements, guarded by Israeli soldiers, illegally built in occupied territory.

Like many settlers, Nachum Pechenick wants to continue living in the West Bank. But unlike most others, he is not lobbying for a peace deal that puts his home on the Israeli side of a future border.

Pechenick says he wants to be a Palestinian citizen. Eventually, the 41-year-old wants to serve in the Palestinian parliament.

“It’s a favor for us,” he says. “It’s also a favor for the Palestinians, because minorities are important to democracy.”

He calls it a “simple” concept but admits it would be very difficult to implement, given high emotions on both sides. In Pechenick’s vision, Israeli soldiers would leave. He says real peace would mean that Jews living among Palestinians would not need special protection.

An old-time settler, from the same settlement where Pechenick was born and raised, calls the idea noble, but naive.

Elyakim Haetzni, 87, left Hitler’s Germany as a child and was wounded fighting in Israel in 1948. He moved to Kiryat Arba, a settlement next to the West Bank city of Hebron, to help rebuild a Jewish presence in the area after Israel captured the city in 1967. He is determined to stay where he is, as an Israeli citizen under Israeli protection.

If the Israeli government signs a peace deal, he says, “they must stipulate how they protect us. If the stipulation is the Arab party undertakes to protect the life of the Jews, then we can already write our wills.”

He laughs — a robust guffaw — when he says this.

Palestinian officials say they would welcome any individual to apply for Palestinian citizenship, but they insist the Jewish settlements won’t stay.

They’re not sure how they would view an individual like Pechenick — a second-generation settler who has built his home in an “outpost” settlement, considered illegal even by the Israeli government, yet who works with Palestinians on joint projects for peace.

Pechenick’s motivation to stay put isn’t, in his words, “to control the land.”

“I want to stay here because I love my motherland,” he says. “I want to be here where it’s a good neighborhood with my Palestinian neighbor.”

On the other side of the fence-and-wall barrier Israel built in and around the West Bank, Arab Israelis are having a similar debate. If they had a chance to live in an independent Palestinian state, would they?

Yassar Shpeta would move as soon as the state was created. An Israeli citizen, he is tired of feeling a stranger in his own country, he says.

“The way authorities treat me, they give me the feeling I am not welcome here,” he says. “When I’m leaving through the airport, I get special treatment. When my house was robbed I got different treatment from the police. I feel that I need to fight for everything.”

Shpeta, 56, lives in a mixed Arab-Jewish community in Israel specifically designed to promote peace. He is married to a Jewish Israeli woman — and he’s not sure she’d move to a Palestinian state with him. Still, that wouldn’t stop him, he says.

“I hope there would be a relationship between the two states and we could visit each other, but after 56 years in Israel, I think I would feel at home in a Palestinian state,” he says.

Other Palestinian-Israelis say they would stay in Israel.

Zuhair Tibi, a family physician, is also Palestinian-Israeli. He calls discrimination in Israel “structural” and sees it in education, public infrastructure and planning, and job opportunities. But he wouldn’t move to a Palestinian state.

“We can’t do that,” he says. “To move means to leave our home. We can’t leave our home. Because we are deeply connected to this place.”

By “this place,” Tibi doesn’t only mean Taibe, the Arab town in Israel where he was born and still lives today, across the barrier from the West Bank city of Tulkarem. He means places throughout Israel: the old port city of Jaffa where his mother grew up, the beach town of Netanya where he manages a clinic, anywhere he has friends, family or memories. He expects if he chose to live in a new Palestinian state, he’d be cut off from these places, as Palestinians in the West Bank are now.

That’s the case for the extended family of 70-year-old Hussein Jbara. Standing on a dry hillside in Israel, Jbara points to a similar hill on the far side of the Israeli barrier that separates him from family members who live in the West Bank. He says he’s unlikely to move to a Palestinian state because he thinks it would be governed in a way he wouldn’t support.

“Like the Syrian government, like the Jordan kingdom, like Saudi Arabia. My vision is something different … democratic, liberated, industrialized,” Jbara says. “It takes many years to make a Palestinian state like what I want.”

Jbara has lived in Israel his entire life — but it’s possible his property could wind up on the Palestinian side.

Israel’s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, proposes drawing a border that would put land that’s home to tens of thousands of Arab-Israelis into Palestinian territory. Israeli legal experts say it would have to be done with Palestinian consent.

Diya Yahaya, a 26-year-old from Taibe, didn’t pay much attention to Lieberman’s proposal. He says talk of reducing Israel’s Arab population is nothing new. He knows he’s glad not to live in the West Bank now. It’s hard to find work there, he says, and under the military occupation, it can be dangerous.

“Sometimes it’s chaos,” he says. “Here, even though we are Arabs in a Jewish state, there’s more security and more opportunity.”

But what if there was no occupation, and Palestinians ran their own country? Yahaya thinks he might feel out of place, as he does when he visits the West Bank now.

“As an Arab-Israeli, I feel discrimination in the West Bank, too,” he says. “They treat me differently. I don’t really feel at home in either place.”

 

–Emily Harris, NPR Parallels Blog, April 3, 2014

http://www.npr.org/blogs/parallels/2014/04/03/298716296/stay-or-go-how-israeli-palestinian-peace-would-redefine-home

 

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FIFA threatens to expel Israel over treatment of Palestinian footballers  

Posted by uscsjp on April 6, 2014

 FIFA has threatened to expel Israel over its treatment of Palestinian football players and officials in the occupied West Bank and the besieged Gaza Strip.

The Inside World Football website said in a report on Monday that FIFA gave Israel until summer to improve playing conditions and travel for the Palestinian players and officials.

FIFA also warned that Israel would face a complete expulsion from the international federation if it fails to address the issue.

FIFA has launched a mediation task force over the matter.

Palestinian football official Jibril Rajoub has met with FIFA President Sepp Blatter in an effort to resolve the long-term difficulties Palestinian footballers face due to Israel’s policies.

FIFA wants Palestinian and Israeli football officials to sign a formal agreement over the issue at or around the June congress of FIFA. However, Palestinian officials say that the agreement could not be signed while Israelis continue to impose travel permit restrictions on everyone from footballers to consultants.

They also say that such restrictions often keep the Palestinian national team from competing with its complete squad. The bans also restrict hosting games in the occupied West Bank.

Israelis say FIFA has mixed politics and sport.

In January, Israeli forces shot and injured two Palestinian football players in the West Bank. Jawhar Nasser Jawhar, 19, and Adam Abd al-Raouf Halabiya, 17, were shot while walking home from a training session in the Faisal al-Husseini Stadium in the town of al-Ram.

The two were told that they might not be able to play again.

 

–Press TV, April 1st, 2014

 

http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2014/04/01/356762/fifa-threatens-to-expel-israel/

 

Posted in Activism/Divestment, Analysis, News | Leave a Comment »

Noam Chomsky on the Legacy of Ariel Sharon: Not Speaking Ill of the Dead “Imposes a Vow of Silence” (Democracy Now!)

Posted by uscsjp on January 13, 2014

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon died Saturday at the age of 85 after eight years in a coma. Sharon was one of the most dominant political figures in Israel’s history, involved in each of Israel’s major wars dating back to its founding in 1948. Among Palestinians, Sharon was one of the most reviled political figures in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He is seen as father of the settlement movement and an architect of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon that killed a reported 20,000 Palestinian and Lebanese. We discuss Sharon’s legacy with three guests: Noam Chomsky, world-renowned political dissident, linguist, author and Institute Professor Emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Rashid Khalidi, Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies at Columbia University; and Avi Shlaim, Emeritus Professor of International Relations at Oxford University, widely regarded as one of the world’s leading scholars on the Israeli-Arab conflict. “There is a convention that you’re not supposed to speak ill of the recently dead, which unfortunately imposes a kind of vow of silence, because there is nothing good to say,” Chomsky says. “He was a brutal killer; he had one fixed idea in mind which drove him all his life: a greater Israel, as powerful as possible, as few Palestinians as possible. … He doubtless showed courage and commitment to pursuing this ideal, which is an ugly and horrific one.”

TRANSCRIPT

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We begin in Israel, where a state funeral was held today in front of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, for former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. He died Saturday after eight years in a coma. He was 85 years old. He’ll be buried in a state funeral today at his home in southern Israel.

The U.S. was among eight countries—18 countries to send delegations to attend Sharon’s funeral, along with Middle East international envoy Tony Blair and the Russian and German foreign ministers. At a state memorial in Jerusalem, Vice President Joe Biden remembered Sharon as a controversial, but bold military leader and statesman.

VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: When he told 10,000 Israelis to leave their homes in Gaza in order, from his perspective, to strengthen Israel, I can’t think of a much more controversial—as a student of the Jewish state, I can’t think of a much more difficult and controversial decision been made. But he believed it, and he did it. The security of his people was always Arik’s unwavering mission, a non-breakable commitment to the future of Jews, whether 30 years or 300 years from now.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Vice President Joe Biden speaking during Ariel Sharon’s memorial. Thousands of Israelis came to pay their respects as his coffin lay in state outside the parliament building in Jerusalem. Ministers held a minute’s silence at Sunday’s Cabinet meeting to remember their former leader. This is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: [translated] In all of his latest roles as minister of defense, as minister of housing, minister of infrastructures, minister of foreign affairs, Arik has contributed to the state of Israel and, as much as he could, to the security of Israel, and that’s what he did as Israel’s prime minister. I believe he represents a generation of Jewish leaders who rose from our people with the resumption of our independence. He was tied to the land. He knew the need to protect the land, and he understood that, above all that, our independence is our ability to protect ourselves by ourselves. I believe he will be remembered as one of the prominent leaders and one of the bravest commanders in the heart of Israel forever.

AMY GOODMAN: Ariel Sharon has been one of the most dominant political figures in Israel’s history, involved in each of Israel’s major wars dating back to its founding in 1948. As prime minister, he oversaw Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip. The Gaza withdrawal caused a serious rift in Sharon’s Likud Party, which led to his departure. He formed a new party, Kadima, which maintained the Gaza disengagement while expanding Israeli control over the major settlement blocks in the occupied West Bank.

Among Palestinians, Sharon was one of the most reviled political figures in the history of the Israel-Palestine conflict. He’s seen as father of the settlement movement, an architect of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, which killed a reported 20,000 Palestinians and Lebanese. An Israeli commission of inquiry found Sharon had indirect responsibility for the massacre of over a thousand Palestinian refugees at the Sabra and Shatila camps in Lebanon in 1982.

To talk about Ariel Sharon’s life and legacy, we’re joined now by three guests. In New York, we’re joined by Rashid Khalidi, the Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies at Columbia University, author of a number of books, including Brokers of Deceit: How the U.S. Has Undermined Peace in the Middle East and, just reissued, Under Siege:PLO Decisionmaking During the 1982 War.

Joining us from his home in Massachusetts by phone, Noam Chomsky, world-renowned political dissident, linguist and author, Institute Professor Emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he’s taught for more than 50 years. His 1983 book, The Fateful Triangle, is known as one of the definitive works on the Israel-Palestine conflict and the 1982 invasion of Lebanon.

And we are also joined from Oxford by Avi Shlaim, an Emeritus Professor of International Studies at Oxford University, the author of Israel and Palestine: Reappraisals, Revisions, Refutations. He served in the Israeli army in the mid-’60s and is widely regarded as one of the world’s leading scholars on the Israeli-Arab conflict.

We welcome you all to Democracy Now! Let’s go first to the Israeli historian, Avi Shlaim. Your response to the death of Ariel Sharon, what you feel he should be remembered for?

AVI SHLAIM: Ariel Sharon is one of the most iconic and controversial figures in Israel’s history. He had deep—he was a deeply flawed character, renowned for his brutality, mendacity and corruption. Despite these character flaws, he is a major figure in shaping Israel’s modern history.

He was one of the five most influential figures who left a deep mark on modern Israel. The first was David Ben-Gurion, the founder of the state, who in 1949 concluded the armistice agreements with the neighboring Arab states, the only internationally recognized borders that Israel has ever had. Second was Levi Eshkol, who, in the aftermath of the June 1967 War, presided over the transformation of Israel from a plucky little democracy into a brutal colonial power. The third was the Likud leader, Menachem Begin, who signed the first peace treaty with an Arab country. He signed the peace treaty with Egypt in 1979. The fourth was Yitzhak Rabin, the only Israeli prime minister who went forward on the political front towards the Palestinians, and he did this by signing the Oslo Accord in 1939 and clinching the historic compromise between the two nations with the iconic handshake with Yasser Arafat on the White House lawn.

And finally, there is Ariel Sharon, who always rejected the Oslo peace process, who as prime minister tried to sweep away the remnants of Oslo and forge a new strategy of unilateralism, of giving up on the Palestinians and redrawing unilaterally the borders of greater Israel. So, his legacy can be summed up in one word—unilateralism—acting in defiance of U.N. resolutions, international law and international public opinion. The real question is: How was Ariel Sharon, and how is Israel today under his successors, able to defy the entire international community? And the answer to that is that Israel could not have done it on its own, but it has a little friend, and the friend is the United States of America. But that is a different story.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to break and then get response from Professor Rashid Khalidi and Professor Noam Chomsky, as well as continue our discussion with Israeli historian Avi Shlaim. This is Democracy Now! We’re talking about the death of Ariel Sharon. Stay with us.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking about the death of the former prime minister, Ariel Sharon, who died Saturday after eight years in a coma. He was 85 years old. We are joined by Professor Noam Chomsky in Massachusetts, by Avi Shlaim, the Israeli historian at Oxford University in Britain, and we’re joined here in New York by Rashid Khalidi. Among his books are Brokers of Deceit: How the U.S. Has Undermined Peace in the Middle East. He’s the Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies at Columbia University. You’re also Palestinian. Your response to the death of Ariel Sharon?

RASHID KHALIDI: Well, for me, the most important emotion is a sense of, finally, the man who carried out a war in which 20,000 people were killed, the Lebanon War of 1982, who besieged Beirut, who destroyed building after building, killing scores of civilians in a search to destroy the PLO leadership, has finally left the world. I was in Beirut that summer of 1982. And I—to me, it’s horrific to watch the hagiographies that are being produced by people like Vice President Biden, byThe New York Times, by much of the media, about a man who really should have ended his days at The Hague before the International Criminal Court. He was a man who, from the very beginning of his career, started out killing people. As the commander of Unit 101, he was the man who ordered the Qibya massacre.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain. What is Unit 101?

RASHID KHALIDI: Unit 101 was a military unit of the Israeli army formed at the orders of the Israeli leadership of the time to carry out savage reprisal raids. But we’re talking about dozens of victims. In retaliation for, in this case, two or three people being killed, 69 people had their homes blown up over their heads.

AMY GOODMAN: When was this?

RASHID KHALIDI: This was 1953 in a small village in the—what is today the West Bank. This was the first condemnation of Israel by a Security Council resolution. This was something that the United States at the time was willing to say was a horrible, horrible crime. And this is a man who, since then, really, has only acted on the basis of a belief that force is the only thing the Arabs understand. The idea that he is now considered by some to be a peacemaker is grotesque, frankly.

AMY GOODMAN: Noam Chomsky, you wrote The Fateful Triangle in response to what happened in Lebanon. It changed the discourse for many in this country. First, explain your reaction to the death of Ariel Sharon and what we should understand about him.

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, you know, there is a convention that you’re not supposed to speak ill of the recently dead, which unfortunately imposes a kind of vow of silence because there’s nothing else to say—there’s nothing good to say. What both Rashid and Avi Shlaim have said is exactly accurate. He was a brutal killer. He had one fixed idea in mind, which drove him all his life: a greater Israel, as powerful as possible, as few Palestinians as possible—they should somehow disappear—and an Israel which could be powerful enough to dominate the region. The Lebanon War then, which was his worst crime, also had a goal of imposing a client state in Lebanon, a Maronite client state. And these were the driving forces of his life.

The idea that the Gaza evacuation was a controversial step for peace is almost farcical. By 2005, Gaza had been devastated, and he played a large role in that. The Israeli hawks could understand easily that it made no sense to keep a few thousand Israeli settlers in Gaza using a very large percentage of its land and scarce water with a huge IDF, Israeli army, contingent to protect them. What made more sense was to take them out and place them in the West Bank or the Golan Heights—illegal. It could have been done very simply. They could have—the Israeli army could have announced that on August 1st they’re leaving Gaza, in which case the settlers would have piled into the trucks that were provided to them, which would take them from their subsidized homes in Gaza to illegal subsidized homes in other territories that Israel intended to keep, and that would have been the end of it. But instead, a—what Israeli sociologists call, Baruch Kimmerling called an “absurd theater” was constructed to try to demonstrate to the world that there cannot be any further evacuations.

The farce was a successful public relations effort. Joseph Biden’s comments illustrate that. It was particularly farcical when you recognize that it was a virtual replay of what happened in 1982 when Israel was compelled to withdraw from the Egyptian Sinai and carried out an operation that the Israeli press ridiculed as Operation National Trauma 1982: We have to show the world how much we’re suffering by carrying out an action that will benefit our power and our security. And that was the peacemaking effort.

But his career is one of unremitting brutality, dedication to the fixed idea of his life. He doubtless showed courage and commitment to pursuing this ideal, which is an ugly and horrific one.

–Democracy Now!, 13 January, 2014

 

http://www.democracynow.org/2014/1/13/noam_chomsky_on_the_legacy_of

 

 See Also from Democracy Now:

Noam Chomsky: Sabra & Shatila Massacre That Forced Sharon’s Ouster Recalls Worst of Jewish Pogromshttp://www.democracynow.org/2014/1/13/noam_chomsky_sabra_shatila_massacre_that

Posted in Analysis, Opinion/Editorial | Leave a Comment »

Samuel Dowell: Take Israel to the ICC, Abbas, or GET OUT of the WAY

Posted by uscsjp on January 8, 2014

It is time for Palestine to Sign the Rome Statute and take Israel to the International Criminal Court.  If it is necessary to be a member state at the U.N. in order to sign the Rome Statute, the UNGA will approve that.  These bogus “Peace Talks” are only used by Israel for propaganda purposes and used to further the occupation. The people must demand that the “Peace Talks” end.  Abbas needs to stop standing in the way and allow Palestine to proceed:  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/palestinianauthority/10539025/Palestinian-Authority-threatens-Israel-with-The-Hague-over-settlement-building.html

 

The Palestinian Authority MUST be informed that if they do not take Israel to the International Criminal Court that they will be removed.
Abbas does not speak for Palestine. He cannot sign or agree to any “agreement” for the Palestinians. If he agrees to a U.S. Framework Agreement that gives away Palestinian rights, he is a Traitor.

In May 2012, Abbas told a pro-Israel J-Street delegation that he was afraid that one of the prisoners on a hunger strike might die.

He said, “I am afraid, God forbid, that the security system here will collapse.”

He added: “I told the Israelis: ‘Please, please, please. They have some demands. If you do not respond to them and somebody today or tomorrow dies, it will be very, very disastrous for us.”

“If they help me to get weapons, I’m helping them because I’m promoting security,” Mr. Abbas said of the Israelis. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/13/world/middleeast/palestinians-and-israelis-in-talks-to-end-hunger-strike.html?_r=0

Mr. Abbas needs to know that if he signs any deal giving Palestinian rights away, his people will eventually put him in prison.
The world must put an end to the Criminal Zionist Occupation. Zionist-controlled Washington’s influence is over.

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