Thursday, July 24, 2014

9 Reasons why Israel is under rocket attack

from mondoweiss.org

Waleed Ahmed on July 23, 2014 34

The peace-loving nation of Israel is yet again at the brink of an existential annihilation due to home made rocket attacks from Gaza — or so they would have you believe. As the Israel-Palestine conflict rages, we’ve heard the same boiler plate statements about ‘Israel’s right to defend itself’ and ‘No country would tolerate rocket attacks, so why should Israel?’

But why are rockets being fired into Israel in the first place? “Because the Palestinians are terrorists and anti-Semites.” Perhaps, or perhaps there are few more plausible explanations for Palestinian armed resistance; consider the following:

1. The Occupation

Israel, with U.S. support, has militarily occupied the Gaza Strip (along with the West Bank and East Jerusalem) since 1967. The belligerent occupation, now in its 47th year, is one of the longest, bloodiest and brutal in human history — over 2,500 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza alone in the last seven years.

Up until 2005, Israel maintained illegal Jewish colonies in the Gaza Strip as well. It has since disbanded these colonies and thus claims it’s no longer occupying the Gaza strip. Israel is alone in holding this deceptive view; the UN, US State Department, global NGO’s and legal scholars all consider Gaza a part of the Occupied Palestinian Territories because Israel exercises complete military control over it.

2. The Siege

Israel, with U.S. backing, has laid a brutal siege in the Gaza Strip since 2007. It has blocked off air, land and water access to the Strip — nothing goes in, nothing comes out. This tiny strip of land is home to some 1.7 million people; due to its cage-like setup, Gaza has aptly been described as the ‘world’s largest open air prison.’

The siege has stifled Gaza’s economy, destroyed its infrastructure and has cut off access to some of the most basic amenities needed to live a dignified life. Today, almost 80 per cent of Gazans are dependent on aid as a result of the blockade. The UN has warned Gaza will be inhospitable by 2020 if the siege continues.

3. The Water Crisis

Israel’s discriminatory division of water means that Palestinians get 70 litres a day per person, far below the 100 liters per capita minimum, while the Israeli’s get four times this amount. Limiting the water supply results in Gazan households receiving water for only six-eight hours at a time about every other day. Israel severely damaged the sewage treatment infrastructure in Gaza during its 2009 assault; the blockade means the resources needed for repairs are unavailable.

As a result, only 25 per cent of Gaza’s waster water is treated; 90 million liters of untreated or partially treated sewage is dumped into the Mediterranean every day. Contamination of the territory’s ground water is serious concern; about 90 per cent of the water supply in the Strip is unfit for human consumption. Due to over-pumping and sewage contamination Gaza’s only water source, its Coastal Aquifer, is damaged past the point of no return — it will expire in 2016.

4. Scarcity of Fuel and Electricity

Gaza is under a chronic power shortage due to the siege; Israel has severely limited the fuel supply needed to operate the only power plant in the territory. Only 46 per cent of Gaza’s electricity needs are being met currently; this has triggered rolling power outages of 12 hours everyday. Amongst other things, this lack of power means that hundreds of crucial medical devices at hospital are non-functional, including Gaza’s only MRI machine.

5. Leveling of Land and Destruction of Property

The Israeli army conducts weekly incursions into the Gaza Strip to destroy the land it has declared as ‘no-go zone.’ Its tanks, bulldozers and military jeeps, accompanied by helicopters and drones, systematically destroy fruit bearing trees and agricultural land in the Gaza strip. Civilian infrastructure in this area is also demolished; this includes hundreds of houses, wells and chicken farms — mosques and schools are demolished as well.

6. Travel Bans

Israel’s siege has meant that it is virtually impossible for Gazans to leave the occupied territory. They can’t even leave to visit their relatives in the West Bank, let alone in Israel. Gazans with spouses in Israel or the West Bank are forced to live in separation; simple matters such as raising a family are rendered impracticable. Permission to leave even for severe emergencies is rarely given.

By dividing Palestinians, Israel successfully employs the ‘divide and conquer’ strategy like colonial powers of the past. The people of Gaza can’t even seek asylum in other countries due to this restriction on movement. Even students are prohibited from going abroad, or even the West Bank, for higher education; visas of several winners of U.S. Fullbright Scholarships have been revoked in the past.

7. Suppression of Agriculture

The Israeli army created a ‘no-go zone’ along the Israel-Gaza border that Palestinians cannot enter. This ‘buffer region’ extends up to 1,500 meters at times into the Strip and includes some of its most fertile land. As a result, 35 per cent of the agricultural space in Gaza is off-limits to farmers. This has seriously damaged the food economy and harshly penalized innocent farmers. Palestinians are fired at arbitrarily if they try to enter this region; farmers suffer serious injuries, and at times death, as a result of this indiscriminate firing.

8. Restrictions on Fishing

Israel has announced that access to the sea six nautical miles beyond Gaza’s shore is prohibited for fisherman. This means that 85 per cent of fishing waters granted to Palestinians under the Oslo Accords is now inaccessible; this has severely impacted Gaza’s coastal economy. Similar to the restricted areas on land, Palestinian fishermen are regularly exposed to warning fire by Israeli naval forces, their fishing boats are intercepted and they are detained — all for the harmless act of fishing.

9. The Refugee Crisis

Of 1.5 million people living in Gaza, 1.2 million are registered refugees spread across eight camps. These refugees are made up of Palestinians, and now their decedents, who were expelled from present-day Israel in during the mass expulsion or Nakba in 1948. Since the newly created state of Israel denied the right of return to these refugees, they have been trapped in the refugee camps for the past 66 years. These refugee camps are overcrowded, cramped and under utter disrepair – unlivable by any standards. Attempts to rebuild or renovate the camps have been restricted due to the siege. The humanitarian crisis in the camps is only magnified compared to the rest of Palestine; unemployment is high, food is scarce and fuel is scant.

This is a short list of the some of the unspeakable crimes Israel commits on a defenseless population; they are at the root of this conflict. Rocket attacks from Gaza are a desperate response to these injustices – how does our government manage to omit this when brazenly expressing support for Israel? In light of the above, let’s try to counter some of the non-sense coming out of the foreign affairs office: No people would ever tolerate an oppressive occupation and an unjust siege, so why should the Palestinians?


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Reaping What We Have Sown In Gaza

Those who turned Gaza into an internment camp for 1.8 million people should not be surprised when they tunnel underneath the earth.

By Amira Hass

July 22, 2014 "ICH" - "Haaretz" -- - I’ve already raised the white flag. I’ve stopped searching the dictionary for the word to describe half of a boy’s missing head while his father screams “Wake up, wake up, I bought you a toy!” How did Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Greater Germany, put it? Israel’s right to defend itself.
I’m still struggling with the need to share details of the endless number of talks I’ve had with friends in Gaza, in order to document what it’s like to wait for your turn in the slaughterhouse. For example, the talk I had on Saturday morning with J. from al-Bureij refugee camp, while he was on his way to Dir al-Balah with his wife. They’re about 60-years-old. That morning, his aging mother got a phone call, and heard the recording instructing the residents of their refugee camp to leave for Dir al-Balah.

A book on Israeli military psychology should have an entire chapter devoted to this sadism, sanctimoniously disguising itself as mercy: A recorded message demanding hundreds of thousands of people leave their already targeted homes, for another place, equally dangerous, 10 kilometers away. What, I asked J., you’re leaving? “What, why?” He said, “We have a hut near the beach, with some land and cats. We’re going to feed the cats and come back. We’re going together. If the car gets blown up, we’ll die together.”

If I were wearing an analyst’s hat, I would write: In contrast to the common Israeli hasbara, Hamas isn’t forcing Gazans to remain in their homes, or to leave. It’s their decision. Where would they go? “If we’re going to die, it’s more dignified to die at home, instead of while running away,” says the downright secular J.

I’m still convinced that one sentence like this is worth a thousand analyses. But when it comes to Palestinians, most readers prefer the summaries.

I’m fed up with lying to myself – as if I could remotely, by phone, gather the information necessary to report on what the journalists located there are reporting on. Regardless, it’s information that is important to a small group of the Hebrew-speaking population. They’re looking for it on foreign news channels or websites. They do not depend on what is written here in order to hear, for example, about the short lives of Jihad (11) and Wasim (8) Shuhaibar, or their cousin Afnan (8) from the Sabra neighborhood in Gaza. Like me, they could read the reporting of Canadian journalist Jesse Rosenfeld on The Daily Beast.

“Issam Shuhaibar, the father of Jihad and Wasim, leaned on a grave next to where his children were buried, his eyes hollow, staring nowhere. His arm bore a hospital bandage applied after he gave blood to try to help save his family. His children’s blood still covered his shirt,” writes Rosenfeld. “‘They were just feeding chickens when the shell hit,’ he said. ‘I heard a big noise on the roof and I went to find them. They were just meat,’ he gasped, before breaking down in tears,” continued Rosenfeld’s article. We murdered them about two and a half hours after the humanitarian cease-fire ended last Thursday. Two other brothers, Oudeh (16) and Bassel (8) were wounded, Bassel seriously.

The father told Rosenfeld that there was a warning missile. Before the attack, they heard the humming of the UAVs, the kind that “knock on the roof.” So I asked Rosenfeld, “If the missile was one of our merciful ones, those that come along as a warning, was the house bombed afterward?” By chance, I found my answer in a CNN report. The network’s camera managed to catch the explosion that came after the warning: knock, fire, smoke and dust. But it was a different house that was bombed, not the Shuhaibar house. I rechecked with Rosenfeld and others. What killed the three children was not a Palestinian rocket that went astray. It was an Israeli warning missile. And Issam Shuhaibar himself is a Palestinian policeman on the payroll of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority.

I’ve also given up on trying to get a direct answer from the Israel Defense Forces. Did you mistakenly warn the wrong home, thus murdering another three children? (Of the 84 that have been killed as of Sunday morning.)

I’m fed up with the failed efforts at competing with the abundance of orchestrated commentaries on Hamas’ goals and actions, from people who write as if they’ve sat down with Mohammed Deif and Ismail Haniyeh, and not just some IDF or Shin Bet security service source. Those who rejected Fatah and Yasser Arafat’s peace proposal for two states have now been given Haniyeh, Hamas and BDS. Those who turned Gaza into an internment and punishment camp for 1.8 million human beings should not be surprised that they tunnel underneath the earth. Those who sow strangling, siege and isolation reap rocket fire. Those who have, for 47 years, indiscriminately crossed the Green Line, expropriating land and constantly harming civilians in raids, shootings and settlements – what right do they have to roll their eyes and speak of Palestinian terror against civilians?

Hamas is cruelly and frighteningly destroying the traditional double standards mentality that Israel is a master at. All of those brilliant intelligence and Shin Bet brains really don’t understand that we ourselves have created the perfect recipe for our very own version of Somalia? You want to prevent escalation? Now is the time: Open up the Gaza Strip, let the people return to the world, the West Bank, and to their families and families in Israel. Let them breathe, and they will find out that life is more beautiful than death.


HRW Whitewashes Israel, The Law Supports Hamas

from IHC.com

Some Reflections on Israel’s Latest Massacre

By Norman Finkelstein

[The analysis and data in this article refer to the period prior to the Israeli ground invasion.]

July 23, 2014 "ICH" - On 7 July 2014, Israel unleashed Operation Protective Edge against Gaza. When it launched a ground invasion on 18 July 2014, Israel had already killed 230 Gazan Palestinians, of whom 75 percent (171) were civilians and 20 percent (48) children, wounded more than 1,700, and destroyed or rendered uninhabitable hundreds of homes leaving more than 10,000 Gazans without shelter. On the other side, according to daily updates Palestinian projectiles had killed one Israeli civilian, wounded 18, and damaged three Israeli homes. It’s hard to conceive of a more disproportionate balance sheet in an alleged “war.”

Nonetheless, Human Rights Watch (HRW), in its legal reckoning, didn’t so much even out as reverse the balance sheet. It never explicitly accused Israel of committing war crimes, whereas its first press release already accused Hamas of committing war crimes. If in fact HRW accurately interpreted the laws of war, the only rational conclusion would be that these laws are morally bankrupt and deserving of contempt: they would not be distilling but instead grossly distorting the moral realities of war, as they exonerate the major perpetrators of war crimes. But did HRW accurately interpret the laws of war, or did this influential human rights organization give Israel a green light to commit war crimes on a yet more massive scale during the ground invasion? Let’s look at the record.

Israel

In its first press release on 9 July 2014, “Indiscriminate Palestinian Rocket Attacks; Israeli Airstrikes on Homes Appear to be Collective Punishment,” HRW stated that “Israeli attacks targeting homes may amount to prohibited collective punishment.” In its second press release on 16 July, “Unlawful Israeli Airstrikes Kill Civilians; Bombings of Civilian Structures Suggest Illegal Policy,” HRW stated that “Israeli air attacks in Gaza…have been targeting apparent civilian structures and killing civilians in violation of the laws of war. Israel should end unlawful attacks that do not target military objectives and may be intended as collective punishment or broadly to destroy civilian property.” It then proceeded to legally define the meaning of war crimes, but artfully avoided accusing Israel of committing them.

In these statements HRW doubly distanced itself from alleging Israeli war crimes: first, it qualified the weight of the incriminating evidence—“appear,” “may,” “apparent,” “may be”; second, it recoiled from explicitly charging Israel with war crimes and instead settled for lesser or vaguer charges—“collective punishment,” “violation of the laws of war,” “unlawful attacks.” The cautiousness perplexes in light of the evidence assembled by HRW itself.

In conformity with tenets of international law, HRW stated that “indiscriminate or targeted,” “deliberate or reckless,” attacks directed at civilians or civilian structures constituted “war crimes.” If Israel had a declared policy of targeting civilian homes and 75 percent of casualties were civilians, Israel prima facie committed war crimes. Why didn’t HRW reach this conclusion?

Although acknowledging that Israel targeted homes of Hamas militants “that do not serve an immediate military purpose,” HRW denounced these targeted attacks on civilian structures as mere “collective punishment.” Contrastingly, in an 11 July press release, “UN Must Impose Arms Embargo and Mandate an International Investigation as Civilian Death Toll Rises,” Amnesty International forthrightly and unequivocally stated that Israel’s targeting of Hamas militants’ homes not making an “effective contribution to military action…constitutes a war crime and also amounts to collective punishment against the families.”

HRW investigated four Israeli strikes in Gaza that resulted in civilian casualties. It consistently found “no evidence,” and “the Israeli military has presented no evidence,” that Israel was “attacking lawful military objectives or acted to minimize civilian casualties.” HRW also observed that “Israel has wrongly claimed as amatter of policy that civilian members of Hamas or other political groups who do not have a military role are ‘terrorists’ and therefore valid military targets” (emphasis added). “Israel’s rhetoric is all about precision attacks,” HRW’s Middle East director stated in the second press release, “but attacks with no military target and many civilian deaths can hardly be considered precise.” If, however, Israel’s “precision attacks” killed civilians in the absence of any military objective, didn’t these precisely constitute war crimes?

“Israel launched 1,800 air raids in one of the most densely populated areas of Gaza,” Raji Sourani, the respected human rights lawyer and founder of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, observed. “It’s a shame that Israel and the international community allow this to happen. These are war crimes, just as simple as that.” It really is that simple, and it’s worse than a shame that HRW, by its muted legal findings, enables this to happen.

Palestinian armed groups

“Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel appear to be indiscriminate or targeted at civilian population centers,” Human Rights Watch’s first press release stated, “which are war crimes.” On this point, Amnesty concurred. But are projectile attacks by Hamas (used here as short-hand for all Palestinian armed groups) war crimes or even illegal? In fact, the law is more ambiguous than often allowed.

International law prohibits an occupying power from using force to suppress a struggle for self-determination, whereas it does not prohibit a people struggling for self-determination from using force.[1] The International Court of Justice (ICJ) stated in its 2004 advisory opinion that the Palestinian people’s “rights include the right to self-determination,” and that “Israel is bound to comply with its obligation to respect the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.” Israel consequently has no legal right to use force to suppress the Palestinian self-determination struggle. Israel also cannot contend that, because this self-determination struggle unfolds within the framework of an occupation, it has the legal right, as the occupying power, to enforce the occupation so long as it endures.[2] In 1971, the ICJ ruled that South Africa’s occupation of Namibia had become illegal because it refused to carry out good-faith negotiations to end the occupation. It is beyond dispute that Israel has failed to carry out good-faith negotiations to end the occupation of Palestinian territory. On the Namibia precedent, the Israeli occupation is also illegal. The only “right” Israel can claim is—in the words of the United States at the time of the Namibia debate—“to withdraw its administration…immediately and thus put an end to its occupation.”[3]

Although claiming for itself the right of self-defense against Hamas projectiles, in fact Israel is claiming the right to maintain the occupation. If Israel ceased using force to suppress the Palestinian struggle for self-determination, the occupation would end, and the projectile attacks would cease. (If they didn’t stop, the legal situation would, of course, be different.) If it ended the occupation, Israel wouldn’t need to use force. The refrain that Israel has the right to self-defense is a red herring: the real question is, Does Israel have the right to use force to maintain an illegal occupation? The answer is no.

It might be said that, even if Israel cannot use force to suppress the Palestinian struggle for self-determination, Hamas’s use of indiscriminate projectiles and its targeting of Israeli civilians still constitute war crimes. Here, it is useful to first recall another instance of HRW’s egregious double standard. In 2008, HRW issued a report entitled Flooding South Lebanon: Israel’s use of cluster munitions in Lebanon in July and August 2006. The report found that Israel dropped as many as 4.6 million cluster munitions on south Lebanon during the 2006 war. It was, in HRW’s words, “the most extensive use of cluster munitions anywhere in the world since the 1991 Gulf war,” while relative to the size of the targeted area the density of the attack was historically unprecedented. Some 90 percent of these cluster munitions were dropped during the final three days “when Israel knew a settlement was imminent” (HRW), the UN ceasefire resolution having already been passed but not yet gone into effect. But, although finding that Israel committed “extensive violations” of the laws of war, HRW did not go beyond stating that Israel’s massive resort to cluster munitions was “in some locations possibly a war crime.” Yet, the evidence HRW itself assembled showed that cluster munitions are indiscriminate weapons; the cluster munitions carriers used by Israel were, on HRW’s own terms, indiscriminate; and the cluster munitions were fired indiscriminately and deliberately targeted civilian population centers.

It is not altogether clear what constitutes an indiscriminate weapon. The apparent standard is a relative one set by the available technology: If an existing weapon has a high probability of hitting its target, then any weapons with a significantly lower probability are classified as indiscriminate. But, by this standard, only rich countries, or countries rich enough to purchase high-tech weapons, have a right to defend themselves against high-tech aerial assaults. It is a curious law that would negate the raison d’être of law: the substitution of might by right.

Human Rights Watch has argued that, even if its civilians are being relentlessly targeted, a people does not have a legal right to carry out “belligerent reprisals”—that is, to deliberately target the civilians of the opposing state until it desists. “Regardless of who started this latest round, attacks targeting civilians violate basic humanitarian norms,” HRW’s Deputy Middle East and North Africa director stated in the first press release. “All attacks, including reprisal attacks, that target or indiscriminately harm civilians are prohibited under the laws of war, period.” Not so. International law does not—at any rate, not yet—prohibit belligerent reprisals.[4]The United States and Britain, among others, have staunchly defended the right of a state to use nuclearweapons by way of belligerent reprisal.[5] By this standard, the people of Gaza surely have the right to use makeshift projectiles to end an illegal, merciless seven-year-long Israeli blockade or to end Israel’s criminal bombardment of Gaza’s civilian population. Indeed, in its landmark 1996 advisory opinion on the legality of nuclear weapons, the ICJ ruled that international law is not settled on the right of a state to use nuclear weapons when its “survival” is at stake. But, if a state might have the right to use nuclear weapons when its survival is at stake, then surely a people struggling for self-determination has the right to use makeshift projectiles when it has been subjected to slow death by a protracted blockade and recurrent massacres by a state determined to maintain its occupation.

One might legitimately question the political prudence of Hamas’s strategy. But the law is not unambiguously against it, while the scales of morality weigh in its favor. Israel has imposed a brutal blockade on Gaza. Fully 95 percent of the water in Gaza is unfit for human consumption. By all accounts, the Palestinian people now stand behind those engaging in belligerent reprisals against Israel. In the Gaza Strip, they prefer to die resisting than to continue living under an inhuman blockade. Their resistance is mostly notional, as makeshift projectiles cause little damage. So, the ultimate question is, Do Palestinians have the right to symbolically resist slow death punctuated by periodic massacres, or must they lie down and die?

Norman G. Finkelstein received his doctorate in 1988 from the Department of Politics at Princeton University. For many years he taught political theory and the Israel-Palestine conflict. He currently writes and lectures. Finkelstein is the author of nine books that have been translated into 50 foreign editions: http://normanfinkelstein.com/

[1] International law is either neutral on or supports (scholars differ) the right of a people struggling for self-determination to use force. James Crawford, The Creation of States in International Law, second edition (Oxford: 2006), pp. 135-37, 147; Heather A. Wilson, International Law and the Use of Force by National Liberation Movements (Oxford: 1988), pp. 135-36; A. Rigo Sureda, The Evolution of the Right to Self-Determination: A study of United Nations practice (Leiden: 1973), pp. 331, 343-44, 354.

[2] Yoram Dinstein, The Conduct of Hostilities under the Law of International Armed Conflict (Cambridge: 2004), pp. 35, 94.

[3] See Norman G. Finkelstein and Mouin Rabbani, How to Solve the Israel-Palestine Conflict (forthcoming 2015).

[4] Jean-Marie Henckaerts and Louise Doswald-Beck, Customary International Humanitarian Law, Volume 1: Rules (Cambridge: 2005), p. 523; A. P. V. Rogers, Law on the Battlefield, second edition (Manchester: 2004), p. 235.

[5] Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons (8 July 1996)—Letter dated 16 June 1995 from the Legal Adviser to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, together with Written Comments of the United Kingdom; Letter dated 20 June 1995 from the Acting Legal Adviser to the Department of State, together with Written Statement of the Government of the United States of America; Oral Statement of U.S. representative (15 November 1995); Dissenting Opinion of Vice-President Schwebel. The ICJ itself elected not to rule on the legality of belligerent reprisals, para 46.


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

more "Democratic and Jewish" tales from apartheid Israel

from Portside

Businesses Strike in Israel Over Gaza

Gregg Carlstrom
July 21, 2014
Aljazeera

Thousands of businesses across the country join strike in protest over the Israeli offensive on Gaza.



The strike drew an angry response from Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman , Gregg Carlstrom/Al Jazeera,


Nazareth, Israel - The main commercial street in this majority-Palestinian city was shuttered on Monday, as residents joined a general strike and staged protests against the two-week-old Israeli offensive in Gaza.

Thousands of businesses across Israel and the West Bank joined the strike, organised after a day of intense Israeli shelling in Gaza killed more than 100 people.

Several thousand demonstrators held posters with the photos of children killed during the offensive, and chanted slogans calling the army "terrorists" and "war criminals".

Protesters clashed briefly with police after the main rally, and at least a dozen people were arrested.There were scattered protests against the war last week, including a rally in Haifa at which several Knesset members were detained or beaten, but Monday's strike was the first large coordinated movement."The action itself is what is important, to show solidarity and to protest against the crimes," said Samir Haddad, a resident of Nazareth.

"We need to show that we are one people."

The call for a general strike drew an angry response from Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who urged his supporters to boycott businesses that joined.

"I call on everyone not to buy anything more from the shops and businesses in the Arab community who are participating in today's general strike," he wrote on Facebook.

Anger has been mounting for months among Israel's Palestinian citizens, who make up about 20 percent of the population.

The government has pursued a number of initiatives seen as discriminatory, including a bill that could effectively drive Palestinian parties out of the Knesset, and a plan to draft more Christians into army service.

The tensions reached a peak earlier this month, when a 16-year-old boy from East Jerusalem was kidnapped and brutally murdered, an apparent revenge attack for the murder of three teenage Jewish settlers in June.

Residents of his neighbourhood fought with police for three days, and the clashes spread to Palestinian towns in central and northern Israel.

Nearly 700 people were arrested after those protests, rights groups say, including 224 from East Jerusalem.

The majority have been released, but dozens face charges for throwing stones and blocking roads, the latter of which carries up to a 15-year jail term.

"Some of them were charged, or at least investigated, just because of using Facebook," said Salah Mohsen, from Adalah, a local rights group.

"The leaders of this movement who called [online] for demonstrations, we know a few of them who were investigated and detained."

Monday, July 21, 2014

‘We have nothing left to lose. I would rather die with my family under the rubble of our house than have a humiliating truce’: Palestinian youth demand justice

from mondoweiss.org
Pam Bailey on July 21, 2014 15


Palestinian youths gesture during a demonstration next to the security fence standing on the Gaza border, east of Khan Yunis, in the Gaza Strip, on November 23 2012. (Photo: AFP - Said Khatib)

I awoke Sunday morning to news of a massacre in Gaza that evoked memories of Sabra and Shatila – not in terms of absolute numbers, but in the nature of its brutality. An estimated 60 Palestinians had been killed, more than 300 injured and hundreds more forced to flee their homes as Israeli troops and tanks barreled into Shejaiya, a neighborhood in eastern Gaza City. Spokesman for the Palestinian Ministry of Health Ashraf al-Qidra reported that Israeli forces had denied ambulances access to the houses under siege, saying that the area was a “closed military zone.”

And yet. amidst the reports of destruction, pain and loss, there were Facebook posts like this one from Malaka Mohammed, a young woman from the same Gazan neighborhood who is studying international law in the UK: “Watching Al-Jazeera and my friends and relatives among the casualties. And still strong. I have not seen my family as strong as today. We will never give up till we get our freedom.” For an hour and a half, her father refused to evacuate, even as the bombs were landing at a rate her neighbor described as “more than three in one second.”

In a post the day before, from the Jabalya refugee camp, Sarah Ali (a contributor to a collection of short stories called Gaza Writes Back) wrote: “Last night was horrible. My house shook every five minutes! Except for half an hour in the evening, we’ve been without electricity for over 48 hours. Due to the long blackout, we had no water as well. The Israelis have (again) bombed a main power generator that supplies electricity to many areas. There was Israeli shelling from the sea, air and land. I could hear the kids in our neighbors’ houses crying in terror all night. This is not about destroying Hamas; this is about destroying every Palestinian in Gaza, destroying our lives, crushing our dignity and morale. Let it be known to (Israel) that the more they kill and destroy, the stronger we become. We have nothing left to lose. Now I would rather die with my family under the rubble of our house than have a humiliating truce. No justice, no peace.”

In dozens of conversations with other youth in Gaza (who make up 65 percent of the population of nearly 1.8 million), the opinion was nearly universal: Despite their heavy losses and the gross imbalance of power, they do not want a ceasefire that merely stops the immediate fighting and promises to open negotiations on their other grievances. (The Gaza Strip has been under Israel’s control in some fashion for 47 years, but with suffocating intensity since 2007. Israel strictly limits travel in and out; controls the supplies that come in, including a ban on most construction materials; and prohibits virtually all exports, thus crippling the economy and triggering one of the highest poverty and unemployment rates in the Arab world.)

No. What they insist on – demand – is a ceasefire tied to an end to their repression, even if it means more death and destruction for their people. Life is meaningless, they say, if it is spent under the boot of an oppressor. My conclusion after numerous interviews with ordinary youth, from one end of Gaza to the other? Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his spokesmen are wrong when they accuse Hamas of ordering a sheep-like people to act as human shields or to remain in their homes in the face of warnings to evacuate. The decisions of tens of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza to stay in their homes until they were literally forced to leave were for some an act of desperation, saying they had nowhere else to go. (UN schools already are crammed with 84,000 displaced individuals.) However, for many others, they were the principled actions of a proud, independent people. And when Hamas rejected the ceasefire unilaterally declared by Egypt and Israel, it had the support of the vast majority of residents.

“Honestly, most of the Gazan people are urging the resistance to continue fighting until they achieve our conditions – which is simply to be able to live as humans with freedom and dignity,” says Fadi Alshaer, a 29-year-old who studied English at the Islamic University of Gaza and lives in the Rafah area. “People here don’t believe that Israel will do anything to give us back our rights if they are not forced to.”

Ola Ziada, a 24-year-old news reporter and English instructor in Gaza’s Jabalya camp, is even stronger: “If they accepted the ceasefire with no preconditions, then I would consider it a betrayal of the blood that has been shed, of the four kids who were murdered just for playing on the beach. We would rather die than go back to the way we were before, imprisoned and forbidden from enjoying what a human should have for a decent life. We have been negotiating for decades and we have gotten nothing. I believe this is the war to determine whether to be or not to be.”

Of course, there are others who have paid a dear price who reluctantly feel otherwise. Omar Mansour, who lives in a town in northern Gaza that has been hit particularly hard, believes the casualties are too high and an internationally negotiated ceasefire should be accepted, even with no pre-set conditions. After holding out even after the Red Crescent tried to help his family evacuate, Mansour finally accompanied his parents to the home of friends in Gaza City when two relatives were killed and much of his block was destroyed. Still, he says he will return in the next day or so, despite the continued violence in his area. “I’m not afraid of death. All I’m afraid of is to watch them destroying my lovely house,” he says.

Mansour doesn’t disagree, however, when Alshaer, Ziada and others point out that the only significant “wins” the Palestinians have ever achieved is not through pleas to the United Nations or international courts, but through rocket fire (such as the concessions achieved at the end of the 2012 “eight-day war”) or abductions of soldiers (Gilad Shalit is a case in point, who was released in return for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners).

Lest one think that these are the fantasies of young people not properly schooled in history or the lessons of life, consider these words of Haider Eid, associate professor of postcolonial and postmodern literature at Gaza’s al-Aqsa University:

“The urgent question facing us in Gaza is not just how to survive for today, but how to hold Israel accountable to international law and basic principles of human rights; how to stop the current escalation and the ongoing massacre and how to stop this from ever happening again.

“Knowing that the credible Goldstone report on suspected war crimes in Gaza in 2008-09, and reports by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are all ignored or undermined, there is a bitter awareness that we in Gaza can have no expectation of Israeli accountability for the current onslaught…What Palestine needs from the world today is not just a condemnation of the Gaza massacres and siege, but also a delegitimization of the ideology that produced this policy and justifies it morally and politically, just as the racist ideology of apartheid was delegitimized.”


Netanyahu’s ‘Telegenically Dead’ Comment Is Grotesque but Not Original

By Glenn Greenwald21 Jul 2014, 7:59 AM EDT 113

from the intercept DISPATCHES
Netanyahu’s ‘Telegenically Dead’ Comment Is Grotesque but Not Original

Benjamin Netanyahu, yesterday, on CNN, addressing worldwide sympathy for the civilian victims of Israeli violence in Gaza:

They want to pile up as many civilian dead as they can. They use telegenically dead Palestinians for their cause. They want the more dead, the better.

Joseph Goebbels, November 16, 1941, essay in Das Reich, addressing Germany sympathy for German Jews forced to wear yellow stars:

The Jews gradually are having to depend more and more on themselves, and have recently found a new trick. They knew the good-natured German Michael in us, always ready to shed sentimental tears for the injustice done to them. One suddenly has the impression that the Berlin Jewish population consists only of little babies whose childish helplessness might move us, or else fragile old ladies. The Jews send out the pitiable. They may confuse some harmless souls for a while, but not us. We know exactly what the situation is.

Rather than lard up the point with numerous defensive caveats about what is and is not being said here (which, in any event, never impede willful media distorters in their tactics), I’ll simply note three brief points:

(1) To compare aspects of A and B is not to posit that A and B are identical (e.g., to observe that Bermuda and Bosnia are both countries beginning with the letter “B” is not to depict them as the same, just as observing that both the U.S. in 2003 and Germany in 1938 launched aggressive wars in direct violation of what were to become the Nuremberg Principles is not to equate the two countries).

(2) In general, the universality of war rhetoric is a vital fact, necessary to evaluate the merit of contemporary claims used to justify militarism (claims that a war amounts to mere “humanitarian intervention”, for instance, have been invoked over and over to justify even the most blatant aggression). Similarly, the notion that one is barred from ever citing certain historical examples in order to draw lessons for contemporary conflicts is as dangerous as it is anti-intellectual.

(3) Anglo-American law has long recognized that gross recklessness is a form of intent (“Fraudulent intent is shown if a representation is made with reckless indifference to its truth or falsity”). That’s why reckless behavior even if unaccompanied by a desire to kill people – e.g., randomly shooting a gun into a crowd of people – has long been viewed as sufficient to establish criminal intent.

One can say many things about a military operation that results in more than 75 percent of the dead being civilians, many of them children, aimed at a population trapped in a tiny area with no escape. The claim that there is no intent to kill civilians but rather an intent to protect them is most assuredly not among them. Even stalwart Israel supporter Thomas Friedman has previously acknowledged that Israeli assaults on Lebanon, and possibly in Gaza, are intended ”to inflict substantial property damage and collateral casualties” because “the only long-term source of deterrence was to exact enough pain on the civilians” (which, to the extent it exists, is the classic definition of “terrorism”). The most generous claim one can make about what Israel is now doing in Gaza is that it is driven by complete recklessness toward the civilian population it is massacring, a form of intent under centuries of well-settled western law.

* * * * *

American journalism is frequently criticized with great justification, but there are a number of American journalists in Gaza, along with non-western ones, in order to tell the world about what is happening there. That reporting is incredibly brave and difficult, and those who are doing it merit the highest respect. Their work, along with the prevalence of social media and internet technology that allows Gazans themselves to document what is happening, has changed the way Israeli aggression is seen and understood this time around.

Credit to Jonathan Schwarz, now working with Matt Taibbi’s forthcoming First Look Media digital publication, for finding the 1941 article cited here.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

From Granma, newspaper of the Cuban Communist Party - Israel: War Criminal

Havana. July 16, 2014

Israel: War criminal

In Israel’s latest attack on Gaza, the Tel Aviv government warned hundreds of thousands of inhabitants of the north of the Gaza Strip to abandon their homes, as the zone would be attacked by aircraft bombers from Tel Aviv.


The military offensive of Israel’s Zionist army has cased the death of almost 200 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, the majority civilians and between 25-30% children.

This has caused an exodus towards the south of the Gaza, worsening the already catastrophic conditions in which the Palestine population live, with thousands of wounded, over-crowded hospitals, scarcity of vital medicines, water and food shortages and only one access point, on the border with Egypt, from which Gaza can communicate with the rest of the world. Over the days of the military offensive called Border Protector, almost 200 people have died; hundreds of homes and buildings destroyed; with the Israeli air force choosing - among its targets – a hospital, a school and a mosque.

According to Palestinian accounts, the majority of victims - dead and injured - are civilians, 25-30% of whom are children. But, after bombing more than 600 targets and dropping hundreds of tons of high impact explosives over Gaza, Israeli soldiers have not killed a single leader of Hamas or the Islamic Jihad - the supposed targets of the Tel Aviv government - which has not even been able to significantly reduce the pace at which homemade missiles are launched from the Gaza border into Israeli territory.

Dozens of these missiles – which cause fear in Israeli neighborhoods bordering Gaza, but posses an insignificant destructive capacity - continue to be launched daily. They are the only possible defensive response available to Palestinians.

After two previous grand scale military offensives against Gaza (2008-2009 and 2012), based on the same pretexts, Tel Aviv authorities have been obliged to admit that the massive bombardments and military raids on Gaza will not stop the manufacture or use of rudimentary arms by Palestinians.

The only real objective of the current attack seems to be to kill civilians, as journalist Gideon Levy commented in his article published in Haaretz, "Israel’s real purpose in Gaza operation? To kill Arabs," given that overthrowing the Hamas government is an illusory and illegitimate objective, as well as undesirable, since the alternative could be far worse. Israel sincerely believes that if it kills hundreds of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, calm will be restored.

This strategy, as well as the destruction of homes "is a war crime, even if the Israeli solders label them control and command centers or conference rooms," stated Levy, renowned for his critical stance toward the Tel Aviv government.

The brutality and cruelty perpetrated against the defenseless population of Gaza are unfathomable, but the passivity and indifference of the United States and European Union in the face of a genocidal military operation is also incomprehensible. The Western powers have mounted campaigns against the Syrian government and intervened militarily in Libya to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi, for a lot less.

The suffering of the Palestinian population clearly demonstrates the obscenity and hypocrisy of the U.S. and Europe, both accomplices overlooking the war crimes perpetuated by Tel Aviv in martyred Gaza. (La Jornada)