what's left

Abbas on His Knees

Posted in Israel, Palestine, Zionism by what's left on November 5, 2012

By Stephen Gowans

Question: Why has Hamas, an Islamist party, so much sway among Palestinians?

Answer: Because on matters central to the Palestinian struggle it’s better than the alternative.

Here’s the alternative: Fatah leader, and Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, on the Palestinians’ right to return to the homes Zionist settlers drove them from and have blocked them from returning to—a fundamental right that is at the heart of the Palestinian struggle.

Israeli TV news correspondent, Udi Segal asks Abbas whether he wants to return to Safed, the town from which Abbas’s family was driven but is prohibited from returning to because it is now part of Israel.

Abbas: “I want to see Safed. It’s my right to see it, but not to live there.”

Segal: “Is it Palestine for you?”

Abbas: “Palestine now for me is the ’67 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital. This is now and forever. This is Palestine for me. I am a refugee, but I am living in Ramallah. I believe that the West Bank and Gaza Strip is Palestine, and the other part is Israel.” (1)

Hamas’s supporters took to the streets in Gaza, carrying banners reading “Abbas does not represent me” and “Pioneer of concessions, it’s time to quit.” (2) Or to put it another way, Palestinians who are enraged by Abbas’s willingness to capitulate on fundamental points are supporting Hamas.

In 2005, Abbas said “it is illogical to ask Israel to take five million (the number of refugees descendent from the 750,000 who were driven from their homes by Zionist settlers), or indeed one million.” (3)

Conceding more ground to Hamas, last year, Abbas said “that the Arab world had erred in rejecting the United Nations’ 1947 plan to partition” British mandate Palestine into separate Arab and Jewish states. (4)

It was, however, the UN that erred in approving the partition plan, not the Arabs in rejecting it.

• At the time, Arabs—who favored a unitary state—made up two-thirds of the population, and Jews, who owned only 6 percent of the land, made up one-third, yet the plan allocated 56 percent of the territory to a Jewish state.

• The plan was imposed over the objections of Arab Palestinians—the majority.

• Arab voices were ignored. Not a single Arab was consulted on the plan.

On moral, democratic, and legal grounds, the plan was an abomination. Failing to reject it would have been intolerable, stupid, and criminal.

Still, had the Palestinians meekly accepted the injustice the UN had in store for them, would they be living today in a state comprising the 42 percent of British mandate Palestine the UN was willing to give them, rather than scattered across the globe or living in two non-contiguous territories (Gaza and the West Bank) making up less than 20 percent of their original territory?

If we assume that Zionist leaders would have settled for the 56 percent of mandate Palestine the UN partition plan assigned them, the answer is yes, but the assumption is untenable.

Historian Ilan Pappe points out that for Zionist leaders in 1947, a valid Jewish state comprised most of Palestine, and allowed only a small Arab population. Zionist ideology demanded that Jewish settlers seek as much territory as they could capture militarily, and drive as much of the Arab population off the territory as they could. (5)

It’s doubtful that Arab acceptance of the UN plan would have given Palestinian Arabs more than they have today.

Revolutionaries, it is said, would rather die on their feet than live on their knees. Not Abbas. He’d rather cede title to the family home in return for being allowed to live on his knees in a cramped corner of its attic.

1. Joel Greenberg, “Israel’s Netenyahu cool to Abbas’s hint at waiving Palestinian ‘right of return’”, The Washington Post, November 4, 2012.
2. Jodi Rudoren, “Palestinian’s remark, seen as concession, stirs uproar”, The New York Times, November 4, 2012.
3. Ibid.
4. “Arab rejection of ’47 partition plan was error, Palestinian leader says”, The Associated Press, October 28, 2011.
5. Ilan Pappe, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, One World, 2006.

US Ambassador Echoes Cecil Rhodes

Posted in Africa, Iraq, Israel, Libya, Palestine, Zimbabwe, Zionism by what's left on September 24, 2011

By Stephen Gowans

When in 1916 Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin expounded what historian V.G. Kiernan would later call virtually the only serious theory of imperialism, despite its shortcomings (1), Lenin cited Cecil Rhodes as among the “leading British bourgeois politicians (who) fully appreciated the connection between what might be called the purely economic and the political-social roots of modern imperialism.” (2)

Rhodes, founder of the diamond company De Beers and of the eponymous Rhodesia, had made the following remarks, which Lenin quoted at length in his Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism.

I was in the East End of London yesterday and attended a meeting of the unemployed. I listened to the wild speeches, which were just a cry for ‘bread,’ ‘bread,’ ‘bread,’ and on my way home I pondered over the scene and I became more than ever convinced of the importance of imperialism … My cherished idea is a solution for the social problem, i.e., in order to save the 40,000,000 inhabitants of the United Kingdom from a bloody civil war, we colonial statesmen must acquire new lands to settle the surplus population, to provide new markets for the goods produced by them in factories and mines. The Empire, as I have always said, is a bread and butter question. If you want to avoid civil war, you must become imperialists. (3)

Skip ahead 95 years. Here’s US ambassador to Libya, Gene A. Cretz:

We know that oil is the jewel in the crown of Libyan natural resources, but even in Qaddafi’s time they were starting from A to Z in terms of building infrastructure and other things. If we can get American companies here on a fairly big scale, which we will try to do everything we can to do that, then this will redound to improve the situation in the United States with respect to our own jobs. (4)

New York Times’ reporter David D. Kirkpatrick noted that “Libya’s provisional government has already said it is eager to welcome Western businesses (and)…would even give its Western backers some ‘priority’ in access to Libyan business.” (5)

A bread and butter question. Also a profit-making one.

What Ahmadinejad really said at the UN

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s address to the 66th UN General Assembly meeting provided the Iranian president with the usual occasion to make the usual points and the Western media the usual occasion to misrepresent them.

Wall Street Journal reporter Jay Solomon wrote that Ahmadinejad “sought to stoke controversy by again questioning the Holocaust,” (6) reminding readers that Ahmadinejad had once called for Israel to be “wiped off the map”, a distortion that will live on in history through its mere retelling. (What the Iranian president really said was that Israel would dissolve as the Soviet Union had.)

I read the transcript of Ahmadinejad’s address, but found no questioning of the Nazi-engineered holocaust.

Here are his remarks on Zionism and the Holocaust.

They view Zionism as a sacred notion and ideology. Any question of its very foundation and history is condemned by them as an unforgivable sin.

Who imposed, through deceits and hypocrisy, the Zionism and over sixty years of war, homelessness, terror and mass murder on the Palestinian people and countries of the region?

If some European countries still use the Holocaust, after six decades, as the excuse to pay fine or ransom to the Zionists, should it not be an obligation upon the slave masters or colonial powers to pay reparations to the affected nations?

By using their imperialistic media network which is under the influence of colonialism they threaten anyone who questions the Holocaust and the September 11 events with sanctions and military action. (7)

It would have been more accurate for Solomon to have written that Ahmadinejad sought to stoke controversy by again questioning the legitimacy of Zionism and the manipulative use of the Nazi-perpetrated holocaust to justify it.

But these themes are unmentionable in the Western corporate media.

It is common practice to capitalize the Nazi-engineered effort to exterminate the Jews as the ‘Holocaust’, as if there had never been any other holocaust—or any at rate, any other worth mentioning. Even the transcript of Ahmadinjad’s address refers to ‘the Holocaust’ rather than ‘a holocaust.’

The Justice Process

It seems that the only argument US president Barack Obama could muster for why Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas shouldn’t seek recognition of a Palestinian state at the UN is that the ‘peace process’ would be derailed.

Let’s lay aside the obvious difficulty of Barak the Bomber caring about peace, and that the ‘peace process’ has been off the rails for some time. His objection missed the point. Recognition of a Palestinian state isn’t a question of the peace process but of the justice process, and hardly a very satisfying one at that. What justice is there in Palestinians settling for one fifth of their country? Which is what, in any practical sense, UN recognition of the Palestinian territories as a state would amount to.

But it’s better than the status quo and a starting point.

For Zionists, the peace process is a little more appealing, but is the opposite of the justice process. It means getting Palestinians to settle for even less than one-fifth of their country, and to acknowledge the theft of it as legitimate.

An aside: Over 30 countries do not recognize Israel, among them Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea, Iran and Syria.

Rational Ignoramuses?

Do those who promote what Keynes called the fallacy of thrift (or fallacy of austerity, to give it a contemporary spin) really believe what they preach: that cutting pensions, laying off public servants, raising taxes on the poor, and closing government programs, is the way to avert a deeper economic crisis for the bulk of us?

Do they even care about the bulk of us?

Or is austerity simply a way of bailing out bankers and bondholders by bleeding the rest of us dry?

British prime minister David Cameron, on a trip to Canada to compare notes with fellow deficit-hawk Stephen Harper, the Canadian PM, remarked that “Highly indebted households and governments simply cannot spend their way out of a debt crisis. The more they spend, the more debts will rise and the fundamental problem will grow.” (8)

This was reported with tacit nods of approval in Canada’s corporate press, as if Cameron’s utterings were incontrovertible, rather than the ravings of an economic illiterate (in the view of economists), or the words of a political con artist (in the view of class struggle literates.)

Highly indebted governments simply cannot cut their way out of an economic crisis. The more they cut, the more aggregate demand weakens and the worse it gets. Greece’s continued slide into economic ruin underscores the point. The United States’ inability to drag itself out of the depths of the Great Depression, until arms orders brought the economy back to life, strikes an historical cautionary note.

But recessions are not without benefits for corporate plutocrats. It’s easier to cut wages, salaries and benefits during downturns, and to enjoy bigger profits as a result. Small competitors can be driven out of business. Unions can be weakened. And governments have an excuse to slash social programs that have pushed the balance of power a little too far in labor’s direction. Indeed, all manner of sacrifices can be extracted from most of us if we’re persuaded that debt is the cause of the problem and that belt-tightening is the physic that will cure it.

My bet is that Cameron and his fellow water carriers for moneyed interests are no dummies — but they’re hoping the rest of us are.

Knowing Who Your Friends Are
Here is the widely reviled (by Western governments) Robert Mugabe, president of Zimbabwe, at the 66th session of the UN General Assembly.

After over twenty thousand NATO bombing sorties that targeted Libyan towns, including Tripoli, there is now unbelievable and most disgraceful scramble by some NATO countries for Libyan oil, indicating thereby that the real motive for their aggression against Libya was to control and own its abundant fuel resources. What a shame!

Yesterday, it was Iraq and Bush and Blair were the liars and aggressors as they made unfounded allegations of possessions of weapons of mass destruction. This time it is the NATO countries the liars and aggressors as they make similarly unfounded allegations of destruction of civilian lives by Gaddafi.

We in Africa are also duly concerned about the activities of the International Criminal Court (ICC) which seems to exist only for alleged offenders of the developing world, the majority of them Africans. The leaders of the powerful Western States guilty of international crime, like Bush and Blair, are routinely given the blind eye. Such selective justice has eroded the credibility of the ICC on the African continent.

My country fully supports the right of the gallant people of Palestine to statehood and membership of this U.N. Organisation. The U.N. must become credible by welcoming into its bosom all those whose right to attain sovereign independence and freedom from occupation and colonialism is legitimate. (9)

It’s clear why he’s reviled by imperialists, but also by leftists?

If the Movement for Democratic Change’s Morgan Tsvangirai, favorite of the West, ever becomes president, expect a very different kind of address at future General Assembly meetings.

1. V.G. Kiernan, Marxism and Imperialism, St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1974.

2. V. I. Lenin, Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism, International Publishers, New York. 1939. p 78.

3. Ibid. p 79.

4. David D. Kirkpatrick, “U.S. reopens its embassy in Libya”, The New York Times, September 22, 2011.

5. Ibid.

6. Jay Solomon, “Iran adds Palestine statehood wrinkle”, The Wall Street Journal, September 23, 2011.

7. http://www.president.ir/en/?ArtID=30573

8. Campbell Clark, “Cameron, Harper preach restraint in teeth of global ‘debt crisis’”, The Globe and Mail, September 22, 2011

9. http://nehandaradio.com/2011/09/24/full-text-of-robert-mugabe-speech-at-un-assembly/

The Zionist Project

Posted in Israel, Palestine, Zionism by what's left on May 25, 2011

Ignoring the Untermensch

Posted in Israel, Media, Palestine by what's left on November 15, 2010

By Stephen Gowans

There are many ways in which the press is biased. One way is that it tends to be chauvinist. On foreign affairs, the press of the United States consistently reflects the view of the US State Department, while the Chinese press reflects the perspective of the Chinese state, the Russian press the point of view of the Russian state, and so on. Since the major press in each country is invariably owned by the class that holds state power, this is inevitable.

A national press also reflects the viewpoint of its government’s key foreign allies.

In the US press, for example, Israeli positions tend to dominate coverage of affairs in former mandate Palestine, consistent with Israel’s status as an instrument of US Mideast foreign policy. US news stories tend to be written from the perspective of Israelis, with Palestinian viewpoints largely ignored.

A blatant example of this is provided by a November 15 New York Times story reported by Ethan Bronner (whose son, at least as of earlier this year, was a solider in the Israeli armed forces) and Mark Landler (A 90-Day Bet on Mideast Talks).

Bronner and Landler write that: ”The West Bank, although inhabited by millions of Palestinians, is the heartland of much ancient Jewish history, so for many Israelis, giving it up is a painful prospect…”

What the New York Times reporters neglect to mention is that for millions of Palestinians who live in the West Bank, the prospect of being driven from their homes by the steady expansion of illegal Jewish settlements is surely a good deal more painful. And yet it is the Zionists’ metaphorical pain of failing to consolidate their goal of ethnically cleansing all of mandate Palestine that figures in Bronner’s and Landler’s reporting and not the very real Palestinian pain of being ethnically cleansed.

It’s as if denied conquest of all of Europe, reporters had written that for many Nazis, giving up the dream of Lebensraum was a painful prospect, saying not a word about the devastation wrought by the Nazi’s Lebensraum policy.

The US media accord Arab Palestinians as much importance as the Nazis accorded their Untermenschen, the Slavs. Arab Palestinians—who have consistently been denied the right of self-determination by great powers—have long been treated as Untermensch, whose lives and rights matter not a fig, and whose lives and rights these days are subordinate to the interests of US foreign policy, and inasmuch as US foreign policy depends on a Western imperialist presence in the Middle East, are in turn subordinate to the interests of Zionist Jews. Accordingly, in the US newspaper of record, the metaphorical pain of Israeli religious fanatics matters; the real-life pain of Palestinians merits not even a passing mention.

On Middle East, Obama tries a new tactic, but goal remains unchanged

Posted in Israel, Obama, Palestine by what's left on May 31, 2009

By Stephen Gowans

The Obama administration’s recent get tough policy on Israel over expansion of West Bank settlements may seem to signal a welcome reversal in Washington’s Israel-first foreign policy, but it is anything but. On the contrary, it drives toward the same aims that have structured US Middle Eastern policy for decades: pacifying the Palestinians.

The program of quieting Palestinian resistance was set back when Hamas, an uncompromising opponent of the Zionist project of colonial settlement of historic Palestine, won Palestinian Legislative Council elections in 2006. Israel, which had warned it would not tolerate a Hamas government, whether democratically elected or not, garnered US and EU support for a blockade to destabilize the newly elected government.

A Palestinian civil war eventually split the population, with Hamas, disinclined to sacrifice fundamental goals to immediate gains, ruling in the Gaza Strip, and Fatah, willing to compromise on just about everything, ruling in the West Bank.

Israel and Egypt imposed a total blockade on Gaza. The blockade prohibits entry of all goods – including the building materials Gaza’s residents need to rebuild hospitals, homes and infrastructure destroyed by Israeli forces earlier this year. The only goods that make their way in are those which can be smuggled through tunnels and the food and medicine that Israel and Egypt allow in.

“The aim is to keep Gaza at subsistence and offer a contrast with the West Bank, which in theory benefits from foreign aid and economic and political development. Hamas supporters will then realize their mistake,” (1) withdraw their support of Hamas, and overthrow the government. In subsequent elections, Gazans will vote for Hamas’s rival, Fatah, fearing a return of the blockade if they repeat the mistake of voting for Hamas. Hosannas will be sung to the birth of democracy in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and all — from the narrow perspective of the Western media – will be well.

The problem with this scenario – and the reason why the blockade hasn’t worked — is that it ignores the reasons Palestinians voted for Hamas in the first place. Under Fatah’s watch, poverty and misery got worse, while Fatah’s leaders lived lives of growing extravagance. By contrast, Hamas’s leaders continued to live modestly, side by side with ordinary Palestinians.

Equally vexing were Fatah’s conspicuous political failures. Fatah led Palestinians into the “peace process” but had nothing to show for it. Israel continued to expand its settlements, was adamant that it would never honor the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes, and insisted Jerusalem would remain in Israeli hands – the eternal and permanent capital of a Jewish state. Fatah had presented the peace process as a way of making compromises to secure concrete gains. Compromises were made, but the promised gains never materialized.

Instead, Palestinians were presented with an increasingly collaborationist Fatah leadership, ever more willing to settle for a state comprised of an agglomeration of disconnected areas, making up a tiny fraction of the land Palestinians had been dispossessed of, its borders controlled by the Israeli military, without a capital, and with no adequate redress for refugees.

What’s more, Fatah’s leader, Mahmoud Abbas, owes his allegiance more to Washington, which funds and trains his security force and keeps him in power in the West Bank, than to the goals of Palestinian national liberation and self-determination. Abbas recently appointed himself president of the Palestinian Authority (with the full support of the self-declared champion of democracy, the United States), and, as leader of the dominant party of the PLO, sole legitimate spokesman for the Palestinians. This, despite his electoral mandate having lapsed and despite his party having lost the last elections.

With Abbas unable to command much popular support, Washington is in the position of having to do something to make their man in Ramallah more appealing to Palestinians. The latest tactic is to demand Israel cease expansion of its settlements in the West Bank. Washington has made this demand countless times before, only everyone knew US officials didn’t mean it, and there were no consequences if Israel chose to ignore it (which it always did.) But this time Washington means it, or says it does. Not because it has leaned a tiny fraction toward the Palestinians and away from the Israelis, but because administration officials believe this stance “will bolster Mr. Abbas.” (2) If Abbas is going to dance to Washington’s tune, he had better get something – even a lagniappe – to show for it; otherwise his credibility with Palestinians will continue to falter.

We shouldn’t, therefore, think that the US administration’s latest moves represent a victory for the Palestinians or a shift in US foreign policy objectives. On the contrary, by coming down firmly on the side of Abbas, Washington is trying to strengthen the position of a leader favored for his willingness to compromise, capitulate and collaborate. The intended victor is Israel, who, if Washington is successful, will have a tractable and more attractive Palestinian Authority, led by Abbas and whatever fellow Quislings follow.

(1) Ethan Bronner, “Misery hands over Gaza despite pledges of help,” The New York Times, May 29, 2009.

(2) Helene Cooper, “Obama calls for swift move toward Mideast peace talks,” The New York times, May 29, 2009.

Criminalizing self-defense, whitewashing aggression

Posted in ICC, Imperialism, Iran, Iraq, Israel, north Korea, Palestine by what's left on March 29, 2009

By Stephen Gowans

When Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, Washington replied by launching the Gulf War to reverse the invasion and punish Baghdad for its serial aggressions. Or so Washington said. Iraq was indeed a serial aggressor, having attacked and waged a long war with Iran in the 1980s, followed by an invasion of Kuwait. What Washington and the compliant US media minimized was that the US had prodded Iraq to attack Iran, soon after the country sloughed off US domination by toppling the Pahlavi regime through which US influence in the country was exercised. With prodding came military aid to Iraq and the weapons of mass destruction that Washington would later use as the basis for a murderous sanctions regime that killed over one million Iraqis, many of them children. In 1989, when Iraq sounded out the US ambassador, April Glaspie, about a possible invasion of Kuwait, she raised no objection. How odd it must have seemed to Iraq, then, that after fighting one war with US prodding, and launching another with what seemed like implicit US support, that Washington should point to Iraq’s serial aggressions as a pretext for launching its own string of anti-Iraq aggressions beginning in 1990 and lasting to the current day.

The US itself is no stranger to serial aggressions, having intervened militarily in countless countries, often without provocation and with the sole objective of enforcing US domination. Whereas the Nazi’s serial aggressions were limited to Europe (and direct military assistance to their Italian allies in northern Africa), those of the US have been carried out on a global scale. The tenth anniversary of one such US-inspired aggression, the 78-day Nato terror bombing of Yugoslavia, has recently passed, without the fanfare usually associated with the exercise of US military power. Where were the media retrospectives, the self-adulation commending the West for its humanitarian intervention? If any mainstream news organization ran a story on how much better off Serbia is 10 years after Nato’s humanitarian bombing, I haven’t seen it. Perhaps the absence is due to the reality that anyone setting foot in Belgrade today would be forced to confront what Serbia has become – a state dismembered from a multicultural federation whose once publically- and socially-owned assets have been sold off to investors and corporations from the same countries that sent their air forces to drop ordnance on schools, factories, bridges, a radio-TV building, the Chinese embassy, and civilians.

Perhaps it is because the US has woven a long string of aggressions into its history that its media are inclined to ignore the aggressions of Uncle Sam’s extension in the Middle East, Israel. When they’re not ignoring them, they’re excusing them. It is a matter of some astonishment that Israel can launch attack after attack outside its ceaselessly expanding and amorphous borders and it hardly registers on the consciousness of North Americans, whose media hide these aggressions in plain view.

Israeli warplanes violated Sudanese airspace in January, on a mission to destroy a convoy of trucks said to be carrying arms to be smuggled to resistance fighters in Gaza. While Iranian warplanes bombing a convoy of trucks in Iraq would be met by howls of outrage by the White House and State Department, Israel’s bombing raid in Sudan was sanitized, even celebrated, in The New York Times, as a “daring military operation,” and then quickly forgotten. Official enemies launch illegal attacks; allies carry out daring military operations.

The bombing of Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981 was another of Israel’s vaunted military operations. This illegal act remains accepted in Western media discourse as a legitimate operation, justified as a preventive measure against Iraq acquiring a nuclear weapon. According to official doctrine, it was only a matter of time before Saddam Hussein acquired the means to send a nuclear warhead hurtling toward Tel Aviv. What makes this scenario implausible is that such a temerarious act would trigger an obliterating counter-strike by the United States. Unless you believe the Iraqi president was insane or had a death wish, neither of which propositions rest on the slightest evidence, this is pure political fantasy.

Iraq may indeed have intended to develop nuclear weapons, but its reasons for doing so probably (if indeed it was heading in this direction) had much to do with the reality that Israel, a country with no shortage of aggressive military operations under it belt, has an estimated 200 nuclear weapons, receives $3 billion annually in military aid from Uncle Sam, and has a penchant for sending its troops and warplanes into battle.

Let’s consider Israel’s serial aggressions, all of which have been motivated by the desire to acquire territory to expand the borders of the Jewish colonial state, or to defend itself against the backlash its expansionist aggressions provoke. We can begin with the 80 percent of Palestinian territory Zionist forces seized by force in 1948, after the UN allocated 56 percent to a Jewish state, a more than generous allotment, considering that Jews made up only one-third of the population, owned less than 10 percent of the land, and were favored by the UN with the fertile coastal areas. There was nothing fair or legitimate about the UN offer. It was carried out over the objections of the majority, but even this corruption of justice was not enough to satisfy the Zionist craving for other people’s land.

In 1956, Israel struck a deal with France and Britain to invade Egypt. France was irritated by Egyptian President Gamal Nasser’s support for the national liberation movement in Algeria, and Britain wanted the return of the recently nationalized Suez Canal to the hands of British capital. In exchange for marching on the Suez Canal, France would transfer nuclear technology to Israel, providing the Zionist state with the basis for its nuclear arsenal. The operation proved to be a contretemps, with the US ordering the conspirators to withdraw. But it did demonstrate to Washington that Israel could be a useful tool in enforcing US foreign policy in the region.

In 1967, Israel seized Gaza from Egypt, the West Bank from Jordan and the Golan Heights from Syria. Later, it launched a series of operations in Lebanon beginning with Operation Litani in 1978, aimed at driving the PLO north of the Litani River. This culminated in an occupation of southern Lebanon that lasted 18 years, from 1982 to 2000, followed by yet another attack in the summer of 2006. Lebanon today has the highest per capita debt in the world, largely thanks to the costs of rebuilding infrastructure Israel destroyed. (1)

Added to Israel’s aggressions are its amply documented violations of the laws of war. Israeli war crimes are a delicate matter in North America, where politicians and the media either steer clear of mentioning them, or step nimbly around them, seeking to avoid the inevitable backlash against anyone who suggests that Israel may not be the shining beacon of democracy in what’s calumniated as the otherwise benighted Middle East. The British press, The Guardian in particular, show fewer reservations. Condemnatory reports by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch on Israel’s January 2009 assault on Gaza barely received any attention in the North American media, in stark contrast to the high profile that similarly condemnatory reports receive when they’re aimed at official enemies. By comparison, The Guardian covered a February 23, 2009 Amnesty International report that called on the US to cut off military aid to Israel, because “as a major supplier of weapons to Israel, the USA has a particular obligation to stop any supply that contributes to gross violations of the laws of war and human rights.” (2) Last week, The Guardian reported on a Human Rights Watch investigation that found that Israel had repeatedly and indiscriminately fired white phosphorus over crowded areas of Gaza, killing and injuring civilians, a war crime. White phosphorus burns through tissue and can’t be extinguished. It must burn itself out, a process that may take days. In a 71-page report, the rights group concluded that Israel’s “repeated use of air-burst white phosphorus artillery shells in populated areas of Gaza was not incidental or accidental.” (3) Significantly, Israel initially denied it had used white phosphorus. When the evidence became overwhelming, it admitted it had, but countered that its use was fully in accord with international law. When that was disproved, Israel announced it would launch its own investigation.

In a move that would be considered foolishly gutsy in the United States, The Guardian undertook its own investigation of Israeli war crimes in Gaza, concluding that Israel violated the laws of war. (4) The conclusions drawn by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and The Guardian were corroborated by Israeli soldiers themselves. An Israeli squad commander said,

“What’s great about Gaza — you see a person on a path, he doesn’t have to be armed, you can simply shoot him. In our case it was an old woman on whom I did not see any weapon when I looked. The order was to take down the person, this woman, the minute you see her. There are always warnings, there is always the saying, ‘Maybe he’s a terrorist.’ What I felt was, there was a lot of thirst for blood.” (5)

Worse than being brutally indifferent to Palestinians, Israeli soldiers are completely morally calloused, wearing t-shirts bearing messages that evince absolute contempt for Arabs. “A shirt designed for the Givati Brigade’s Shaked battalion” depicted “a pregnant Palestinian women with a bull’s-eye superimposed on her belly, with the slogan, in English, ‘1 shot, 2 kills.’” (6)

While the utter brutality of Israeli troops was being laid bare in the pages of The Guardian, across the Atlantic, Israeli war crimes were being minimized in The Globe and Mail, Canada’s newspaper of record. Foreign correspondent Patrick Martin wrote that the failure to distinguish between combatants and civilians “is found in almost every military force (think Serbs in Bosnia, Americans at Abu Ghraib and Canadians in Somali) and has existed as long as there has been war.” (7) What Martin didn’t point out was that Serbs were prosecuted by Nato’s Hague Tribunal for failures to distinguish civilians from combatants, but that US and Canadian atrocities – including those in connection with the terror bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999 — have gone unpunished. Martin also failed to mention the warrant issued by the International Criminal Court for the arrest of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. Omar, too, is accused of war crimes, but unlike those committed by Americans, Canadians and Israelis, his have become the subject of prosecution by an international court, one that has yet to issue indictments against anyone but Africans. The court will never prosecute Americans, Russians, and Chinese, who have chosen not to be bound by the court and are able, by virtue of being permanent members of the UN Security Council, to veto any Security Council resolution ordering the court to undertake an inquiry. Likewise, these countries can veto court inquiries into crimes committed by nationals of allied countries, like Israel, which have also rejected the court’s authority. War crimes, it seems, are intolerable when committed by countries the West seeks a pretext to dominate, but when the same crimes are committed by Americans, Canadians and Israelis, the “everyone is doing it” defense applies.

Meanwhile, as nuclear-armed Israel adds to its string of outrages on the sovereignty of neighboring countries with its bombing raid into Sudan, the Western media spotlight shines on north Korea, the northern half of a peninsula whose division was imposed by outsiders, and has never attacked another country. While official doctrine holds that north Korea invaded south Korea in 1950, it’s hardly possible for Koreans to have invaded Korea. What’s more, the question of who started the war – both sides clashed on and off for up to a year before major hostilities broke out – remains murky. Deciding on what event precipitated the war is like deciding when a hill becomes a mountain. Any attempt to abstract a discrete event from a complex of richly interconnected events as the cause of the war is to play with arbitrariness. Even deciding when the war began and ended (has it ended?) involves an arbitrary demarcation. Hugh Deane argued that the war began in 1945, the moment the US army arrived and suppressed the national liberation People’s Committees. Conceived as a struggle to free the peninsula from foreign domination, the war has never ended, and has lasted 99 years.

Korea, it should be recalled, was colonized by Japan from 1910 to 1945. No sooner had Koreans declared their independence, did US military forces arrive to establish a military government, shot through with former Japanese collaborators. While the Soviets, who agreed to the division of the peninsula, occupied the north, they withdrew their forces in 1948 and allowed the maximal guerrilla leader, Kim Il Sung, to rise to power, rather than imposing their own man, as the United States was to do in the south, when it brought the anti-communist Sygman Rhee, a long-time US resident, to Korea. US troops remain on Korean soil to this day.

The reason the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, (DPRK is the north’s official name), is receiving considerable Western media attention is because it plans to launch a satellite. The launching, it is said by US officials, and repeated uncritically by the US media, is a cover for testing an intercontinental ballistic missile that could deliver a nuclear payload as far away as the shores of Alaska. In case north Korea’s launching a satellite strikes anyone as being far from belligerent – certainly not in the same league as flying bombers into another country to destroy its nuclear facilities (as Israel did in Iraq and threatens to do in Iran) the new US Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, assures us that, appearances aside, the launching is “a provocative act.” This is duly reported, but nobody asks why. Why should the launching of a satellite, even if the rocket technology is dual-purpose (it can be used to launch satellites and warheads) be provocative? Doesn’t the United States have rockets, satellites and warheads in abundance? The cause for alarm certainly can’t be because the DPRK has launched aggressions against other countries. It hasn’t. On the other hand, the United States and Japan, both with notorious records of employing military force to violate other conutries’ sovereignty, are sounding the alarm. The real reason the DPRK’s satellite launching is depicted as provocative is the same reason its nuclear test was depicted as provocative. Having nuclear warheads and the technology to deliver them expresses the threat of potential self-defense.

So it is that the North American media, playing its accustomed role as private propagandist for US foreign policy, has striven to elevate north Korea’s satellite launching to the provocative act Clinton says it is. The launching of a satellite has become, in The New York Times’ headlines, a missile launching (8), inducing the Japanese to ready their missile interceptors. (9) The Washington Post does The New York Times one better by calling the launching a nuclear test. (10) Even if the DPRK is testing rocket technology that could be used to deploy a nuclear warhead, is this any more reason to be alarmed than the reality that Israel can annihilate its neighbors with nuclear weaponry in numbers and sophistication far greater than north Korea can ever hope to match? The idea that Israel is a responsible country committed to the stability of the Middle East is a fiction; Israel is the main source of instability in the Middle East and has been since 1948. Had Zionists not arrived in Palestine to displace an Arab majority that had lived peacefully with Jews and Christians for centuries, there never would have been an armed struggle waged by the PLO, or an Islamic Jihad and Hamas to carry it on once the PLO’s dominant party, Fatah, faltered with a series of capitulations. Nor would there have been an Israeli invasion and occupation of southern Lebanon aimed at destroying the PLO, and therefore no basis for the rise of Hezbollah. As for the idea that Israeli leaders are level headed, look at the carnage Israel visited upon Gaza, ostensibly to deter rocket attacks that have killed 20 people in the last eight years. (11) Or consider this:

“The winter assault on the Gaza Strip was officially portrayed in Israel as an attempt to quell rocket fire by militants of Hamas. But some soldiers say they also were lectured about a more ambitious aim: to banish non-Jews from the biblical land of Israel. ‘This rabbi comes to us and says the fight is between the children of light and the children of darkness,’ a reserve sergeant said, recalling a training camp encounter. ‘His message was clear: ‘This is a war against an entire people, not against specific terrorists.’ The whole thing was turned into something very religious and messianic.’” (12)

Lebensraum comes to mind.

While US officials may contrive to regard north Korea’s satellite launching as provocative, it pales in comparison to the provocation of the United States and south Korea holding annual war games exercises along north Korea’s borders, this year larger than ever, and after the new government in Seoul of Lee Myung Bak has departed from the conciliatory line of the previous government, adopting a decidedly hostile posture.

Lest anyone think that north Korea’s impending satellite launching amounts to even a slight threat, consider the testimony of US Navy Admiral Timothy J. Keating before the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 19, 2009. Keating said he does not regard the planned north Korean launching as a threat. “’It is a normal notification process, which they didn’t do in 2006, when they attempted a launch from the same facility,’ Keating said. Keating added that U.S. intelligence cannot yet say whether the launch will be of a communications satellite, as North Korea has asserted, or of a missile with intercontinental range. But he and two other commanders said they think it will be a satellite launch because of the public announcements from Pyongyang, including coordinates of the ocean area where the booster rocket is likely to fall.” (13)

Nuclear armed Israel carries out a massacre in Gaza, backed by a rabbinate echoing the Nazi’s rationale for territorial expansion, while Israeli soldiers wear t-shirts depicting Palestinians as vermin to be exterminated, and Israeli warplanes violate the sovereign airspace of Sudan. Soon after, the hostile Lee Myung Bak government of south Korea, more interested in picking fights with the north than seeking peaceful reunification, escalates the country’s annual war games with the United States, aimed at intimidating the north. These aggressive and provocative acts are minimized by the North American media – either barely acknowledged, sanitized or celebrated. In the meantime, north Korea’s planned satellite launching is depicted as a provocation meriting stepped up sanctions and escalated efforts to bring down the government in Pyongyang. It can be hardly doubted that the North American media are an apparatus of public persuasion in the service of US foreign policy. In its hands black becomes white, the oppressed become oppressor, serial aggressors become keepers of the peace, and self-defense becomes provocation.

1. Augustus Richard Norton, Hezbollah: A Short History, Princeton University Press, 2007.
2. Rory McCarthy, “Amnesty calls on US to suspend arms sales to Israel,” The Guardian (UK), February 23, 2009.
3. Rory McCarthy, “Israel accused of indiscriminate phosphorus use in Gaza,” The Guardian (UK), March 25, 2009.
4. Clancy Chassay and Julian Borger, “Guardian investigation uncovers evidence of alleged Israel war crimes in Gaza,” The Guardian (UK), March 24, 2009.
5. Ethan Bronner, “Soldiers’ accounts of Gaza killings raise furor in Israel,” The New York Times, March 20, 2009.
6. Peter Beaumont, “Gaza war crime claims gather pace as more troops speak out,” The Observer (UK), March 22, 2009.
7. Patrick Martin, “Israel’s principle of purity of arms sacrificed in Gaza, soldiers say,” The Globe and Mail (Toronto), March 20, 2009‏.
8. “N. Korean missile reportedly in place,” New York Times, March 26, 2009.
9. “Japan readies missile interceptor” New York Times, March 29, 2009.
10. “North Korean nuclear test a growing possibility,” The Washington Post, March 27, 2009.
11. Rory McCarthy, “Amid the ruins, a fragile truce and a fragile future for Gaza,” The Guardian (UK), January 18, 2009.
12. Richard Boudreaux, “Israeli army rabbis criticized for stance on Gaza assault,” The Los Angeles Times, March 25, 2009.
13. “US could hit N. Korean missile, says commander,” The Washington Post, March 20, 2009.

Where are the R2P advocates now?

Posted in Israel, Palestine, Responsibility to protect by what's left on January 15, 2009

By Stephen Gowans

More than 1,000 residents of Gaza are dead, over 300 of them children, and nearly 5,000 are wounded as a result of the continuing Israeli assault on the blockaded Gaza Strip. Some 90,000 Gazans have been forced to flee their homes, according to al-Mezan human rights centre. [1]

“Residents of Gaza City and the north have no water. They have no electricity. They’re trapped, traumatized and terrorized.” [2]

There are shortages of several basic foods, including food for infants. Unsafe drinking water, garbage piling up in the streets, and disrupted vaccinations, have increased the risk of epidemics. [3]

There is a shortage of hospital equipment. Monitors, anaesthesia, surgical equipment, heaters and spare parts are in short supply. Hospital windows have been blown out by Israeli bombs. [4]

Norwegian doctors Mads Gilbert and Erik Fosse, who worked at the al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, say they,

“witnessed the most horrific war injuries in men, women and children of all ages in numbers almost too large to comprehend. The wounded, dying and dead have streamed into the overcrowded hospital in endless convoys of ambulances and private cars and wrapped in blankets in the caring arms of others. The endless and intense bombardments from Israeli air, ground and naval forces have missed no targets, not even the hospital.” [5]

Israel says it is destroying military targets, but has razed government buildings, apartment buildings, mosques and has struck UN schools, the compound of the UN Relief and Works Agency, a cemetery, ambulances and hospitals. [6]

Charlos Latuff

Charlos Latuff

“Navi Pillay, the UN high commissioner for human rights, has called for ‘credible, independent and transparent’ investigations into possible violations of humanitarian law.” [7]

The International Committee for the Red Cross “accused Israel of breaches of humanitarian conventions for failing to bring assistance to wounded and starving civilians and preventing ambulance access for four days.”

B’Tselem, Physicians for Human Rights, and other Israeli human rights groups “have described civilians being fired on in doorways (by Israeli soldiers); attacks on ambulance crews, aid workers and schools being used as civilian refuges.” [8]

Human Rights Watch, which usually takes a kid-gloves approach to the US and its allies, accused Israel of using “white phosphorous munitions over densely populated areas of Gaza in violation of international humanitarian law.” [9]

The UN’s Human Rights Council has condemned the Israeli offensive for “massive violations of human rights”. [10]

Amnesty International says that Israeli shelling of residential areas is “prima facie evidence of war crimes”. The organization has also accused Israeli soldiers of using Palestinians as human shields.

“It’s standard practice for Israeli soldiers to go into a house, lock up the family in a room on the ground floor and use the rest of the house as a military base, as a sniper’s position. That is the absolute textbook case of human shields.” [11]

Richard Falk, the UN’s special rapporteur on the Palestinian territories and professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University, says Israel is in breach of the UN charter, the Geneva conventions, international law and international humanitarian law. He has previously compared Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians to Nazi atrocities, a comparison that led to his being barred by Israel from access to Gaza and the West Bank. Falk says that,

“If there were the political will there could be an ad-hoc tribunal established to hear allegations of war crimes. This could be done by the general assembly acting under article 22 of the UN charter which gives them the authority to establish subsidiary bodies.” [12]

If ever there was a group in need of protection from war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing it is the Palestinians. And yet the Palestinians receive little outside help, relying on themselves, for the most part, for whatever little protection they can provide. Realpolitick prevents them from falling within the ambit of the responsibility to protect doctrine, the idea that “the international community,” that is, Western governments led by the United States, should intervene in other countries to prevent genocide, mass killings and massive human rights abuses. Responsibility to protect (R2P) has given rise to campaigns for humanitarian intervention in Darfur, Myanmar and Zimbabwe, but not Gaza or the West Bank.

If ever there was a group in need of protection from war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing it is the Palestinians.

If ever there was a group in need of protection from war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing it is the Palestinians.

That there are no R2P campaigns to safeguard Palestinians exposes the concept as a fig leaf for Western imperialism – a way of justifying intervention in countries that pursue policies at odds with the economic and strategic interests of Western investment banks, corporations and investors, while ignoring the ethnic cleansing, massive human rights violations and predatory aggressions of allies (and of Western countries themselves.)

Predictably, those who call for interventions in Darfur, Myanmar and Zimbabwe haven’t called for R2P campiagns to safeguard Palestinians from Israel’s continuing breaches of international law, humanitarian law, the Geneva conventions and the UN charter.

For example, the plight of the Palestinians is nowhere to be found on the website of the World Federalist Movement-Institute for Global Policy’s Responsibility to Protect, Engaging Civil Society project, R2PCS, though R2PCS has much to say about “the crisis in Darfur,” “the crisis in Myanmar” and “the crisis in Zimbabwe,” as well as the “genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda and Bosnia, (and) crimes against humanity in Kosovo.” [13] That the humanitarian catastrophe visited upon the Palestinians is absent from the R2PCS’s concerns hardly jibes with its professed mission to “promote concrete policies to better enable governments, regional organizations and the U.N. to protect vulnerable populations.” [14]

A major backer of R2PCS is the government of Canada, the principal sponsor of the concept of the responsibility to protect. Other R2PCS sponsors include the governments of Britain, the European Union, billionaire financier George Soros’ Open Society Institute and the Ford Foundation. [15]

Former Canadian prime minister Jean Chretien put forward the R2P idea so that US coalitions, such as the NATO coalition that bombed the former Yugoslavia for 78 days in 1999, could claim a legal basis for their aggressions. Chrétien was embarrassed that Canada’s participation in the NATO assault on Yugoslavia had been carried out without the imprimatur of the UN or international law. In the future, if it could be shown that a population deemed vulnerable was menaced by abridgment of rights, mass killings or ethnic cleansing – often the outcome of civil wars engineered by the West – a legal cover could be provided for intervention.

That Canada has no intrinsic interest in protecting vulnerable populations is evidenced by its failure to make the slightest effort to prevent Israel’s massive human rights violations against Palestinians and ethnic cleansing of historic Palestine. Even today, in the face of Israel’s use of Palestinians as human shields, its meting out of collective punishment and its bombardment of civilians and civilian infrastructure, the Canadian government obstructs all attempts in international forums to protect the Palestinian population, instead adopting a policy of unconditional support for Israel.

And while Canada and other members of the North Atlantic alliance fail to protect the Palestinians from Israeli depredations, and indeed facilitate them, they demonize as terrorists the groups that genuinely act to protect the Palestinian population from Israel’s massive human rights violations and ethnic cleansing. These include Hamas, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and other Palestinian resistance organizations and their allies.

On the one hand, then, the R2P community is silent on the plight of the Palestinians. On the other hand, it agitates for Western intervention in countries that maintain unfriendly business and foreign investment climates (Sudan, Myanmar and Zimbabwe) or have coveted strategic assets (oil in Darfur and a geostrategic position close to China in Myanmar.)

While the R2P community’s foot soldiers may be genuinely motivated by a desire to protect vulnerable populations, their energies are harnessed by the ruling class interests that lay behind their campaigns to press for interventions that ultimately serve imperial, not humanitarian, goals. At the same time, they’re diverted from any cause that threatens the economic and strategic interests of Western states and the corporate and financial communities that dominate them.

There are R2P campaigns to promote Western interventions in Darfur, Myanmar and Zimbabwe, but not in Gaza or the West Bank.

There are R2P campaigns to promote Western interventions in Darfur, Myanmar and Zimbabwe, but not in Gaza or the West Bank.

The R2P community’s foot soldiers are also, sadly, bamboozled — convinced that Western intervention can be a force for good, when the historical record, both distant and recent, contradicts the view unequivocally.

Those who are galvanized to demand that Western powers exercise a responsibility to protect vulnerable populations in Darfur, Myanmar and Zimbabwe should first acquaint themselves with the track record of Western interventions in the former Yugoslavia, Iraq (home to an intervention-induced humanitarian catastrophe of almost unparalleled magnitude by current standards) and Afghanistan. In all these cases, the West invoked humanitarian imperatives to justify military conquest, and in each case massively biased the post-intervention conditions against the domestic populations.

As regards the Palestinians, supporters of R2P should ask themselves:

1. Why is the responsibility to protect not invoked to protect the men, women and children of Gaza?

2. Should the Palestinian resistance, which is comprised of grassroots groups that genuinely act to protect themselves and their families from ethnic cleansing, human rights abuses and violations of humanitarian and international law, be demonized as terrorists or recognized as a legitimate resistance?

3. Should the provision of material support to these groups be criminalized in the West, or should provision of support be recognized as the genuine exercise of the responsibility to protect a vulnerable population?

1. Rory McCarthy, “Offensive has forced 90,000 to flee their homes, says rights group,” The Guardian (UK), January 13, 2009.
2. Hazem Balousha, “Tanks, rockets, death and terror: a civilian catastrophe unfolding,” The Guardian (UK), January 5, 2009.
3. Rory McCarthy, “Israeli forces close in on Gaza city,” The Guardian (UK), January 13, 2009.
4. Taghreed el-Khodary, “Gaza hospital fills up, mainly with civilians,” The New York Times, January 5, 2009.
5. Rory McCarthy, “Israeli human rights groups speak out as death toll passes 1,000,” The Guardian (UK), January 15, 2009.
6. Hazem Balousha, “Tanks, rockets, death and terror: a civilian catastrophe unfolding,” The Guardian (UK), January 5, 2009; Rory McCarty and Peter Walker, “Israel hits UN refugee agency in Gaza,” The Guardian (UK), January 15, 2009.
7. Rory McCarthy, “UN human rights chief accuses Israel of war crimes,” The Guardian, January 10, 2009.
8. Peter Beaumonth, “Does the world have the appetite to prosecute Israel for war crimes in Gaza?” The Guardian (UK), January 10, 2009.
9. Rory McCarthy, “Hamas leader: Israel’s Gaza attacks have killed peace talks,” The Observer (UK), January 12, 2009.
10. Chris McGreal, “Demands grow for Gaza war crimes investigation,” The Guardian (UK), January 13, 2009.
11. Ibid.
12. Afua Hirsch, “Israel may face UN court ruling on legality of Gaza conflict.” The Guardian (UK), January 14, 2009.
13. Website of the Institute for Global Policy’s Responsibility to Protect, Engaging Civil Society project, R2PCS, http://www.responsibilitytoprotect.org/index.php, accessed January 14, 2009.
14. Ibid.
15. World Federalist Movement website, http://www.wfm.org/site/index.php/pages/40, access January 14, 2009.

Israel Defined

Posted in Ethnic Cleansing, Israel, Palestine by what's left on January 7, 2009

By Stephen Gowans

Israel, n. [L., fr. Gr. Israel, fr. Hbr. Yisra’el, lit., contender with God.] 1. An illegitimate and racist colonial, settler regime, founded on ethnic cleansing, maintaining a military occupation of 85 percent of Palestinian territory, relying on generous military aid from the United States, whose interests in the Middle East it looks after. The regime criminalizes legitimate resistance to its occupation and regularly flouts humanitarian and international law. 2. The territory occupied by this regime.

Illegitimate

The basis of the regime is the Zionist goal of a Jewish homeland on territory inhabited by a Palestinian Arab majority. Everything about the regime and the resistance of Arab Palestinians can be understood as the inevitable outcome of the irreconcilable contradiction between the desire of Zionists to establish a democratic Jewish state requiring a preponderant Jewish majority on land in which Jews were a decided minority, and the reaction of Palestinians to their dispossession and oppression which the Zionists enforced as a necessary condition of achieving their goal.

In 1947, after Britain transferred its mandate to the UN, the world body introduced a plan to partition Palestine into three parts: a Jewish state, a Palestinian state, and Jerusalem, which was to be an international territory. While Palestinian Arabs made up two-thirds of Palestine’s population, under the UN plan, they were to be allocated only 42 percent of the territory. Having long sought self-determination, they were implacably opposed to the partition of their land. As the historian Ilan Pappe remarked, you don’t have to be a great jurist to see that forcing partition on a country to which the majority of its population is opposed is illegal and immoral.

1947-partition

The plan was more favorable to the Jewish state. It would comprise 56 percent of the territory and would be home to 500,000 Jews and 400,000 Palestinians. Recognizing that a Jewish state would not be viable with Palestinians making up over 40 percent of the population, David Ben-Gurion and other settlers executed a plan to expel Palestinians from the territory the UN assigned to Zionist forces. When the British left in May, 1948, ending their mandate, Zionists seized 80 percent of Palestine (more than the UN plan had envisioned), driving 800,000 Palestinians from the seized territory and barring their return. In 1967, the regime conquered the remaining 20 percent in the Six Day War, along with parts of Egypt and Syria.

Racist

The regime is based on exclusion. Jews from anywhere in the world are permitted to immigrate to occupied Palestine, while Palestinians who fled or were driven from their homes in the now occupied territory are prohibited from returning. The Palestinians who remained in the territory seized by the regime, the so-called Arab Israelis, are treated as second class citizens.

Mixed couples cannot be buried together in a state-funded Jewish cemetery. Even more absurd, Israel is probably the only country in the world that does not recognize its own nationality. Israelis cannot be inscribed as Israelis in the state population register, but must be recorded according to their religious or ethnic origin. Every request by Israelis — Jewish and Arab — to be listed simply as Israeli has so far been rejected. The government argues that this would undermine the principle of Israel as a Jewish state. Meanwhile, ‘unrecognized’ Arab villages languish for decades without municipal services, while governments of both left and right have spent $15 billion on settlements beyond the 1967 border. (1)

Several right-wing rabbis have forbidden Jews from renting apartments to Arabs or giving them jobs. (2) Arabs inside Israel are denied security clearances, and, therefore, are denied the many jobs that require them. Compared to Jewish families, three times more Arab families live below the poverty line. According to polls, a majority of Israeli Jews favor expulsion of Arabs from occupied Palestine. [3] More than three-quarters say they wouldn’t live in the same neighborhood as Arabs. And three-quarters of Jewish youth describe Arabs as dirty. [4]

More important, however, than these day-to-day expressions of anti-Arab racism, is the racist character of Zionism itself – the idea that Palestine belongs to the Jews and not to the Arab majority that lived there, an idea which places one group of people, the Jews, above another, the Palestinians.

Colonial settler regime

Most of the Jews who lived on Palestinian territory before 1948 were recent settlers, having arrived after WWI. After hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were ethnically cleansed from the territory under the regime’s control, these settlers, and those who came later, took over Palestinian homes and property.

After 1967, Jewish settlements were established in the remaining 20 percent of Palestine the regime had failed to conquer in 1948 (Gaza and the West Bank). While Jewish settlers have since withdrawn from Gaza, Jewish settlements continue to expand in the West Bank, further reducing Palestinian territory to about 15 percent of British Mandate Palestine.

Peace Now, the Israeli advocacy group, said in a report released August 26, 2008, that in the past year Israel has nearly doubled its settlement construction in the occupied West Bank in violation of its obligations under an American-backed peace plan. The Peace Now report…says that more than 1,000 new buildings are going up in the West Bank, including 2,600 housing units. It says that for the first five months of 2008, construction in the settlements was 1.8 times greater than in the same period of 2007. According to its report, more than half of the building is going on beyond the separation barrier that Israel has built in recent years along the border of and inside the West Bank. [5]

Ethnic cleansing

The combination of the UN plan, with its near demographic balance of Jews and Palestinians in the envisaged Jewish state, and Zionist ideology, which insists on a Jewish homeland in Palestine, guaranteed that Zionist forces would ethnically cleanse those parts of Palestine it could conquer by force. The regime’s refusal to allow the return of Palestinians is no less a form of ethnic cleansing.

US military aid

Israel receives billions of dollars every year in military aid from the United States. On top of using the combat aircraft and tanks it receives from the US to oppress the Palestinians and enforce its occupation of Palestine, the regime uses its US-furnished military might to intimidate neighboring countries on behalf of Washington. It threatens to bomb Iran, recently bombed an alleged nuclear power plant in Syria, and destroyed Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981.

Criminalizing resistance

Everyone has the right to take up arms to resist military occupation – except, if you listen to Western governments, Palestinians (and also the Iraqis and Afghans who resist the occupation of their countries by US forces and their allies.) In order to discredit the organized resistance of Palestinians, Israel, the US, Canada and Western Europe demonize Palestinians who fight to liberate Palestine from the racist, colonial, settler occupation.

Meanwhile, many Westerners, including liberals, deplore the violence of Palestinians while proudly boasting that if their own country were invaded, they would be in the front line, guns blazing. Organized Palestinian resistance groups, including the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which seeks a democratic and secular Palestine, are officially designated as terrorist organizations by Western governments. Anyone who materially assists these groups faces stiff penalties. Criminalizing resistance deters people living in North America and Western Europe from expressing solidarity with the Palestinian resistance and dishonestly submerges the political character of its struggle.

terroristdessm

Palestinians who take on the might of the US-furnished Israeli military, firing crude, largely ineffective rockets into occupied Palestine, are not criminals; they are the dispossessed fighting for justice with the few means at their disposal.

Flouting humanitarian and international law

The regime flouts all humanitarian and international law that stands in the way of preserving its racist, settler state, and it has being doing so from the moment in 1948 it rejected UN Resolution 194 calling for the unconditional return of Palestinians. The Universal Declaration of Rights holds that no one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile and that everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country. The regime has denied Palestinians these rights for over 60 years.

Conclusion

Jewish settlers from Europe arrived in Palestine, most after WWI, seeking to establish a Jewish homeland on territory inhabited by an Arab majority. When the British left in 1948, the settlers seized 80 percent of the territory, expelling 800,000 Palestinians, barring their return. The Palestinians who weren’t driven out or didn’t flee were, and continue to be, treated as second class citizens. Later, in 1967, the settler regime conquered the remaining 20 percent of Palestine it failed to expropriate in 1948. Jewish settlements were established in these additionally occupied territories – with settlements continuing to grow in one of them, the West Bank – squeezing Palestinians into an ever tighter space. A resistance developed, but has been criminalized, denounced as terrorist and targeted under the US war on terrorism (that is, war on organized, armed resistance to the imperialist encroachments of the US and its allies.)

An imperative solution

The moral imperative of liberating Palestine from occupation is no less compelling than the moral imperative of liberating any other conquered territory. A liberated Palestine would ideally be secular, democratic, egalitarian, multiethnic and independent, not a military extension of the United States. The historic land of Palestine belongs to all who live in it and to those who were expelled or exiled from it since 1948 and their descendents, regardless of religion, ethnicity, national origin or current citizenship status. The character of a liberated Palestine is up to all who have a legitimate claim to live in Palestine to decide. It should never have been decided by the UN over the objection of the majority of its population, or by Zionists at the majority’s expense. The continued occupation of Palestine and the oppression of Palestinians and abridgment of their rights (without which the occupation could not continue) remains a blight on humanity whose end is long overdue.

1. The New York Times, June 28, 2008.
2. The New York Times, May 2, 2008.
3. Ibid.
4. Haaretz newspaper, December 9, 2007; Haaretz TV news, December 12, 2007.
5. The New York Times, August 27, 2008.

Recommended reading:

Ilan Pappe, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, One World, Oxford, 2006.
Ilan Pappe, A History of Modern Palestine, Cambridge University Press, 2006.

Gaza: A little context

Posted in Israel, Palestine by what's left on January 3, 2009

By Stephen Gowans

Unlike press reports which almost never provide context, I’ll begin with context. Figure 1 shows the percentage of British Mandate Palestine seized by Jewish forces through war, terrorism and ethnic cleansing, and the remaining territory (about 15 percent) that now comprises the Palestinian territories. In 1947, Arab Palestinians formed a two-thirds majority. Even so, the UN, over the objection of the Arab majority, pledged 56 percent of Mandate Palestine to a Jewish state. The Jews, most having arrived after WWI, comprised only one-third of the population (about 510,000 people) and owned only six percent of the land. In late 1947 and into 1948, through a systematic program of ethnic cleansing, and by barring the return of the 800,000 Arabs who fled or were forced from their homes, Zionist forces established Israel on 80 percent of the territory that comprised Mandate Palestine. In 1967, Israel seized Gaza and the West Bank – the only parts of Mandate Palestine they had failed to conquer in 1948 – and brought them under military occupation.

Figure 1. The encroachment of the Jewish state on Palestinian territory.

Figure 1. The encroachment of the Jewish state on Palestinian territory.

Hamas grew out of the first intifada (shaking off) of 1987. The intifada was an attempt to shake off the Israeli military presence in Gaza and the West Bank. It began in Gaza’s refugee camps, home to Palestinians and their descendants who had been driven out of what was now Israeli territory, or had fled, and were prevented from returning. Their return would undermine the demographic reality the Zionist forces had painstakingly created in 1947 and 1948 – a Jewish majority. The camps were bedeviled by mass unemployment and grinding poverty. The average family of five lived in cramped quarters with an outdoor toilet. (1)

Hamas grew to prominence in the camps for a number of reasons. First, it built up support by providing social services. Second, it profited from the material support it received from Israel. By building up Hamas, a religious-based, social services organization, Israel hoped to weaken the secular, politically-oriented PLO. Third, the PLO lost support when it pledged to end armed struggle and recognize Israel.

Hamas is criticized in the West for five reasons.

1. Because it is an Islamic organization. The West, however, had few qualms about Hamas’s religious character when the organization was being built up as a way to divert support from the secular PLO. In fact, it was Hamas’s religious character (thought to inspire passivity rather than militancy) that recommended it as an organization to be nurtured.

2. Because it will not recognize Israel. To do so would legitimate the UN’s immoral and illegitimate partition of Mandate Palestine and the ethnic cleansing which cleared the way for the formation of a Jewish state. Hamas, and many others, seek the end of a Jewish state on Palestinian territory. The US and other Western powers describe this as seeking the destruction of Israel, which it is, metaphorically, but for purposes of manipulating public opinion, the words “destruction of Israel” are carefully chosen to suggest the goal of physical obliteration. Palestinians who refuse to legitimate the crimes of 1948 by recognizing Israel do not seek Israel’s physical destruction per se, but seek to restore their legitimate claim to the land they were driven from, a goal which, if successful, would mean the end of a Jewish state (i.e., Israel’s destruction.)

3. Because Hamas engages in terrorism. Israel has a large arsenal of combat aircraft and tanks to oppress the Palestinians. “Terrorism” is the word the powerful use to discredit the resistance of the oppressed. Hamas would gladly swap its crude and largely ineffective rockets for Israel’s tanks and combat aircraft.

4. Because it “took over” Gaza. An Israeli security official told The New York Times that,

“What happened in Gaza a year ago was not really a coup. Hamas’s takeover was a kind of natural process. Hamas was so strong, so deeply rooted in Palestinian society through its activities in the economy, education, culture and health care, and Fatah was so weak, so corrupt, that the takeover was like wind blowing over a moth-infested structure.” [2]

5. Because it unilaterally abandoned the ceasefire. On the contrary, despite the ceasefire, Israel refused to lift the bloackade of Gaza (one of the conditions of the truce), killed 1,300 Palestinians in the nearly three years since Hamas came to power, and in November conducted three raids on Gaza, killing 12. [3]

Figure 2 shows the gross imbalance in deaths over the first eight days of Israeli terror bombing compared to Israeli deaths from Palestinian rocket attacks. This imbalance is emblematic of the yawning gap in casualties in all confrontations between the Israelis and Palestinians. Israel kills, maims and imprisons many; Palestinians barely make a scratch.

Figure 2. Comparison of number of deaths over the first eight days of Israeli air strikes.

Figure 2. Comparison of number of deaths over the first eight days of Israeli air strikes.

Echoing his Secretary of State who attributed the recent outbreak in violence to Hamas, US President George W. Bush castigated the oppressed. In his January 2 radio address, he said,

This recent outburst of violence was instigated by Hamas — a Palestinian terrorist group supported by Iran and Syria…In response to these attacks on their people, the leaders of Israel have launched military operations on Hamas positions in Gaza.

The first eight days of Israeli air strikes – “with air strikes averaging one every 20 minutes” – has created “a humanitarian crisis and more,” according to Max Gaylard, the UN humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinians. [4]

Contrast the reaction to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, where 450 lay dead, close to 2,000 are wounded, where electricity has been cut off by Israel, and where medical services are stretched to the limit, with the calls for military intervention in Zimbabwe in response to a cholera outbreak (a not uncommon event in Third World countries.)

The defrocked priest of peace, Desmond Tutu, who urged the West to intervene militarily in Zimbabwe to solve its humanitarian emergency, has not called for a military intervention in Israel to prevent the massacre of Gazans. He hasn’t even called for Washington to cut off its billions of dollars in annual military aid to Israel. Instead, he is calling for dialogue and confidence building measures, and for “Israel’s need for security (to) be understood by all sides.” [5]

1. Ilan Pappe, A History of Modern Palestine, Cambridge University Press, 2006.
2. New York Times, June 15, 2008.
3. Chris McGreal, “Why Israel went to war in Gaza,” The Observer (UK), January 4, 2009.
4. Rory McCarthy, “’Critical emergency’ after air strike every 20 minutes,” The Guardian, January 3, 2009.
5. Vaclav Havel, El Hassan bin Talal, Hans Kung, Desmond Tutu, Karel Schwarzenberg and Yohei Sasakawa, “Humanity’s stake in Gaza,” The Sunday Times (Sri Lanka), January 4, 2008.

Why Palestinians Hate Israel

Posted in Ethnic Cleansing, Israel, Palestine by what's left on October 21, 2007

If you were Palestinian, you would too.

By Stephen Gowans

Mandate Palestine, the territory that now comprises Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip, was still very much Arab when the British transferred its control of the territory to the UN in 1947. Two-thirds of the population was Arab and only six percent of the cultivable land was in Jewish hands.

The UN initially considered creating one democratic state in Palestine whose future would be determined by a majority vote of the population, the same proposal put forward by Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad today.

But the UN abandoned the proposal in favor of partition, which the British favored and the Jewish population accepted. The views of the Arabs – the majority – were ignored.

The UN plan assigned over one-half of the territory to the Jewish one-third of the population and 42 percent to the Arab two-thirds – a highly unbalanced and unfair partition, but more than that, illegal and immoral for being forced on the majority over its vehement objections.

The Arabs, understandably, were aggrieved. But their reasons to be aggrieved were soon to grow more numerous.

War broke out between the two populations soon after the UN partition plan was announced in 1947. Six months later, 800,000 Palestinians had either been forcibly expelled from their homes by the Jewish militia, the Haganah, or had fled, later to be prevented from returning. The Jewish population now claimed 80 percent of the territory, an addition of a further 24 percent to the already unbalanced 56 percent pledged by the UN.

1948 – the root of Palestinian hatred of Israel.

1948 – the root of Palestinian hatred of Israel.

It doesn’t take an ethicist or jurist to see that the creation of Israel was an illegal and immoral act, and that Arab Palestinian hatred of Israel, and a desire to see Israel’s dissolution, is not rooted in irrational hatred or anti-Semitism, but in dispossession.

In 1967, Israel gobbled up the remaining 20 percent of ex-Mandate Palestine it hadn’t conquered in 1948. The call for Israel to withdraw to its pre-1967 borders – a plea made by many liberals and progressives as a solution for “peace in the Middle East” – does nothing to address the original ethnic cleansing of 1948, and could hardly, therefore, constitute a just, equitable or even practical solution.

Partition, the solution put forward since 1947, has never worked, not even when the Arab majority was promised 42 percent of the territory. To declare as workable a partition plan that promises a Bantustan-like state on 15 percent of ex-Mandate Palestine and a permanent surrender of the Palestinian right to return is astonishingly naïve.

Apart from dispossession as a reason for hating Israel, Palestinians have other, more quotidian and visceral reasons. These are starkly illustrated in an October 21 2007 Observer article by Conal Urquhart, excerpted below. The article describes, in the words of Israeli soldiers, the brutal and inhuman treatment they mete out to Arab Palestinians in the occupied Gaza Strip and West Bank.

“Nufar Yishai-Karin, a clinical psychologist at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, interviewed 21 Israeli soldiers and heard confessions of frequent brutal assaults against Palestinians, aggravated by poor training and discipline. In her recently published report, co-authored by Professor Yoel Elizur, Yishai-Karin details a series of violent incidents, including the beating of a four-year-old boy by an officer.

“The soldiers described dozens of incidents of extreme violence. One recalled an incident when a Palestinian was shot for no reason and left on the street. ‘We were in a weapons carrier when this guy, around 25, passed by in the street and, just like that, for no reason – he didn’t throw a stone, did nothing – bang, a bullet in the stomach, he shot him in the stomach and the guy is dying on the pavement and we keep going, apathetic. No one gave him a second look,’ he said.

Brutal mistreatment by Israeli soliders intensifies Palestinian hostility.

Brutal mistreatment by Israeli soliders intensifies Palestinian hostility.

“The soldiers developed a mentality in which they would use physical violence to deter Palestinians from abusing them. One described beating women. ‘With women I have no problem. With women, one threw a clog at me and I kicked her here [pointing to the crotch], I broke everything there. She can’t have children. Next time she won’t throw clogs at me. When one of them [a woman] spat at me, I gave her the rifle butt in the face. She doesn’t have what to spit with any more.’

“Yishai-Karin found that the soldiers were exposed to violence against Palestinians from as early as their first weeks of basic training. On one occasion, the soldiers were escorting some arrested Palestinians. The arrested men were made to sit on the floor of the bus. They had been taken from their beds and were barely clothed, even though the temperature was below zero. The new recruits trampled on the Palestinians and then proceeded to beat them for the whole of the journey. They opened the bus windows and poured water on the arrested men.

“Yishai-Karin, in an interview with Haaretz, described how her research came out of her own experience as a soldier at an army base in Rafah in the Gaza Strip. She interviewed 18 ordinary soldiers and three officers whom she had served with in Gaza. The soldiers described how the violence was encouraged by some commanders. One soldier recalled: ‘After two months in Rafah, a [new] commanding officer arrived… So we do a first patrol with him. It’s 6am, Rafah is under curfew, there isn’t so much as a dog in the streets. Only a little boy of four playing in the sand. He is building a castle in his yard. He [the officer] suddenly starts running and we all run with him. He was from the combat engineers.

“’He grabbed the boy. I am a degenerate if I am not telling you the truth. He broke his hand here at the wrist, broke his leg here. And started to stomp on his stomach, three times, and left.”

Liberal Israelis fervently deplore the treatment of Palestinians by the Israel military and find revelations such as these to be deeply distressing. Most, however, are Zionist, and no matter how much they disapprove of the brutality of the occupation are not prepared to consider, or provide redress, to the events of 1948 – the root of Palestinian hatred of Israel. Forcing the Israeli military to live up to its rhetoric about being the most ethical military in the world, will not put an end to Palestinian hatred.

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